As I read the Jacqui Lambie autobiography, Rebel With A Cause, subtitled ‘You can’t keep a bloody Lambie down’, I could almost literally hear her speaking. It is written very much in Lambie vernacular and, even if it has been ‘tidied up’ a bit, then it’s been done most perceptively.
I enjoyed this book and must admit I found it, despite it never coming anywhere near ‘classic’ status, one of the best autobiographies I’ve read for a long time. In a word, entertaining.
Jacqui pulls no punches, starting with her high-spirited early years growing up in Devonport and having a couple of run-ins with the constabulary. One day, on the way to Centrelink, she and a couple of friends make a pact.
They step into an army recruitment bus to sign up. Jacqui puts her moniker on the dotted line but her friends squib. Turning to the sergeant, she asks for the signed paper to be returned but no, the request is refused, the sergeant telling her, “It will be good for you.” That point may have been moot, initially at least, but the army certainly shaped the person she is today.
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Despite a couple of run-ins – she is admittedly hot-headed – Corporal Lambie was a good soldier and highly respected by her CO who recommended her for promotion to sergeant. Unfortunately, this coincided with her being adjudged unfit for military service due to chronic back pain.
Those among us who’ve taken note of her fight for soldiers’ rights as a senator will most likely be familiar to some degree with much of Jacqui’s background and her fight with the Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA) for compensation. Pregnant when she first enlisted (the urine test failed, twice), she became a mum while serving.
Initially, while getting back into shape after the birth of her first son, she strained her back. Later, on an extended cross-country at Puckapunyal, carrying a 40-plus-kilogram backpack over a 48-hour period, as well as two ammunition boxes bouncing on a pair of poles slung between her shoulders and those of another soldier, she did more serious and lasting damage.
Knowing the army was the life for her, and doing as well as she was, there were steps she felt she could take to reduce the constant pain. One was to dose herself with painkillers – prescription and over-the-counter – and the other to reduce the weight she carried on her chest. Jacqui had her double-D breasts surgically reduced to a size B. Neither was successful.
Out of the army, the war she waged with the DVA (in her words, its method when dealing with veterans is “delay, deny, die”) became very much the making of the civilian Jacqui Lambie. A determined fighter, she developed her public profile enough to be elected as a senator for Tasmania. Much of her story from that time forward is known – to some extent, at least – but to read it in her own words is not only interesting but quite engaging. More battles ensued, some personal, some army-related, some political, but she fights all the way through.
Whatever you think of the armed forces, of politics or politicians, whatever your perception of the woman herself, Jacqui Lambie, Rebel With A Cause is a true eye-opener and a worthy addition to the bookshelf although not, perhaps, because it’s likely to be reread anytime soon. But then who knows…?
Rebel With a Cause, the Jacqui Lambie autobiography, is available in paperback edition from Allen & Unwin.