A STATE funeral will be held on Monday for Ballarat political and legal identity Murray Byrne, who died yesterday aged 84.
Remembered as a champion of the Ballarat community throughout his life, Mr Byrne served in the Victorian parliament, representing Ballarat Province from 1958 until 1976, including as acting premier.
Born in Colac in 1928 to Thomas Edward and Barbara Byrne, the solicitor and member of Victoria’s Legislative Council was educated at St Patrick’s College and the University of Melbourne.
A driving force in the development of country Victoria’s largest legal firm, Byrne, Jones and Torney, he later served as minister of public works, tourism and immigration.
During his tenure as minister for state development and decentralisation, Mr Byrne is credited with personally persuading large companies including McCain and Mars to set up operations in Ballarat.
He sought and achieved improvements to regional living and business, including the creation of a dual-lane highway between Melbourne and Ballarat. He also joined Prime Minister Gough Whitlam on an historic trip to communist China in 1973.
Premier Ted Baillieu last night offered condolences to Mr Byrne’s wife Adele and their eight children.
“At the time of his election in 1958 he was, aged 29, the youngest member of any Australian Upper House,” Mr Baillieu said.
“Murray Byrne was well respected, not only in the Ballarat community, but throughout Victoria. He was passionate about his community as a member of parliament and remained so throughout his life.
“In 1977 his contribution to parliament and the community was recognised when he was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the New Year Honours List.”
Mr Byrne’s son Andrew said his father was devoted to his wife of 61 years, his eight children and 12 grandchildren.
“He spoilt us all while he was always very busy in politics and business, he always made time for his family and had us involved,” Mr Byrne said.
“Many country areas around Victoria have a lot to thank Dad for because of the push he made for decentralisation and development of the regions, and we are very proud of that.”
He said his father’s decades of legal practice had led to four generations of lawyers in the family and much “loyalty from friends and colleagues over many years”.
Premier Ted Baillieu remembered Mr Byrne as a champion of regional communities.
"Murray Byrne was well respected, not only in the Ballarat community, but throughout Victoria," Mr Baillieu said in a statement.
"He was passionate about his community as a Member of Parliament and remained so throughout his life."
Mr Baillieu said that at the time of his election in 1958, Mr Byrne was the youngest member of any Australian Upper House at 29.
"He held a number of portfolios in the Hamer Government, including State Development, Tourism and Public Works, and was a committed champion of decentralisation, and the importance of the regions," Mr Baillieu said.
Business and political leaders have continued to pay tribute to Mr Byrne today, crediting him with bringing jobs and infrastructure to the Ballarat region.
A state funeral and Mass will be held on Monday at 10am at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Ballarat.