Australian of the Year urges end to discrimination

Updated: 2016-01-26 10:57


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CANBERRA - Newly-appointed Australian of the Year David Morrison has said that "unfair" religious, racial and gender-based discrimination is still rife throughout Australia, using his Australia Day speech to call for greater acceptance.

Speaking on Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) television on Tuesday, the former army chief said racial and religious discrimination, among other forms of prejudice, in Australia should not be allowed going forward.

"We hold people back in this country for the most peculiar of reasons -- their gender or the God they believe in or the color of their skin or sexual orientation," Morrison, a former Lieutenant General in the Australian Army, said.

"It's not how we should progress."

Morrison received the prestigious Australian of the Year award on Monday evening for his work in striving toward gender equality.

He said the nation should particularly aim to do more to positively recognize the members of Australia's Islamic community.

"Without doubt there has been a great focus on the Islamic community; a lot of the commentary I think has been very unfair," Morrison said.

"I think we need to listen to the men and women of Islamic faith who are part of Australia's society.

"We need to understand the challenges they face."

"We need to see where the rest of Australia can work with them."

Morrison is well known as the general who told soldiers who cannot accept female colleagues to "get out" of the military. He has since worked tirelessly to promote women's rights in the military and in general society.

"I was starting to become increasingly angry about the fact that the institution and the culture was denying people -- women, but others as well -- the opportunity to reach their potential," he said.

Australians celebrate the Australia Day on Jan 26 every year.