I was born in Wellington, New Zealand to my parents who had immigrated from the United Kingdom a year earlier. When I was four we moved to Australia, where I spent the remainder of my childhood and early adult life.

After attending school and University in Brisbane I moved to Melbourne where I worked for Senator Sid Spindler. Sid taught me a huge amount and I was proud to support some significant legislative achievements, including the successful introduction by Sid of Australia's first Commonwealth sexuality anti-discrimination provision, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment.  

In 1994 I left the office of Senator Spindler to become the Executive Director of Liberty - the Council for Civil Liberties, where I led numerous human rights and civil liberty campaigns.

During this time I was also the President of the  Victorian AIDS Council and Gay Men's Health Centre - one of Australia's largest community based AIDS organisations. I also served on the executive of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations and was also involved in broader public health work as the non-government member of Australia's National Public Health Partnership.

Parliamentary Candidate

In 1998 I was selected to stand for election to the Victorian Parliament in the seat of Prahran for the Australian Labor Party. I was the first openly gay man in Australia to have been selected by a major party for a winnable seat. The selection was contested but I received one hundred percent of the local vote - another first, which as far as I can tell still hasn't been repeated.

However, I failed to win the seat at the 1999 election. It was a huge privilege to stand for office and to play a small part in the return of a progressive Labour Government in Victoria.


fter the election I felt like I needed a change of scene and new challenges. I consequently moved to Haiti where I worked as an adviser to the National Coalition for Haitian Rights, Haiti's leading human rights Non-Government Organisation.

Move to London

I moved to the UK with my partner in August 2001 where I took up the post of Deputy Chief Executive of the National AIDS Trust. In 2003 I left the Trust to set up Kathina, a consulting company which provided policy, management and communications services to public interest organisations.

Through Kathina I worked for an amazing range of organisations, including Amnesty InternationalUNAIDSSaferworld, the International Action Network on Small Arms and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. I moved from doing consulting work for the Alliance to working there full time from mid 2004 until the end of 2006.

Book Aid International

In preparing for the 2006 World AIDS Conference in Toronto it occurred to me that it was my sixth World AIDS Conference. The fact that they are are every two years meant that I'd been doing HIV related work for a long time. I concluded that I could probably do with a change and went to work for Book Aid International where I was the Head of Policy and Programmes. Working at Book Aid introduced me to the world of education in general and literacy in particular and I'be been workin on education and literacy ever since.

Association of Teachers and Lecturers

I left Book Aid to help the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, one of the UK's main teaching unions, develop their international work. At ATL I developed and began leading the implementation of  'Our global future' the union's first ever international policy and strategy.

ATL is proudly affiliated to both the TUC and Education International, both of whom I worked closely with on a range of international projects and issues


Save the Children

At the end of 2010 I left ATL to become Head of Education at Save the Children, the world's largest independent children's rights organisation. As Head of Education I was responsible for developing and growing our efforts to give the world’s out of school children, especially those caught up in conflicts and emergencies, a quality basic education. Every day 67 million children around the world are denied their right to education so there’s a huge amount to do.

The Reading Agency

I'm also a former trustee of Read: the Reading Agency, whose mission is to inspire more people to read more. I share The Reading Agency's belief that reading can transform lives. Reading's had a transformative effect on me and I've seen how it's changed the lives of countless people around the world with whom I've worked.

Creating opportunities for people and especially children to become literate and practice their reading skills 

and so I'm delighted to be supporting such a great organisation. ow work for Save the Children based out of Bangkok where I lead our work in Asia along with two global projects. First Read and the International Children's Book Initiative.

Global Campaign for Education UK

From 2007 until 2012 I chaired the Global Campaign for Education UK's policy group and authored or co-authored the Campaign's  policy and advocacy reports during that time.

We worked closely with the Members of Parliament, Ministers and officials at the Department for International Development, securing a strong focus on education which made the UK one of the world's leading donors to the sector - of which I'm very proud.

Global Partnership for Education

In 2011 I was elected for a two year term to represent Northern civil society and international non-government organisations on the Global Partnership for Education, a unique organisation which brings donors, developing country partners, multilateral institutions and civil society organisations together to ensure accelerated progress towards the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education by 2015. I was very pleased to be re-elected by civil society to continue to represent them on the Partnership board for a second two year two at the beginning of 2013.

