Who are Rationalists?

The Rationalist Society of Australia is the oldest freethought group in Australia, promoting reason since 1906. Members and supporters hold that all significant beliefs and actions should be based on reason and evidence, that the natural world is the only world there is, and that answers to the key questions of human existence are to be found only in that natural world.


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 QC

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 AM

For over 30 years, Melbourne-based urologist Rodney Syme has been 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.





Don’t know what Rationalism is?

You’re not alone! Rationalism grows out of a respected tradition of critical thinking that goes back to the ancient Greeks and which flourished as the Enlightenment, but is flexible enough to change in the light of new evidence and argument. It is an ideal worldview for the twenty-first century.

Read more here.

What do we aim to achieve?

The RSA is an association of like-minded people, joined together to promote a rational approach to public policy in Australia and to their own day-to-day lives. We aim to:

  • Propound and advance rationalism: that is, adherence to the principle that all significant beliefs and actions should be based on reason and evidence, that the natural world is the only world there is and that answers to the key questions of human existence are to be found only in that natural world.
  • Stimulate freedom of thought.
  • Promote inquiry into religious and other superstitious beliefs and practices.
  • Encourage interest in science, criticism and philosophy, as connected factors in a progressive human culture, independent of theological creeds and dogmas.
  • Promote the fullest possible use of science for human welfare.
  • Promote a secular and ethical system of education.

What do we do?

To achieve our aims, we:

  • Organise campaigns to influence public opinion
  • Make submissions to governments
  • Issue press releases
  • Organise conferences and tours by prominent thinkers
  • Maintain an informational website
  • Publish a high quality quarterly journal, a daily digest, and occasional newsletters.


The RSA is funded from members’ fees, journal revenue, event fees, donations and bequests, and investment returns.  Management of the RSA’s funds is overseen by the Finance Advisory Committee, which includes independent financial experts.

If you would like to leave a bequest for the benefit of the rationalist movement, please click here for details.

To make a donation, click on the Donate button at the top of the page here. Small regular donations (eg, $10 a week) are particularly welcome. Thank you so much.

All the more reason.

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