A child of Irish migrants, Eva Byrne OAM, nee Morrison, devoted her life to the recognition of migrants and their needs, helping develop multicultural Australia. She gained a Diploma of Social Studies at the University of Sydney during World War II and was the first social worker to be appointed to the new Commonwealth Department of Immigration in 1948. She visited new arrivals in camps such as Kapooka and Greta in NSW to help them settle.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Eva Byrne accompanied her diplomat husband to postings in Italy, Austria and France. Returning to Sydney in the early 1970s, Eva Byrne led the response to the first arrivals of refugees from Vietnam, in her role as Chief Social Worker for Migrant Services in the Department of Immigration. She initiated the first interpreter training course in Australia, and was later admitted as a barrister of the NSW Supreme Court.

From 1980 until she retired, she was the Director of the NSW Ministerial Family and Children Services Agency, developing policies on child welfare, families, Aboriginal people and multicultural communities. Awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 1985 for her services to the community, she also worked tirelessly with Wadim (Bill) Jegorow AM MBE to establish the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW in 1975 and the Federation of Ethnic Community Councils of Australia (FECCA). As an honorary consultant to the ECCNSW and FECCA, she prepared many submissions on matters such as reciprocal pensions, law reform, family law, discrimination and human rights.

Page last updated: 13 January 2023 | 11:49 am