Humanists of the Year


Australian Humanist of the Year


Starting in1983 the Australian Humanist movement has awarded annually the Humanist of the Year award to a person(s) who has made an outstanding contribution to public life, consistent with Humanist principles and values.

2019 Lyn White animal protection activist

Lyn White's award is in recognition of her passionate and effective advocacy of humane treatment of animals everywhere. Her efforts to highlight the sentiency of animals fits seamlessly with the Humanist belief that our sympathy and compassion should ethically be extended to all living beings who suffer, not only human beings. Lyn's work with Animals Australia, investigating and exposing cruelty to animals, has resulted in regulatory changes and increased public awareness and continues to inspire us all. Humanists Australia salutes and supports that work.


2018        Emeritus Professor Gillian Triggs        academic

In recognition of her fearless reasoned and compassionate approach to human rights in Australia, particularly her conduct of the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention, which shone a spotlight on those whose plight is so often forgotten. Undaunted by political or career considerations Professor Triggs has been a steadfast voice for recognition and respect for the human rights of all people.


2017         Dr. Rodney Syme                        medical practitioner

In recognition of his compassionate advocacy for the legislation of  voluntary assisted dying in Victoria and around Australia, sometimes at great professional risk, and for expressing fundamental Humanist values for doing so.

2016           John Bell       actor/director

In recognition of his career in the performing arts in Australia and internationally as a Shakespearean actor and director; and for bringing the Humanist and secular aspects of Shakespeare's works to public audiences

2015           Carmen Lawrence            psychologist

In recognition of her current research into fanatical ideas and extreme behaviour, along with her long-standing commitment to equity and social justice. In pursuit of these Humanist ideals, both a parliamentarian and a researcher, Carmen has been a prominent advocate on behalf of Indigenous Australians, women, public education, environmental protection and asylum seekers.

2014           Geoffrey Robertson                         human rights lawyer & author

In recognition of his outstanding work as a human rights lawyer and advocate, as expressed in his numerous writings and appearances in courts throughout the world. His outspokenness on crimes committed against children by the Catholic Church and other religious organisations has particularly admired by Humanists.


2013           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.


2012           Ron Williams                                   musician & activist

In appreciation of Ron’s public stand for the principle of separation of church and state. Ron has initiated a challenge to the constitutional legality of Commonwealth Government funding for overtly religious purposes; in so doing he has argued for the rights of public school students and their parents to be free from an inappropriate intrusion of religion into the secular space of public schooling.

2011           Leslie Cannold                                 bioethicist

In recognition of her outstanding contribution to public debate on bio-ethics, especially issues affecting women and family life. She excels at presenting complex and controversial ideas with clarity. She is much appreciated by thinking people as a beacon of the well informed, reasoned argument in the media sea of misinformation.


2010           Bob Brown                                       political activist

In recognition of his years of outspoken advocacy for a secular, liberal democracy. By his passionate campaigning to save native forests and waterways from despoliation he inspired countless young people to become politically involved. We commend his earnest commitment to the Humanist values of fairness, justice, common sense and compassion, and we welcome the enlightened stance he has taken on many controversial issues like voluntary euthanasia, same-sex rights and chaplaincies in schools.

2009                       Kate Durham           (joint)                                           artist

In recognition of her dedicated support for human rights, through such practical assistance as the successful Spare Rooms for Refugees project, and by the use of her creative artistry with paint and film to show the often tragic consequences of human rights violations such as the Tampa incident, which touched the consciences of Australians. Joint award with Julian Burnside

2009                       Julian Burnside            (joint)                                      barrister

In recognition of his active commitment to human rights, particularly his willingness to take on the cases of asylum seekers, pro bono, and his eloquent public advocacy of the rights of refugees. We commend him for his courageous public stand when championing human rights in Australia was at a very low point. Joint award with Kate Durham.

2008          Lyn Allison                                    parliamentarian

In recognition of her commitment as a vigorous and effective campaigner on public education, the environment, uranium mining and women’s issues. In all these areas Senator Allison has initiated significant legislative reform. Her respect for the democratic process and her constant emphasis on the secular character of our society show her to be an exemplary individual and a true Humanist.

2007          Inga Clendinnen (dec)                 historian & essayist

In recognition of the humanistic influence of her lectures and writings dealing with the misunderstandings between colliding cultures; with gratitude for her astute observations and profound reflections on the human experience, strikingly expressed. She has drawn poignant lessons from the effects of European colonization on the American Maya and Aztec peoples and the indigenous people of Australia, as well as from the traumas of the Holocaust.

2006           Peter Cundall                                   horticulturalist

In recognition of an exemplary Humanist whose personality is ever growing. Finding the horrors of war could be allayed by gardening, he became a landscape gardener, then gardening 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.

2005           Tim Flannery                                   biologist
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.

2004           Peter Singer                                      philosopher

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 furthers many Humanist causes.

2003           Alan Trounson                                medical scientist

In recognition of his vigorous public advocacy of ethical research into early human development for therapeutic ends, and his stand against doctrinaire opposition to such work, being informed by his eminent achievements in the treatment of infertility and in techniques of stem cell development: a practical humanitarian.

2002           Donald Horne (dec.)                        writer & social critic

In recognition of his outstanding contribution to humanism is 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.

2001           Eric Bogle                                         song writer & singer

In recognition of one of Australia’s best known and most decorated songwriters and performers, who has captured the spirit of the Australian nation and advanced the ethos of humanism through his perceptive and individualistic song writing with its exposure of racism, bigotry, war mongering and injustice of all kinds.

2000           Henry Reynolds                               historian

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, he has contributed to a profound change in the way the history of the relations between indigenous and other Australians are understood.

Pre year 2000 AHOYS - information can be found here