Former Australian Governor-General Michael Jeffery Dead at 83

Former Australian Governor-General Michael Jeffery Dead at 83
Governor-General Michael Jeffery (L) speaks with Australian Army Commando Corporal "B" (R) during a ceremony to present him with the Medal Of Gallantry at the Holsworthy Barracks in the outer south-western suburbs of Sydney, 26 November 2006. (TROY BENDEICH/Getty Images)

Former governor-general Michael Jeffery has been hailed a warm, dignified and great Australian following his death aged 83.

Major General Jeffery served in the role from 2003 to 2008. He was Australia’s 24th governor-general and before that, West Australian governor from 1993 to 2000.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on December 18 lauded a man who also rose to the top ranks of the Australian Defence Force between 1958 and 1993.

“Major General Jeffery will be remembered as a brave soldier, a dedicated Governor and Governor-General and a passionate defender of the causes he believed in,” Morrison said in a statement.

“Major General Jeffery was a great Australian who served Australia throughout his adult life. He was a remarkable man who I am proud to call a friend.”

Major General Jeffery died on Friday morning. He is survived by his wife, Marlena Kerr, their three sons and daughter and seven grandchildren.

Current Governor-General David Hurley said he was saddened to hear of his predecessor’s death.

He said Major General Jeffery had served in Malaya, Borneo and Papua New Guinea and was awarded the Military Cross in Vietnam during a distinguished military career.

After his public service, he had also been Australia’s first soil health advocate.

“Throughout his career - in its many iterations - he worked tirelessly put others ahead of himself and brought immense intellect, work ethic and commitment to everything he did,” General Hurley said in a statement.

“Unfailingly polite, he was quite simply a gentleman.

“He was also a husband, father and grandfather. Our thoughts - as we give thanks and acknowledge a lifetime of service - are with his loved ones.”

Former prime minister John Howard described Major General Jeffery as “a warm and dignified man” who had given a lifetime of service to Australia.

He said it had been his honour to recommend his appointment as governor-general to the Queen in 2003.

“Subsequently, it was my privilege to work with him as he and his charming wife, Marlena, discharged their duties with grace and commitment,” Mr Howard said.

Morrison said Major General Jeffery left an impressive legacy and will be remembered for his many achievements “and as a man of faith, integrity, decency and warmth”.

“On behalf of the Australian people, I express my deep gratitude for one of Australia’s finest leaders and most devoted servants,” he said.

Marty Silk in Canberra