News

1 April 2013:

Everyone’s now gearing up for the release of the Father Bob book. He’s still constantly in the headlines, now talking about the new Pope. He seems to have something very original, witty and thought-provoking to say about almost everything. How does he do it? An incredible man.

1 March 2013:

Can’t believe I haven’t written for so long! I’ve been busy on a new biography, this time of Australia’s most controversial, revered and reviled priest, Father Bob Maguire. Love him or loathe him, he’s really put a mark on how we treat the poor and forgotten in our society, and how religion is — and maybe should be — practised. I’ve spent a while in Melbourne shadowing him, and talking to family, friends and enemies. It’s been a blast! He’s quite possibly the funniest man I’ve ever met with an extremely acerbic wit and a mind much sharper than I ever imagined. The book, Father Bob: the larrikin priest comes out at the end of April from Penguin.

8 April 2012:

Have spent the last 2 weeks doing lots of publicity for Welcome To The Outback, and it seems to be going really well. It’s fabulous how people have become interested in the Outback, and nearly everyone I talk to says how much they want to visit. I do hope the book inspires them to explore a bit of Australia’s backyard for themselves. It’s such an amazing place, with so much to see and do, and so many wonderful people to meet – we’re very lucky to have it!

16 September 2011:

Just coming up for air after handing in the manuscript for the new outback travel narrative, Welcome To The Outback. It’s been a mad time travelling all around the outback of Australia, meeting some amazing people, seeing stunning sights and doing some crazy things, including boxing in the last outback boxing tent in the world. Well, you have to try these things to write about them, right? I also went cattle-droving, trekking in the mountains of Central Australia, mining, swimming with sharks … It all turned out to be one of the biggest adventures of my life. The book’s scheduled to come out in April 2012. Now having a think about what to do next …

21 March 2011:

Now hard at work on my next book, Welcome To The Outback, the third in the series of books on the outback which seem to have proved incredibly popular. This time, it’s a travel book about the outback. Publishers Penguin seem to think of me as the ideal author for these books, as a confirmed cityslicker who doesn’t eat meat, drink alcohol and has no sense of direction whatsoever. Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me! Now setting off to travel the length and breadth of outback Australia, no doubt there’s going to be plenty of both thrills and spills ahead … Must remember that travel insurance …

1 March 2011:

The subject of my next book to come out No Time For Fear on May 2 – navy shark attack survivor Paul de Gelder – is now to be profiled by Australian Story on ABC TV. It goes to air on Monday March 21. You can catch a preview on their website; the address is on my Home page. It’s looking good!

12 February 2011:

Just finished my new book No Time For Fear: How a shark attack survivor survived the odds, the story of navy diver Paul de Gelder who lost an arm and leg while on an anti-terrorism exercise in Sydney Harbour. Such an inspirational guy! He’s so fit and driven on making his body the best it could be – he feels he has to be better than everyone else to prove he’s up to the match – each person who comes into contact with him wants to be the best they can be too. It’s infectious!

1 February 2011:

Had a fabulous break in what must be one of the most beautiful and unspoilt places in the world – the Cook Islands. Turquoise clear water full of fish that come and nibble at your fingertips and rainbow-coloured coral, stunning white beaches, friendly locals and great food. Even had a candlelit dinner on the beach one evening, with the white tablecloth scattered with flowers and barefoot waiters bringing over dish after dish. Who needs to bank on going to heaven?

1 January 2011:

Welcomed in the New Year with a crowd of friends and family, from London and Sydney, watching the Sydney fireworks. Hope 2011 is a great one for all. Straight back to work with a pile of journalist projects and a new book, travelling around the Australian outback, to start. It’s gonna be fun!

December 2010:

Had a great trip to the south island of New Zealand, kayaking around the Abel Tasman national park, walking, swimming, eating and daydreaming. Made some new friends at the stunningly beautiful Split Apple Retreat, an hour out of Nelson, and now feel healthier and fitter than ever. Thanks guys!

1 November 2010:

Hard at work on my next book — about the Navy diver Paul de Gelder who was attacked by a shark in 2009, losing an arm and a leg. It’s a fascinating project! He’s such an amazing man, and it’s incredibly inspirational to learn how he’s dealt with the accident and its aftermath. He’s so fit and active, he puts me to shame. If only I could do one of those chin-ups he does so many of every day … The book’s going well, but the mid-December deadline is fast approaching. The book, entitled Adapt, Improvise and Overcome, is planned, at this stage, to come out around July 2011.

