Tributes flow for Geoff Torney

Go-to man: Geoff Torney with his wife Janet. Mr Torney has been remembered as a universally respected mentor and a man of integrity.
Go-to man: Geoff Torney with his wife Janet. Mr Torney has been remembered as a universally respected mentor and a man of integrity.

Ballarat horse racing identity and solicitor Geoff Torney has been remembered as the “go-to person for everyone from the front-desk girls upward”. 

The former partner of Byrne Jones Torney died on Wednesday night.

He is survived by his wife of 58 years Janet (nee Byrne), five children and 14 grandchildren. 

Mr Torney was a practicing solicitor for 40 years, a member of the original Legal Practices Board and Law Institute of Victoria council member.

The Ballarat Turf Club life member served two terms as club president, was Moonee Valley Racing Club chairman and a founding director of Racing Victoria. 

Geoff and Janet Torney with their children and grandchildren. Picture supplied by the Torney family.

Geoff and Janet Torney with their children and grandchildren. Picture supplied by the Torney family.

He assisted in establishing the Australian Catholic University and was a founding member of Aquinas College, now the university’s Ballarat campus. In 2011 he was awarded the university’s highest honour, Doctor of the University.

Former Ballarat Turf Club president Michael Dunne was hired by Mr Torney in December 1970. The two worked together for more than 30 years. 

“He was a mentor for so many people who did great things in the law, and a whole lot of every day lawyers like me,” Mr Dunne said.

“One thing he was very strong about was that you didn’t turn people because they can’t afford your work.

“We did what’s now called pro-bono without expecting credit for it.”

Mrs Torney remembered her husband as a “great leader in so many fields”. 

“Geoff was a good, honourable man always striving to do the right thing. . He had a deep sense of humility, he didn't like the spotlight.

“He was the love of my life and I feel so lucky to have made a wonderful life and family with him in Ballarat.”

Mr Torney’s grandson John Wystan Harris said his grandfather was a man who “drew in all who met him”. 

“Unlike most, his family will not be counted by his blood but by his breadth of the community he loved. To know Geoff Torney was to become his family.”

Mr Wystan Harris said his grandfather’s proudest day was his wedding day at St Patrick’s Cathedral.

The pair met in 1953 at the University of Melbourne’s Newman College when they were both law students.

“He considered how their initial meeting could have gone very differently had Janet declined his bold offer of only attending a university ball with her if she paid. She did and he perhaps paid ever after.”

ACU Vice Chancellor Greg Craven said Mr Torney was an extraordinary man of faith. 

“He will always be revered for his commitment not only to ACU but to the broader church and to the region,” Professor Craven said.

Law Institute of Victoria president Belinda Wilson said: “Geoff enjoyed a distinguished career in the law and has given so much to the profession and the community. He was a respected member of the Ballarat community and despite his busy career he was a tireless supporter of the Victorian racing industry.”

In 2005 Mr Torney received the Order of Australia for contributions to racing, the legal profession and the Ballarat community. 

He was chair of The Courier Charity Fund, Ballarat Regional Industries and Ballarat Special School Council.