Robin de Crespigny is a Sydney film-maker, producer, director, writer and a former Directing Lecturer at the Australian Film, Television & Radio School.

Robin’s work includes the TV drama This Time Next Time (1990), Sanctuary (screenplay by David Williamson), and the script Intersection, which was nominated in the 2007 Inside Film Awards. In 2008 her short children’s film Wee Dreaming screened nationally as part of Little Big Shots and around the world in other international film festivals.

Robin de Crespigny will be our Guest Speaker on 14th May at 7 for 7.15am at Thyme Out Restaurant, Morrow Street. Members of the public are very welcome to attend. For bookings or further information contact David Gilbey phone: 6933 2465 or email

The People Smuggler is her first book. It has won the 25th Human Rights Award for Literature and the Queensland Literary Award. It was one of three finalists for the Walkley award for non-fiction, and been nominated for the Waverley Library Award.

That book began as a film script about the life of Ali Al Jenabi, an Iraqi refugee who became a people smuggler to get his family to safety. His legal battles with the Federal Government to acquire his own freedom had made headlines. After six months of wrestling with the epic breadth of his journey; with its uprisings, repressions, military conflicts and imprisonments, desperate escapes via mountain treks and ships on high seas; from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq across two continents and at least six countries, to his trial and jail in Darwin, detention in Villawood, plus his personal life of family, loves, and losses, she realised a book would serve this story better. Thus began three years of meticulous research, travel to Indonesia to retrace Ali’s steps, to Darwin to dig up material from a year of legal trials, and hundreds of hours in conversations with Ali himself, a Muslim man who arrived in Australia speaking Arabic, Kurdish, Farsi and Indonesian, but very little English.

She has born honest witness to a lifetime of extraordinary events while revealing the universal emotions and internal processes at the heart of the lifechanging moral choices Ali made as he strived to save so many others.

About The People Smuggler

 At once a non-fiction thriller and a moral maze, this book The People Smuggler is one man’s epic story of trying to find a safe place in the world.

When Ali Al Jenabi flees Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers, he is forced to leave his family behind in Iraq. What follows is an incredible international odyssey through the shadow world of fake passports, crowded camps and illegal border crossings, living every day with excruciating uncertainty about what the next will bring.

Through betrayal, triumph, misfortune – even romance and heartbreak – Ali is sustained by his fierce love of freedom and family. Continually pushed to the limits of his endurance, eventually he must confront what he has been forced to become.

With enormous power and insight, The People Smuggler tells a story of daily heroism, bringing to life the forces that drive so many people to put their lives in unscrupulous hands. It is an utterly gripping portrait of a man cut loose from the protections of civilisation, attempting to retain his dignity and humanity while taking whatever path he can out of an impossible position.

‘This is a story that had to be told.’ The Weekend Australian

‘An engrossing account of a man seen by some as a saviour and others as a criminal. A significant book.’ Thomas Keneally

‘Gripping.’ The Age

‘Tight, powerful and extraordinarily well written … a book which glories in the strength, courage and compassion of the human spirit.’ The Drum

‘Just mindblowing … a moving saga of endurance and bravery.’ The Australian Way (Qantas Magazine)

‘A totally riveting story about a brave and honourable man. Passionate, vivid and true, it bounces off the page.’ Rosie Scott

Published by Penguin Books Australia