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Human Rights Awards


Nominations have closed for the 2021 Human Rights Awards

Every year the Commission holds the Human Rights Awards to celebrate human rights achievements. It is a chance to acknowledge, congratulate and share the important work of organisations, businesses, and individuals across the nation.

The Commission is proud to announce that the Human Rights Awards will be proceeding in 2021 in a new and exciting format. This year, there will be three Award categories:

  • Human Rights Medal
  • Young People’s Medal
  • Community Human Rights Champion

Nominations have closed for the 2021 Human Rights Awards.

Winners will be announced across the Commission’s social media platforms so make sure you follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so stay in the loop.


Sponsored by the Delegation of the European Union to Australia
European Union delegation to Australia

Sponsored by LexisNexis

  • About the Awards

    The Human Rights Awards were first established by the Commission (then known as the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission) in 1987, to recognise the contributions of individuals across the nation who made it their life’s mission to champion human rights, social justice, and equality for all.

    More than 33 years later, the Human Rights Awards recognise the work of human rights advocates across Australia, and to champion the work of hundreds of people across a variety of sectors and endeavours. 

    This year, the Commission has adapted award categories to better align with Australia’s ever-changing human rights landscape. What originated as an evening to recognise human rights in film, television programs and literature works now spans across a broader field. The esteemed Human Rights Medal remains the only category from the inaugural Awards that is still awarded.

    The first Human Rights Medal winner was Indigenous activist Rose Colless OAM, who was acknowledged for her tireless work in drug and alcohol rehabilitation initiatives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In the following years, the Human Rights Medal was awarded to other esteemed individuals including Fred Hollows, Peter Greste, Dorothy Hoddinott AO, Ian Thorpe, Jonathan Thurston, The Hon Peter McClellan AM QC and Chrissie Foster AM, and most recently, Rosemary Kayess.

    The Human Rights Awards provide Australia with an opportunity to honour the unsung heroes of human rights. They shine a light on and promote the work of champions who often go unrecognised for their efforts in challenging, transforming the realisation of human rights in Australia. 

    Human Rights Heroes 2020

    The Human Rights Awards were postponed in 2020 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

    In recognition of the extraordinary circumstances, the Commission adopted a different approach to celebrate the many human rights champions who had emerged. 

    We asked the Australian community to nominate their Human Rights Heroes of 2020 – the people who had made a difference on the ground during what had been a very challenging year. 

    Ten extraordinary finalists were acknowledged, and their stories shared across the Commission’s social channels. You can read more about the 10 finalists and their work here. 

  • Award Categories

    Human Rights Medal 

    Awarded to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the promotion, protection, and advancement of human rights in Australia. 

    Young Peoples Medal

    Awarded to an individual who is under the age of 25 years (on 31 July 2021) who has made an outstanding contribution to advancing human rights in Australia. 

    Community Human Rights Champion

    Awarded to an individual or organisation with a proven track record in promoting and advancing human rights in the Australian community.

  • Nomination criteria

    In choosing the recipients of the Human Rights Awards categories, consideration is given to the nominee’s achievements in the year prior to receiving the award, as well as their ongoing contribution to the advancement of human rights.

    Given the postponement of the Human Rights Awards in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission will be accepting nominations on relevant human rights achievements from August 1, 2019 to July 31, 2021. This includes age category restrictions relating to the Young People’s Medal.

    An individual, organisation or community group need only be nominated once to be considered. The number of nominations received per nominee carries no weight in the judging process.

    To be eligible for nomination, entrants must have made an outstanding contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights IN AUSTRALIA in at least one of the following areas, and been active in this area between August 1, 2019 and July 31, 2021:

    • Taking action to overcome discrimination or infringements of human rights within Australia;
    • Encouraging greater harmony between people of different race, sex, sexuality, age or ethnic origin within Australia;
    • Enhancing the rights of Indigenous Australians;
    • Promoting equal opportunity for people with a disability in Australia; or
    • Increasing awareness of issues of injustice or inequality in Australia.


    Eligibility criteria

    • Nominees must be a lawful resident of Australia
    • Self-nominations are accepted
    • Unsuccessful nominations may be re-nominated in subsequent years


    Category criteria

    • Nominations under the age of 25 (as of July 31, 2021) will be considered for the Young People’s Medal
    • Nominators can put forward nominations across all three categories


    Judging criteria

    Selection panels will consider the following when assessing and comparing nominations against the above criteria:

    • Does the nominee contribute to the advancement of human rights issues in Australia?
    • Does the entry provide specific examples of their contribution?
    • Has the nominee been a leader in this area of work in their community?
    • Has the nominee raised community awareness of the issue?
    • Has the nominee been able to provide a network of support for the issue?
    • What was the outcome of the nominee’s contribution?
    • How effective was the outcome?
    • Did the nominee overcome any obstacles to achieve their outcome?
  • Key dates

    JULY 2021

    The Australian Human Rights Commission calls on individuals, community groups, businesses, and organisations to nominate for a Human Rights Award. 

    Nominations are open for four weeks, whereby the public can submit nominations for individuals or groups that meet the selection criteria.


    Once nominations close, they are categorised and reviewed by a judging panel. An expert selection panel will select the finalists and winner in each award category. 

    All nominators will be notified by email if the nomination they put forward has been selected as a 2021 Human Rights Awards finalist. All finalists will be notified.

    NOVEMBER 2021

    Finalists will be announced across the Commission’s social media platforms. Make sure you are following the Commission on  Twitter Facebook, and  Instagram.

    DECEMBER 10, 2021

    The winner of the Human Rights Medal, the Young People’s Medal, and the Community Human Rights Champion are announced across the Commission’s social channels.  

  • Sponsor: EU delegation

    European Union delegation to Australia

    The European Union is committed to supporting democracy and human rights in its external relations, in accordance with its founding principles of liberty, democracy and respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. The EU seeks to mainstream human rights concerns into all its policies and programmes, and has different human rights policy instruments for specific actions — including financing specific projects through its financing instruments. The EU regularly includes human rights in political dialogues with third countries or regional organisations. It also holds dialogues and consultations specifically dedicated to human rights with some 40 countries.






  • Sponsor: LexisNexis

    LexisNexis logo

    Our core belief, central premise and purpose is to uphold the Rule of Law which fundamentally states that no one is above the law.

    We provide legal content and technology solutions to the legal profession, LexisNexis supports the Rule of Law and ensures that the administration of justice is maintained.

    The Rule of Law is the unifying purpose behind our work to serve customers and their communities. By upholding the Rule of Law, we support our government and ensure its officials and agents are accountable under the law.

    We ensure laws are clear, publicised, stable and fair and are an indispensable partner to legal and other professionals to ensure they have authoritative, accurate and comprehensive information. We at LexisNexis are committed to promoting the Rule of Law in a variety of ways, including by offering direct financial support and legal and technical advice to organisations that combat human trafficking and support victims of human trafficking. We pride ourselves at LexisNexis Australia at being the next generation Rule of Law.



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Commission announces 2021 Human Rights Awards finalists

Every year the Commission holds the Human Rights Awards to celebrate human rights achievements. It is a chance to acknowledge, congratulate and share the important work of organisations, businesses, and individuals across the nation.

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