Bracks studied business in his home town of Ballarat, and worked as secondary commerce teacher after he graduated. He worked in various local and state government roles during the 1980s, including as a senior advisor to two State Premiers.
Bracks entered Parliament in 1994 as the Member for Williamston. He held positions on the opposition front bench as Shadow Minister for Employment, Industrial Relations and Tourism, and as Shadow Treasurer until the resignation of John Brumby in 1999, when he was elected State Opposition Leader. He was elected State Premier shortly after.
During his time as Premier, he oversaw the reform of the state’s system for electing its upper house, the introduction of the 2001 Racial and Religious Tolerance Act and the successful 2006 Commonwealth Games.
After stepping down as State Premier, he has worked as a special adviser to the East Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão on governance issues, leading 26 missions to Dilli to assist the Gusmão administration. He is also a Director of the Bionics Institute of Australia Board and Honorary Chair of The Union Education Foundation.
He is in demand in a number of advisory and board roles, including as Chairman of the superannuation fund Cbus, Senior Adviser to National Australia Bank and KPMG, and Chair of the Deakin Foundation at Deakin University. He is patron of several community organisations, including Cape Otway Centre for Conservation Ecology and the Seaworks Foundation, Williamstown.
Bracks received companion of the Order of Australia in 2010 for services to the Parliament and community of Victoria.