The 2002 Medal and Awards presentation ceremony was held on 10 December 2002 at a luncheon at "Dockside", Cockle Bay Wharf in Sydney. The guest speaker was Professor Lowitja O'Donoghue and Julie McCrossin was the MC.

The judges were: Nick Xynias AO BEM, Professor Gillian Triggs, Professor Larissa Behrendt, John Highfield, Mick O'Regan, Steve Ahern, Sandra Symons, Jacqui Rees, Mike Steketee, Marc Purcell, Brigid Inder, Susan Harris, Associate Professor Brian Kiernan, Doreen Mellor, Allan Russell, Karla Grant, Glenys Rowe, Greig Pickhaver, The Hon. Justice Catherine Branson, Nicholas Cowdery QC and Ruth McColl SC.

human rights medal

Winner: Michael Raper

Michael Raper has been the Director of the Welfare Rights Centre in Sydney since 1990 and President of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) from 1997 to 2001. He is currently Treasurer of the International Council of Social Work as well as Treasurer of the South East Asian Chapter.

At the Welfare Rights Centre, Mr Raper and his team deal with over 4 000 low income and disadvantaged clients each year, providing advice and assistance to ensure they can exercise their obligations, rights and entitlements under the Australian social security system.

The judges were impressed with the breadth and impact of his work with ACOSS and other organisations. They said Mr Raper, though ACOSS, had become a spokesperson for low income workers and has worked tirelessly behind the scenes in a field that does not receive much acclaim and is often overlooked.

law award - sponsored by the law council of australia

Winner: SCALES Community Legal Centre

SCALES identifies its work as human rights advocacy through individual casework, community development projects and law reform. SCALES' clients are young people, refugees and asylum seekers, women escaping domestic violence and public housing tenants. A key element of SCALES' success is the Clinical Legal Education Program it operates in conjunction with the Murdoch University School of Law, which provides training and education of law students in human rights practice.

Judge, Nicholas Cowdery QC said "We were impressed by the strong human rights culture the centre engendered and reinforced. SCALES' work in training and educating law students in human rights law and practice enabled the legal service to be of a broader benefit to the community as well as the individual clients".

community award

Winner: Australian Arabic Council

Since its establishment in 1992, the Australian Arabic Council has campaigned against racism, promoted tolerance and raised awareness of human rights through education. The Council constantly campaigns for more accurate media representation of Arabic issues and promotes the contribution of Arab civilisation to history and to Australian society.

The judges said the Council had a large and dedicated band of volunteers whose work often went unrecognised. They were impressed by the Council's concrete, practical initiatives on racial vilification and cultural diversity and commended them for providing leadership against racial intolerance.

Winner: The Asylum Seeker Project at Hotham Mission

This Melbourne project supports around 200 asylum seekers living in the community who do not have work rights, Medicare, welfare benefits or settlement support and are on bridging visas awaiting a final outcome of their application for asylum. The group rely almost completely on project support for housing, monthly living assistance and social and professional support.

The judges praised the project for its grassroots approach, and acknowledged its work, primarily through volunteers, in providing solutions to problems through direct, practical help and by policy proposals to government, such as the alternative detention model. Hotham Mission has in fact shown it can house asylum seekers released from detention on a systematic basis.

arts non-fiction award

Winner: Faith: a biography of Faith Bandler, Professor Marilyn Lake

Faith is the story of Faith Bandler, one of Australia's best loved and most widely respected citizens. It details her remarkable life, her journey from childhood in a South Sea Islander community in Northern New South Wales, to national recognition as one of Australia's leading human rights activists. As the leader for campaigns for Aboriginal rights and against racial discrimination, Faith Bandler emerged as a compelling public figure. Her leadership and influence were crucial to the success of the 1967 referendum on citizenship rights for Indigenous people.

The judges found Faith to be engrossing, gently layered and substantial, promoting idealism, carrying an inspirational message, and that by opening a window into historical events and the impulses behind them, the biography provides a valuable resource for future activists.

television award

Winner: Duty of Care, Four Corners, ABC Television - Andrew Fowler (reporter), Anne Connolly (producer), Sarah Curnow and Jo Puccini (researchers)

Duty of Care examined the well-intentioned social reform of opening the doors of big institutions and the dramatic lack of subsequent community-based support to help mentally ill people released from those institutions to live in the wider community.

The program illustrated how this shift has resulted in sometimes tragic results. Interviews with grieving families of young people who had taken their own lives after being refused an acute care bed, or after absconding from an understaffed ward, were shown. Professionals told of how they were forced to take dangerous gambles, ejecting seriously ill people from hospital to make beds available for new arrivals. Families conveyed the enormous stress as they battled to keep their loved ones living, with minimal backup.

The judges thought the program was comprehensive and well-researched exposing the mental health system in New South Wales as one which has failed people with mental illness.

radio award

Winner: On the Raft, All at Sea, The Listening Room, ABC Classic FM - Robyn Ravlich and Russell Stapleton (reporters)

On the Raft, All at Sea is a powerful radio documentary about the experience of three generations of asylum seekers. It uses the metaphor of a famous early 19th century painting, 'The Raft of the Medusa', depicting shipwrecked survivors clinging to a flimsy raft adrift at sea as a reference point for a contemporary exploration of why three asylum seekers risked hazardous journeys across different seas at different times.

The judges described the program as "radio at its best, using imagery to evoke human rights issues common to three generations of asylum seekers, drawing on intergenerational commonalities across time to show how lessons from these issues have not been taken by those who represent us".

print media award

Winner: Series of articles on asylum seeker issues - Russell Skelton, The Age

Russell Skelton's series of articles address the gap between Australia's immigration policy and its implementation. The judges described the articles as "powerful, informative and empathetic".

The lead report, Tales from Behind the Fence, was the first detailed account of conditions at Woomera based on evidence from those who worked inside. Other articles tackled the alleged persecution of non-Muslims in detention; the conflicted role of the Immigration Minister, who acts as official guardian to a group of unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan, and; the trial of the first person charged with people smuggling under legislation passed in 2001.