In memory of Jude Byrne

Jude Byrne AIVL, Canberra, AustraliaTo find out more about the Jude Byrne Emerging Female Leadership Award, click here.

It is with a heavy heart that we learned of the death of INHSU board member Jude Byrne, who passed away on 5th March 2021 surrounded by friends and family. There are no words that can sum up the heartbreak that INHSU feels at the loss of Jude – our friend, mentor and fearless advocate for people who use drugs.

Jude was a globally recognised, powerful advocate who fought to advance the health and human rights of people who use drugs with her formidable intelligence, honesty and dignity.

An injecting drug user for over 40 years; Jude brought a feminist perspective and her profound understanding of the social and political repercussions of being singled out as a member of a marginalised community was invaluable to her work.

We were deeply honoured to have Jude serve on the INHSU board since 2018. During her time she made many important contributions to the network and our projects, always ensuring that the focus was on people who use drugs. In her words, “INHSU demonstrates through its work and practice of following the best science, developing the most important research and connecting with the community.”

Jude was also a founding member of the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL), where she worked for many years, in addition to serving on boards of local, national and global drug user organisations, and participating in ministerial and federal advisory boards and mentoring other activists. Her outstanding work in harm reduction was recognised with the International Rolleston Award in 2011.

But Jude was more than just her work. She had friends across the world who enjoyed her wit, kindness and honesty.

She was also a proud mother of three. In her words: “I finally understood that the uniform belief of every drug and alcohol worker family member and other interested busybodies that my drug using would ruin my children’s possibility of a happy fulfilled life had not come to pass.

“It’s hard to explain how different I felt as a woman and a parent, it has changed my life in so many ways I will no longer apologise or be shamed by my behaviour. I have three beautiful, kind compassionate children – a lawyer a teacher and an events management director.

“I have a close and loving relationship with them all. I am now a grandmother and enjoying my grandchildren in a way I wasn’t able to as a parent and it’s not because I can give them back, it’s because I know my mere presence cannot taint them.”

It is words like this that show Jude’s true character, inspiring others to see that people who use drugs are just that. People. 

She was a shining light of the INHSU network and her death has impacted people across the world.  

There is no doubt in our minds that the world has lost a true hero – someone who always fought for what was right. It is near impossible to comprehend this loss, but one thing we know for sure is that Jude’s legacy will live on forever. She will never be forgotten.

Our sincerest condolences to Jude’s family and friends at this difficult time.

Words from the network:

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