Australia sees challenge to use of term 'guys'

David Morrison gives speech as part of the award ceremony for Australian of The Year on 25 January 2016, at Parliament House in Canberra. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Australian of the Year David Morrison chairs the country's Diversity Council

Australian of the Year David Morrison is leading a drive against the use of the term "guys" in the workplace.

The #WordsAtWork campaign by the country's Diversity Council asks people to avoid expressions they say exclude minority groups.

Using "girls" for women, and "walk the talk" to people in wheelchairs, are among terms they say are offensive.

Mr Morrison was awarded the role of Australian of the Year partly for his equality campaigning.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Australian of the Year is picked by a series of panels, from public suggestions

The former military man - once chief of the Australian Army - admitted he had used some of the terms himself.

But of "guys" Mr Morrison said "I have now removed that from my lexicon as best I can. I think it's important."

Insisting the campaign was not intended to create a "language police", he said: "People use language to denigrate others and to take away their self-respect. Sometimes it happens unconsciously, but the effect is the same."

Image copyright @Juanita_Phillips
Image caption Some responded with humour to the proposal

While some praised the inclusive language drive, not everyone agreed that "guys" was offensive, or that it was the most urgent problem that the Australian of the Year could be tackling.

Some wondered if the thoroughly Australian greeting "mate" - often used by and for men - would be next.

Australian National University language expert Catherine Travis also questioned whether "guys" was still a gender-specific term, telling Australia's ABC that "you guys" was now widely used of all genders.

There was broader agreement on some other terms though, including against using "gay" in a negative fashion.

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