Don Watson

Don Watson (born 1949) is an Australian author, screenwriter, former political adviser and speechwriter.

Early lifeEdit

Watson was born in 1949 at Warragul in the Gippsland region of Victoria, and grew up on a farm in nearby Korumburra.[1]

Academia and early careerEdit

Watson studied for his undergraduate degree at La Trobe University and latterly completed PhD at Monash University[2] before spending ten years working as 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]


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.

Prizes and recognitionEdit

Watson's historical work in exposing the role of pioneer pastoralist Angus McMillan as a leader of several massacres of Gunai Kurnai people in Gippsland, Victoria, has often been quoted in articles about the man and the massacres.[3][4]

In 2014 The Bush: Travels in the Heart of Australia[5] was published to critical acclaim for its content and for the beauty and effectiveness of Watson's writing.[6] It won Book of the Year in the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards in 2015.[7]

American Journeys was awarded both The Age Book of the Year non-fiction and Book of the Year awards in 2008[8] It also won the 2008 Walkley Book Award.[9]

Death Sentence, his book about the decay of public language, won the Australian Booksellers Association Book of the Year in 2008[10]

Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: A Portrait of Paul Keating PM published in 2002 was awarded 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.

Watson's 2001 Quarterly Essay Rabbit Syndrome: Australia and America won the inaugural Alfred Deakin Prize in the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards.[11]

Redfern Park SpeechEdit

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.[12] Keating has disputed Watson's authorship, saying the speech developed out of dozens of conversations between them.[13]

Personal lifeEdit

Watson 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.[14]


  • 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. ^ Glowrey, Cheryl (8 June 2016). "Angus McMillan". Australian Dictionary of Biography. This article replaces the original Volume 2 ADB biography, authored by Theo Webster. Retrieved 9 February 2021.
  4. ^ "Angus McMillan Expedition". Monument Australia. Retrieved 9 February 2021.
  5. ^ [Hamish Hamilton]
  6. ^ [Roger McDonald, "Sydney Morning Herald", 19 September 2014; Paul Daly, "The Guardian", 2014-09-22; John Hirst, "The Monthly" 2014-10; Thomas Keneally, "The Australian", 2014-11-01]
  7. ^ "2015 New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards" (PDF). SL Magazine. 8 (14): 35.
  8. ^ Steger, Jason (2008) "US travel memoir wins Age Book of the Year Award" in, 2008-08-23
  9. ^ "Don Watson". Q+A. 20 December 2018. Retrieved 25 October 2020.
  10. ^ "Don Watson". Random House Australia. random house australia website. 15 April 2005. Retrieved 17 November 2008.
  11. ^ "The Alfred Deakin Prize for an Essay Advancing Public Debate". Archived from the original on 21 September 2008. Retrieved 6 November 2008.
  12. ^ Margaret Simons, "Unaccustomed as I am ... ", Sydney Morning Herald, 15 March 2003. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
  13. ^ Paul Keating, "All mine, my dear Watson", Sydney Morning Herald, 26 August 2010. Retrieved 10 April 2013
  14. ^ Konrad Marshall, "Lunch with Don Watson", Sydney Morning Herald, 3 October 2014. Retrieved 26 September 2016

External linksEdit