Major General Jeffery was born in Wiluna, Western Australia in 1937 and educated at Kent Street High School and the Royal Military College, Duntroon. He graduated into Infantry and served operationally in Malaya, Borneo, and Vietnam, where he was awarded the Military Cross and the South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. After command of all combat elements of the Army from platoon to division – including the Special Air Service Regiment – he retired in 1993 to assume the appointment of Governor of Western Australia, which he held for almost seven years. His major interests during his tenure were in youth affairs, education, environment and the family.
For his services to the State he was appointed a Companion in the Order of Australia, a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order and a Citizen of Western Australia. On his retirement as Governor in 2000 he established in Perth, a not for profit strategic research institute – Future Directions International (FDI) – whose objective is to examine longer term issues facing Australia.
On 20 December 2000 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Technology by Curtin University.
On 11 August 2003 he was sworn in as the twenty-fourth Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, serving in that capacity until 5 September 2008. Upon his retirement as Governor-General, he served as Chairman of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Outcomes Australia, the Global Foundation and the Diamond Jubilee Trust Australia.
He was appointed the National Advocate for Soil Health in 2013 by Prime Minister Gillard and is patron of various charitable organisations. He is presently the Chairman of FDI, Soils For Life, the Australian Trachoma Alliance and the Constitution Education Fund Australia.
Major General Jeffery is a Companion of the Order of Logohu (PNG), a Knight of St John, a Citizen of Western Australia, a Paul Harris Fellow and an honorary life member of the Returned and Services League.