Who are Rationalists?

The RSA is privileged to have as its Patrons eminent persons who are distinguished leaders in Australian society and who embody a rationalist commitment to reason and evidence:  

Photograph of Michael Kirby

Michael Kirby AC CMG

When he retired from the High Court in 2009, Michael Kirby was Australia’s longest serving judge. Despite remaining an Anglican, he has been an indefatigable defender of secular government, stating that “The principle of secularism is one of the greatest developments in human rights in the world. We must safeguard and protect it, for it can come under threat in contemporary Australia.” He was Chair of the Australian Law Reform Commission, and a Justice of the High Court from 1996 to 2009.    


Photograph of Gareth Evans

Gareth Evans AC KC

An academic lawyer and barrister by profession, Gareth Evans was a Labor Cabinet Minister during the 1990s, serving as Attorney-General and, memorably, Foreign Minister. After leaving politics in 1998, he headed up the Brussels-based International Crisis Group till 2009 and served on numerous international commissions and panels. Since 2010 he has been Chancellor of the Australian National University. He has fond memories of “the Rasho’s” during his undergraduate years at Melbourne University.            





Photograph of Rod Syme

Rodney Syme (died Oct 2021)

For over 30 years, Melbourne-based urologist Rodney Syme was the public face of the campaign to give terminally ill patients the right to die with dignity. His compassion for his patients and his persistence to change the law finally paid off in 2017, when the Victorian parliament passed the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act. Among other things, he fought the hierarchy of the Catholic Church for its dogmatic opposition to dying with dignity, which, he says, “has got nothing to do with Jesus Christ.”      



Fiona Stanley AC FAA

Alongside a distinguished career in epidemiology and public health, Fiona Stanley has used her considerable influence to benefit Aboriginal people, children and mothers. Among other roles, she is founding director of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, chair of the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, and chair of the Alcohol Advertising Review Board. She was named Australian of the Year in 2003 and was on the ABC Board from 2011 to 2016. In 2014, the Western Australian government named its new teaching hospital in her honour.        

All the more reason.