TRUE STORY: Gregory Smith spent 10 years living isolated in the Goonengerry mountains.
TRUE STORY: Gregory Smith spent 10 years living isolated in the Goonengerry mountains. Contributed

How this man survived alone in the mountains for 10 years

TUCKED away in the mountains of Goonengerry, just 40 minutes away from Lismore, Dr Gregory Smith lived alone in the forest for the best part of 10 years.

With a childhood tainted by violence and abuse, and a past riddled with homelessness, substance abuse and criminal offences, Gregory found his sanctuary beneath the ferns and the canopies of Goonengerry's forest.

Having been removed from school at 14 by his father, Gregory worked hard to obtain a PhD after returning to society in the late 90s, and has gone on to detail his unbelievable experiences in his novel, Out of the Forest.

After being approached by one of his colleagues at Southern Cross University where he now teaches, Gregory returned to the forest where he initially toyed with the idea of writing his novel.

"I was really confused about writing the book, and so I went and I sat in there and meditated in there for quite a long time and made that decision," Gregory said.

"I was a Forgotten Australian, and through the process of doing that PhD I came to terms with a lot of things, and so my attitude by that time was, well, I've got nothing else to hide - it's time to tell the story."

The experience, which Gregory described as "cathartic", continues to connect him with people from his past.

"I've already got the most out of this book, I've reconnected with more of my family, with my sisters, and I mean if nothing else happens I'm happy," he said.

At the book's launch in Mullumbimby last Wednesday, he even reconnected with The Professor, a character within the novel who he hadn't seen in 18 or 19 years.

"If it [the book] can help someone then yeah, even better," he said. "I understand that sort of pain and if it only helps one person, then this whole venture has been worth it."

Gregory, who now lives in Coffs Harbour, spent years before living in the forest, sleeping on the streets.

Now, however, he is working hard teaching social sciences and even has another book in the making.

"I think 10-year-old Gregory would be quite proud of 63-year-old Gregory, because 63-year-old Gregory, well, I feel like he is probably one of the most wealthiest human beings on this planet."

Gregory will be attending the Byron Writers Festival from August 3 to August 5.



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