A.J. Brown
Friday, April 8, 2011
Justinian in Michael Kirby, On the Couch, Professor A.J. Brown

What happens to a person who spends seven years immersed in the life of Michael Kirby? ... Professor A.J. Brown is the author of Michael Kirby: Paradoxes & Principles ... He's on Justinian's couch trying to explain himself

A.J. Brown: closely identifies with profiteroles

Professor A.J. Brown is the John F. Kearney Professor of Public Law at Griffith University.

Originally a Canberra lad (son of famed press gallery journalist Wallace Brown), he went to the University of New South Wales and later worked as an investigator for the Commonwealth Ombudsman and as associate to Justice (Tony) Fitzgerald, prez of the Queensland Court of Appeal.

He has run large research projects, such as the constitutional values survey and an empirical inquiry into public interest whistleblowing, which resulted in the publication of Whistling While They Work.

Brown's work on the Kirby biography commenced in 2003 and involved ploughing through 117 metres of personal and official papers dating back to the 1940s, interviews with more than 30 of the jurist's relatives and colleagues and access to hundreds of working papers and original drafts of judgments.

The investigation into how falsified documents were used in parliament to wrongly accuse the judge of improper behaviour and misuse of Commonwealth cars is ground breaking work.

Join Prof. Brown On the Couch ...

Describe yourself in three words.

Thoughtful, inquiring, reckless.

What are you currently reading?


What's your favourite film?

Good Night, and Good Luck.

Who has been the most influential person in your life? 

Both my parents – Wal & Val Brown. 

If you hadn't become a lawyer and an academic what occupation would you like to have?

Novelist. Michael Kirby says I already am.

What is your favourite piece of music?

Currently ... "Blood Buzz Ohio" by The National.

What is your most recognised talent?

Refusal to accept that something can’t be done.

What words or phrases do you overuse?

"In fact ... however ... deep."

What is your greatest regret?

Not having kids at a younger age.

Whom do you envy and why?

Schoolfriends who always knew what they wanted to do in life, and just did it.

Why do a biography about Michael Kirby when so much is already known about him?

Because everyone knows about him but only relatively few have ever figured him out.

What was the most disturbing discovery you made about Michael Kirby?

That he had done five times more things and kept ten times more archives than even I had predicted.

What is your most disturbing personal obsession?

Refusal to accept that something can’t be done.

What's your most glamorous feature?

My Jimmy Pike ties (thanks Mum).

If you were a foodstuff, what would you be?


What human quality do you most distrust?


What would you change about Australia?

The federal system.

Whom or what do you consider overrated?

Twitter, Facebook and excessive over-communication.

What would your epitaph say?

"Gone soaring" (I expect to be reincarnated as a wedge-tailed eagle).

What comes into your mind when you shut your eyes and think of the word "law"?




Michael Kirby: Paradoxes and Principles, by A.J. Brown. The Federation Press

Article originally appeared on Justinian: Australian legal magazine. News on lawyers and the law (http://justinian.com.au/).
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