The Voltaire Award for free speech has been given annually by Liberty Victoria for many years.  In 2016, we presented the inaugural ‘Empty Chair’ award.   In 2017, we will present the inaugural ‘Young Voltaire’ Award to a person aged under 30 years old.



The ‘Voltaire 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.



The Young Voltaire Award will be presented for the first time in 2017, to a person no older than 30 at the date of their nomination who has fulfilled the criteria for the Voltaire Award.



The Empty Chair Award will again be presented in 2017 to a person who is worthy to receive the Voltaire or Young Voltaire Awards, 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.   We were honoured that his wife Ensaf Haidar welcomed the presentation of the award to Raif.


Liberty Victoria invites valued members to nominate a person or group you believe deserves to receive a Voltaire Award in 2017.   You can nominate in any or all of the categories, and you are free to make more than one nomination in each category.

The Voltaire Award Ceremony for 2017 will be held at a dinner on Friday 21 July 2017 at a venue to be announced.   Even if you do not make a nomination, put the date in your diary now!  It is always a wonderful evening.

Please note: it is important that the recipients of the Voltaire and Young Voltaire Awards be present at the Ceremony (if you do not wish to make direct contact with your nominee, we can do so if they are shortlisted for the award).

Please submit your nomination via our Voltaire Award nomination form HERE

Nominations close on 31 January 2017.

On behalf of all of us at Liberty Victoria, I wish you and your family a safe and restful holiday period and a wonderful new year. I look forward to seeing you in 2017.


Kind regards

Jessie Taylor


Liberty Victoria





The Voltaire Award is named for the author of the satirical novella Candide and who is considered to be one of France's greatest writers.

Born François-Marie Arouet to an upper-middle class family in 1694, Voltaire was exiled in 1715 for mocking the Regent Orleans.  Returning to Paris two years later he was arrested and locked in the Bastille for a year.  He was sent to the Bastille again in 1726, before being shipped off to England.  In 1733, he fled to Lorraine where he wrote Candide.  By 1778, the French public had begun to see him as a literary genius, and he returned to Paris a hero, dying that year.

Besides his great works on philosophy, he is perhaps best remembered for a (probably misattributed) quotation: “I disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.”

The Voltaire Award honours those seen to have done outstanding work for free speech.  Journalists, authors, lawyers, critics, publishers, public servants and courageous whistleblowers have been among the recipients of this `Oscar’ for the right to speak without fear.