Ballarat racing identity awarded university's highest honour

Monday, 6 June 2011

Ballarat solicitor and racing identity, Geoffrey Torney AM, was recently awarded Australian Catholic University’s (ACU) highest honour, Doctor of the University.

He received the award for his community service, particularly to the Ballarat community and the Catholic Diocese of Ballarat.

Faith and family have long been the cornerstones of Geoffrey’s life. Born in Ballarat, he attended Waubra State School, then St Patrick’s College, Ballarat, and was instilled with a sense of community from a very young age.

Geoffrey studied a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Melbourne, the only university in Melbourne at the time, and where he also met his wife‐to‐be, Janet Byrne.

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A litigation specialist, Geoffrey is a prominent and much‐loved figure in the Ballarat community.

One of the two solicitors on the original Legal Practice Board, he was a council member with the Law Institute of Victoria for three years.

Geoffrey was Foundation Director with the Victorian Securities Corporation and served on the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. He was also the foundation Chair of The Courier Charity Fund, Ballarat Regional Industries and the Ballarat Special School Council.

As well as a strong involvement with the Catholic Church in Ballarat and the Diocese, Geoffrey has a place in the history of Australian Catholic University. He was a founding member of Aquinas College, which is now the University’s Ballarat Campus.

A prominent member of Victoria’s thoroughbred horse racing community, Geoffrey was first introduced to the sport by his uncle, a racing enthusiast, and his father‐in‐law, the then lawyer of the Ballarat Turf Club.

When the Club Committee needed a new lawyer in 1966, Geoffrey put his hand up. He was a member for more than 22 years and served two terms as President. In 1988 he joined the Moonee Valley Racing Club, where he was to stay for the next 14 years, taking up the role of Chairman from 1997 to 2002.

Geoffrey was also a founding director of Racing Victoria Limited. The Geoff Torney Cup event at Moonee Valley Racecourse is named in his honour.

Geoffrey was awarded the Australian Sports Medal in 2000, and a Ballarat award for Sports Administration. In 2005 he was recognised as a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia. Of all his achievements and career highlights, Geoffrey said he is most proud of being able to help others.

Married to his wife Janet for 52 years, Geoffrey has five children and 14 grandchildren. Now retired, he is taking the time to “bask in the recent success of the Geelong Football Club, and still wallows in the challenges of golf”.

Associate Professor Joe Fleming, ACU Ballarat Campus Dean, congratulated Geoffrey on the well deserved honour.