Father Bob Maguire is a man of passion, creativity and enormous humour; part Billy Connolly, part angry Old Testament prophet and part compassionate Mother Teresa – although he’d hate any attempt to pigeonhole him, even with heroes.
He is an intriguingly complex character who’s long charmed his followers, irritated his detractors and made many Australians think twice about the role of faith and spirituality in modern society.
Sue Williams is the first person to attempt to capture his whole complicated story.
Mean Streets, Kind Hearts is the story of Father Chris Riley, who grew up with the dream of helping Australia’s forgotten streetkids, and dedicated his life to giving a second chance to those children who have nothing.
As such, it’s the inspiring story of one of the country’s most admired, and loved, public figures.
When the 2003 Boxing Day tsunami hit, Australians were moved to help in a massive outpouring of sympathy and aid. But one of the first to arrive in the worst-hit area, Banda Aceh, was Father Chris Riley, touched by the plight of the children who’d lost their parents and their homes in the disaster.
In an extraordinary operation in the most devoutly Muslim and strife-torn area of Indonesia, his organisation, Youth Off The Streets, was the first to set up an orphanage for local children
Navy diver Paul de Gelder was attacked by a bull shark in the early hours of February 11 2009, while on a training exercise in Sydney’s Harbour, losing a hand and part of one leg.
But it didn’t take his spirit. After nine weeks in hospital, opting to have the rest of his leg amputated and putting himself on a gruelling rehab schedule, Paul was back in the water within months without fear of the beast that had tried to make him its breakfast?
When the former head of British police training Peter Ryan came to Australia to take over as the NSW Police Commissioner in 1996, he knew it would be a tough job.
The NSW police, with its reputation for being “the best police force money can buy”, and struggling with dramatic revelations of massive corruption from the Royal Commission, looked a tough challenge. Yet even he had no idea how brutally hard that job would prove.
The Girl Who Climbed Everest has three characters at its heart. Teenager Alyssa Azar, became obsessed with the idea of climbing Everest and pursued her dream despite all the obstacles and difficulties, thrown in her path.
Her dad Glenn – a former soldier who served in East Timor, and became an Aviation Medic and evacuation specialist, a PT instructor and a registered nurse – is determined to help her to pursue her dreams.
And finally, there is we have Everest itself, the highest point on earth and a sight that taunts and dares the foolhardy to try to conquer it.
When Dr John Harrison, a brilliant doctor and one of Australia’s highest profile alternative practitioners, received a chilling phone call from one of his patients – a seriously mentally ill woman with a history of making allegations against medical practitioners – it started a chain of events that would destroy his life.
When her claim of sexual abuse was made, the medico-legal system backed her all the way, going to incredible lengths to disbar for life this well-regarded and internationally renowned doctor.
Was he an abuser – or was he a victim of conventional medicine closing ranks against a growing demand for alternative therapies?
She was a police officer with a brilliant future ahead of her and a young mum of two small children. But early on the morning of May 13, 2009, as Samantha Barlow walked to work at Kings Cross Police Station, a man slunk out of the shadows behind her and smashed her in the back of her head with a brick.
Thinking he’d killed a cop, her attacker left Samantha for dead in the back of the lonely park, just before sunrise. What happens next is an inspirational story of courage and survival for Samantha and her family.