The Human Rights Awards were established to honour the achievement in literature and other writing, film and the media in the promotion of understanding and public discussion of human rights in Australia. The distinctive awards, designed and made South Australian glass artist Pavel Tomecko, were presented by Sir Ninian Stephen.

human rights medal

Winner: Reverend Dorothy McMahon

The 1988 Medal recipient was the Reverend Dorothy McMahon, Minister of the Pitt Street, Sydney, Parish of the Uniting Church of Australia. In presenting the Medal, Sir Ninian Stephen paid tribute to Reverend McMahon's 'sustained, courageous and at times costly leadership to the community in general and the church in particular, upholding the rights of those who are victimised because of race, gender or sexual orientation, and responding to the needs of such people'.

The President of the Commission, Justice Einfeld, spoke about her as a 'tireless and courageous activist for human rights for more than thirty years' even though her work had earned the active hostility of a number of extremist organisations, directed both at herself and her church.

The medal is cast in bronze and was designed and made by Victorian sculptor and architect Michael Meszaros.

literature and other writing awards

Winner: Don't Take Your Love to Town - Ruby Langford

An autobiographical account of an Aboriginal women's struggle to raise nine children.

Winner: Inside Black Australia - Kevin Gilbert

An anthology of Aboriginal poetry

Winner: The Law of the Land - Henry Reynolds

Challenges the legal and moral assumptions underlying the European occupation of Aboriginal Australia.

television drama award

Winner: Custody - Film Australia

Portraying the breakup of a marriage and the subsequent custody battle.

television documentary award

Winner: Blue Death - Sue Spencer, Producer and Paul Barry, Journalist - ABC TV 4 Corners

Dealing with Australia's worst industrial tragedy in the asbestos-mining town of Wittenoom

radio documentary award

Winner: The Beating Heart of Australia - Florence Sperling for the program Encounter ABC Brisbane

Dealing with the experience of discrimination by the Aboriginal community.

print newspapers award

Winner: Land Rights News - John Ah Kit - Alice Springs NT

Print Magazines Award

Winner: Ten Ten: Outsiders - Collins Dove

An educative magazine aimed at combating prejudice in schools

film award

Winner: Mapantsula - David Hannay

A hard-hitting anti-apartheid drama set in Soweto