Human Rights Medal

The Human Rights Medal is awarded to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of human rights in Australia. The medal has a rich history of prestigious winners.

Composite of photos of human rights medal finalists

WINNER: Johnathan Thurston

NRL star Johnathan was recently named the 2018 Queensland Australian of the Year for his ongoing commitment to improving the life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Johnathan is a role model and mentor and is involved in a multitude of community programs including NRL Cowboys House which provides support and accommodation for Indigenous students from remote Queensland communities.


Anthony and Chrissie Foster

The couple spent more than twenty years advocating and campaigning for survivors of child sex abuse, after two of their three daughters were abused by a Catholic priest in Melbourne. Their advocacy helped bring about the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Dr John Malouf

John is an Ear, Nose and Throat, Head and Neck surgeon. For the past seven years, he has provided surgical outreach programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities in Queensland. His programs aim to close the gap in health equality for Indigenous peoples, particularly in relation to ear and hearing conditions, and preventing subsequent disease or permanent disability.

Walter Mikac

Walter is an advocate for strong gun control and the Founding Patron of the Alannah & Madeline Foundation. After the loss of his wife and two children in the tragic massacre at Port Arthur in 1996, Walter asked the then Prime Minister, the Hon John Howard, to review the nation’s gun laws. Today, Walter Mikac continues to be committed to the protection and rights of children by providing a voice for victims of serious violence and/or bullying.

Sonya Ryan

Since the murder of her daughter just over ten years ago by a man posing as a teenager online, Sonya has campaigned for stronger laws to protect young people online. She set up the Carly Ryan Foundation and in June, Federal Parliament passed ‘Carly’s Law’ to help protect children on the internet from online predators.

Ben Quilty

Ben is a renowned artist and human rights advocate. He campaigned tirelessly against the death penalty and produced art with Myuran Sukumaran, an Australian who was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death in Indonesia. Ben’s other works include an installation of hundreds of vests to symbolise the refugee crisis.

Young People’s Human Rights Medal

The Young People’s Human Rights Medal is awarded to an individual who is under the age of 25 years (on 30 September 2015) and who has made an outstanding contribution to advancing human rights in Australia.

2017 HRA Young People Human Rights Medal

WINNER: Georgie Stone
Georgie is a transgender advocate who at the age of 10, was the youngest person to receive hormone blockers in Australia. She campaigned for laws to be changed to allow transgender children and their families access some treatment without Family Court approval.


Bassam Maaliki
Bassam is passionate about creating a world where everyone belongs, initiated by his own experience as a Muslim teenager. Bassam established the #uBelong, a project aimed at fostering a culture of inclusiveness and multicultural harmony.

Ziagul Sultani
Ziagul is a vocal advocate for multicultural young people, promoting the rights of refugees and young migrants in regional and remote WA to access education and work. She is one of the founding members of MYAN Australian Youth Ambassadors Network (YAN), which aims to find solutions to the injustice and inequality facing migrants and refugees.

Caitlin Figueiredo
Caitlin is a multicultural young Australian working nationally to tackle discrimination, and drive inclusive opportunities for young women and girls. As Board Director of the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, she provides a voice for 4.3 million young people to defend their rights at the Federal level.

Celia Tran
Celia is committed to supporting young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds to expand their leadership and advocacy skills, and communicating with decision-makers on issues that impact their lives. This work has included connecting young multicultural people with public audiences for speaking opportunities.

Law Award

The Law Award is awarded to an individual or an organisation with a track record in promoting and advancing human rights in Australia through the practice of law.

Composite of Law Award finalists

WINNER: David Woodroffe
David Woodroffe has made a significant contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights for Aboriginal people in the Top End of the Northern Territory. David is the Principal Legal Officer for the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) and has worked closely with the Northern Territory Royal Commission to ensure that NAAJA, its clients and Aboriginal people in the Northern territory have a strong voice and the opportunity to participate fully in the Commission’s processes.


Canberra Community Law’s Socio-Legal Practice Clinic
Canberra Community Law’s Socio-Legal Practice Clinic is an innovative program that aids the most disadvantaged people facing a crisis or emergency by integrating the professional skills of a lawyer and a social worker working in tandem. The Clinic’s focus is on people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, people experiencing family violence and/or people with a disability.

