Australian Atheist wins Atheist Nexus Award

The Monty Miller Award
Freethought Advocacy
Inaugural Recipient -
Sean Wright
~Sean the Blogonaut~

In consultation with Richard Haynes (Brother Richard), Executive Director of Atheist Nexus, it has been decided to present an annual award for the freethought advocacy in Australia, New Zealand or the South Pacific region. We hope that similar awards from other Atheist Nexus national groups will follow.

The Monty Miller Award, to be known as The Monty, is named after a prominent nineteenth century freethought advocate, Monty Miller. It is to be presented annually to an Australian, New Zealand, or South Pacific atheist who has made an outstanding contribution to advancing the cause of freethought in this region. This may involve work in the fields of atheism, skepticism, humanism, rationalism or, in the case of this year’s outstanding winner, all of these.

The Award
The recipient of the inaugural Monty Miller Award has been selected by a committee of members in consultation with ‘Brother’ Richard.

Sean Wright’s contribution to freethought during the past two years has been so outstanding, and so successful, it inspired the award and it has been decided, unanimously, that no other candidate was more deserving to be our inaugural recipient. In subsequent years, we will call for nominations and assemble a committee to vote for the most suitable recipient.

As the recipient of The Monty, Sean earns the right to display the Monty Miller Award badge (shown above) on his profile, website and blog. Sean will also be asked to write a blog about his views on freethought advocacy in Australia, to be published here on Atheist Nexus early in 2010.

Inaugural Recipient – Sean Wright (Sean the Blogonaut)
The Inaugural Recipient of the Monty Miller Award for Freethought Advocacy is Sean Wright (Sean the Blogonaut) from South Australia.

Sean identifies as an atheist, humanist, rationalist and a skeptic. He is passionate about encouraging Australia’s disparate freethought groups to work together in common cause and Sean’s blog, Sean the Blogonaut, is widely read in all of these communities. With this goal in mind, Sean invited Australia’s freethought bloggers to unite under the umbrella of The Australian and New Zealand Atheist Blogroll (ANZAB) early in 2009. ANZAB currently has 30 members.

Sean is a founding member of Atheist Nexus and its Aussie, Kiwi and South Pacific Atheists group. He is also active in the Atheist Foundation of Australia and was closely involved in developing their first online forum. Late in 2009, Sean was announced as the new editor of the AFA’s journal, The Australian Atheist.

Beginning in March 2008, Sean worked tirelessly and tenaciously to bring the abuse of innocent girls by Mercy Ministries into the open. Viewed as perhaps his greatest achievement, the announcement this year that Mercy Ministries would close its operations in Australia was a welcome reward for Sean and the Mercy Survivors he helped support.

Sean says, "They first came to my attention in March 2008 when three very brave survivors spoke out about the shocking treatment that they received at the hands of Mercy Ministries Australia."

Over the course of 2008, Sean wrote 60 blogs about Mercy Ministries and became a voice for what became known as the Mercy 'survivors'. Sean is credited on Wikipedia as a 'Mercy Ministries watcher'.

Sean was a central figure in the campaign to expose Mercy Ministries and he also held Hillsong Church and Gloria Jean's Coffee accountable for their financial support of Mercy. When Mercy denied that they were performing exorcisms on girls with eating disorders and depression, Sean acquired the operations manual that proved it. With every denial from Mercy Ministries, Sean resolutely pursued the truth, printed it on his blog and made sure it came to the attention of as many people as possible.

Recently, Mercy announced it was closing its Australian operations. Immediately after, Brian Houston from Hillsong began to distance his church from the group. With others, Sean was integral to bringing down Mercy Ministries in Australia and giving their victims a voice. After an 18 month investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) it was announced in mid-December 2009, that Mercy Ministries’ former directors admitted that the organization had engaged in false, misleading and deceptive conduct. They have been ordered to pay compensation of $1050 to each of the 110 young women who took part in their programs from January 2005 to June last year, the total being $118,154. They have also agreed to attend annual trade practices compliance training for three years. As Sean points out, the ruling also highlights the fact that Mercy Ministries was deceptive in its claims to have helped ‘hundreds’ of young women throughout Australia.

In 2009, Sean became involved in helping to expose Meryl Dorey’s Australian [Anti] Vaccination Network (AVN). Together with members of the Australian Skeptics, Sean helped to ‘out’ the group with the same tenacity he applied to Mercy Ministries. In a series of blogs (and tweets) throughout 2009, Sean campaigned in favour of immunisation and against the misinformation disseminated by the AVN. Due to the efforts of Ken Macleod, the Australian Skeptics, Sean, and others, it was announced in September 2009 that the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) will launch an investigation of the AVN.

Apart from his work in the freethought community, Sean is also a volunteer with his local CFA (Country Fire Authority). Prior to moving to South Australia earlier this year, Sean was a key contributor to a programme designed to improve the quality of life of individuals with severe and persistent mental illness.

Just as Monty Miller used his box by the Yarra to advocate for reason and freethought, Sean employs the connectivity afforded by the Net's blogging and Twitter communities to disseminate his message to a worldwide audience. If Monty Miller were alive today, he would undoubtedly be an atheist blogger.

Sean Wright is a freethought activist of whom Monty Miller would be proud and we are delighted to award him the 2009 Inaugural Monty Miller Award for Freethought Advocacy.

Monty Miller
Monty Miller was born in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in 1839. He became an atheist as a teenager and fought at the Eureka Stockade when he was just 15 years old. Later, he was president of the Rationalist Association and his public debates with the leading clerics of his day filled theatres around Australia.

Self-educated in science, literature and art, Monty drew inspiration from the works of Thomas Carlyle, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Robert Ingersoll. Politically, Monty was an unionist, secularist and revolutionary socialist/anarchist but atheism and freethought were always central to his concept of a better, fairer, world.

Despite his success as a professional public speaker (Monty always donated his fee), Monty was found every Sunday until the end of his life, standing on a box on the banks of the Yarra River, campaigning for free thought and a free press.

Despite being a passionate revolutionary, Monty was highly respected by friends and enemies alike for his dignity, courtesy, compassion, eloquence, vitality and amazing intellect. He died with 'atheistic fortitude' in 1920.

Congratulations Sean Wright (Sean the Blogonaut)
Winner of the Atheist Nexus (South Pacific - Australia/New Zealand)
Monty Miller Award
Freethought Advocacy - 2009

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Comment by Chrys Stevenson on December 23, 2009 at 12:31am
I knew that would be your first reaction!
Comment by Sean the Blogonaut on December 23, 2009 at 12:25am
Awww shucks :)



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