Morrison, David: White Ribbon Day address, 2014

Morrison, David

Chief of Army address to the White Ribbon Breakfast, Adelaide, 25 November 2014

This is the most well-developed version of General Morrison’s views on the link between misogyny in the Australian Army and macho, Anzac-linked attitudes in male recruits. For earlier similar remarks, see here and here. In this new address, General Morrison spells out the ‘totems’ that contribute to male bonding – ‘a badge, a slouch hat, a national flag’, the stories exchanged, which tend to be ‘exclusive, not inclusive’.

They [the stories] reinforce a view of “us and them”. In hyper masculine environments, like armies, “them” is defined by being weaker physically, not drinking “like a man”, not bragging of sexual conquest, being more introverted or intellectual, and of course being female.

I think that such distortion is a strong element in one of our great foundation narratives, not just for the Army but for Australia. I am talking about Anzac. The Anzac legend – as admirable as it is – has become something of a double-edged sword. For the Army, the most pervasive distortion about what really happened in Turkey in 1915 is that many Australians now have an idealised image of the Australian soldier as a simple country lad – hair gold, skin white – a larrikin who fights best with a hangover and who never salutes officers, especially the Poms.

Where do women, or Indigenous soldiers fit in that narrative? They don’t and so, over time, such stories become myths and then myths become legends and then they become some unalterable truth.

Further, I think that these stories are buoyed by aspects of our national culture in a way that makes it very hard for men to resist the pressures to conform to some distorted masculine image. It is a national culture that sees, in the wake of a terrible incidence of domestic violence, in which the lives of a mother and her three children are taken by the man who is the husband and father, reports that focus on how hard his life had become; how much he had been a loving man even in the act of murder.

General Morrison extends his remarks from the military context and speaks at length about violence against women in the general community.

I have concluded that our military culture, as strong as it is in certain regards, has within it deep and terrible flaws. And I have gone further. I now feel that much of what we call our Australian culture has the same faults that must be addressed.

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