The John Button Foundation was established in 2009 in memory of John Button, the late Industry Minister, Senator and writer. In 2016 the Foundation donated the fund to The University of Melbourne to be managed within the Melbourne School of Government.

The Melbourne School of Government provides a platform for informed, independent debate on contemporary issues of great significance to the future of Australia and our region. It is our honour to continue the work of the fund in honour of John Button's significant contribution to Australian politics and public debate.


John Button was a Senator for Victoria between 1974 and 1993. On the election of the Hawke Government in 1983 he became Industry Minister and Leader of the Government in the Senate, positions he held until 1993. As a Minister he oversaw substantial reform of Australian industry, enabling many industry sectors to succeed for the first time in the global marketplace. On his retirement in 1993 he held various posts with education institutions and on the boards of companies.

John Button wrote a great deal of journalism and three books on politics after his retirement: Flying the Kite, On the Loose and a memoir, As It Happened.

His 2002 Quarterly Essay on the Labor Party, Beyond Belief, won the 2003 Alfred Deakin Prize, one of the Victorian Premiers' Literary Awards. In 1996 he became Chairman of the Melbourne Writers' Festival, a post he held for five years, and he was also a director of Australian Book Review.

2017 John Button School Prize

The John Button School Prize for 2017 is now open for entries

The Prize is a $2500 award for a Victorian student in years 10-12 and under 19 years of age. A further $2000 is given to the winning student's school.
The Prize was created to encourage young Victorians to express their ideas about Australian politics and public policy. The subject might be Australia’s population, climate change, reconciliation with Indigenous Australians, water, asylum seekers, education, health, or the state of the Arts.
These topics are just a guide; the choice of subject is up to the student writer. The judges want to see clear thinking, enlivened by a sense of passion about Australia’s future.

Please see the full requirements for applications and apply online through the Faculty of Arts web page.
The closing date for the John Button School Prize is Monday, 26 June 2017.

Download flyer


The John Button School Prize is made possible by generous philanthropic support. We invite you to be part of the future of this program by making a donation to the John Button Fund.

Donate to the fund

Your support will ensure that our best and brightest young thinkers feel encouraged as they start to tackle the big issues.

If you would like to learn more about supporting the John Button Fund, please email Monica Hanns in our Development Office.


The Melbourne School of Government is proud to announce the winner of the 2016 John Button School Prize. We received over 100 entries, making it the most competitive contest in the history of the School Prize.

Anand Bharadwaj
Anand Bharadwaj accepting his award from James Button

Anand Bharadwaj is a Year 10 student at Trinity Grammar School and received an honourable mention for his entry in the 2015 John Button School Prize. He was selected as the winner of the 2016 John Button Essay Prize for his essay, 'Is there a remedy for Australia's ailing healthcare system? Pathways for the future'. The essay impressed the judging panel with its clarity of expression, depth of research, and presentation of a considered solution to the problem of the ever-growing costs of providing universal healthcare in Australia.

Catherine Zhou is a Year 11 student at Balwyn High School. She was selected as the runner-up for the 2016 John Button School Prize for her essay, 'Incarceration - refocussing the aims of an overcrowded and ineffective Australian prison system', which argued for a move away from mandatory sentencing and a greater focus on rehabilitation in the justice system.

Cameron Warasta is a Year 11 student at Melbourne Grammar School for his essay. He received an honourable mention in the 2016 John Button School Prize for his essay, 'The power of superannuation: Enhancing Australia's retirement income policy for the 21st century', which advocated an increase in the superannuation guarantee charge and reform of how superannuation is taxed.