From Perth, 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.
He 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 in the equivalent viceregal role in Western Australia, Jeffery was appointed governor-general 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.
Jeffery was born in Wiluna, Western Australia and was educated at Kent Street Senior High School. At 16 he left Perth to attend the Royal Military College, Duntroon, in Canberra.
After graduation in 1958, he served in a number of junior positions before being posted to Malaya in 1962 for operational service. From 1966-69 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 Vietnam during which he was awarded the Military Cross (MC).
Jeffery remained convinced that Australia's participation in the Vietnam War was right. "I believe passionately that Vietnam was a just cause in the circumstances of the time", he said during a 2002 speech to Australian veterans of the war.
In 1972, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel, commanding the 2nd Battalion of the Pacific Islands Regiment from 1974-75. 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.
He was instrumental in developing the surveillance concept for Northern Australia and as Director of Special Action Forces he prepared the development of the Australian counter-terrorist concept and capability.
From 1982-83 he 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.
Although he retired from the Army in 1993, he is still considered the Honorary Colonel of the SASR, where he holds the ceremonial role of inducting new soldiers into the regiment and presenting them with their famous sandy beret.
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.
Following the resignation of Peter Hollingworth as Governor-General, the Prime Minister, John Howard, announced on 22 June 2003 that he had chosen Jeffery to succeed Hollingworth. He was formally appointed by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia and sworn in on 11 August 2003, becoming the first Australian 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. It is expected that future governors-general will serve in this position.
Jeffery was the Chief Scout of Australia. Historically the Governor-General of Australia has also served as Chief Scout of Australia; the Chief Scout is nominated by the Scouting Association's National Executive Committee and is invited by the President of the Scout Association to accept the appointment. Jeffery was an active Chief Scout.
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.
Founder and first Chairman, Future Directions International
Future Directions International (FDI) is an independent, not-for-profit research institute based in Perth Western Australia. It was established in 2000 by General Jeffery together with a small group of leading Australians to conduct comprehensive research of important medium to long-term issues facing Australia. FDI states its primary aim is to provide informed, balanced advice, which ultimately will result in policy changes that will enhance the quality of strategic decisions at senior levels of the public and private sectors in Australia for the benefit of all Australians.
Chairman Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Australia Jeffery is Chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Australia and is the Australian Representative of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust (UK). The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust has been established to honour Her Majesty The Queen for 60 years of outstanding service and by contributing, as she has requested, to initiatives that will endure beyond her lifetime and help people throughout the Commonwealth. The elimination of blinding trachoma from Australia, and from remote Aboriginal communities in particular has been a major focus of the Trust in Australia.
Chairman Outcomes Australia
Outcomes Australia describes itself as “a not-for-profit organisation for change”. “Their stated purpose is to ensure that Australia has optimal solutions to problems that impact on the entire community directly, or indirectly. The Outcomes approach is not to devise solutions, but to find successful and proven solutions to existing problems”.
Advocate for Soil Health
On 23 October 2012, at the National Farmers Federation Congress in Canberra, then Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the appointment of General Jeffrey as Australia’s first ever Advocate for Soil Health. Gillard noted that the condition of our soils must be a national priority. She indicated that a key step in this direction is the appointment of a person with the authority and trust of the community to raise awareness of the importance of soil– an Advocate for Soil Health.
Gillard noted that, as Governor-General, Jeffrey had a passion for regional development and the future of our rural industries, a commitment he has continued since leaving office.
The role of the Advocate for Soil Health involves the development of soil research priorities to complement existing efforts to develop a national soil research, development and extension strategy. The Terms of Reference identify the following specified tasks: Advocate that the healthy condition of our soils must be a national priority; Report to the Australian Government on national priorities for soil and landscape science and management; Deliver an initial report to the Prime Minister, an interim report to the Minister for Agriculture, and a final report to the Prime Minister; Work towards ensuring that existing and new soils research meets the needs of Australia’s farmers and other soil managers; Advocate for adequate knowledge and supporting systems to help farmers to actively build healthy soils; and, Contribute to the Australian Government white papers on Agricultural Competitiveness and Developing Northern Australia.
In his first report, Jeffery indicated his role as the Advocate for Soil Health has to date focussed on gaining a more detailed understanding of the roles, responsibilities and interconnectivity of groups involved in natural resource management, and publicly advocating the importance of prioritising soil health in the broader context of landscape management. Areas of interest, research and development priorities, meetings and events are listed in the report.
Jeffery has also provided input into the national soil research, development and extension strategy.
The Prime Minister Tony Abbott extended the appointment of Jeffery as the national Advocate for Soil Health until December 2014. He indicated that, as the Advocate, General Jeffery will continue to raise public awareness of the critical role soil plays (integrated with good water and vegetation management) in underpinning sustainable productivity, delivering high quality ecosystem services and helping to meet global challenges including food security and climate change.
Though appointed to this role by the Australian Government, the Advocate for Soil Health does not speak on behalf of the government.
Chairman Soils For Life
Outcomes Australia established Soils For Life, a not-for-profit environmental organisation with the stated purpose of “enhancing the natural environment through the provision of information and education on innovative leading performance in managing Australia’s natural environment, particularly with a focus on the Australian rural landscape”.
Soils for Life supports innovative farmers and land managers demonstrating high performance in regenerative landscape management. The Soils for Life website lists some twenty case studies of productive regenerative agriculture across Australia. The experiences of farmers who are already successfully leading the way is documented to illustrate what can be achieved and how.
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Constitution Education Fund Australia
The Constitution Education Fund Australia (CEFA) is an independent, non-partisan and non-profit organisation committed to increasing public understanding and appreciation of the Constitution, its history and contemporary relevance. CEFA attracts support from all section of the Australian community for its education program. CEFA believes that all Australians, young and old, those born here and those who have come from other lands should have a broad understanding of the system of government that has made our country one of the most successful democracies in the world. Sir Peter Cosgrove, Governor-General of Australia, is Patron-in-Chief.
Jeffery is an active Patron of several other not-for-profit organisations.
Images of General Jeffery with medals: 11 April 2008, 2008
Image of General Jeffery in uniform with ribbons: 27 August 2008