Linda Burney

Linda Jean Burney (born 25 April 1957)[1] is an Australian politician, member of the House of Representatives in the Australian Federal Parliament, and the Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services and for Preventing Family Violence. She was the first Aboriginal person to serve in the New South Wales Parliament in 2003,[2] and also the first Aboriginal woman to be elected to the Australian House of Representatives in 2016.[3]

Linda Burney

Burney in 2007
National President of the Labor Party
In office
27 December 2008  30 July 2009
Preceded byMike Rann
Succeeded byMichael Williamson
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Barton
Assumed office
2 July 2016
Preceded byNickolas Varvaris
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
in New South Wales
In office
8 April 2011  7 March 2016
LeaderJohn Robertson
Luke Foley
Preceded byJillian Skinner
Succeeded byMichael Daley
Minister for Community Services
In office
8 September 2008  28 March 2011
PremierNathan Rees
Kristina Keneally
Preceded byKevin Greene
Succeeded byPru Goward (Family and Community Services)
Minister for Youth
In office
2 April 2007  5 September 2008
PremierMorris Iemma
Preceded byReba Meagher
Succeeded byGraham West
Member of the New South Wales Parliament
for Canterbury
In office
22 March 2003  6 May 2016
Preceded byKevin Moss
Succeeded bySophie Cotsis
Personal details
Born (1957-04-25) 25 April 1957
Whitton, New South Wales, Australia
Political partyLabor Party
Spouse(s)Rick Farley (dec'd)
Children1 (m); 1 (f)
Alma materCharles Sturt University

Burney was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly representing Canterbury for the Australian Labor Party from 2003 to 2016.[2] She was the New South Wales Deputy Leader of the Opposition and was also Shadow Minister for Education and Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.[4] In the Keneally ministry, she was the Minister for the State Plan and Minister for Community Services. During 2008 and 2009, Burney was National President of the Australian Labor Party.[5][6]

Burney became the first Aboriginal woman to be elected to the federal House of Representatives, after winning the seat of Barton in the 2016 federal election, after resigning her state position in order to contest it.[3]

Early life and background

Burney is of Wiradjuri and Scottish descent and grew up in Whitton, a small town in south-west NSW near Leeton.[7]

In her inaugural speech to NSW Parliament she said:

I did not grow up knowing my Aboriginal family. I met my father, Nonny Ingram, in 1984. His first words to me were, "I hope I don't disappoint you." I have now met 10 brothers and sisters. We grew up 40 minutes apart. That was the power of racism and denial in the fifties that was so overbearing. I now have two sets of brothers and sisters. I was raised by my old aunt and uncle, Nina and Billy Laing. They were brother and sister. These old people gave me the ground on which I stand today—the values of honesty, loyalty and respect.[8]

Burney also mistakenly claimed that she had spent the first ten years of her life under the "Flora and Fauna Act" and was legally classed as an animal. A fact check conducted by the ABC in 2018 found that no such act existed and characterised it as an urban myth.[9]

Burney attended the local primary school in Whitton. She did her first four years of secondary school at Leeton High School and final two at Penrith High School. She was the first Aboriginal graduate from the Mitchell College of Advanced Education where she obtained a Diploma of Teaching.

She began her career teaching at Lethbridge Park public school in western Sydney in 1979. She has been involved in the New South Wales Aboriginal Education Consultative Group since the mid-1980s and has participated in the development and implementation of the first Aboriginal education policy in Australia.[10]

She has held senior positions in the non-government sector, serving on a number of boards including SBS, the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board and the NSW Board of Studies. Burney was an executive member of the National Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, President of the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group and is a former Director-General of the NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs,[11] and in 2006 she was elected National Vice President of the Australian Labor Party.

Political career

NSW State Parliament

When Burney was elected as the Member for Canterbury in 2003, she became the first Aboriginal person to serve in the NSW Parliament.[2] In her inaugural speech to the Legislative Assembly she said:

I am a member of the mighty Wiradjuri Aboriginal nation […] Growing up as an Aboriginal child looking into the mirror of our country was difficult and alienating. Your reflection in the mirror was at best ugly and distorted, and at worst nonexistent.[8]

She was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Training in 2005. Following the 2007 election Burney became Minister for Fair Trading, Minister for Youth, and Minister for Volunteering. In September 2008 she was promoted to Minister for Community Services and in December 2009 she was appointed Minister for the State Plan. She lost her portfolios following the change of government at the 2011 state election.

Burney was appointed to the Community Services portfolio in December 2008 just prior to the handing down of the report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services by retired Supreme Court Justice James Wood.[12] She was the lead Minister in a whole of government reform plan, "Keep Them Safe", that commenced implementing the recommendations of the inquiry.[13]

Following the ALP's landslide defeat at the 2011 state election, Burney was elected as Deputy Leader of the Labor Party after former Deputy Premier Carmel Tebbutt chose not stand for the position. She also became the Shadow Minister for Planning, Infrastructure and Heritage, Shadow Minister for the Central Coast and the Hunter and Shadow Minister for Sport and Recreation.

As Minister, Burney was the inaugural patron of the NSW Volunteer of the Year Award, a major NSW Government supported initiative.[14] In 2006 she gave the seventh Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture,[2] and in 2008 gave the sixth Henry Parkes Oration.[15]

As part of the 2012 Sydney Festival Burney performed as herself delivering her inaugural speech to the NSW Parliament in a theatrical production called I am Eora.[16]

On 23 December 2014, Burney became the interim leader of the opposition after the resignation of John Robertson,[17] and was then re-elected as deputy leader to Luke Foley.

