The Voltaire Human Rights Award honours a person who has made an outstanding contribution to human rights, free speech and/or civil liberties, with particular emphasis on progressing freedom, respect, equality, dignity and action.
Brenda Appleton OAM has been a fearless advocate for trans and gender-diverse (TGD) people in Victoria and more broadly in Australia. Her life story has been one of incredible resilience and personal empowerment.
Brenda was heavily involved in working with the Victorian Government, opposition and crossbenches for the successful introduction of birth certificate legislation that enabled TGD people to access birth certificates which reflected their identity.
As a spokesperson for Transgender Victoria, Brenda has been vital in her leadership, advocacy and training on TGD and LGBTIQ+ issues. Her effective leadership within the community was recognised when she was appointed Co-Chair of the whole-of-Victorian Government LGBTI Taskforce, making her the first trans person in Australia to be named chair of a ministerial advisory committee.
Brenda has also chaired the trans and gender-diverse subcommittee of the former government’s Health and Wellbeing Ministerial Advisory Committee. In this role she formulated the health and wellbeing background paper that was instrumental to the development of the health policy for trans and gender-diverse Victorians. Brenda has also served on the Victorian Mental Health Taskforce and is currently a member of the Senior Victorians Advisory Group. She was chair or co-chair of Transgender Victoria for 17 years.
Brenda was also instrumental in Corrections Victoria adopting a new Commissioner's Requirement for the treatment of TGD people. Brenda is also an ambassador for the Pinnacle Foundation and BreastScreen Victoria. Recently, she co-authored a journal article based on original field research on prejudices faced by TGD people in the criminal justice system.
In a political arena where we have seen LGBTIQ+ people become political footballs, and in particular over recent times young and vulnerable TGD people, we are very proud to award the Voltaire Human Rights Award to Brenda.