Don Watson

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Don Watson (born 1949) is an Australian author


Watson was born in 1949 at Warragul in the Gippsland region of Victoria, and grew up on a farm in nearby Korumburra.[1] He took his undergraduate degree at La Trobe University and a PhD at Monash University[2] and was for ten years an academic historian. He wrote three books on Australian history before turning his hand to TV and the stage. For several years he combined writing political satire for the actor Max Gillies with political speeches for the then Premier of Victoria, John Cain. In 1992 he became Prime Minister of Australia Paul Keating's speech-writer and adviser [1] and his best-selling account of those years, Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: A Portrait of Paul Keating PM, won both The Age Book of the Year and non-fiction Prizes, the Courier-Mail Book of the Year, the National Biography Award and the Australian Literary Studies Association's Book of the Year. In addition to regular books, articles and essays, in recent years he has also written feature films, including The Man Who Sued God, starring Billy Connolly and Judy Davis, and Passion, a film about Percy Grainger starring Richard Roxburgh.

His 2001 Quarterly Essay Rabbit Syndrome: Australia and America won the inaugural Alfred Deakin Prize in the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards.[3] Death Sentence, his book about the decay of public language, was also a best seller and won the Australian Booksellers Association Book of the Year.[4] Watson's Dictionary of Weasel Words was published in 2004 and continued to encourage readers to renounce what he perceives to be meaningless corporate and government jargon that is spreading throughout Australia, and to embrace meaningful, precise language. More recently, Watson contributed the preface to a selection of Mark Twain's writings, The Wayward Tourist.

American Journeys is a narrative of modern America from Watson's travels in the United States following Hurricane Katrina. It was published by Knopf in 2008 and won both The Age Book of the Year non-fiction and Book of the Year awards.[5] It also won the 2008 Walkley Award for the best non-fiction book.

In 2014 The Bush: Travels in the Heart of Australia [6] was published to critical acclaim for its content and for the beauty and effectiveness of Watson's writing.[7] It is a combination of personal and family memoir, travelogue, history, natural history and reflection in which Watson invites readers to ponder the bush and its place in the story of Australia and Australians, both Indigenous and post-1788 arrivals and their descendants, those of the past and those of today. He won Book of the Year in the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards in 2015.[8]

Redfern Park Speech[edit]

In Recollections of a Bleeding Heart, Watson described his writing of the Redfern Park Speech in 1992, which, he claims, by way of praising Keating for his courage, the Prime Minister delivered without changing a single word.[9] Keating has disputed Watson's authorship, saying the speech developed out of dozens of conversations between them.[10]


He is divorced from the publisher Hilary McPhee. He has an adult daughter from an earlier marriage, and two young children with the writer Chloe Hooper.[11]


  • Brian Fitzpatrick: A Radical Life (1978) Hale & Iremonger ISBN 0 908094 17 5
  • Caledonia Australis (1984) William Collins ISBN 0-00-217322-0
  • Story of Australia (1984) McPhee Gribble
  • Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: A Portrait of Paul Keating PM (2002) ISBN 978-1-74166-827-8
  • Death Sentence: The Decay of Public Language (2003) ISBN 978-1-74051-278-7
  • Watson's Dictionary of Weasel Words: Contemporary Cliches, Cant and Management Jargon (2004) ISBN 978-1-74051-366-1
  • American Journeys (2008) ISBN 978-1-74166-621-2
  • On Indignation (2008) Melbourne University Press ISBN 9780522855357
  • Bendable Learnings. The Wisdom of Modern Management. Sydney, Knopf. (2009) ISBN 978-1-74166-904-6
  • Worst Words: A compendium of contemporary cant, gibberish and jargon. Vintage Australia (2015) ISBN 978-0-85798-344-2
  • Watson, Don (2014), The bush : travels in the heart of Australia, Melbourne, Victoria Hamish Hamilton an imprint of Penguin Books, ISBN 978-1-926428-21-5
  • A Single Tree (2016) Penguin Australia ISBN 9781926428819
  • There it is again: Collected Writings (2018) Vintage [1]


  1. ^ a b c Caterson, Simon (18 January 2018). "There It is Again review: How Don Watson is at ease with any subject". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  2. ^ "Don Watson – Prominent Monash Alumnus". Archived from the original on 23 December 2008. Retrieved 6 November 2008.
  3. ^ "The Alfred Deakin Prize for an Essay Advancing Public Debate". Archived from the original on 21 September 2008. Retrieved 6 November 2008.
  4. ^ "Don Watson". Random House Australia. random house australia website. 15 April 2005. Retrieved 17 November 2008.
  5. ^ Steger, Jason (2008) "US travel memoir wins Age Book of the Year Award" in, 2008-08-23
  6. ^ [Hamish Hamilton]
  7. ^ [Roger McDonald, "Sydney Morning Herald", 2014-09-19; Paul Daly, "The Guardian", 2014-09-22; John Hirst, "The Monthly" 2014-10; Thomas Keneally, "The Australian", 2014-11-01]
  8. ^ "2015 New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards" (PDF). SL Magazine. 8 (14): 35.
  9. ^ Margaret Simons, "Unaccustomed as I am ... ", Sydney Morning Herald, 15 March 2003. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
  10. ^ Paul Keating, "All mine, my dear Watson", Sydney Morning Herald, 26 August 2010. Retrieved 10 April 2013
  11. ^ Konrad Marshall, "Lunch with Don Watson", Sydney Morning Herald, 3 October 2014. Retrieved 26 September 2016

External links[edit]