In a special ceremony held online Wednesday night (July 29), Member for Northern Metropolitan and Leader of the Reason Party, Fiona Patten, has been named 2020 Humanist of the Year.
The prestigious honour, first given to Senator and High Court Justice Lionel Murphy in 1983, is awarded by the Australian Council of Humanists Societies in recognition of someone who ‘does great things for the public good’.
Previous winners include academic Professor Gillian Triggs, former WA Premier Carmen Lawrence, actor and director John Bell, biologist Tim Flannery, philosopher Peter Singer and singer-songwriter Eric Bogle.
“Among the awards given out each year in Australia, this one truly resonates with the unprecedented times we find ourselves in,” said Ms Patten accepting the award. “We need humanism now more than ever. That unique fusion of science and good will, of ethics and tolerance is the only way out of the mess we presently find ourselves in.
“No amount of ego-driven politics or the drinking of disinfectant will bring us back from the edge of this pandemic. We need action based on fact, compassion and scientific excellence,”
President of the Council of Australian Humanist Societies, Mary-Anne Cosgrove, said Ms Patten received the award because she had “driven a number of important reforms by appealing to reasoned evidence and using pragmatic consultation to overcome long-standing prejudice.’
“Her outstanding achievements in leading debate and securing legislation on many issues of concern to Humanists, particularly end of life, abortion safety, sexual health and drugs of addiction, are well known, “said Ms Cosgrove.
“Fiona epitomises Humanist ideals and has worked tirelessly to make these important legislative changes. We hope that Fiona’s example inspires and encourages politicians at all levels of government.”
Ms Patten vowed to continue her push in the Victorian Parliament to uphold secular values announcing she would be presenting legislation later this year to enact changes to the Chaplaincy program in Victorian public schools.
“Currently laws state that you don’t need to be religious to be a chaplain, but the reality is that the only way to be a chaplain in Victoria is if you have been ordained or have some other religious qualification or endorsement,” Ms Patten said.
“There are multiple jobs in Victorian public schools currently being advertised as open only to Christians. No Muslims, Jewish faith or atheists allowed. It’s time that changed.”