ABC Books/Allen & Unwin, This edition first published March 2007
Reviewed by Sally Roddom
Don Stewart, one of Australia’s most respected judicial figures, shares
the story of his life and career. He starts, as most autobiographies do,
with his childhood. Brought up in the Sydney suburb of Manly, he spent his
youth playing truant, swimming, surfing and climbing treacherous cliffs,
something that helped him to be unafraid when facing seemingly
insurmountable injustice. Don’s father owned a menswear shop and also
played a part in local government, both as an alderman and deputy mayor on
the Manly Council. He died just before Don’s fourteenth birthday.
Don failed his leaving certificate, so his work life started as a
travelling salesman. He then landed a job as an apprentice journalist
before joining up with the NSW Police. It was here that he first came
across police corruption. He was never happy with the culture of
corruption and soon quit the force and became a barrister, one of the
first policemen to make this move.
From this point Don becomes very careful about what he writes. This is
because he is held back from revealing a lot of the details by the secrecy
act and privacy issues. All he can give is a bare bones glimpse of the
Royal Commission investigations he led. Still it gives an insight, no
matter how fleeting, into drug trafficking, in particular the uncovering
of the 'Mr Asia' drug syndicate; and illegal police activities, such as
phone tapping and organised corruption. Whilst the book is short on
details, it does give an understanding of the workings of Australia’s
judicial system, and reveals the development of a life dedicated to
fighting for justice. Don Stewart is not Superman, but he is crucial in
setting the judicial bar for future Royal Commissions, and stamping out
corruption amongst those who are sworn to ‘serve and protect’.
RECOLLECTIONS OF AN UNREASONABLE MAN is easy to read, with a light humour.
Don Stewart is critical of all levels of government who think that police
corruption has stopped. He also urges everyone to be constantly vigilant,
because corruption in some form or another will always be part of the
society we live in.
Aug 2007 review originally published on Murder & Mayhem
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