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Humanists Australia

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Humanists Australia
Humanists Australia logo
Mary-Anne Cosgrove
AffiliationsHumanists International

Humanists Australia is the national organisation for Australian humanists. It was founded on August 17 2020..[1] and formally launched to the public on December 10 2020.

The organisation’s first CEO was CEO Heidi Nicholl. It is the first national Australian humanist organisation open for individual membership.[2]

Humanists Australia provides a place where ethical non-religious Australians can be represented in contemporary Australian life. Since 2020 Humanists Australia has taken over the publication of the Australian Humanist magazine which was first published in the 1960s. The organisation is also now responsible for awarding the Australian Humanist of the Year (previous winners include Bruce Pascoe, Fiona Patten and Peter Singer) and the Young Australian Humanist of the Year.[3]. The 2021 Young Australian Humanist of the Year award was won by Neighbours actress Georgie Stone.

Humanists Australia is a registered charity[4] structured as a company limited by guarantee.


The four charitable purposes of Humanists Australia are to:

  • educate all Australians about Humanism as a framework for an ethical, meaningful and fulfilling life,
  • encourage the formation of, and provide support for, diverse and inclusive humanist communities around Australia,
  • support people persecuted as a result of their humanist beliefs, both in Australia and (working with Humanists International) overseas, and
  • advocate for policies that reduce societal inequalities, advance secularism, advance human rights, and improve quality of life, guided by reason and evidence.

— Humanists Australia website


Humanists Australia is a member of Humanists International[5]. Like all Humanists International members, Humanists Australia accepts the definition of Humanism provided by the IHEU Minimum Statement:[6]

“Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.”

In addition, Humanists Australia accepts the 2002 Amsterdam Declaration[7].


The Council of Australian Humanist Societies (CAHS) was founded in 1965 as an umbrella organisation responsible for coordinating the activities of the various Australian Humanist Societies. During its history its members have included Humanists Victory (HV), Humanists New South Wales (HNSW), the Humanists Society of Queensland, the South Australian Humanist Society, the West Australia Humanist Society and the ACT Humanist Society (ACTHS).

By 2020 the members of CAHS had dwindled to only HNSW, HV and ACTHS and membership of the state societies was declining. Then president of CAHS, Mary-Anne Cosgrove, held discussions with members of the state societies and other Australian Humanists and developed a strategy to revitalise humanism in Australia. The idea of creating a new national organisation for humanism in Australia was born from those discussions.

A nationwide open online meeting was held on June 7, 2020 to discuss the proposal for creating a new national organisation and what form that organisation might take. The attendees were generally in favour of the idea, and nine volunteers agreed to form a working group to create the new organisation.

The working group met between June 21, 2020 and May 4, 2021. The working group created the new organisation as a Company Limited by Guarantee (ABN 66 643 561 273) on August 17, 2020. It obtained Registered Charity status on January 28, 2021 (backdated to August 17, 2020).

On August 23, 2020 at the CAHS Annual General Meeting, CAHS members voted to hand over responsibility for coordinating publication of Australian Humanist Magazine, plus copyright ownership of all past issues, to Humanists Australia, and to hand over responsibility for awarding Australian Humanist of the Year, Outstanding Humanist Achiever and Young Australian Humanist of the Year, together with the lists of past recipients and their citations, to Humanists Australia. A special resolution to dissolve CAHS in favour of HA was defeated.

Humanists Australia was formally launched to the public on December 10, 2020.

The working group secured funding to allow the employment of a CEO. Dr Heidi Nicholl was employed as Humanist Australia's first CEO in May 2021, at which time the working group dissolved and was replaced by a formal board, with Mary-Anne Cosgrove as its first Chair.


Humanists Australia campaigns for social changes to reduce societal inequalities, advance secularism, advance human rights, and improve quality of life. Examples of campaigns include supporting voluntary assisted dying[8], opposing the religious discrimination bill[9], and promoting climate action[10].

Humanists Australia collaborated with other rationalist and atheist organisations in the "Census no religion" campaign, which encouraged non-religious people to state "no religion" in the 2021 census, rather than defaulting to the religion they grew up in[11]. The aim of that campaign was to improve accuracy of measurement of the proportion of non-religious Australians, to help ensure appropriate government funding for secular organisations and programs[12]. The campaign attracted national attention, with concern in some quarters that the motivation was to strip funding from religious schools and institutions.[13]. Between the 2016 and 2021 censuses, the proportion of Australians identifying as non-religious grew from 30% to 39%[14],[15]



# Chair Year(s) Source
1 Mary-Anne Cosgrove 2020-2022 Annual Report 2020/21[16]
2 Professor Rod Hill 2022
3 Mary-Anne Cosgrove 2022-


  • Mary-Anne Cosgrove - Chair
  • Rod Bower - Secretary
  • Sue James
  • Les Allan
  • Josie Ludwig


Fiona Patten


Humanists International


Humanists Australia is committed to helping people to find a non-religious celebrant perfect for their ceremony and also maintains listings of humanist celebrants who can conduct ceremonies that specifically reflect humanist beliefs.

Care and Wellbeing[edit]

Humanists Australia promotes and supports secular care workers who can support the wellbeing and mental health of people in a variety of settings especially schools, hospitals, the armed services and prisons.


Humanists Australia believes strongly in the need for support for people who have left religion and supports and promotes the work of a number of non-religious community groups including the Ex-Religious Support Network run by Humanists Australia member Les Allan.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. "Humanists Australia ABN registration". Australian Business Register. November 2014. Retrieved 2021-01-29.
  2. Fallon, Amy (17 July 2021). "Meet the humanists: 'You don't have to be Christian to think of yourself as a good person'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2022-07-12.
  3. "FNL Songs about Songs about... July 6 2021 from 30 minutes". Joy 94.9. 6 July 2021. Retrieved 2022-07-12.
  4. "Humanists Australia Charity". ACNC Charity Register. Retrieved 2021-01-29.
  5. "Our members". Humanists International. Retrieved 2021-01-29.
  6. "IHEU Minimum Statement on Humanism". Humanists International. Retrieved 2021-03-19.
  7. "Amsterdam Declaration". Humanists International. Retrieved 2021-03-19.
  8. "Voluntary Assisted Dying". Humanists Australia. Retrieved 2022-07-12.
  9. "Religious Discrimination Bill". Humanists Australia. Retrieved 2022-07-12.
  10. "Climate Change and the Environment". Humanists Australia. Retrieved 2022-07-12.
  11. "Census time to mark 'No Religion'". Sydney Morning Herald. 15 July 2021. Retrieved 2022-07-12.
  12. "FNL Songs about Songs about... July 6 2021 from 28 minutes". Joy 94.9. 6 July 2021. Retrieved 2022-07-12.
  13. "Hansard - Senate on 10/08/2021 - Statements - Census". Australian Parliament House. Retrieved 2022-07-27.
  14. "Census results mean religions should stop getting special treatment". Sydney Morning Herald. 28 June 2022. Retrieved 2022-07-12.
  15. "Census results mean religions should stop getting special treatment". The Age. 28 June 2022. Retrieved 2022-07-12.
  16. "Humanists Australia Annual Report 2020/21". Humanists Australia Annual Reports. Humanists Australia.
  17. "Losing my religion: facing the trauma of leaving a faith". Sydney Morning Herald. 11 September 2021. Retrieved 2022-07-12.

External links[edit]

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