Evil Life by Clive Small and Tom Gilling

Clive Small was formerly a NSW Assistant Commissioner of Police. He co-wrote Evil Life with Tom Gilling who later joined with Terry Jones to write The Griffith Wars, a book I have mentioned previously. Both books cover some of the same territory, but Evil Life gives a far wider view of the ‘ndrangheta, (Calabrian Mafia) in Australia, starting early in the 20th Century cane fields of Queensland and progressing to the present day.

One of the more disturbing aspects is the degree of political influence this criminal organisation has had, including their ability to get members of parliament elected. Neither of the major Australian political parties can claim the historical, higher moral ground when it comes to relationships and attitudes to this organised crime group.

Convicted ‘ndrangheta members have often received underwhelming sentences for serious crimes and in many cases have been acquitted on appeal despite strong evidence of their guilt. Politicians, many police officers and at least one judge have been found to have questionable in their relationships with those they were supposed to be bringing to justice.

An additional point of interest in this book is the inclusion of Graham Potter in the criminals mentioned with links to Mafia activity.

While there are a lot of interesting details given within the book, particularly when covering familiar topics (Griffith, Graham Potter, and other incidents and identities I recall from past news reports), it wasn’t always easy reading.  It was hard work at times wading through  countless Italian names, many of which were similar, and at times identical.

But it’s not specific details that make this book worthwhile, it’s the bigger picture that Small and Gilling bring to light, of related major criminal groups driving the majority of the illegal drug trade, as well as the political/legal apathy, expediency and at times corruption, that enable them to continue flourishing.

(interview with Clive Small from http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/evil-life—the-calbrian-mafia-in-australia/7122112)

Clive Small


betrayedBetrayed by Clive Small and Tom Gilling, is a disturbing book about two undercover police officers, posing as drug dealers, assigned to investigate the drug trade, including the involvement of corrupt police.

Joe and Jessie are left too long in the stressful job, with no emotional support from their employers. Their physical and mental health suffers and their integrity is challenged by those who should have stood by them.

They later find themselves being ordered to invesigate some of NSW Police’s most senior officers, including a deputy commisioner (Clive Small, one of the book’s authors) and the police commisisoner, Peter Ryan, himself. All of that seemingly outside of offical channels for no substantiated reason.

Eventually, facing spurious charges, Joe’s career is brought to an end, unless he can successfully fight the accusations he faces. However, the stressful demands of his many years of undercover service have weakened his resolve.

Betrayed is a very apt title for this book, exposing many types of betrayal associated with the police services of both NSW and Queensland. Betrayal of the citizens the police are supposed to protect, with corrupt officers perverting the law through criminal involvement; and the betrayal of police staff who are denied reasonable resources to do their job.

But most significantly in this story, those betrayed were Joe and Jessie who paid a heavy price for their devotion to their work.

The Griffith Wars by Tom Gilling and Terry Jones

I don’t think anyone who was around in 1970’s Australia would be unaware of the  things covered by this book. Based on the diaries of Terry Jones, a newspaper editor in Griffith NSW who personally knew all of the major players, The Griffith Wars joins a lot of the half-remembered dots lingering in 40 year old memories.

Small business owner and aspiring politician, Donald Mackay disappeared from Griffith, a small inland city almost half way between Sydney and Adelaide. His furniture shop van was found in a pub car park alongside a pool of blood and spent firearm cartridges. His body has never been found.

Leading up to his murder he had been campaigning aggressively against a profitable drug trade centred in Griffith, where families of close-knit Calabrian farmers had been acquiring income far greater than would be expected from the growing of fruit and vegetables. Raids on a number of properties linked to those families had found large acreages of marijuana.

Prior to reports of Mackay’s disappearance, my  first wareness of Griffith related to two school friends were eventually found there after they’d gone missing from home. They’d been trying their hand at fruit picking using false names.

A few years later I met a friend’s sister, a nurse at Griffith base hospital, visiting her family who had recently moved to my home city on the coast. That was two or three years before Mackay’s murder, but those friends made it clear that Griffith’s reputation regarding the drug trade was already well known among locals there.

A closer personal connection to this story came when I met Gloria. She came from a small country town that relied on services available from Griffith. Her family had been customers of Donald Mackay’s furniture shop, and they had links with several places that arise in the account told in The Griffith Wars.  There was no secret about the identity of the people behind the illegalities within Griffith.

The names of those families and their activities have been well-known for decades. Many them passed through the legal system on numerous occasions but with little effect, often receiving minimal sentences (if any) receiving far lighter punishments for growing and distributing marijuana than those caught using it. Some even became recipients of local and national honours, such as “Citizen of the Year” and the “Order of Australia”.

The Griffith Wars is a very readable account of drugs, insurance fraud, murder, corrupt police and dodgy politicians. By one of those interesting coincidences, I finished reading this book one day after the 41st anniversary of Donald Mackay’s murder.


Also see: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-01/mafia-don-tony-sergi-dies-in-griffith/9106258