Helen Pearce
Helen Pearce is the CEO and Principal Solicitor of the Humanitarian Group, a not-for-profit organisation focused on empowering vulnerable people by providing professional and accessible migration assistance, legal advice and education. Under Helen’s leadership, the Humanitarian Group has helped people new to Western Australia from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, including people seeking asylum, in a way that embraces diversity and strengthens communities.

The Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS)
RACS is an independent community legal centre based in NSW, providing free, specialist legal assistance to people seeking asylum in Australia. When the deadline for the lodgement of protection applications for people who arrived by boat was imposed on 1 October 2017, RACS’ responded by ramping up its services, providing assistance 7 days and 2 nights a week through its team of specialist lawyers, pro bono lawyers, volunteer interpreters and community organisations.

Vincent Shin and Western Community Legal Centre, Wyndham Branch
Vincent Shin is Australia’s first in-school lawyer to assist children from low socio economic backgrounds and their families with legal advice and representation. The ‘school lawyer’ pilot program is being run by the Western Community Legal Centre’s Wyndham Branch and funded by donations. Vincent Shin is based at The Grange Secondary School and is helping students and their families deal with issues ranging from migration law and transport fines to family violence and evictions.


Business Award

The Business Award is awarded to a corporation that has made a practical and/or policy commitment to the promotion and advancement of human rights in the Australian community.

2017 HRA Business Award Finalists - composite of finalist logos

WINNER: Allianz
Through a partnership with Settlement Services International, Allianz established an innovative Sustainable Employment Program aimed at building a diverse and inclusive workforce; creating employment opportunities and support for refugees and migrants.


The Copy Collective
The Copy Collective is committed to workplace flexibility and dedicated to employing people with disabilities, people who are gender diverse and people who live in regional Australia. The company’s flexible work policy enables people to achieve economic independence and greater enjoyment of their rights.

LexisNexis provides resources to more than 180 community legal centres, supporting access to justice for more than 200,000 people from disadvantaged backgrounds. By updating the publication, Federal Discrimination Law, and making it available free online; it enables employers to better understand their human rights obligations.

Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC)
GOLDOC is recognised for its commitment to plan and deliver the next Commonwealth Games in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games has expressed its strong commitment to human rights through its Human Rights Policy as well as its Reconciliation Action Plan.

Kulbardi is an Aboriginal-owned office and stationery supplies company, committed to giving back to the community and inspiring Aboriginal entrepreneurship. Kulbardi has established a fund that provides opportunities for disadvantaged members of the Indigenous community, particularly through employment and training.

Racism. It Stops With Me Award

The ‘Racism. It Stops With Me’ Award recognises the contribution of an organisation to reducing and preventing racism in Australia. Organisations can include community groups or businesses and they can be recognised for a range of anti-racism work including education and prevention.

Composite of photos and logos of the Racism. It Stops With Me. Award finalists

WINNER: Cohealth Arts Generator Sisters and Brothers Program
This program tackles racism in Victoria using a school leadership and vocational program that engages students in different art forms. The program is focused on commonality and empathy through discussions around diversity, race-based discrimination and its harms. By encouraging bystanders to take action when they witness racism, students also learn to build confidence and resilience.

Clinton Pryor
Clinton Pryor was motivated to walk across the country following the Government’s announcement that it would close many remote Aboriginal communities in Western Australia including the town of Mulan, where Mr Pryor grew up. Clinton’s trans-continental walk created significant public interest in issues facing remote and regional communities that culminated in meetings with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

Sean Gordon 
Sean Gordon is an advocate for Aboriginal rights and committed to empowering Aboriginal communities on the NSW Central Coast and throughout Australia. As chair of the National Empowered Communities Leadership Group, Sean has helped link Indigenous-led projects around Australia and has also been active in the movement for constitutional recognition.

Reconciliation South Australia and ActNow Theatre
Since 2014 Reconciliation South Australia and ActNow Theatre have developed and delivered interactive theatre programs for school students designed to help them to develop strategies to tackle racism. The program has engaged more than 1,200 students and 255 teachers from 171 schools.

Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra and Why Documentaries 
Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra and Why Documentaries produced a series of documentaries that bring to life authentic stories of friendships between people of different backgrounds living in the Illawarra region. These stories celebrate diversity and multiculturalism, as expressed through friendship and mateship.

