While a law student he was one of the last people arrested under the state's Anti Street March legislation. Birmingham was convicted of displaying a sheet of paper with the words 'Free Speech' written on it in very small type. The local newspaper carried a photograph of him being frogmarched off to a waiting police paddy wagon.
Birmingham was first published in Semper Floreat, the student newspaper at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, writing a series of stories featuring a fictional character named Commander Harrison Biscuit. He won a young writers award for the Independent, which was edited by Brian Toohey and wrote a number of articles for Rolling Stone and Australian Penthouse magazines.