Dr Tierney gave 14 years of distinguished service to the Australian Parliament, where he served as Senator for NSW. During his time in Parliament, he was a Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Leader in the Senate and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. John also chaired a number of Senate Standing and Select Committees over a range of portfolio areas, with a particular focus on education, employment, industrial relations, communications, information technology, health and welfare issues.
In 2005, John co-sponsored the first National Parliamentary Inquiry into Mental Health. He has taken a passionate interest in the area of disability, having contracted polio at birth. John was a special parliamentary adviser to the Minister for Community Services on disability matters from 1998 to 2001.
Dr Tierney was appointed to the Council of the Australian National University from 1996 to 2000 and to the Council of the National Library of Australia from 1992 to 2005. He has led Australian parliamentary delegations to South Africa and Nigeria (2002), the European Union (2004), and to the United Nations in New York, where John led the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the UN General Assembly from September to December 2004 and addressed the General Assembly.
Prior to entering Parliament, Dr Tierney was a Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Newcastle until 1991 and Chairman of St Philips Christian College where he is still Patron. John holds the degrees of PhD and MEd and a BEc (Sydney University and Newcastle University). He has served in a range of honorary roles in the community including being a patron of the Australian Scouts where he holds the rank of Queen’s Scout. John has been married to Pam for 44 years. She was formerly the CEO of Lifeline Newcastle/Hunter and currently is an advocate for the homeless with the St Vincent de Paul Society. Pam and John live in Maitland and Sydney and have 6 children and 7 grandchildren – so far.
In the 2012 Australia Day Awards Dr Tierney was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM): For service to the Parliament of Australia, to education, and to the community.