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Linda Burney MP

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 Member for Barton, 2 July 2016–
Australian Labor Party

Linda Burney (b.1957) was ‘born at a time when the Australian government knew how many sheep there were but not how many Aboriginal people’.1 Yet in 2016, Parliament House rang to the sound of Wiradjuri song during her inaugural speech as the House of Representatives’ first female Indigenous member.2

Burney was born in Whitton in the NSW Riverina, and raised by her great-aunt and uncle. She worked picking fruit while attending school at Leeton and won a scholarship to study teaching at Charles Sturt University (then Mitchell College of Advanced Education). Burney then taught in western Sydney before joining the Aboriginal Education Policy Unit in the NSW Department of Education in 1981.She continued working in Aboriginal education until being appointed Deputy Director-General (1998–99) and Director-General (2000–03) of the NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs.4 In the 1990s Burney also served on the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation and helped organise major initiatives such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge ‘Walk for Reconciliation’ in 2000.5 She was also a Director of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board and a representative of First Peoples to the UN. Charles Sturt University awarded her an honorary doctorate in 2002.6

As the ALP candidate for Canterbury in the 2003 NSW state election, Burney won easily and became the first Indigenous person elected to NSW state parliament. Two years later she was appointed to the ministry, where her portfolio responsibilities came to include Fair Trading, Youth, Volunteering, Community Services, Women, and the State Plan. Burney also served as the ALP national president from 2008 to 2009. Burney had a son and a daughter; tragically her son died suddenly in 2017.7 Her partner Rick Farley died in 2006.8

Moving into Opposition after the 2011 election, Burney continued on the front bench as Deputy Leader, and held several portfolios.9 She resigned from the NSW parliament in May 2016 and was elected as the federal Member for Barton. To commence her first speech, Burney’s friend Lynette Riley welcomed her to the chamber with a Wiradjuri song, sung from the public gallery. Burney asked listeners to 'imagine what it was like for a 13-year-old Aboriginal girl in a school classroom, being taught that her ancestors were the closest thing to stone age man on earth and struggling with your identity’. Her message to young people in classrooms today is, ‘If I can stand in this place, so can they’.10 Burney has had several shadow Ministry roles, championing ALP policies on domestic violence and Constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians.11

After the election of the Albanese government in 2022, Burney was appointed Minister for Indigenous Australians becoming the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman to hold that portfolio, and the first to be in Federal Cabinet.

Jude Rae
Sydney-born artist Jude Rae (b.1956) is primarily known for her reflective still-life paintings, portraits and architectural interiors. She attended the Julian Ashton Art School as a secondary student in the 1970s before undertaking further studies in Art History at the University of Sydney. She then concentrated on developing her practice, enrolling in the College of Fine Arts in Sydney and later completing a Masters Degree in Visual Art at Canterbury University in Christchurch, New Zealand. Of great influence for Rae during these early years was the realist work of her father and fellow painter David Rae. In 1987, she held her first solo exhibition and has since exhibited work throughout Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the USA. She has been awarded residencies in France, Italy and New Zealand and has taught art at a tertiary level at Auckland University, the Australian National University and the National Art School (Sydney). Rae won the Portia Geach Memorial Award for Portraiture in 2005 and in 2008, and was a highly commended finalist in the 2019 Archibald Prize.12

Linda Jean Burney
by Jude Rae
Oil on canvas
125 x 105 cm
Historic Memorials Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

1.‘L Burney, ‘Governor-General’s Speech: Address-in-Reply’, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 August 2016, p. 165. Information in this biography has been taken from the following: L Burney, ‘Linda Burney reflects on 20 years of reconciliation and what still needs to be done’, 7.30 Report, ABC, 18 February 2020; K Grant, ‘Linda Burney’, Living Black, NITV, 3 May 2021; U Malone, ‘Indigenous NSW politician Linda Burney reveals history as domestic violence victim’, ABC News, 29 June 2015; R Fidler and L Burney, ‘Linda Burney on tracing her family, and making history’, Conversations, ABC, October 2016; ‘Parliamentary Handbook of the Commonwealth of Australia’, 46th Parliament, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2020; R Fitzgerald, ‘Canberra next stop on Burney’s unfinished journey’, The Canberra Times, 14 March 2016; N Barrowclough, ‘The fire in Linda Burney’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 December 2006, p. 22s; N Thorpe, ‘‘Being born Aboriginal was a complete scandal’, how Linda Burney’s childhood drives her today’, The Point, NITV News, 12 July 2018; N Brown and S Boden, A Way Through: The Life of Rick Farley, NewSouth Publishing, Sydney, 2012; L Kovacic and B Lemon, ‘Burney, Linda Jean (b. 1957–)’, The Australian Women’s Register, 12 February 2019. Websites accessed 3 May 2021.
2. A video of this speech may be viewed at Parliament of Australia, ‘House of Representatives: Wednesday August 31, 2016, 13:25’, online video, ParlView, 16:15:50, accessed 29 July 2021.
3. J Morrow, ‘The Year that Made Me: Linda Burney, 1988’, Sunday Extra, ABC, 31 May 2020, accessed 29 July 2021.
4. Charles Sturt University, ‘Ms Linda Jean Burney, Citation for the conferral of Doctor of Education (honoris causa)’, 9 May 2002, accessed 29 July 2021.
5. E Archibald-Binge, ‘Indigenous voice “fundamental” to reconciliation, says Linda Burney’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 May 2020, accessed 29 July 2021.
6. Charles Sturt University, op. cit.
7. ‘Linda Burney discusses the tragedy of losing her son on “Living Black”’, OutinPerth, accessed 29 July 2021.
8. A Clennell and B Kontominas, ‘Rick Farley: a remarkable life ends in a tragic accident’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 May 2006, accessed 15 April 2021.
9. This included serving as Minister for Volunteering, Minister for Youth, Minister for Fair Trading, Minister for Community Services, Minister for Women, Minister for the State Plan, Shadow Minister for the Hunter, Shadow Minister for Sport and Recreation, Shadow Minister for Planning, Infrastructure and Heritage, Shadow Minister for the Central Coast, Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services, Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education, and Shadow Minister for Ageing and Disability Services.
10. L Burney, ‘Governor-General’s Speech: Address-in-Reply’, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 August 2016, p. 170.
11. This includes serving as Shadow Minister for Human Services, Shadow Minister for Preventing Family Violence, Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services, and Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians.
12. Information in this biography has been taken from the following: ‘Jude Rae: Biography’, Jude Rae website; ‘Artsets: The art that made me: Jude Rae’, Art Gallery of NSW. Websites accessed 15 April 2021.  

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