David Byrne (Australian politician)

David Edward Byrne (born 20 January 1952) is an Australian activist and politician. A former Augustinian monk and Liberal member of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland, he later moved to Cape York, became an advocate for Aboriginal land rights and co-founded the Cape York Land Council with Noel Pearson.

David Byrne
Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly
for Belmont
In office
7 December 1974 – 12 November 1977
Preceded byFred Newton
Succeeded bySeat abolished
Personal details
David Edward Byrne

(1912-01-20)20 January 1912
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Political partyLiberal Party
Alma materUniversity of Queensland
OccupationTeacher, Stud breeder, Lecturer

Byrne was born in Sydney and was educated at St Martin's Catholic Primary School and Villanova College in Brisbane. He initially entered the Augustinian seminary and became a monk for five years, but later studied teaching at the University of Queensland. A member of the state executive of the Young Liberals, he was elected to the Queensland Legislative Assembly at the 1974 state election amidst the National-Liberal landslide of that year. At 22, he was at that time the state's youngest ever MLA, and he graduated from university during his term.[1]

He caused particular controversy when, in 1974, he asked in Parliament why earlier recommendations of an investigating police officer to charge then-Labor Senate nominee Mal Colston with arson had not been proceeded with. Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen then sought to appoint Albert Field instead, thus sparking the 1975 constitutional crisis. Rae Wear notes in her biography of Bjelke-Petersen that Byrne received 'very bad publicity' over the incident.[2][3] His electorate was abolished at the 1977 election; he ran for re-election but was defeated.[1]

Byrne worked as a history master at San Sisto College in Brisbane before his election and as a lecturer at the Queensland Police Academy after leaving politics.[1] By the early 1980s, however, he was living in the remote community of Injinoo on Cape York, where he became heavily involved in the movement for Aboriginal land rights and in particular of the rights of indigenous communities living on their own country to determine their own governance and future.[4][5] He subsequently co-founded the Cape York Land Council in 1990, along with friend and ally Noel Pearson.[5][6] He later served as its deputy director, and remained with the organisation until 1999.[5][7][8] He stood unsuccessfully as an independent for the State seat of Cook in 1989 and 1992.

Byrne was the subject of an episode of Australian Story in 1997.[9]

He lived in Topaz on the Atherton Tablelands for some years maintaining a strong interest in Indigenous issues. He operated a dairy, became a cheesemaker, bred cattle and completed a law degree. He was admitted as a lawyer in the Brisbane Supreme Court in September 2013.

He now lives in Injinoo again working with the Apudthama Land Trust and the Injinoo Community.


  1. ^ a b c "Former Members". Parliament of Queensland. 2015. Retrieved 1 February 2015.
  2. ^ Wear, Rae (2002). Johannes Bjelke-Petersen: The Lord's Premier. University of Queensland Press. p. 142.
  3. ^ Murphy, Damien (26 August 2003). "Turncoat turned into a footnote". Sydney Morning Herald.
  4. ^ Rothwell, Nicolas (3 September 2008), "Indigenous insiders chart an end to victimhood", The Australian
  5. ^ a b c "Radio National: Background Briefing: Noel Pearson". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 29 October 2000. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
  6. ^ Sutton, Peter (9 August 2008), "Twilight of old radicals", The Australian
  7. ^ Jopson, Debra (26 January 1995), "Mansell working for a new national day", The Australian
  8. ^ Jopson, Debra (15 April 1996), "Integration push for Aborigines", The Australian
  9. ^ "Australian Story: The Mission". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
Parliament of Queensland
Preceded by
Fred Newton
Member for Belmont