Try free for 2 months

  • The Passion of Private White

  • By: Don Watson
  • Narrated by: Don Watson
  • Length: 9 hrs and 18 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (20 ratings)

1 credit a month to use on any title, yours to keep (you’ll use your first credit on this title).
Stream or download thousands of included titles.
Access to exclusive deals and discounts.
AUD $16.45/mo after 2 months. Renews automatically. Cancel anytime.
The Passion of Private White cover art

The Passion of Private White

By: Don Watson
Narrated by: Don Watson
Try for $0.00

AUD $16.45/mo after 2 months. Renews automatically. Cancel anytime.

Buy Now for $26.99

Buy Now for $26.99

Pay using voucher balance (if applicable) then card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions Of Use and Privacy Notice and authorise Audible to charge your designated credit card or another available credit card on file.

Publisher's Summary

From the bestselling author of The Bush, the highly acclaimed story of a fifty-year relationship between a Vietnam veteran and an isolated clan in north-east Arnhem Land–a unique window into Australia’s deep past and precarious present, by one of our master storytellers.

‘How to sum up this story? It’s uncontainable. It wrangles worlds. It keeps getting wider and deeper like a stone in a pond. At its heart–an extraordinary telling of an extraordinary friendship.’ Paul Kelly

Now in trade paperback, one of Australia’s favourite writers on ‘questions at the heart of Australian history, politics and identity’ (ABR). Fascinating, funny, challenging and beautifully written–‘a truly remarkable achievement’ (Peter Carey).   

The Passion of Private White describes the meeting of two worlds: that of the intensely driven anthropologist Neville White, and the world of hunter-gatherer clans in remote northern Australia with whom he has lived and worked for half a century, mapping their culture and history in breathtaking detail.

As White began to understand this ancient culture struggling between the demands of Western modernity and the equally pressing need to preserve their lands, customs, laws and language, he was also trying to transcend the mental scars inflicted on the battlefields of Vietnam.

Eventually, scholarly observer crossed the line into activist, advocate and defender of the clans’ effort to create a safe and healthy homeland, a seat both of traditional culture and contemporary skills and education. The enterprise meant overcoming everything from insatiable mining companies and official incompetence and neglect, to customs that were fundamental in the old way of life but dysfunctional in the transition to the new. When White began taking his old platoon mates to the homeland, two wildly different groups found in each other some of the solutions and some of the therapy they both needed.

Don Watson has had his own fifty-year relationship with Neville White, since meeting him as an undergraduate in Melbourne. This book is the result: moving, enlightening, devastating and inspiring, it is a towering achievement, a profound insight into both our recent and our deep history, the coloniser and colonised–indeed into the human condition itself. 

'A truly magnificent achievement'–Peter Carey

‘Remarkable, wholly unexpected and original … [by] one of Australia’s finest writers. It sounds like a lugubrious farce and sometimes it reads that way. But it is a deeply serious enquiry into questions at the heart of Australian history, politics and identity.'–Tom Griffiths, Australian Book Review

‘This is the tale of two tribes–one ancient, one modern, both wounded and alienated–and how they came together. It is not, thankfully, a white saviour story: in many ways, it’s Donydji who saves the vets. But it’s also a tale far messier and more interesting than that … about tenacity, commitment, listening–and humanity itself.’–Linda Jaivin, The Saturday Paper

'A witty and compassionate book about friendship, Indigenous self-determination and people under stress.'The Conversation

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2022 Don Watson. All rights reserved. (P)2021 Simon & Schuster Australia. All rights reserved
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about The Passion of Private White

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    15
  • 4 Stars
    5
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    13
  • 4 Stars
    6
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    14
  • 4 Stars
    5
  • 3 Stars
    0
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

We have a complicated history

A biography of a Vietnam Vet who was also an anthropologist. A glimpse of his Vietnam experience and his interactions with the clans living in and around Donydji in Arnhem Land. All the stories are complicated and Watson deals with them in his insightful manner.

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A superb portrait of a great man

This is one of Don Watson's best books, covering as it does aspects of the Vietnam War, and a particular group of indigenous people in a remote settlement in the NT. Some of what we read about indigenous people and culture is rather vague and general, but Watson makes sure he gives as much detail as he can, about the day-to-day lives of the people he writes about. Like most of us, they are represented as being neither saints nor crooks, but somewhere in between. Neville White is portrayed as a great character in recent Australian history, or not so recent.

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Keep thinking about Neville’s story battered and wise

Best bit was the storytelling. The voice tempo and depth. The structural tension set against deep historic knowledge and calm. Made me sit out the back and just watch for a while.

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

the author’s voice particularly poignant

To listen to the author’s voice with the intimacy of lived experience and the pronunciation of indigenous oral languages makes the audio book a deeper experience than reading the written form. The story conveys the hope and despair of ‘Arnhem Land’.

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A must listen

Don Watson has told a complex tale with his trademark plain speaking talents. He provides an always compelling overview of Private White’s life while explaining aspects of Arnhem Land culture that will enlighten many.

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Awesome

A multi layered story that needed to be told and more importantly to be shared.

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Best book I've listened to in a good while

Don Watson is a great Australian writer. Though I've not read all his work, this book must be his best or close to his best.

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Australians All Let Us Relearn.

This book contains knowledge that all Australians who listen will benefit from increased awareness of the plight of the First Nations people.
Don Watson is a master story teller.

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating account of important stories

Listening to this book requires focus as Watson’s narration is somewhat ponderous. However careful listening will be rewarded as the book recounts an important tale of a traditional First Nations community over several decades. It leaves the reader with more questions than answers, which is sadly the outcome when trying to understand how the difficulties faced by Indigenous Australians can be addressed. With no disrespect intended, I found the parts of the book dealing with the experiences of the Vietnam veterans less compelling than the treatment of the history of the community in Arnhem Land. I also found myself losing track of the many names introduced by Watson throughout the book. As I said, careful listening is rewarded. Overall, this is an important book which will be a valuable reference for years to come.

Something went wrong. Please try again in a few minutes.

You voted on this review!

You reported this review!

In the spirit of reconciliation, Audible acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.