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Humanist Society

of New South Wales Inc.

Australian Humanists of the Year

Since 1983 Australian Humanists have bestowed the award of Humanist of the Year on a person who has made an outstanding contribution to public life, consistent with Humanist ideals and values.

The selection is made by agreement amongst the State Humanist Societies with final endorsement by the Council of Australian Humanist Societes (cAHs).

These awards can be read as a handle to understand humanism which has a diffuse multifacetted meaning and significance rather like the term democracy has.

Lyn White
Animal rights activist
Gillian Triggs
Former Human Rights Commissioner
In recognition of her fearless, reasoned and compassionate approach to human rights in Australia, particularly her enactment of the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention - children whose plight is so often forgotten in Australian political life.
Dr Rodney Symes
Medical practioner
In recognition of his compassionate advocacy for the legislation of volunatry assisted dying in Victoria and around Australia, sometimes at great professional risk, and for expressing fundamental Humanist values for doing so.
John Bell
John Bell is renown in the performing arts in Australia and internationally as a Shakespearan actor and director; and for bringing the Humanist and secular aspects of Shakespeare's works to public audiences.
2016 Young AHOY
Jason Ball
LGBTIQ+ activist
In recognition of his efforts in promoting student secular societies and as an activist for LGBTIQ+ issues, particularly in Australian Rules Football to end homophobia, together with his continued passion in improving the mental health of all, particularly youth.
Carmen Lawrence
Dr Lawrence has consistently demonstrated a humanist approach to a wide range of issues, both as politician and as univerisity lecturer and researcher. She has spoke out on matters of concern to Humanists including the welfare of Indigenous people, equality for women, inequality in education and Australia's treatment of asylum seekers.
Geoffery Robertson
Human Right Lawyer
In recognition of his sustained advocacy and defence of human rights of a wide range of individuals over many years.
Jane Caro
Social commentator
In recognition of her public advocacy of atheism, secularism and ethics as a product of informed and reasoned discussion. In espousing these core Humanist ideals, Jane has been outspoken on a wide range of issues, particularly equality for women and the need for high quality public education.
Ron Williams
Led High Court challenged against the Commonwealth allowing chaplains into public schools.
Leslie Cannold
Recognised for her valuable contribution to public debate on a wide range of ethical issues, of particular relevance to women and family life.
Bob Brown
For a wide range of endeavours in the political sphere advancing a range of humanist values. As a publicly avowed atheist he has been outspoken over many decades on numerous matters of concern to Humanists.
Julian Burnside and Kate Durham
Barrister and artist
In recognition of their courageous human rights advocacy, coordination of and participation in much needed assistance programs to asylum seekers after the disgraceful Tampa 'children overboard; incident (August 2001).
Ms Lyn Allison
Lyn Allison was a member of the Senate up 30 June 2008. She was an active member of several Senate Committees, successfully negotiating improvements to legislation as well as additional funding for a number of programs in the areas of environment protection and education. She has been vocal on environmental issues, she chaired the Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee from 1998 to 2003 during which time the committee conducted ten key environment inquiries and made hundreds of recommendations. She led the Democrats in confronting the Governemtn over its lack of performance in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Ms Allison is a supporter of the pubic school system, a non-religious secularist she has spoken against religious instruction and the Howard government's chaplaincy funding scheme. In 2005 she challenged Brendan Nelson's comment that he would not oppose the teaching of intelligent design. She was at the forefront of removing the then Health Minister's veto over RU486. The House of Representatives voted to remove the veto in February 2006. In a speech in 2007 she said that people with very strong religious views were "heavily overrepresented" which lead to distinct differences between the politicians and the wider community on issues such as abortion and reproductive health.
Dr Inga Clendinnen
Historian and essayist
Expert archaeologist, anthropologist and historian of 16th century Latin American civilisation and colonialism. Her writings received many awards, including the Arthur J. Aiton Memorial Lecturer at the University of Michigan in 1987. Her book, Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard in Yucatan 1517 - 1570, won the Herbert Eugene Bolton Memorial Prize in 1988 and the Theodore Heizer Prize in 1992. In 1991 her Aztecs: An interpretation was published to wide acclaim. She gave the 1999 Boyer Lectures, published later as True Stories, covered real encounters between Australia's indigenous people and Europeans.
Peter Cundall
Television presenter
Peter Cundall has been selected as an exemplary Humanist whose personality has constantly grown. Finding the horrors of war could be allayed by gardening, he became a landscape gardener, then a garden writer who spearheaded the organic food-growing movement, a champion of self-sufficiency, spreading through the media his encouraging message, 'anyone can do this.' His boundless enthusiasm has brought many to appreciate nature, and he is a persistent fighter both for the environment and for peace..
Dr Tim Flannery
Biologist and author
In recognition of his scientific discoveries and his books imbued with his humanistic attitude. His evolutionary expertise has led him to propound bold and compelling views on population carrying capacity, immigration, the doctrine of 'terra nullius', indigenous understanding of the environment and how white Australians must face up to these issues.
Prof. Peter Singer
Philosopher of ethics
In appreciation of his outstanding contribution to ethics. With uncompromising commitment to clear thinking and to secular democratic principles, he has developed reasoned, practical approaches to contemporary human problems. His courageous re-appraisal of traditional ethics gives guidance for the challenges raised by biotechnology and promotes ethical relations with the biosphere. His work further many Humanist causes.
Prof. Alan Trounson
Medical research scientist
In recognition of his vigorous public advocacy of ethical research into early human development for therapeutic ends, and for his standing against doctrinaire opposition to such work being informed by his eminent achievements in the treatment of infertility and in the techniques of stem cell development: a practical humanitarian.
Prof. Donald Horne AO
Author, social commentator and critic
In recognition of his outstanding contribution to humanism in action as a social critic and commentator on Australian society for more than fifty years. In particular for his strong advocacy of liberal democracy, multiculturalism, tolerance, republicanism and the recognition of indigenes as Australia's first people.
Mr. Eric Bogle
Folk song writer and singer
In recognition of one of Australia's best known and most decorated songwriters, and performers who has nationally and internationally captured the spirit of the Australian nation and advanced the ethos of humanisn through his perceptive and individualistic song writing with its exposure of racism, bigotry, war mongering and injustice of all kinds.
Prof. Henry Reynolds
Historian and Aboriginal Rights advocate
In recognition of his outstanding contribution to Australian history, in particular his research which significantly revised our knowledge of British Colonial policy on native land rights. As a valued consultant to governments, media and community groups, both in Australia and overseas, Professor Reynolds has contributed to a profound change in the way the history of the relations between indigenous and other Australians are understood.



