Brown was a shy child, the son of a country policeman , the odd one out in a family where his brothers (one older, one younger) and twin sister Jan, as well as four uncles were all at various times in the police force.
The family was politically conservative, revering Bob Menzies and the royals, steeped in the conventional values of the '40s and '50s. Not an easy environment for a youth battling the realisation of his homosexuality.
His early years were spent in the one-pub town of Trunkey Creek in NSW, where 26 children attended the local school. He was the family dreamer, spending hours wandering the paddocks and the bush surrounding the family home.
"I was a bit of a deep thinker all the way through," Brown says. "I think I could have been quite difficult to fathom as a youngster, this kid who didn't talk about himself very much."
Brown was exceptionally close to his mother, Marjorie, but feels in hindsight that his father, Jack, also had a beneficial influence. "I saw him dealing as a policeman with extremely difficult situations, being very practical about life."
Brown excelled at school..His marks were good enough to get him into medicine at Sydney University, but he found student life miserable.
For the next few years he bottled up his personal crisis, at one point, as Norman's book documents, putting himself through painful aversion therapy. "My hands were wired to an electric shock machine. Each male on the screen was followed by a shock. The occasional female was followed by the relief of no shock at all ... Inside I was dying away," Brown says in the book.
In 1972 , after troubled periods as a GP in Canberra, London and Sydney, Brown fled to Tasmania to take up a medical locum's job. He fell in thrall to the dramatic landscape, and joined a months-long and fruitless hunt for a thylacine (Tasmanian tiger), last seen alive in the '30s. His life took on an ascetic cast.
His earlier biographer, Peter Thompson of ABC's Radio National, wrote that Brown "no longer wanted to hold on to things ... He was always giving away books and anything unnecessary about the house, even ... his precious camera."
But in 1976 came the journey that was to remake him in every way - a rafting trip down the Franklin River in the heart of Tasmania's untamed South West, which was then threatened by plans to dam it.
The experience was almost biblical. Brown went into the wilderness and came out, it seems, healed within himself and with a new mission in life. He began quietly declaring his sexuality to close friends, and embarked on the impassioned anti-dams campaign which eventually brought him to national prominence.
Over the years he'd wrestled with and finally abandoned conventional notions of God, fretted about nuclear annihilation and been deeply troubled by the ailments, spiritual and physical, he had seen in his city patients....Says Peter Thompson: "There's a tension between him wanting the fantasy of a quieter, reflective life, writing philosophy, and this need to be involved and have his life affirmed in this bigger way.
"If there's a negative to his missionary zeal, it's that he's never really had to balance things. He's brilliant as a catalyst, but it might be very fortunate that he's never needed to be a minister in government".
...but he does seem to be advocating, for people, for nature, for government, for people's rights, asylum seekers, humanity, advocate for world parliament:
It is hard to be a political visionary. The first suffragettes, fighting for women's right to vote, were seen as a fanatic minority. The first anti-slavery activists were seen as crazy extremists. The first white anti-Apartheid advocates in South Africa were seen as traitors. History, however, has a very different view of these people.
Senator Bob Brown's support for a world parliament has recently been criticised. History, I believe, will see him differently: a realistic and far-sighted global leader, an inspiration to future generations.
Brown has not just stated his support for a world parliament, he also actively advocates it. The debate in Australia that followed his speech at the National Press Club conveniently ignores that Brown and the Australian Greens aren't alone in doing so. In fact they are part of a growing global movement that is supported by a truly cross-partisan alliance. In October 2010 Brown joined over 700 members of parliament in signing an international appeal. The appeal calls for the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly. This appeal is endorsed by many distinguished individuals such as Boutros Boutros-Ghali, a former UN Secretary-General; Mike Moore, a former head of the WTO and former New Zealand prime minister; Vaclav Havel, former Czech president and over 200 university professors.