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THE BRILLIANT BOY  Gideon Haigh talks about Doc Evatt

September 29, 2021 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm



Gideon Haigh talks about  Doc Evatt

We are thrilled that Gideon Haigh will talk about his latest book, The Brilliant Boy and the Great Australian Dissent, for the RHSV on Wednesday 29th of September. The event will be chaired by Dr E W Russell. 

In a quiet Sydney street in 1937, a seven year-old immigrant boy drowned in a ditch that had filled with rain after being left unfenced by council workers. How the law should deal with the trauma of the family’s loss was one of the most complex and controversial cases to reach Australia’s High Court, where it seized the imagination of its youngest and cleverest member.

These days, ‘Doc’ Evatt is remembered mainly as the hapless and divisive opposition leader during the long ascendancy of his great rival Sir Robert Menzies. Yet long before we spoke of ‘public intellectuals’, Evatt was one: a dashing advocate, an inspired jurist, an outspoken opinion maker, one of our first popular historians and the nation’s foremost champion of modern art. Through Evatt’s innovative and empathic decision in Chester v the Council of Waverley Municipality, which argued for the law to acknowledge inner suffering as it did physical injury, Gideon Haigh rediscovers the most brilliant Australian of his day, a patriot with a vision of his country charting its own path and being its own example – the same attitude he brought to being the only Australian president of the UN General Assembly, and instrumental in the foundation of Israel.

A feat of remarkable historical perception, deep research and masterful storytelling, The Brilliant Boy confirms Gideon Haigh as one of our finest writers of non-fiction. It shows Australia in a rare light, as a genuinely clever country prepared to contest big ideas and face the future confidently.

‘Here is a master craftsman delivering one of his most finely honed works. Meticulous in its research, humane in its storytelling, The Brilliant Boy is Gideon Haigh at his lush, luminous best. Haigh shines a light on person, place and era with the sheer force of his intellect and the generosity of his words. The Brilliant Boy is simply a brilliant book.’ Clare Wright, Stella-Prize winning author of The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka

‘Gideon Haigh has a nose for Australian stories that light up the past from new angles, and he tells this one with verve, grace and lightly worn erudition. I couldn’t put it down.’ Judith Brett, The Saturday Paper

‘An absolutely remarkable, moving and elegant re-reading of the early life of an extraordinary Australian. Gideon Haigh is one of Australia’s finest writers and thinkers … mesmerizing … one of the best Australian biographies I have read for a long time.’ Michael McKernan, Canberra Times

Gideon Haigh has been a journalist for almost four decades, published more than 40 books and contributed to more than 100 newspapers and magazines. His books include The Cricket WarsThe Summer Game and On Warne (which won numerous prizes) on cricket, and works on BHP, James Hardie and how abortion became legal in Australia. His book The Office: A Hardworking History won the NSW Premier’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction. He has appeared widely on radio and TV.
Gideon Haigh says about himself on his website, “I’m an independent journalist, in the trade more than thirty years. I was born in London, went to school in Geelong, and now live in Melbourne. I write about cricket a bit, mainly for The Australian and The Times; I write about other stuff that interests me too. This is a list of the publications to which I’ve contributed, some of which have survived. I don’t blog, tweet or Facebook. Sorry.” His website is worth visiting, if for no other reason, that to immerse yourself in Gideon’s splendid list of things he likes.

At the same time as Gideon’s book, The Brilliant Boy, was being launched he was, together with Graeme Davison, leading the very successful campaign to get proper funding for the National Archives of Australia.

Dr. E.W. (Bill) Russell has held a number of positions in the Commonwealth and Victorian Public Service. These positions have included Archivist, Public Record Office; Research Director, Commonwealth Public Service Board; Director of Research and Special Projects, Victorian Public Service Board and Director of Research, Public Bodies Review Committee (Parliament of Victoria). He has had a long association with Public Record Office Victoria, having been an archivist 1968–74, a member of the Task Force on Records Management 1978–80, and Director-General of the Department of Property and Services, of which PROV was a Division, 1985–88. Bill obtained his Diploma of Archive Studies from University College, London, in 1973 and was the first Victorian archivist to hold formal qualifications in archives. His doctorate in history at Monash University, completed in 1980, was based on records in PROV. In 1982 Dr. Russell was appointed to the position of Secretary for Minerals and Energy and in 1985 he became Director General, Department of Property and Services. In 1988 Dr. Russell took up the position of Professor, Public Sector Management within Monash University’s Graduate School of Management.

This event will be a Zoom event (we did hope to have it in real space). Zoom details will be sent to participants 24 hours before the event. 


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September 29, 2021
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Event Category:


Royal Historical Society of Victoria
03 9326 9288


RHSV, Gallery Downstairs
239 A'Beckett Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000 Australia
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03 9326 9288