Judith Wright

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Judith Arundell Wright (31 May 1915—26 June 2000) was an Australian poet, environmentalist and campaigner for Aboriginal land rights.[1]


  • 1 Life
  • 2 Poet and critic
  • 3 Environmentalist and social activist
  • 4 Trivia
  • 5 Bibliography
  • 6 External links
  • 7 References


Judith Wright was born in Armidale, New South Wales, the eldest child of Phillip Wright and his first wife Ethel, but spent most of her formative years in Brisbane and Sydney.[2] After the early death of her mother she lived with her aunt and then boarded at New England Girls School after her father's remarriage in 1929. After graduating Wright studied philosophy and history at the University of Sydney.[3][2] At the beginning of World War Two she returned to her father's station to help during the shortage of labour caused by conscription. It is possibly during this period that she developed her attachment to the land and its people which would inform her work throughout her life.

Wright's first book of poetry, The Moving Image, was published soon afterwards in 1946 while she was working at the University of Queensland as a research officer. At this time she also worked with Clem Christesen on the literary magazine Meanjin.[3] In 1950 she moved to Mount Tamborine, in Queensland, with the novelist and philosopher Jack McKinney, their daughter Meredith was born in the same year. They married in 1962, although he was only to live until 1966.[4]

With David Fleay, Kathleen McArthur and Brian Clouston, she was a founding member and, from 1964 to 1976, President of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland. She was the first Australian to receive the Queen's Gold Medal for poetry, in 1992.[3]

Poet and critic

Judith Wright was the author of several collections of poetry, including The Moving Image, Woman to Man, The Gateway, The Two Fires, Birds, The Other Half, and Shadow.

Her work is noted for a keen focus on the Australian environment, which began to gain prominence in Australian art in the years following World War II. She deals with the relationship between settlers, Indigenous Australians and the bush, amongst other themes. Wright's aesthetic centers on the relationship between mankind and the environment, which she views as the catalyst for poetic creation. Her images characteristically draw from the Australian flora and fauna, yet contain a mythic substrata that probes at the poetic process, limitations of language, and the correspondence between inner existence and objective reality.

Her poems have been translated into Italian, Japanese and Russian.

Wright was also an acclaimed critic of Australian poetry.

Environmentalist and social activist

Wright was well known for her environmentalist campaigning in support of the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef and Fraser Island.

She was also an empassioned advocate for the Aboriginal land rights movement. Tom Shapcott, reviewing With Love and Fury, her posthumous collection of selected letters published in 2007, comments that her letter on this topic to the Australian Prime Minister John Howard was "almost brutal in its scorn". [5]

She attended a march in Canberra for reconciliation between white Australians and the Aboriginal people shortly before her death at the age of 85. [6]


In June 2006 the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) announced that the new federal electorate in Queensland to be created at the 2007 election would be named Wright in honour of her life as a "poet and in the areas of arts, conservation and indigenous affairs in Queensland and Australia".[7] However, in September 2006 the AEC announced it would name the seat after John Flynn the founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service due to numerous objections from people fearing the name may be linked to disgraced former Queensland Labor MP Keith Wright.

The Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley is named after her.



  • The Moving Image (1946)
  • Woman to Man (1949)
  • The Gateway (1953)
  • The Two Fires (1955)
  • Australian Bird Poems (1961)
  • Birds: Poems (1962)
  • Five Senses: Selected Poems (1963)
  • Tentacles: A tribute to those lovely things (1964)
  • City Sunrise (1964)
  • The Other Half (1966)
  • Alive: Poems 1971-72 (1973)
  • Fourth Quarter and Other Poems (1976)
  • The Double Tree: Selected Poems 1942-76 (1978)
  • Phantom Dwelling (1985)
  • A Human Pattern: Selected Poems (1990) ISBN 1-875892-17-6
  • The Flame Tree (1993)

Literary Criticism

  • William Baylebridge and the modern problem (Canberra University College, 1955)
  • Charles Harpur (1963)
  • Preoccupations in Australian Poetry (1965)
  • Henry Lawson (1967)
  • Because I was Invited (1975)
  • Going on Talking (1991) ISBN 0947333436

Other Works

  • The Generations of Men (1959) ISBN 1-875892-16-8
  • The Coral Battleground (1977)
  • The Cry for the Dead (1981)
  • Tales of a Naughty Schoolgirl:The Erotic Capers of Sue Ellen Slutski(1981)
  • Tales of a Naughty Schoolgirl II : Sue Ellen and the scantily clad exchange student(1983)
  • Tales of a Naughty Schoolgirl III: Sue Ellen and the Japanese Business Man(1984)
  • We Call for a Treaty (1985)
  • Judith Wright's guide to awesome anal sex (1987)
  • Born of the Conquerors: Selected Essays (1991) ISBN 9780-85575-217-0
  • Half a Lifetime (Text, 2001) ISBN 1-876485-78-7
  • Tales from Beyond the Grave: That's right folks she's back(2007)



  • The Equal Heart and Mind: Letters between Judith Wright and Jack McKinney. Edited by Patricia Clarke and Meredith McKinney (UQP, 2004) ISBN 0-7022-3441-9
  • With Love and Fury: Selected letters of Judith Wright, edited by Patricia Clarke and Meredith McKinney (National Library of Australia, 2006) ISBN 9780642276254

Secondary sources

  • Veronica Brady, South of My Days: A Biography of Judith Wright. (Angus & Robertson: 1998) ISBN 0207188572

External links

  • Poems at Oldpoetry.com
  • Vale Judith Wright Interview at Radio National
  • Gardening at the 'Edge': Judith Wright's desert garden, Mongarlowe, New South Wales by Katie Holmes
  • Judith Wright's Biography: A Delicate Balance between Trespass and Honour by Veronica Brady
  • Uncertain Possession: The Politics and Poetry of Judith Wright by Gig Ryan
  • The Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts Website
  • Two Fires: Festival of Arts and Activism Celebration of Judith Wright's legacy
  1. ^ Judith Wright Biography and Bibliography at LitWeb.net
  2. ^ a b Cornwell, Tony (2000-08-31). Australian poet Judith Wright (1915-2000): An appreciation. World Socialist Web Site. Retrieved on 2007-02-11.
  3. ^ a b c Heywood, Anne (2001-09-11). Wright, Judith Arundell (1915 - 2000). Australian Women’s Archives Project. Retrieved on 2007-02-11.
  4. ^ Wright, Judith (2000). McKinney, Jack Philip (1891 - 1966). Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved on 2007-02-11.
  5. ^ Tom Shapcott, Book Review, "With Love and Fury: selected letters of Judith Wright", Sydney Morning Herald, March 10, 2007
  6. ^ Judith Wright Biography and Bibliography at LitWeb.net
  7. ^ Proposal for Queensland Federal Electoral Redistribution. Australian Electoral Commission (2006-07-23). Retrieved on 2007-02-11.

NAME Wright, Judith Arundell
SHORT DESCRIPTION Twentieth century Australian poet, environmentalist and Indigenous rights campaigner
DATE OF BIRTH May 31, 1915
PLACE OF BIRTH Armidale, New South Wales, Australia
DATE OF DEATH June 26, 2000
PLACE OF DEATH Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia'
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