The John Button Fund


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.

About John Button

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.

Supporting the John Button Fund

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 John Button School Prize

Each year, the John Button School Prize awards the best essay on a subject concerning Australia’s future by a Victorian student who is in Years 10 to 12 and is younger than 19. Student with the best essay is presented with a $2500 award. 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 essays may address topics such as Australia’s population, sustainability, reconciliation with Indigenous Australians, 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.

Applications for the 2020 prize is now open. Click here for more information and to submit an essay.

2019 Prize Winners

The Melbourne School of Government is proud to announce the winner of the 2019 John Button School Prize.

Minseo Kim is a Year 10 student at the Mac.Robertson Girls' High School. Minseo was selected as the winner of the 2019 John Button School Prize for her essay, 'Older Workers’ Rights are Human Rights: Why Australia Must Take Further Action Against Ageism in the Workplace'.

Max Walton Briggs is a Year 11 student at Berwick Grammar School. Max was selected as one of two runners-up of the 2019 John Button School Prize for his essay, 'Rebuilding one of Australia’s most important yet challenging foreign relations: Australia and Indonesia in the 21st century'.

Eve Watt is a Year 11 student at Santa Maria College. Eve was selected as one of two runner-up of the 2019 John Button School Prize for her essay, 'The Futility of Reconciliation Without Decolonisation'.

Click here [PDF, 2.9MB] to download and read the winning essays.