Former High Court judge Michael Kirby was named as joint winner of the RMIT Communicator of the Year 2009 on Wednesday.
Lauren Murray, head of the School of Applied Communication, praised Kirby for his wide-ranging commitment to community wellbeing, adding that Attorney-General Robert McClelland had called him "the great communicator".
"He is known for more than his ability to make difficult and technical concepts comprehensible and accessible to the layperson," she said.
"He's also known for speaking out, sometimes at personal cost, on community issues ranging from gay rights to - only last weekend - animal cruelty."
The other winner was Melina Schamroth, founder of Make a Difference, an organisation that champions a wide range of community-related causes, which have recently included bushfire-affected communities.