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Profile: Brian Bourke Back

Brian J. Bourke was born on June 13 1929 at Wangaratta, Victoria. The son of a publican, Brian moved house several times during his youth, and finished up doing matriculation at Taylor's College in Melbourne, followed by a stint in a Wangaratta bank in 1947.

He commenced five years of articles at Brew and McGuinness in 1948 before being admitted to practise in 1953. In 1958, he travelled overseas before returning to Melbourne and signing the Bar Roll on April 1 1960.

Brian read with Jim Gorman, taking his first brief on his first day at the Bar. His love of debate carried over into co-writing a book The Australian Debator with (Senator) Alan Missen.

Initially specialising in liquor licensing, Brian wrote Bourke's Liquor Laws (later co-authored by Michael Corrigan). Brian's practice soon extended to criminal law. He was junior in a couple of murder trials to John Starke who was soon appointed to the Supreme Court bench in 1964, and eventually presided over the trial of Ronald Ryan, the last man to hang in Victoria. Brian was junior to Ryan's counsel, Philip Opas QC during that trial. During the 1960s, Bourke was defence counsel in some 35 murder trials. He also found time to be politically active, standing as the ALP candidate for the upper house seat of Monash in the Victorian Parliament in 1964, and establishing the Australian chapter of Amnesty International and DOXA for under-privileged youth.

During his years of practice, Brian has had eleven readers: Judge John Barnett, Kris Hanscombe, Patrick Tehan QC, Andrew Combes, Linton Lethlean, Angela Nordlinger, Peter Power, Jack Rush QC, Russell Sarah, Don Gude and Nicole Feeley.

Aside from law and human rights, one of Brian's great passions is football. He joined the committee of the South Melbourne Football Club in 1960, serving ten years and earning a life membership of the AFL. He became president of the South Melbourne Football Club in 1967, and later was a member of the AFL Tribunal. He also enjoys horse racing, cattle farming and travelling (especially to France).

Married with four daughters, Brian continues his practice at the Bar, but has never applied for silk.

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