Jock Serong’s mission to salvage a sunken treasure


Jock sea landscape 270720

Jock Serong at Port Fairy

Barristers should be good with words. Most (not all) are competent speakers. Many reckon they can write too but are frightened of active verbs, simple expression and short sentences.  Only occasionally is a  barrister strong enough with text to shrug off the law completely and find fame as a writer rather than as a  barrister.

Charles Bean, Australia’s official historian of World War 1 was one such ex-barrister. Another is John Bryson, whose Azaria Chamberlain book ‘Evil Angels’ elevated a tabloided tragedy into  serious long form journalism.  A third is my friend and former roommate Justin “Jock” Serong.

As a barrister at the Victorian Bar, Jock had a wide and very solid practice. He ranged from native title work in outback Queensland and immigration work (both for and against the Commonwealth) through to high profile murder trials in Melbourne. But after hours, he started penning words for a surf mag too.

Things snowballed and eventually the writing won. To the dismay of his clerk, Jock upped stumps, left the bar and moved to Port Fairy. A decade and five published novels later, he is still there.

Jock has always loved a Quixotic adventure. At the bar, when he wasn’t defending or prosecuting the consequences of other people’s adventures, he was planning his own (although Jock’s enterprises were typically far more benign than those of his punters).

Inevitably, not all of Jock’s quests succeeded. One particularly ambitious scheme, with some mates, involved launching a large-format magazine they called the Great Ocean Quarterly. It was a highbrow fusion of salt water literature, photography, surfing, science, history and anything else that they could thematically tie back to the sea. They launched it in colour and on old-style heavy stock paper in 2013 in defiance of a booming internet and a languishing print advertising market.

But the doomsayers were right.  After seven issues, GOQ  was swamped by commercial reality and sank without trace in 2015.

Or so it seemed.

Could anything be more Quixotic?

Actually, yes. Jock and his team recently had a lightbulb moment and now they’re getting the band back together.

When GOQ closed its doors there was one issue still in utero. Now they’ve chosen this pandemic as an opportune moment to print that “Lost Eighth” edition as a one-off.   According to Jock’s promo email, they’re doing it “to honour some hard work from some years ago, and bring something lovely into a riven world.”

“There’s not much that can be guaranteed in print media, but this much stands: it’s the best issue we never made.”

Is this a crazy-brave announcement on the very same day one of Australia’s major publishers announced the closure of eight of its own magazine titles?

Absolutely. If the GOQ team thought the Lost Eighth was a commercial winner they probably would not have set up this crowd funding site.

Dive in. Help Jock and his crew land the Lost Eighth.


3 thoughts on “Jock Serong’s mission to salvage a sunken treasure

  1. I met Jock Serong at Xavier in Melbourne after HSC (VCE these days) in the early 80s. We worked in the old boy’s office, tracing old contact details in phonebooks. It was a ridiculous task, but I always thought he was a good guy, although much hairier than the rest of us – he seemed far more ‘developed’ at 18 and I was seriously envious at the time! I’m thrilled he has had literary success in the meantime – he deserves it – because his writing is very good.

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