'One grows to know, understand and admire Kirby for his unswerving dedication to the welfare of his fellow man.'
I'd known Sir Richard since childhood when his younger daughter, Sue, was one of my closest (and naughtiest) friends at school. After school Sue and I took up our old friendship when in the early 1970s we found ourselves both living in Canberra, both married to public servants, and both young mothers. At dinner parties, a great feature of Canberra life in those days, I often fell into conversation with Sir Richard who, with his wife, would come to Canberra to see his daughter and grandchildren. The fascination with Indonesia he and I shared led to his suggesting I write his biography. He had to teach me about industrial law, trade unions, the psychological reasons for strikes, behind-the-scenes fights between judges and a hundred other things. I was tremendously lucky to have such a wise mentor for my first published book. I was also tremendously lucky in my first publisher, Peter Ryan, of Melbourne University Press. Peter was of that generation (now disppeared from the earth, it seems) for whom publishing was 'a gentleman's occupation'. Long lunches in good restaruants with authors was the norm. Every week Peter wrote me by hand a letter of encouragement and sometimes rebuke, once including a drawing of my head on the guilloutine block, next chopped off and falling into a basket. He'd drawn tears streaming down my face. I had broken some rule of House Style. His first act had been to give me this book and he was a martinet about it. He was politically right wing (we never discussed politics), eccentric (he brought his large, long-haired dog to work, where it lay under his desk) and took delight in nurturing a new author. It was thanks to Peter I first tasted Chateau d'YQuem. He used to say to me, "Your book will be on the shelves for 50 years." He may well be right, because 35 years later it is still around in libraries and second hand bookshops. For some years it was a university text for students of industrial relations.
While doing research for this book I encountered the work of a trade union advocate, Bob Hawke. I had met him socially in Jakarta. Reading through hundreds of pages of wage cases for the Kirby book, I encountered Hawke's ferocious fighting spirit as he harangued a mostly conservative judiciary about greater pay and better conditions for the people he represented. By the time I came to write his biography I had already studied 10 years of his career as a barrister. Years later, Sir Richard made the toast to bride and groom when Bob and I married.