Wright born in Armidale, New South Wales, the eldest child of Phillip Wright and his first wife Ethel, she spent most of her formative years in Brisbane and Sydney. Her family – “our arrogant clan”, as Wright put it – were well-known. Her father, Phillip Arundell Wright (1889-1970), was a prominent grazier. Both her father, and her brother, Peter Arundell Wright, were leaders in the New England New State Movement. Although there are entries for her father and brother, there is no entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography for Judith Wright (to date).

Wright studied philosophy, English, Psychology and History at the University of Sydney. In 1946 Wright worked as a research officer at the University of Queensland, at which time her first book of poetry, The Moving Image, was published. Wright also worked with Clem Christesen on Meanjin. In 1950 Wright partnered with Jack Philip McKinney (1891-1966), an untrained but moderately accomplished philosopher, and moved to Mount Tamborine. They had married in 1962 but only shared a small time together; Jack McKinney died on 6 December 1966.

From 1964 to 1976, Wright was President of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland. During the latter part of this period Wright moved to Braidwood, New South Wales, and lived there for three decades. The reason for her move to a place just outside of Canberra did not become apparent in the public arena until Fiona Capp published her essay in The Monthly, ‘In the Garden’, in 2009.  Capp revealed the 25-year secret love affair of Wright and H.C. (Herbert Cole, “Nugget”) Coombs (1906-1997), former (and the first) Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia.

During these years, Wright’s reputation as a poet grew, both nationally and internationally, producing several collections of poetry. Her poems have been translated into Italian, Japanese and Russian. Wright was the second Australian to receive the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, in 1991. Much of her poetry centred on the relationship between humanity and the environment, and had much to do with her time in Mount Tamborine. In 2003, the National Library of Australia published an expanded edition of Wright's collection titled Birds, which were produced at Mount Tamborine in the 1950s. Wright had suffered hearing problems most of her life, and became completely deaf by 1992.

Her other works of poetry, and her social activism, were related more directly to the environmental and Aboriginal land rights movements, work which she shared with H.C. Coombs. Wright was well known for her campaigning in support of the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef and Fraser Island, and involved herself in the campaign in the Indigenous-Non-Indigenous Reconciliation campaign just before her death.

See Judith Wright on Scatterplot Matrix.

References

Judith Wright. (2014, May 30). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 00:14, September 24, 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Judith_Wright&oldid=610790279

Neville Crew, 'Wright, Peter Arundell (1920–1990)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wright-peter-arundell-15653/text26848, published in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 24 September 2014.

Jillian Oppenheimer, 'Wright, Phillip Arundell (1889–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wright-phillip-arundell-12076/text21665, published in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 24 September 2014.

Judith Wright McKinney, 'McKinney, Jack Philip (1891–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mckinney-jack-philip-10995/text19551, published in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 24 September 2014.

Judith Wright (1915 –2000)

Poet, Social Theorist in Aboriginal and Environmental Rights, Philosopher

Judith Wright. unknown date. The University of Queensland, Fryer Library. Image Number: oai:espace.library.uq.edu.au:UQ:219304
Judith Wright. unknown date. The University of Queensland, Fryer Library. Image Number: oai:espace.library.uq.edu.au:UQ:219304

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