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.

John Button School Prize

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 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.

2017 Prize Winners Announced

The Melbourne School of Government is proud to announce the winner of the 2017 John Button School Prize.

Cameron Warasta and Julia Payne, who received Honourable Mentions for the Prize, with James Button.
Cameron Warasta and Julia Payne, who received Honourable Mentions for the Prize, with James Button.

Anand Bharadwaj is a student at Trinity Grammar School. He was selected as the winner of the 2017 John Button Essay Prize for his essay, ‘Australia’s School Education System at a Crossroads: What is holding us back and how do we move forward?’.

The judging panel was impressed by the essay’s clearly articulated analysis of the state of secondary education in Australia, and its passionate case for reform. The essay was also noted for being well written while grappling with a complex policy issue with a level of nuance.

Anand said that he was “extremely honoured” to receive the prize and was grateful for the support of his teachers and for the encouragement of the John Button Foundation. He “found the essay writing process a truly fascinating and illuminating experience that has allowed me to broaden my knowledge immensely on Australian social and political issues.”

Julia Hu is a student at Methodist Ladies’ College. She was selected as the runner-up for the 2017 John Button Prize for her essay, ‘Asylum Seekers: What Australia has been doing wrong, and the methods to resolve it’, which argued that Australia must change its asylum seeker policies in order to shift public opinion and meet its international responsibilities.

Cameron Warasta is a student at Melbourne Grammar School. He received an honourable mention for his essay, ‘The Big Picture: Australia capitalising on the Asian Century’, which advocated for deeper cooperation with Asian states through the renewal of diplomatic infrastructure, softpower, and foreign aid.

Julia Payne is a student at Red Cliffs Secondary College. She received an honourable mention for her essay, ‘Rotten Apples, Mouldy Oranges and Sour Grapes: Is Australia’s horticulture sector rotten to the core and can it be fixed?’, which argued in favour of stricter monitoring to prevent the exploitation and mistreatment of overseas workers who are critical to the survival of horticulture in Australia.