Voltaire Award Dinner 2019


Liberty Victoria is proud to present the Voltaire Award Dinner 2019, a celebration of free speech and of Liberty Victoria's continued work to defend and extend civil liberties and human rights throughout Australia.





Liberty has been working since 1936 to extend and defend human rights and freedom.

Each year Liberty Victoria holds its Voltaire Dinner to celebrate free speech.

Thanks for supporting the evening. You are helping to:

  • Secure people’s equal rights and oppose any abuse or excessive power by the state.
  • Influence public debate and government policy on human rights.
  • Support specific cases in defence of civil liberties.

Our annual Voltaire Awards Dinner provides us with an opportunity not only to celebrate successes for human rights, but to promote the challenges we continue to face.


Voltaire Award - Debbie Kilroy

This award honours a person or group considered to have done the most for the right of free speech in the previous 12 months. It recognises those who in their work, interests or passions make an extraordinary contribution to these rights, whether it be through speaking out, writing, campaigning, whistle-blowing or defying authoritarianism. Those honoured have often gone beyond the call of duty or office by refusing to be cowed or silenced.

This year Liberty Victoria honours Debbie Kilroy, a prominent activist and the founder of Sisters Inside. 

Debbie has been a tireless advocate for the rights of disadvantaged women and children on a wide variety of issues including violence, homelessness, racism, mental health, substance abuse, poverty, child protection, sexual assault, imprisonment and  other systemic failings. She is driven to reduce the criminalisation and imprisonment of women and children and girls, address the serious over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls at all levels of the criminal legal system, and mitigate the impact of mothers’ imprisonment on their children.



Young Voltaire Award - Ngaga Dji - a Collaborative Project of the Koorie Youth Council Led by Anna Cerreto and Indi Clarke

This award will be presented for the third time in 2019, to a person no older than 30 at the date of their nomination who has fulfilled the criteria for the Voltaire Award.

Liberty Victoria honours the Ngaga-Dji project a collaborative project of the Koorie Youth Council led by Anna Cerreto and Indi Clarke, with the Young Voltaire Award.

Ngaga-dji captures the voices and experiences of Aboriginal children in Victoria’s youth justice system. It tells the stories of these children for the first time, giving Victoria the chance to understand how policy choices affect the lives and the future of Indigenous communities.

The name ‘Ngaga-dji’ translates to ‘hear me’. Drawn from Woiwurrung language of the Wurundjeri people, this project is based in cultural values of listening, collaboration and care.

Liberty Victoria applauds Ngaga-dji for truly supporting self-determination and being a vital document in the fight to end the over-incarceration of Aboriginal people due to ongoing systemic injustice.

The Empty Chair Award - Nasrin Sotoudeh

Liberty Victoria honours Nasrin Sotoudeh with the Voltaire 'Empty Chair' Award 2019

Nasrin is an Iranian lawyer and human rights defender, renowned for her work representing abused women and children, dissidents, journalists, and people sentenced to death for offences committed as children.  Her courageous advocacy has brought her into contact with Iranian authorities on numerous occasions, and she has been harshly punished for her work as a human rights defender.

Ms Sotoudeh is currently serving a term of imprisonment for various offences against the Iranian regime, including providing legal representation to women prosecuted for refusing to wear the hijab or headscarf.  She was convicted in absentia.  Her record-breaking sentence amounts to 38 years in prison, and 148 lashes.  

Ms Sotoudeh represents the very best qualities,  and embodies the immense risks, of human rights defenders around the world. 

Liberty Victoria is proud to present the Voltaire Human Rights ‘Empty Chair’ Award to Nasrin Sotoudeh.  Her husband Reza Khandan will accept the award by video at the Voltaire Dinner in Melbourne on 27 July 2019. 

Established in 2016, this award is presented to a person who is worthy to receive the Voltaire or Young Voltaire Award, but cannot be present to receive the award due to the consequences of their exercise of or advocacy for free speech. The 2016 Empty Chair Award was made to Saudi writer, dissident and political prisoner Raif Badawi.  In 2017, the recipient was Iranian cartoonist Ali Dorani aka 'Eaten Fish', until recently imprisoned on Manus Island. In 2018 the recipient was Behrouz Boochani, who is currently detained on Manus Island.



Voltaire was a French writer and philosopher famous for his advocacy of freedom of speech. He was an outspoken advocate of civil liberties, despite the risk this placed him in under the strict censorship laws of the 18th Century.

The values of Liberty Victoria resonate with those of Voltaire. This event is given annually to the person or organisation making an outstanding contribution to free speech.



  • 2018: Magda Szubanski (Actor and advocate for same sex marriage.)
  • 2017: Gillian Triggs (President of the Australian Human Rights Commission until July 2017)
  • 2016: Waleed Aly (media presenter, author and academic)
  • 2015: The ‘three brothers’ – Peter Greste, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy (Al Jazeera journalists)
  • 2014: Yu Shu Lipski (interpreter and whistleblower)
  • 2013: Arnold Zable (writer, novelist and refugee advocate)
  • 2012: David Marr (journalist)


#Voltaire2019  @LibertyVic

Book Now


Start Date - End Date

Jul 27th, 2019 - Jul 27th, 2019

Start Time - End Time

6:30 pm - 11:00 pm

Event Location

The Grand Ballroom, Sofitel Melbourne on Collins


$185 ticket, $1700 table

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