Peter Greste, the Australian journalist who focussed the nation’s attention on media freedom, has won the prestigious 2015 Australian Human Rights Medal.
The President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, presented the Human Rights Medal today at the 2015 Human Rights Awards.
A record-breaking crowd of more than 500 people attended the annual awards, hosted by the Australian Human Rights Commission at the Westin Hotel in Sydney to mark International Human Rights Day.
Craig Reucassel from The Chaser emceed the celebrations, and Professor Triggs delivered a keynote speech on the future of human rights in Australia.
In presenting the Human Rights Medal, Professor Triggs described Mr Greste as a humble and inspiring individual who fought for freedom and justice.
“Journalists must be free to report news and criticise governments without fear of punishment,” Professor Triggs said.
“After his release from prison in Egypt, where he was imprisoned for allegedly spreading false news, Mr Greste campaigned tirelessly for the release of his colleagues, and campaigned for freedom of speech as a cornerstone of democratic societies.”
Professor Triggs also congratulated the winners of six other Human Rights Awards, including 23-year-old Yen Eriksen, who won the Young People’s Human Rights Medal.
“These outstanding Australians have come from different walks of life but they share a commitment to freedom, justice and equality,” Professor Triggs said.
“We honour all of our 2015 Human Rights Awards winners for their commitment to protecting and advancing human rights in Australia.
“We also acknowledge and thank all of the people and organisations who nominated for this year’s awards and who attended the presentation today,” Professor Triggs said.
“We received an unprecedented 329 nominations for the 2015 Human Rights Awards and I congratulate the more than 500 people who came today to join these celebrations. These are record numbers, and they highlight the wide-ranging support for human rights that exists at all levels of the community.”
The winners are:
- The Human Rights Medal: Peter Greste
Mr Greste spent 400 days in an Egyptian jail after being arrested in Cairo and charged for national security related offences in 2013/14. His trial was widely criticised for its lack of evidence. Following his release, Mr Greste used his case as a platform to advocate for freedom of speech and a free media.
- The Young People’s Human Rights Medal: Yen Eriksen
Ms Eriksen, 23, is a community radio host and documentary maker who joined the ACT Government Ministerial Advisory Council for LGBTIQ in 2013. She became interested in human rights from an early age. “It came with the territory of being born in Australia, to migrant parents, being born a woman and being born, knowing from a very young age, that I was queer.”
- The Law Award: Genevieve Bolton
Ms Bolton has dedicated her career to improving access to justice and is a powerful advocate for systemic change. She is principal solicitor at Canberra Community Law.
- The Business Award (joint winners): Coles and Maitree House Productions
Coles has a long-running Indigenous employment program which supports positive experiences for Indigenous staff and customers. Maitree House Productions uses multimedia tools to give voice to young people, women, and Indigenous people.
- The ‘Racism. It Stops With Me’ Award: Tasmanian Students Against Racism
Students Against Racism is an effective education and advocacy group involving more than 10,000 participants. The Students Against Racism workshop has been included in University and TAFE courses.
- The Tony Fitzgerald Memorial Community Award: Ludo McFerran
Ms McFerran has worked tirelessly for the human rights of women and children in the area of women and domestic violence for the past 30 years and has been responsible for innovative and effective policy changes in this area, greatly assisting women and children to deal with and escape from family violence.
- The Media Award: Kirsti Melville for The Storm (Radio National, ABC)
Ms Melville’s powerful documentary tells the story of her former partner Erik’s sexual abuse as a child. Erik speaks about his abuse and the toll it took on his relationships.
Photo: Peter Greste, by Matthew Syres