Tony Fitzgerald Memorial Community Individual Award

The Tony Fitzgerald Memorial Award is awarded to an individual with a proven track record in promoting and advancing human rights in the Australian community.

Composite of Community Individual Award finalist photos

WINNER: Barbara Elizabeth Spriggs
Barbara brought about the exposure of a decade-long culture of cover up of the abuse and maltreatment of residents at the Oakden facility when she sought answers for suspected abuse and neglect of her husband while in care across 2015 and 2016.


Saba Vasefi
Saba is an Iranian-Australia academic, filmmaker, poet and human rights advocate. Saba uses her artistic and cultural activities to campaign against the death penalty, advance the rights of women and children as well as give a voice to refugees and asylum seekers.

Catia Malaquias
Catia is a disability advocate and founder of Starting with Julius, an organisation which aims to include people with disability in the media and in advertising in order to reshape cultural attitudes and eliminate discriminatory barriers towards disability.

Alastair Lawrie
Alastair is a passionate campaigner for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community. Alastair has spent over a decade to build awareness of the anti-discrimination protections that exist for LGBTI Australians.

Sister Jane Irene Keogh
Sister Jane has devoted more than 15 years to assisting and supporting refugees in immigration detention centres and those living in the Australian community by providing access to basic needs. She uses her direct experience to engage politicians, community groups, the media and religious communities to bring about systemic change.

Community Organisation Award

The Community Organisation Award is awarded to a non-government / community-based organisation with a proven track record in promoting and advancing human rights in the Australian community.

Composite of Community Org Award finalist logos

WINNER: Blind Citizens Australia
Blind Citizens Australia was set up in 1975 as the peak advocacy body for Australians who are blind or vision impaired. It has played a key role in bringing about significant changes including tactile ground surface indicators and inclusion of blind specific standards in education.


End Rape on Campus Australia
End Rape on Campus Australia works to end sexual violence in universities and residential colleges through direct support of survivors and their communities. It also works on prevention through education and advocating for policy reforms at the campus, state and federal level.

Big hART
Big hART is an arts organisation that was set up 25 years ago to find new ways of dealing with disadvantage. It works closely with communities to address a range of human rights and social justice issues, including the empowerment of Indigenous young people and young rural women.

Twenty10 incorporating GLCS NSW
Twenty10 incorporating GLCS NSW provides frontline support to LGBTIQA+ people across New South Wales. It provides a broad range of specialised services including housing, counselling and social support.

Rural Australians for Refugees – Castlemaine
The Castlemaine branch of Rural Australians for Refugees is a not for profit organisation set up to raise awareness of the human rights of refugees. Volunteers are involved in providing practical and financial support for local refugee families.

Media Award

The Media Award is awarded for any published work in the media which has been broadcast in Australia. This can include television and radio programs, documentaries, and print and online articles.

Composite of Media Awards Finalists

WINNER: The Messenger and They Cannot Take the Sky
Behind the Wire (with The Wheeler Centre and Allen & Unwin)
The Messenger podcast and They Cannot Take the Sky: Stories from Detention share the personal stories of people who have been held in immigration detention or subject to third country processing in Nauru and Manus Island. They provide a compelling insight into the human impacts of Australia’s refugee policies.


The Queen and Zak Grieve
The Australian
This investigation focused on the case of Zak Grieve, a young Aboriginal man who was sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in prison for a murder he did not physically commit. The investigation highlighted the injustices resulting from the Northern Territory’s mandatory minimum sentencing provisions.

ABC Radio National
Bina-gurri follows the story of Jody Barney, who specialises in interpreting Aboriginal sign languages and has worked extensively with deaf Aboriginal people in prison. The program shone a light on the barriers and challenges faced by deaf Aboriginal people in communicating with the legal system.

Exploitation of students
SBS Vietnamese
This investigation revealed serious exploitation of Vietnamese students by businesses in Melbourne, including cases of employees being underpaid, abused by their employers, and asked to work for long hours and under poor conditions. It also highlighted the difficulties faced by international students in reporting exploitation and seeking remedies.

Abuse at Oakden
ABC TV and Radio News
This investigation exposed allegations of abuse and mistreatment of people with complex mental health issues residing at the Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Service in Adelaide. The allegations triggered a review of the facility by South Australia’s Chief Psychiatrist, who recommended that it be closed.