From the bush of Baradine to the corridors of Canberra, this is Craig Emerson’s story of triumph and courage over adversity.
In the mid-1960s, in the small town of Baradine in north-western New South Wales, the Emerson family was in continual crisis. The mother suffered from deep depression, and the father was exhausted by their constant fights. The two sons — Craig and Lance — were traumatised by their mother’s mental struggles and inexplicable outbursts of violence against them.
Yet both parents worked hard for meagre wages to give Craig a good education, and he vindicated their sacrifice. After gaining a PhD in economics, he was invited to join Bob Hawke’s staff to help design and implement the Labor government’s economic and environmental program. Craig became like a son to the prime minister; he and Bob worked hard, but also relished time out for betting, joking, and singing.
During Craig’s own roller-coaster journey as a politician, factional powerbrokers exiled him to the backbench, but his perseverance and abilities earned him the honour of becoming Australia’s minister for trade and higher education.
The Boy from Baradine is an unusual ex-politician’s memoir. It is a deeply human tale of trauma and triumph, of fear and fun, of character overcoming adversity. It will also inspire young people that it is possible to succeed from the most unlikely of personal circumstances.
‘As a politician, Craig Emerson demonstrated rare emotion for a person in such a hard-nosed game: genuinely heartfelt passion for fairness and justice, and a visceral empathy and compassion for others. As a colleague, I valued Craig's humanity as well as his intellect and command of economics.
In his book, we discover the origins of these qualities: from the graphic retelling of childhood experiences in a troubled household in outback New South Wales, to the corridors of Parliament House in the service of prime minister Bob Hawke, and onto the international stage as Australia's trade minister.’
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This gritty, compassionate account takes us to the epicentre of the big environmental conflicts of the day: Antarctica, Tasmania’s forests and Kakadu. A must read.
‘This is a refreshingly frank – and at times gut-wrenching – account of an unlikely political life, driven by Craig’s own experiences and his ambition to try to create a better world. If only there were more politicians with the guts to be so honest.’