Australian of the Year is equality activist Gen David Morrison

File photo: Lt Gen David Morrison, 6 April 2015 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Gen Morrison said he was "almost at a loss for words" after receiving the award

Former army chief and equality advocate David Morrison has been chosen as 2016's Australian of the Year.

Lieutenant General Morrison famously told troops in 2013 they could "get out" if they couldn't treat women as equals after a scandal over sexually explicit emails sent by members of the military.

The comments were made in a video that has been viewed 1.6 million times.

Since then the number of women joining Australia's military has grown by 2%.

Gen Morrison retired last year after 36 years in the army and is now chair of the Diversity Council Australia.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull presented him with the award at a ceremony in Canberra on Monday.

Gen Morrison said he was "almost at a loss for words" after receiving the award.

"Too many of our fellow Australians are denied the opportunity to reach their potential," he said.

"It happens because of their gender, because of the God they believe in, because of their racial heritage, because they're not able-bodied, because of their sexual orientation."

'Not in vain'

Gen Morrison succeeds domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty, whose work is being credited with putting domestic violence on Australia's national agenda.

Ms Batty was made Australian of the Year less than 12 months after her 11-year-old son, Luke, was killed by his father on a cricket field in 2014.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty was the 2015 Australian of the Year

In her valedictory speech on Monday, Ms Batty said she was still grieving for Luke when she received the award.

"As I juggled grief and loss, suppressing my sadness whilst enjoying the most amazing opportunities of my life, along my journey I became mindful that I was becoming some sort of public figure, perhaps even a tragic type of celebrity, and that I was still fragile and vulnerable," she said.

But she expressed pride that domestic abuse was now being discussed openly in Australia.

"Whilst family violence is still happening behind closed doors, the conversations aren't," Ms Batty said.

"We have a long journey ahead but the exciting thing is we have started and Luke has not died in vain."

The Australian of the Year awards are announced on the eve of Australia Day each year, with finalists selected from each state and territory.

Other Awards

Young Australian of the Year: Best mates Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett set up a mobile laundry in a van to help the homeless. The Orange Sky initiative has since expanded from Brisbane to Melbourne, Sydney, the Gold Coast and south-east Victoria.

Senior Australian of the Year: Professor Gordian Fulde, the director of emergency at St Vincent's Hospital and Sydney Hospital, is a highly respected doctor who has been instrumental in drawing attention to problems stemming from abuse of methamphetamines and alcohol.

Australia's Local Hero: Former journalist Dr Catherine Keenan is the co-founder and executive director of Sydney Story Factory, which helps primary and high-school students express themselves through writing.

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