- Our Work
- Civil Rights Defender
We are delighted that Brian Bourke AM, Melbourne's longest serving barrister, will be the speaker at our Annual General Meeting this year.
On this the 50th anniversary of the last person to be executed in Australia, it is fitting that we hear from Ronald Ryan's Counsel, Brian Bourke. Ryan died on 3 February 1967. There was a public outcry and, after a lobbying effort led by lawyers, capital punishment was dropped in Victoria.
Brian has been a member of Liberty Victoria for more than 20 years.
In June this year Brian was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia in the General Division for his contribution to the law and also to Australian football through his devotion to the South Melbourne Football Club before it became the Sydney Swans.
Brian signed the Roll for the Victorian Bar on 1 April 1960 and, at 88, after almost 58 years, he retired from the Bar on 20 October 2017.
He convened the first meeting of Amnesty International Australia in the early 1960s, in his Chambers. He was the first member and remains a member today.
Brian was an interstate debater during the 50's and 60's. He set up the Pentridge Debating Club as he felt that prisoners should have this opportunity available to them. He trained the debaters - arguably the most famous of which was John Bryan Kerr, a convicted murderer, who became a Victorian debater while in prison. Victoria reached the finals and Brian convinced NSW to hold the finals in Pentridge so that Kerr could take part.
Brian never took silk, being of the view that the Queen had enough counsel and in any event he was Irish!
All Liberty Victoria members are warmly invited to attend the AGM.
Thank you to Brian Bourke Chambers and artist Karl Schott for the wonderful image of Brian.