Bruce Donald


My initial inspiration for this task is what others have written.

Like Tony Fletcher, I count among my greatest contributions to the world the four children in two marriages I have helped raise to functioning adulthood and teenage, as well as the 12000 odd cut lunches I have made and the 200,000 items of washing I have hung on the line. Having been lucky enough to see the obviousness of feminism in the 60's, long before I read Germaine Greer, I can also count a contribution to the careers of both my spouses.

Like Ron Witton, I enjoyed cadets at high school and then joined the anti-war movement where I again encountered Robin Winkler and others. I did however retain a close interest in defence policy and many years later during an aberrant stint as an aging cub reporter on the 7.30 Report in 1995, I did a study of the stupendous wastefulness of such projects as the Collins subs. If our classmate Admiral Chris Barrie can take an evening off running the Defence Force and grace us with his presence in October, perhaps we can have a lively debate!

Like many of you, I did most of my physical and intellectual growing after high school. I was fortunate to be guided to the ANU at a time when it was flooded with some remarkable students and academics and at a time when John Gorton as PM was just starting to set the scene for Canberra to become a real seat of national power in the lead up to Whitlam.

And also like most of you it seems, I have had a wonderfully interesting and varied life achieving and doing things I could never have dreamed of in the confines of a high school adolescence.

By some miracle, I graduated with Firsts in Law from the ANU. This opened doors to my first legal job as a clerk at Allens and a year as a High Court Associate before winning a Harkness fellowship to Harvard in '71. By then I had married Janet and become dad of daughter Anna, soon adding son Tom in America.

I had become involved in the early days of the new wave of trade practices law and my first co-authored textbook in 1970 had been in that area.

I returned in '73 from two incredible years in the US of Richard Nixon to a commercial legal career at Stephen Jaques, again with an antitrust specialty and wrote an early textbook with Heydon in 1977-9 on Murphy's new US style Trade Practices Act.

I shifted to Allens as a partner in '79 at a time when it was unheard of to change law firms but after a few years of being unable to accept doing the bidding of the likes of Packer, decided on a complete change of life and took up an appointment in 1984 in Aboriginal land rights as Legal Director with the Central Land Council in Alice Springs. In that year I married my second wife Penny Figgis, the environmentalist.

The 2 years in the desert acting for Aboriginal people were quite extraordinary with a law practice across the full range of public, mining and land management law, including my largest conveyance, Uluru, advising the traditional owners. Our daughter Michaela was born in the Alice with Rosie arriving soon after our return to Sydney.

In '86 I was appointed as Head of the Legal and Copyright Department at the ABC just when programs like 4 Corners were changing the face of Australia. It was a tumultuous time as legal adviser on inter alia the Bond, asbestos and Queensland police corruption programs. We managed to change the ethos in the ABC whereby journalists would work with, instead of fearing lawyers, in an attempt to get as much published as could be lawfully defended.

While at the ABC I became involved in developing the wider commercial potential of the place including chairing ABC Enterprises, the retailing and publishing division an excellent public sector business. Then in 1993 I set up Australia Television International into Asia as its project director. It was a great idea, poorly funded by government and then after I had left, flogged off to Seven under the Mansfield influence where it died. I was delighted this year to see sanity finally prevail with the ABC once more commissioned to revive the service, this time with adequate funding.

In 1994-5 I made a brief attempt to shift careers working as a broadcaster in ABC radio and TV current affairs. I cut my teeth on a documentary and interview with Garfield Barwick, how successfully others will have to judge! But the law and commerce won out and I returned to private practice as a legal and commercial consultant in 1995 where I have remained to the present. My practice has a media, commercial and IP focus for both public and private sector clients.

This time around however I work as a sole practitioner so I can add a range of indigenous and environmental clients which are not sufficiently remunerative to be acceptable to commercial law firms. I Chair the Environmental Defenders Office of NSW, a public interest law firm that does excellent work as litigator, educator and policy adviser for the environment movement.

So that's my 40 years since leaving NSBHS, a period in which Australia has thankfully completely transformed itself into a much more interesting place. I like to believe our generation has made the difference and I will be intrigued in October to find how the rest of you feel since I have had almost nothing to do with any of you since 1961.