Up Yours: epitaph shopping with Julian Burnside

Burnside, as you likely know, is a barrister, a refugee advocate and a man with an honourable alphabet of letters appended by others to his name. He's also a fighter and dogged correspondent who seems to thinks a lot about death.

Helen Razer — Writer and broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and broadcaster

“I’m not ready yet. I’m just beginning to understand things.”

If these are not the last words that Julian Burnside ever utters, they will, he says, define one of his very last thoughts. And, no. It’s not my fault that this chap -- who may, at 67, not even be described as physically “spry”, but more precisely as boyish -- is talking about death. Who am I? Australian Story? It’s his fault. Or, rather, it is the fault of conversation, to which Burnside appears to commit very fully.

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10 thoughts on “Up Yours: epitaph shopping with Julian Burnside

  1. Ian Roberts

    I’m amazed at the consistent courtesy, patience and informed reasonableness with which Julian Burnside replies to the countless twitterers that seem to bombard him with repetitive, ignorant and arguably defamatory bullshit. I hope they read and try to understand his responses.

    1. Lesley Graham

      I would suspect much of what he reads is more about testing the temperature of the debate around immigration & those who are unfortunate enough to be forced through any numbers of reasons to come to Australia by what the government deems as “illegal” means. He is most likely looking at how the general populace is viewing the argument that our political masters currently insist on justifying their stance & how much things have changed over the years, or from these political viewpoint (s) that may or may not be changing.

      1. Helen Razer

        I think a part of it is that he’s a person naturally drawn to debate. He believes in its power.

  2. zut alors

    If we had to appoint a President of Oz Julian Burnside would be the obvious choice due to his ethics, reasoned thinking, humanity & the fact that he appears not to have sold his soul.

    There is a fascinating interview on ABC iView in the ‘One on One’ series where Burnside provides valuable background explaining early influences which formed him.

  3. Jacinta Arnold

    Badly written article. Amazing subject.

  4. Dan

    Lovely lovely chap JB. How he manages to navigate the toxic bullshit in this country and stay sane I’ll never know.

    1. Lesley Graham

      My thoughts exactly Dan.

  5. Richard Thompson

    An entirely principled and ethical man, swimming with his head held high in the cesspit of political crap.

  6. Lesley Graham

    My thoughts exactly Dan.

  7. Lesley Graham

    Thanks Helen. It sounds like he may not be the easiest subject to interview. Having worked for the civil courts in a previous life, I know that Barristers are always either thinking about their current case or an upcoming case, or I would suggest in Julian’s world a cause to work with & put that incredible ability to see things from the perspective of where things are, not where politicians & those that think that they have the power to inflict whatever torment on those who are unable to protect themselves, from. I believe if we had more people like Julian, the Australian judiciary & governance would be far less inclined towards uncaring, hard & unflinching bodies they currently are. With also the continued policy/decision making approaches as they are. I unfortunately never got to see him at work, but I would imagine his compassion & thoughtfulness for his clients that have struggled to escape a world of fear & deprivation, not only would be greatly appreciated for his efforts on their behalf, but also knowing that he is hopefully changing the Australian view one case or argument at a time.

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