1 September 2010:

My new book, Outback Spirit, about people who are doing incredible work in the outback, is out tomorrow, and it’ll feel great to see it on the shelves after travelling those thousands of kilometres all around outback Australia to meet some of the most amazing people I’ve ever come across.  Their stories were inspiring, heart-warming and heartbreaking in turn, since many have made so many personal sacrifices to do their best for the bush.

It’s a tough life out there, living on some of the harshest terrain in the world, and it’s wonderful that they’re given a helping hand from time to time. Congratulations – and thanks! – to everyone who appears in the book. Thanks too to the Governor-General of Australia, Quentin Bryce, who was kind enough to write a foreword to the book.

The first reviews have already come in and they’re glowing … which always helps too! There seem to be a lot of newspaper, magazine and radio interviews now scheduled about the book, so hopefully it will do well.

August 2010:

Australia’s miraculous Merry Makers – an award-winning dance troupe made up of young people with disabilities – have been invited to the US to show the world what they’ve achieved. In a stunning compliment to the group, they’ve been asked to stage a series of performances at Disneyland in Los Angeles before an audience drawn from across the globe.

I wrote a book about the group last year, named after their trademark song, Love Is In The Air, and hopes are high that they’ll also appear on the TV talk shows run by either Oprah or Ellen while they’re there.  Sixty of the troupe, including volunteers, will now travel to the US on September 25 to dance – only the second time in history that people with disabilities have taken the stage at Disneyland, and the first time for a group with disabilities from outside the US.

I’ve been invited to accompany the group but pressures of work look likely to make it impossible, which is a huge shame. Still, I’ve been helping them with the organising and publicity, so hopefully it can be the best it can.

It’s hoped the Australian troupe will now lead the way in showing the world how much young people with disabilities can achieve, once they’re given the chance.

2 August 2010:

One of our gorgeous cats, Mr Jinks, died today, after a short illness. He was 16 and a half. His loving yet feisty nature, and his remarkable footballing skills, will be sorely missed.

July 2010:

A couple of enterprising Australian friends who bought a derelict old mansion in Penang, Malaysia, and rebuilt it into an award-winning boutique hotel, are just starting rebuilding part of a row of mews houses in the World Heritage Area into another hotel. So I dropped in on them to visit on the way back from a trip to Jakarta – and couldn’t believe how ambitious/imaginative they are. They’re having to start almost from scratch, but are retaining the lovely old facades. It looks a massive project, but they’re confident it’ll all be done inside a year.  I wish them all the luck in the world!

June 2010:

I’m just back from an Aboriginal community at Cherbourg in Queensland, where I was working as a volunteer on a project to help out locals with their monthly newspaper, Our Mob News.

The settlement had a shocking start in the early 1900s when the Queensland State government herded Aboriginal people from all corners of the State into the one place – regardless of the fact that they were from up to 55 distinctive language groups. Many, as a result, couldn’t even communicate with each other, often had conflicting matriarchal and patriarchal lineages and came from radically different cultural backgrounds.

To confound the confusion and misery, State officials then took away their children and put them in dormitories behind barbed wire, forbidding mothers and fathers to see them without permission, and keeping everyone in barbaric prison camp-like conditions.

When some residents were allowed permits to leave for agreed periods to work elsewhere, 80 per cent of their wages were taken away to help pay for the running of the settlement. The rest endured living on the meagre rations doled out and in fear of the brutal ‘disciplinary’ regime, which included banishing residents to Palm Island for minor misdemeanours.

Today, the town has around 2,000 people, many of whom are without work and with a standard of living appreciably lower than their neighbours in the nearest local town of Murgon. Against all the odds, however, Cherbourg has survived and the monthly newspaper and local radio station are major aids in helping preserve the remnants of cultures that were very nearly destroyed.

I’d volunteered to do some work on Aboriginal communities through the non-profit organisation Indigenous Community Volunteers, and was invited to Cherbourg to help by the locals. My partner Jimmy came along too to work. For us both, it was a fabulous experience, providing valuable insights into the lives of people battling against all the odds to survive. It was both inspiring — and humbling.