Image: Jude Byrne (Credit: Nigel Brunsdon)
The staff at Burnet Institute are deeply saddened to hear of the recent passing of Jude Byrne. Jude was a fearless and passionate advocate for people who inject drugs and had a major and influential role in ensuring their views were represented and listened to by Governments and researchers.
Jude held numerous roles with the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL) including being Chair of their Board, a board member of the International Network on Health and Hepatitis in Substance Users, as well as being a community representative for drug users in Australia and globally such as membership of World Health Organisation advisory committees.
Jude was not afraid to say what she believed and her participation on a Ministerial Advisory committee with a broad range of highly credentialed professionals to talk about the implications of their work on a persons injecting behaviour took courage. While in the early days of her career she did so very nervously, her commitment to sharing the experience of people who inject drugs overtook her timidity. The breadth of the forums in which she advocated for people who inject was substantial, and she made an impact at a global level. People and policies changed for the good due to Jude’s efforts.
Jude was very well known to many of the Burnet staff and played a significant role in helping co-design and inform many of the programs and strategies that aimed at improving the health of the IDU community. Her advice was critically important in making our projects better, and in helping engage with her peers. She also played a significant role in developing the Eliminate Hepatitis C Australia program as a key community representative, engaging many within her community to support the program and the rollout of the new direct acting antiviral agents for the treatment of hepatitis C.
While Jude often had very strong opinions about an issue, she was always willing to listen to other views and was willing to either adopt your idea, or find ways of working alongside your perspective even if not 100 per cent agreeing that view. She was committed to issues, but her ego was strong enough to adapt and learn.
Australia has truly lost a legend and a hero, someone who stood up for her beliefs and the community in which she worked, and who truly has left a significant legacy. Jude was the heart and soul of Australia’s harm reduction response. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her and loved her.
Our sincere condolences to Jude’s partner, family and friends.