Gregory David Roberts (GDR) is an author, composer and artist. He is best known for the critically acclaimed novel, Shantaram, which has sold over 7 million copies and was hailed “a masterpiece” by critics. The novel is based on raw elements of the author's life as a fugitive and is translated into 44 languages and sold in 116 countries.
Growing up with his family in Melbourne, GDR attended Melbourne University in the early 70s. As a student activist, he founded Black Week Festival, which was instrumental in changing admission requirements, allowing Aboriginal students to attend university without a high school graduation. He also established the first crèche for students' children.
In the late 70's GDR's marriage collapsed and he lost custody of his daughter. “I fell apart. My weakness of character surrendered to drugs and I became a hopeless junkie. I know, now, what a woman or man should do when they lose custody of a child: work hard, save money, write a letter every week, and if you can't send the letters, keep them in ribboned bundles, because one day that child will want to know you, and when that day comes, you'll be worthily prepared. You can say: See how I've loved you all these years and always held you in my heart. At the time, all those years ago when it happened to me, I didn't have the grit to do the right thing. That massive fall, when I threw my life in the gutter, I hit rock-bottom, but it was also the scraped-earth foundation of the stronger and better character that I've striven to build within myself.”
In order to finance his drug addiction, GDR turned to crime. I can't blame anyone or anything, it's my fault, it was a weakness in my character.” In 1978 he pleaded guilty so that no witnesses were required to give evidence, was convicted for bank robbery, and sent to Pentridge Prison, Australia. In 1980, GDR escaped from prison and fled to India.
In 1990, after ten years as a fugitive, GDR was captured in Frankfurt, and after 19 months in solitary confinement was extradited to Australia, where he served two years in solitary confinement as a punishment for his escape, and served a further four years in prison, completing a 10-year sentence.
Whilst a fugitive in Mumbai, India, he established a free medical clinic for people living in one of the slums.
When Shantaram became an international best-seller, GDR sold the movie rights and used part of the income to establish a personal initiative, which paid for life-saving operations (such as kidney transplants, treatment for HIV-AIDS, Tuberculosis and cleft-palate repair) for the slum dwellers in the city's Cuffe Parade slum.
As a highly sought-after speaker for the prestigious international speaking agency, Saxton Speakers Bureau. GDR has delivered speeches at the United Nations W.H.O complex in Geneva, for Association of Australasian Magistrates and Judges, the Press Council, at Festivals of Literature (globally), Amnesty International, Australian Annual Conference, Young Presidents and World Presidents Organisations, Rotary International, The B'nai Brith Society, The Law Society of Australia and dozens of global corporate conferences, as well as pro bono speaking engagements for a variety of organisations and charities including: The Royal Institute for the Blind, World Peace Day Conference, The Law Society of India and Médecins Sans Frontières, Switzerland.
His message of taking personal responsibility, connecting to others spiritually, giving life meaning through positive purpose, and never giving up on yourself has resonated through the many speeches and is currently drawing enthusiastic, life-affirming responses through his social media posts.
In 2014, GDR retired from public life to enter a spiritual seclusion, in order to consciously make the “leap of Faith” and commit to a devoted life. During six years of that seclusion, he cared for his parents, who were active and happy but gravely ill. While off the grid, GDR created the production dubs for the songs that would become his first album, Love&Faith, wrote five graphic novels, three novellas, and a summary of his spiritual experiences in the book The Spiritual Path.
His parents passed away in 2018. GDR took a portion of their ashes to India, as per his Mother's last request, and attended the nine days and nights of ceremonies for his parents to achieve liberation from the cycle of reincarnation, or Moksh.
His follow-up novel The Mountain Shadow completed as GDR went into seclusion, was released in 2015 by the award-winning publishers, Little Brown Book Group.
In 2019, GDR's creative arts company, Empathy Arts, established The Empathy Arts Foundation, which is committed to supporting a small group of young artists with mentorship grants, and artistic projects that have a positive message or positive benefit for society, as well as individuals who are committed to an artistic life with the same purpose. The foundation is fully self-funded and doesn't accept funds from any source.
GDR returned to the public arena in 2020 and released new material. The non-fiction e-book The Spiritual Path, based on his experiences of being six years off the grid and fully devoted to a spiritual path, a book of the same name is currently released in paperback through bookshops worldwide.
Fulfilling a long overdue ambition, GDR also released his debut album of original songs, Love&Faith, co-produced with Dale ‘Dizzle' Virgo (Drake/ Florence & The Machine/ Kendrick Lamar/ Rihanna), at Gee Jam Studio, Port Antonio, Jamaica. An eclectic mix of genres - pop, R&B, country, house and reggae, with the lyrical content inspired by characters from his novels and his spiritual seclusion. The album explores the themes of love, faith and redemption.
GDR: “Love&Faith are songs born in the consolation that music has conjured for me in the midst of suffering. They come from the constant experience of my life that with love and faith, anything is possible. Music saved me. It has been an unfailing inspiration to keep going and never give up.”
GDR continues to release music, write and create art in Jamaica, where he currently resides.
A TV series based on Shantaram and its sequel The Mountain Shadow, is in production by Apple TV +, Paramount TV and Anonymous Content, starring actor Charlie Hunnam who plays the lead character.