From 2007 until September 2009 I was the Chair of Trustees of Interact Worldwide which works to reduce poverty by championing universal access to reproductive health . In that capacity I led the merger of Interact with Plan International. In a very challenging fundraising environment the merger helped secure Interact's financial future and offer it the potential to grow its work and influence as part of a much larger international development organisation.

I remain passionately interested in sexual and reproductive rights in general and the rights of sexual minorities in developing countries in particular. Having seen first hand the amazing work that gay, lesbian , bisexual and transgender people do in defence of their right, often at great personal risk, in the global South, I try to support those efforts where I can.

Return to politics

Gravely disappointed by the British Labour Party's war mongering, disregard for civil liberties and human rights and failure to do more for the environment I joined the Green Party. I've come to the realisation that the extent of change required to save the planet just can't be delivered by the old parties and that the step change in our thinking and decision making needs a more radical approach.

Working with Southwark's only Green Councillor and London Assembly Member Jenny Jones we secured a commitment from Southwark to become a living wage employer, which will mean that everyone who works for Southwark or one of its contractors will be paid the London Living Wage which is nearly 2 pounds more than the minimum wage, which will consequently help lift thousands of families our of a working poverty trap.

I've also worked with Jenny on campaigns for universal free school meals, a borough wide food strategy and  support for the creation of green jobs.

It was terrific to see Jenny appointed to the House of Lords in 2013, where I know she'll continue her good work for the sustainability and social justice.

Reading, writing and social action

I'm interested in the arts and culture and how they can be used in representing and promoting social change in particular. In 2006 I developed and led a very exciting multi-country, participatory photography project called 'Unheard Voices, Hidden Lives', which you can learn more about by clicking here.

I'm also very interested in writing.

I wrote my first letter to the editor of our local paper when I was eleven. It was about pollution in our local creek and it was written on a typewriter that my parents had bought me at the local toy shop. I've only recently realized the impact that having that letter published had on me. It gave me a taste of communicating with a wide audience about important issues and it's something that I've done ever since.

Whilst living in Melbourne I wrote regularly for The Age, Victoria's daily broadsheet, largely about human rights, civil liberties and HIV/AIDS. In fact almost all of my writing has been directly linked to issues on which I've been campaigning.

At the height of my involvement with the campaign to defend the ABC, Australia's public broadcaster, from political interference and budget cuts, I co-edited, together with Morag Fraser, 'Save Our ABC: the case for maintaining Australia's National Brodcaster.' I had direct experience of working with the ABC and a strong appreciation of its importance to Australians because from 1994 to 1998 I was a member of its statutory advisory body.

I have also been a long standing advocate of choice in end of life matters and in 1998 I edited 'The Final Choice: considerations on choosing to die'. The book provides an overview of some of the considerations people might make in choosing to die, choosing to ask someone to help or choosing to provide assistance to someone who wants to die.

To mix things up a little I'm also a parent. It's definitely the hardest thing I've ever done but infinitely the most rewarding.

I enjoy reading, traveling, yoga, riding my bike, swimming - especially in the sea - going to the theatre, cinema and art galleries and socialising with friends. All of which have taken a big blow since becoming a parent!

I also try to find time to meditate and every time I do, I vow to do it more often. I came to meditation through the kind advice of a good friend who, in response to my sense of how badly things were going in the world, suggested I look into Buddhism. She was absolutely right, Buddhism and the practice of meditation offers a new way of seeing and relating to the world, along with a set of practical tools for achieving both personal and social change. 

I live with my wonderful partner, Huey Nhan, who after twelve years together I married in the summer of 2011 - a few days after same sex marriage was legalised in the state of New York. Something I fervently hope other same sex couples the world over will be able to do very soon. We subsequently combined our culturally rather different surnames and so if you ever come across Joseph O'Reilly that's also me.

I enjoy spending time with Huey more than absolutely anything else. I ask myself every day what I did to deserve the companionship and love of such an amazing, generous and mature spirit. And every day I conclude that it was just luck.