Gillian Triggs takes out free speech award

The retiring President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, is to be honoured for her fearless work in pursuit of people’s rights.

She is the recipient of the nation’s top free speech prize the Voltaire Award.

Given by Australia’s oldest human rights organisation, Liberty Victoria, it celebrates those who speak out, write, campaign, stand against authoritarianism or expose through whistle-blowing. Often award winners have gone beyond the call of duty or office and refused to be cowed or silenced.

This year’s Voltaire salutes Professor Triggs for her courageous stand on people’s rights, especially free speech. As she said recently, “It is important that we teach our children to be strong and to speak out for the values that are important to them. At the same time, it is important that we have legal protections in place where people are silenced by hate speech or don’t have the power to speak back.”

For the first time this year Liberty will present a Young Voltaire Award, which goes to a person aged 30 or under. The recipient is Georgie Stone.

At just 10 years old, she was the youngest person in Australia to be granted permission by a court to take hormone blockers, the first stage of medical treatment for transgender children.

In standing up for her rights, Georgie has succeeded in a landmark case that means other transgender children do not have to undertake a complex and intimidating legal process to access hormone treatment.  Now aged 17, Georgie's visibility, and her advocacy for the medical and educational rights of transgender children and adolescents, has helped highlight these issues and change the national conversation. 

Established last year, the Empty Chair Award goes to an outstanding contributor to free speech who is unable to accept it in person.

This year’s recipient is Eaten Fish, the prize-winning cartoonist and Iranian asylum seeker held on Manus Island for almost four years.  His pen name evokes lives relentlessly consumed, expended, chewed up and spat out in the service of Australia’s cruel policy of “deterrence”.

When he won the international award for courage in editorial cartooning last year, the citation said, “His cartoons will some day be recognised as important, world-class chronicles of the worst human behaviour since the World War II concentration camps.” His work renders in minute detail a teeming, nightmare world, charged with menace.

The awards will be presented at the annual Voltaire Awards Dinner to be held at the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins on Friday 21 July.  Tickets available at

Previous winners of the Voltaire Award include the commentator Waleed Aly, journalists, authors, activists and critics.

#Voltaire2017  @LibertyVic

Liberty Victoria media contact

For further comment or interviews please call Gillian Garner, Executive Officer at Liberty Victoria on 03 9670 6422 or by email