Michael Jeffery

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Major General the Honourable   Michael Jeffery   ACCVOMC
24th Governor-General of Australia
In office
11 August 2003 – 5 September 2008
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime MinisterJohn Howard
Kevin Rudd
Preceded byPeter Hollingworth
Succeeded byDame Quentin Bryce
28th Governor of Western Australia
In office
1 November 1993 – 17 August 2000
MonarchElizabeth II
PremierRichard Court
Preceded bySir Francis Burt
Succeeded byJohn Sanderson
Personal details
BornPhilip Michael Jeffery
12 December 1937
Wiluna, Western Australia
Died18 December 2020 (aged 83)
Spouse(s)Marlena Kerr
ProfessionMilitary officer
Military service
AllegianceAustralia
Branch/serviceAustralian Army
Years of service1955–1993
RankMajor General
CommandsDeputy Chief of the General Staff (1990)
1st Division (1986–88)
1st Brigade (1983–84)
Special Air Service Regiment (1976–77)
2nd Battalion, Royal Pacific Islands Regiment (1974–75)
Battles/warsMalayan Emergency
Vietnam War
AwardsCompanion of the Order of Australia
Commander of the Royal Victorian Order
Military Cross

Major General Philip Michael JefferyACCVOMC (12 December 1937 – 18 December 2020) was a senior Australian Army officer and vice-regal representative. He was the 28th Governor of Western Australia from 1993 to 2000, and the 24th Governor-General of Australia, serving from 2003 to 2008.

From PerthWestern Australia, Jeffery graduated from the Royal Military College, Duntroon, and served in the Malayan Emergency and the Vietnam War, being awarded the Military Cross during the latter conflict.

Jeffery was at various stages commander of the Special Air Service Regiment and the 1st Division, and subsequently Deputy Chief of General Staff, before retiring from active service in 1993. After serving for seven years as Governor of Western Australia, Jeffery was appointed Governor-General of Australia in 2003, following the resignation of Peter Hollingworth. He was the first career Australian Army officer to hold the position, and was succeeded by Quentin Bryce.

Early life and military career

Jeffery was born in Wiluna, Western Australia, on 12 December 1937, and was educated at Kent Street Senior High School. At 16 he left Perth to attend the Royal Military College, Duntroon, in Canberra.

After graduating in 1958, he served in a number of junior positions before being posted to Malaya in 1962 for operational service. From 1966 to 1969 he served in Papua New Guinea. During this posting, he married Marlena Kerr of Sydney, with whom he had three sons and a daughter. This was followed by a tour of duty in the Vietnam War, during which he was awarded the Military Cross (MC).

In 1972, Jeffery was promoted to lieutenant colonel, commanding the 2nd Battalion of the Pacific Islands Regiment from 1974 to 1975. He assumed command of the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) in Perth from 7 January 1976 until 22 October 1977, and was then promoted to colonel as the first Director of the Army’s Special Action Forces in 1979.

From 1982 to 1983, Jeffery headed Australia’s national counter-terrorist co-ordination authority. In 1985 he was promoted to major general, being appointed to command the 1st Division the following year. In 1990 he became Deputy Chief of the General Staff and in 1991 he was appointed Assistant Chief of the General Staff for Materiel.

Jeffery retired from the army in 1993, and was appointed to the ceremonial position of Honorary Colonel of the SASR.

Governor of Western Australia

In November 1993, Jeffery was appointed Governor of Western Australia and in June 1996 he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC). He was appointed a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) on 1 April 2000.

During his seven years in the post he made a number of public statements of his conservative views on marriage, sex and education. He received some criticism from the Labor opposition and sections of the media for appearing to take positions on political issues.

Governor-General of Australia

Following the resignation of Peter Hollingworth as Governor-General of Australia, Prime Minister John Howard announced on 22 June 2003 that he had chosen Jeffery to succeed Hollingworth. He was formally appointed by Elizabeth IIQueen of Australia and sworn in on 11 August 2003, becoming the first Australian career soldier to become governor-general.

In 2007, in his position as governor-general, Jeffery was appointed as the colonel-in-chief of the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps, succeeding the previous colonel-in-chief, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

Jeffery was the Chief Scout of Australia.

Jeffery left Yarralumla prior to the swearing-in of his successor, Quentin Bryce, the former Governor of Queensland. Bryce was sworn in on 5 September 2008.

Career after office

On 23 October 2012, at the National Farmers’ Federation Congress in Canberra, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the appointment of Jeffery as Australia’s first Advocate for Soil Health. Gillard noted that, as Governor-General, Jeffery had a passion for regional development and the future of our rural industries, a commitment he continued after leaving office. Prime Minister Tony Abbott extended Jeffery’s appointment as the national Advocate for Soil Health until December 2014, indicating Jeffery would continue to raise public awareness of the role soil plays in underpinning sustainable productivity, delivering quality ecosystem services and helping to meet global challenges including food security and climate change.

In June 2020, Jeffery stepped down from this role, now the Patron of the Soil Cooperative Research Centre, due to illness.

Honours and awards

Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) – Civil division1996 Queen’s Birthday Honours
Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) – Military division1988 Queen’s Birthday Honours
Member of the Order of Australia (AM) – Military division1981 Queen’s Birthday Honours
Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO)(2000)
Military Cross (MC)(1971)
Knight of Grace of the Most Venerable Order of Saint John15 April 1994
Australian Active Service Medal 1945–1975 with MALAYATHAI-MALAY and VIETNAM clasps
General Service Medal with BORNEO clasp
Vietnam Medal
Australian Service Medal 1945–1975 with SE ASIA and PNG clasps
Centenary Medal(awarded 2001)
Defence Force Service Medal with 4 clasps35–39 years service
National Medal with First Clasp – 25–35 years service to …
Australian Defence Medal
Service Medal of the Order of St John
Papua New Guinea Independence Medal(1977)
Vietnam Campaign Medal
Pingat Jasa Malaysia
Honorary Grand Companion of the Order of Logohu (GCL)(2005)

Unit Award:

Vietnam Gallantry Cross;8th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1970)

Personal life

Jeffery was a Christian. He died on 18 December 2020, at the age of 83.

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