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29th August 2022

Paulie Stewart: All the Rage - review by Peter Wilson

Paulie Stewart: All The Rage 

Book review by Peter Wilson, former Australian Journalist of the Year

This is an intriguing memoir by Paulie Stewart, a much-loved rock singer, newspaper journalist and social activist whose life story spans an unusually broad swathe of modern Australian life.

Paulie’s tale would be an entertaining read even if it was limited to just his career as a newspaper reporter on The Melbourne Sun when he wrote his own entertainment column, “All the Rage”.

An equally worthwhile memoir could focus on his high-profile role as lead singer of the Painters & Dockers, an infamous cult punk rock band.

Written when Paulie was facing the risk of an early death due to drug and alcohol-induced liver failure, the book helped him to realise the extent to which his whole life, including his often self-destructive behaviour, were shaped by the teenage trauma of losing his brother Tony, the 21-year-old HSV7 newsman who was one of the Balibo Five murdered by Indonesian forces in East Timor in 1975.

A long-term campaigner for East Timorese independence, Paulie is convinced that a chance encounter with a Timorese nun as he lay in what could have been his deathbed at the Austin Hospital in 2007 played a role in his almost miraculous rescue the next day by a liver transplant.

This “bad boy” of Australian rock and roll has since then devoted himself to social activism and community work ranging from fund-raising for nuns who care for disabled children in Timor-Leste through to helping street kids and refugees get their own lives on track through new careers as musicians and performers. As part of that work he has taken refugees into schools across Australia as guest speakers.

The father of a young indigenous activist who was the first woman to be elected Prime Minister in the National Indigenous Youth Parliament, Paulie is now viewed with affection and admiration by a bewildering range of people.

Already honoured by the ARIA awards and the Victorian Music Hall of Fame, in 2021 he was awarded an Order of Australia award for his services to the community and the arts.

His story is an entertaining and thought-provoking insight into the past four decades of Australian music and media set against an honest and humble account of his own battle to overcome teenage trauma and a life-threatening health condition.

Peter Wilson is a distinguished freelance journalist, formerly working for The Australian newspaper and the Herald-Sun. In 2003, he won the Graham Perkin Award for Australian Journalist of the Year.