Federal Parliament

On 1 March 2016, Burney announced she would stand for preselection to contest the federal seat of Barton at the forthcoming 2016 federal election.[18] She was confirmed as the Labor candidate following a vote by the ALP's national executive.[19] She submitted her resignation to the Speaker of the NSW Legislative Assembly on 6 May 2016, and was succeeded as the state member for Canterbury by Sophie Cotsis following a by-election held on 12 November 2016.

Burney retained the seat of Barton for the ALP at the election, becoming the first Indigenous woman to be elected to the House of Representatives and the second Indigenous person elected to the House after Ken Wyatt in 2010.[20] On 22 July, she was appointed Shadow Minister for Human Services.[21] On 28 June 2018, she added Preventing Family Violence to her portfolio responsibilities and on 22 August 2018, became Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services.[22]

Burney was re-elected at the 2019 federal election with an increased majority. After the election she retained the families and social services portfolio in Anthony Albanese's shadow ministry and was additionally made Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians in place of Patrick Dodson.[23]

Personal life

Burney has a son and a daughter. Her partner for a number of years, until his death, was Rick Farley. Her son, Binni, died suddenly on 24 October 2017.[24]


  1. "Dr Linda Jen BURNEY MP". Parliament @ Work. Australian Government. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  2. Browning, Daniel (12 January 2007). "7th Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture: Linda Burney MP" (streaming audio). AWAYE!. Australia: ABC Radio National. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
  3. "Aborigines want more than a mention in Australia's constitution". The Economist. 6 July 2017. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  4. "The Hon. Linda Jean BURNEY, HonDEd, DipEd (1957 - )". Former Members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  5. "New ALP president spells out her agenda". The Age. Australia. AAP. 28 January 2009.
  6. "The new ALP National Presidential team". Australian Labor Party. Archived from the original on 4 August 2009.
  7. "Making a Mark". Message Stick. ABC. 12 September 2003. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  8. "Inaugural Speeches: Linda Burney". Hansard. Parliament of New South Wales. 6 May 2003. Archived from the original on 31 March 2011. Retrieved 21 June 2010.
  9. "Fact check: Were Indigenous Australians classified under a flora and fauna act until the 1967 referendum?". ABC News. 12 July 2018. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  10. "Burney, Linda Jean (c. 1957 – )". Australian Women. Retrieved 26 February 2007.
  11. "Linda Burney". University of Western Sydney. Archived from the original on 19 February 2007. Retrieved 26 February 2007.
  12. "Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection in NSW". NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet. Archived from the original on 23 May 2010. Retrieved 18 June 2010.
  13. "Keep Them Safe". NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet. Retrieved 18 June 2010.
  14. "Past Awards: Inaugural NSW Volunteer of the Year Award". The Centre for Volunteering. 2007. Archived from the original on 10 May 2012. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
  15. Burney, Linda (17 October 2008). Weaving the Australian Tapestry: Creating a society 'of beauty rich and rare' from threads of harmony and contradiction (PDF) (Speech). The 6th Henry Parkes Oration. National Library of Australia, Canberra. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 March 2012. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
  16. Shand, John (10 January 2012). "Review: Archetypes evoke spirit of place". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
  17. "John Robertson stands down as NSW Opposition Leader following leadership speculation". ABC News. Australia. 23 December 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  18. Kennedy, Jean; Tarasov, Anne (1 March 2016). "NSW Labor MP Linda Burney hopes to become first Indigenous woman in House of Representatives". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  19. Keany, Francis (11 March 2016). "Federal Government prepares for MP in its most marginal seat to quit Parliament". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
  20. "'I am the first!' Linda Burney proclaims history for Indigenous people, women". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 3 July 2016. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  21. Norman, Jane (22 July 2016). "Bill Shorten keeps Kim Carr on frontbench in shadow ministry shuffle". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  22. Riordan, Primrose (22 August 2018). "Meanwhile, Labor beds down its latest lineup". The Australian. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  23. "Hon Linda Burney MP". Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  24. "Linda Burney takes leave from Federal Parliament to deal with sudden death of her son Binni". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 25 October 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
Government offices
Preceded by
Geoff Scott
Director General of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs
Succeeded by
Jody Broun
New South Wales Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
Kevin Moss
Member for Canterbury
Succeeded by
Sophie Cotsis
Political offices
Preceded by
Reba Meagher
Minister for Youth
Succeeded by
Graham West
New title Minister for Volunteering
Preceded by
Diane Beamer
Minister for Fair Trading
Succeeded by
Virginia Judge
Preceded by
Kevin Greene
Minister for Community Services
Succeeded by
Pru Goward
as Minister for Family and Community Services
Preceded by
Verity Firth
Minister for Women
Succeeded by
Jodi McKay
New title Minister for the State Plan
Post abolished
Preceded by
Jillian Skinner
Deputy Leader of the Opposition of New South Wales
Succeeded by
Michael Daley
Party political offices
Preceded by
John Faulkner
National President of the Australian Labor Party
Succeeded by
Michael Williamson
Preceded by
Carmel Tebbutt
Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party
(New South Wales Branch)

Succeeded by
Michael Daley
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Nickolas Varvaris
Member for Barton
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