Ballarat mourns the loss of its modern-day father

BALLARAT has lost a man some consider the “father of modern Ballarat” with the death of former state government minister and solicitor Murray Byrne.

Mr Byrne died early yesterday morning aged 84.

It was during his illustrious career as a state politician – he was the youngest ever Victorian MP in 1958 when he became MLC for Ballarat, a role which he continued until 1976 – that Mr Byrne is best remembered.

As Minister for State Development and Decentralisation, Mr Byrne was credited with opening Ballarat to multi-national companies like Mars and McCain, some of the biggest employers in Ballarat.

Without Mr Byrne’s foresight and dedication to the region he loved so much, these international employers, and many more, may not have been attracted to Ballarat and may have located their businesses elsewhere.

Much like the deaths in recent years of politician Karen Overington, businessmen Enzo Campagna and Arthur Wilson and local government stalwart David Baird, the loss of Mr Byrne will affect many parts of the community.

Apart from his business and government work, Mr Byrne’s official biography reflects his strong commitment to Ballarat and reads like a who’s who of local organisations and groups.

Mr Byrne’s community involvement was eclectic, including being the founding member of Ballarat Jaycees, secretary of Ballarat Call Committee, founding member of Wendouree Youth Club, founder of Ballarat Caledonian Housing Societies, council member of the Ballarat Agricultural and Pastoral Society, founder of Ballarat Young Liberals, patron of the Skipton Youth Club, Ballarat Youth Athletic Club, Ballarat Civic Male Choir, founder and patron of Ballarat Aged and Needy Relief Association, Australian-Asian Students Association, trustee and patron of Ballarat TPIs, founder and patron of Ballarat Lifeline and patron of St Joseph’s Home and Nazareth House Orphanages, just to name a few.

Mr Byrne was the sort of person who couldn’t help but help people, particularly in his own law firm. One of his young charges at BJT Legal paid tribute to his mentor and thanked him for guiding so many in their law careers.

But, in reality, much of Ballarat can thank him for helping to create the flourishing city that we call home.

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