Judith Wright   (1915 – 2000)

(Apologies for the need for another dash of poetic licence).

Judith was raised on a country property though went to boarding school following her mother’s death. She attended Sydney University studying Philosophy, English, Psychology and History at Sydney University returning to her father’s station at the beginning of World War 2 to help because of labour shortages.

Wright’s first book of poetry, The Moving Image, was published in 1946 and as with following publications focuses on “the Australian environment….. dealing with the relationship between settlers, Indigenous Australians and the bush, among other themes.” It is said that her love of nature and the Outback helped change the traditions of Australian writing. 

Whilst working at the University of Queensland as a research officer Wright
began working on the literary magazine Meanjin, the first edition of which was published in late 1947. In 1966 she published The Nature of Love, her first collection of short stories, set mainly in Queensland.

Her distress at the devastation of that landscape by white Australians, led her to help form the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland. She fought to conserve the Great Barrier Reef, when its ecology was threatened by oil drilling, and campaigned against sand mining on Fraser Island. Along with her deep awareness of environmental issues, Judith became an ardent supporter of the Aboriginal land rights movement.

In the mid 1970’s, Judith and politician Nugget Coombs helped form the Aboriginal Treaty Committee, an organisation dedicated to helping spread the word about the need for land rights and a treaty among white Australians. She was still a social activist at 85 years of age, attending a march in Canberra for reconciliation between non-indigenous Australians and the Aboriginals.

1976 – Christopher Brennan Award
1991 – Queens Gold Medal for Poetry
 1994 – Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
 1998 – Australian National Living Treasure Award
2009 –  announced as one of the Q150 Icons of Queensland for her role as an “Influential Artist”.

Magpies by Judith Wright

Along the road the magpies walk
with hands in pockets, left and right.
They tilt their heads, and stroll and talk.
In their well-fitted black and white.

They look like certain gentlemen 
who seem most nonchalant and wise
until their meal is served – and then
what clashing beaks, what greedy eyes!

But not one man that I have heard 
throws back his head in such a song
of grace and praise – no man nor bird. 
Their greed is brief; their joy is long.
For each is born with such a throat 
as thanks his God with every note.

Celebrating the women from our past to the present who have helped shape Australia.

8 thoughts on “Judith Wright   (1915 – 2000)

  1. This is the first time I have visited your blog and when I saw Judith Wright I was happy. Reading the ‘Letters of a Friendship’ between Wright and Barbara Blackman gave me a new insight into both characters. Love your post

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know Gretchen, the school curriculum in the 60s and 70s really did a disservice to students. I remember this poem about Magpies from Primary School. Do you think 9 year olds comprehend poetry at that age unless it is fun like those written by Ogden Nash and Edward Lear? And then you hit High School and you are bombarded by sonnets! I love Judith Wright and love learning more about her, but with no help from the Education system. ( Apologies: rant over)

      Liked by 1 person

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