Before 2000
Ms Diana Warnock
Politician and journalist
In recognition of her commitment to humanist values in her extensive work on behalf of individual and community groups. Her determination and concern for the welfare of others was shown by her contribution to the passage of a most enlightened abortion law reform in the parliament of Western Australia.
Dr. Philip Nitschke
Medical practitioner and voluntary euthanasia campaigner
In recognition of his outstanding contribution to furthering the cause of voluntary euthanasia. Despite opposition and many setbacks he showed that the Northern Territory's ground breaking Right to Die Bill was needed and workable.
Dr. Eva Cox
Social analyst and cultural critic
In recognition of her contribution to raising fundamental questions about what constitutes a civilised society, especially through her highly regarded 1995 ABC radio Boyer lectures entitled A Truly Civil Society. And for her advocacy and social policy analysis on behalf of women and the disadvantaged
Hon. Bill Hayden
Governor General of Australia
As Governer General he publicly declared himself an atheist and spoke, without fear despite criticism, in favour of voluntary euthanasia and other causes supported by Humanists. Whether speaking in Australia or abroad, he advocated peace and human rights, and condemned injustice, intolerance and discrimination.
Prof. Ian Plimer
Geologist and anti-creationist campaigner
In recognition of his contribution to scientific education through his exposure of the faults in the arguments and the dishonest tactics of the many advocates of Creationism. His book, Telling lies for God, (Sydney Random House, 1994) outlines the case for the scientific version of life's origins, against a dogmatic approach.
Ms Margaret & Mr. 'Tup' Baxendell
Queensland social activists
For their lifetime commitment to important Humanist concerns of abortion law reform, peace, reduction of domestic violence, sex education, voluntary euthanasia and sustainable population. They played a significant role, first in Queensland Rationalist Society then, after a name change, the Humanist Society of Queensland.
Dr. Robyn Williams
Science journalist and broadcaster
For his active and effective advancement of public understanding of science through his role as Executive Producer ABC science programs for both radio and television.
Dr. John Hirshman AM
Medical specialist with the WHO
In recognition of his active involvement in the Australian Humanist movement over four decades, and his significant public work in setting up the administering to the healthcare needs in developing countries.
Dr. Fred Hollows (dec.)
Ophthalmologist and health activist
For his practical contributions to improving the eyesight of Aborigines, and his program to train local technicians to perform eye surgery in Eritrea, Nepal and Vietnam. He lived and died with these beliefs: "I am a humanist, I don't believe in any higher power than the best expressions of the human spirit, and those are to be found in personal and social relationships".
Senator Gareth Evans
Politician and internationalist
In recognition of his commitment to a humanist approach to political decision making and, while Australia's Foreign Minister, for his outstanding contribution to furthering a peaceful resolution of international conflicts.
Mr Victor Lloyd
Educator and author
For his active lifetime involvement with the Humanist Society of Queensland, and before that, the Queensland Rationalist Society. Prolific writer on humanism and rationalism, he contributed the chapter on "Rationalism and Humanism" to the bicentennial project Many Faiths, One Nation, edited by Dr Ian Gillman.
Prof. Ian Lowe
Environmental scientist and science publicist
For his extensive contribution to the public understanding of science and technology, throught his active involvement in many organisations and also through his writings and appearances on radio and television.
Mr Phillip Adams
Journalist, commentator and film maker
For his outstanding contribution as author, columnist, and public speaker in making the Australian community more informed, less superstitious, more caring, more rational society and therefore more humanistic.
Mrs Judith Anne Levy
Politician and social activist
For her work towards abortion law reform, voluntary euthanasia, family planning, decriminalisation of prostitution, and other reforms. She was a founding member of the Humanist Society of South Australia and has been a patron for meny years.
Rev. Ted Noffs (dec.)
Christian theologian social reformer
For setting up one of the first rehabilitation program for young drug addicts, and establishing programs for aged, lonely, migrant and Aborigines. He encouraged radical action in social ethis and believed, "All religious, political problems must be given a human face."
Senator Olive Zakharov (dec.)
Politician and educationist
For her pioneering success in introducing humanist counselling into secondary schools, and for her support of Humanist causes such as, equality for women, rights of the disadvantaged, and homosexual law reform. Also her active membership of the Humanist Society of Victoria.
Hon. Mr Justice Lionel Murphy (dec.)
Attorney General and Justice of the High Court of Australia
For his legislative initiatives on divorce law, trade practices, legal aid, racial discrimination and the civil celebrant program. He also introduced the recognition of an affirmation instead of swearing on the Bible. A judgement approved favourably by Humanists was In Defence of Government Schools' case, on which he was the sole judge of the High Court to declare government funding of private schools to be illegal.

cAHs Affiliates

Humanist Societies of:

New South Wales Victoria Queensland South Australia Western Australia

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