John Button School Prize

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.

Applications now open. Please submit here.

Tuesday 15 September 2020
Sunday 1 November 2020
Enrolment status
University Trust Record



Essays submitted for the School Prize will discuss Australian politics or policy. They might address such topics as Australia’s population, climate change, reconciliation with Indigenous Australians, water, asylum seekers, education, health, the state of the arts — big ideas for Australia’s future.

More on the John Button Fund and the 2019 Prize winner and runners up


The student is awarded $2,500.

The sudent's school receives $2,000.


Open to Victorian students who are in Years 10 to 12 and are younger than 19 years. Past winners are not eligible to re-enter in subsequent years.


  1. The choice of subject is up to the student writer but topics may include for example: Australia’s population, climate change, reconciliation with Indigenous Australians, water, asylum seekers, education, health, the state of the arts — big ideas for Australia’s future.
  2. The essay must be 1,800-2,000 words long.
  3. The essay can be work undertaken to meet the student’s existing subject requirements, or an essay written expressly for the Prize.
  4. An individual school may enter a MAXIMUM OF TWO ESSAYS and the school principal or delegate must complete an online application form together with each essay.
  5. Submissions must include citations and endnotes.
  6. The school principal (or delegate) is required to guarantee the following:
    1. Student details provided are accurate
    2. Essay(s) submitted are the work of the student(s) named on this form
    3. One copy of the essay is to accompany each entry form
      1. Do not include the name of the student or school on the essay
      2. A word count should be noted on the bottom of the essay.

Judging Criteria:

  • Understanding and explanation of a significant issue affecting Australian policy or politics
  • Consideration and analysis of a range of arguments about the issue
  • A persuasive and clearly articulated point of view on a preferred solution
  • Use of credible evidence to support that point of view, and proper referencing of sources (for guidance, refer to
  • Expressive, engaging, fluent and coherent writing
  • Sense of passion and idealism in the pieces.

The judging panel will be listed shortly and comprises five judges – two nominated by the Melbourne School of Government, two from the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority and a rotating judge from each of the subject associations (Victorian Association for the teaching of English – VATE; Social Education Victoria – SEV; and the History Teachers’ Association of Victoria). The judging panel will make a recommendation to the Dean who will make the final awarding decision.

The winner is required to:

  • Accept award online within 21 days
  • Write a letter of appreciation to the judging panel (Upon acceptance).


The winner will be announced via official Melbourne School of Government channels in due course. Short listed applicants and those unsuccessful will also be contacted.

Application process

  • The school principal or delegate should complete the online application form and upload the essay (please note the student should NOT complete the application form)
  • Only the title of the essay and the word count to be included on the essay. The name, school and age of the student should only be entered on the entry form
  • A separate entry must be completed for each essay submitted (please do NOT submit more than two essays per school. If more than two students are interested in submitting entries for this prize, then the school is responsible for selecting their preferred two essays that they would like to be considered).
  • Ensure you have completed all relevant sections of your application before submitting.

Submit an essay