Judith Arundell Wright (31 May 1915 – 25 June 2000) was an Australian poet, environmentalist and campaigner for Aboriginal land rights.
Judith Wright was 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. Wright was of Cornish ancestry. 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, English, Psychology and History at the University of Sydney. At the beginning of World War II, she returned to her father's station to help during the shortage of labour caused by the war.
Wright's first book of poetry, The Moving Image, was published in 1946 while she was working at the University of Queensland as a research officer. Then, she had also worked with Clem Christesen on the literary magazine Meanjin, the first edition of which was published in late 1947. In 1950 she moved to Mount Tamborine, Queensland, with the novelist and abstract philosopher Jack McKinney. Their daughter Meredith was born in the same year. They married in 1962, but Jack was to live only until 1966.
In 1966, she published The Nature of Love, her first collection of short stories, through Sun Press, Melbourne. Set mainly in Queensland, they include 'The Ant-lion' ,'The Vineyard Woman', 'Eighty Acres', 'The Dugong', 'The Weeping Fig' and 'The Nature of Love', all first published in The Bulletin.
With David Fleay, Kathleen McArthur and Brian Clouston, Wright was a founding member and, from 1964 to 1976, President, of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland. She was the second Australian to receive the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, in 1991.
For the last three decades of her life, she lived near the New South Wales town of Braidwood. Allegedly, she had moved to the Braidwood area to be closer to H. C. Coombs, who was based in Canberra.
She started to lose her hearing in her mid-20s, and she became completely deaf by 1992.
Judith Wright died in Canberra on 25 June 2000, aged 85.
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, Magpies, Shadow, Hunting Snake, among others.
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, among other themes. Wright's aesthetic centres 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 several languages, including Italian, Japanese and Russian.
Wright was well known for her campaigning in support of the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef and Fraser Island. With some friends, she helped found one of the earliest nature conservation movements.
Wright was also an impassioned 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". Shortly before her death, she attended a march in Canberra for reconciliation between non-indigenous Australians and the Aboriginal people.
In June 2006 the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) announced that the new federal electorate in Queensland, which was to be created at the 2007 federal election, would be named Wright in honor of her accomplishments as a "poet and in the areas of arts, conservation and indigenous affairs in Queensland and Australia". 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 Wright may be linked to disgraced former Queensland Labor MP Keith Wright. Under the 2009 redistribution of Queensland, a new seat in southeast Queensland was created and named in Wright's honour; it was first contested in 2010.
The Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane is named after her.
On 2 January 2008, it was announced that a future suburb in the district of Molonglo Valley, Canberra would be named "Wright". There is a street in the Canberra suburb of Franklin named after her, as well. Another of the Molonglo Valley suburbs is to be named after Wright's lover, "Nugget" Coombs.
If the year is meditating a suitable gift,
I should like it to be the attitude
of my great- great- grandmother,
legendary devotee of the arts,
The rows of cells are unroofed,
a flute for the wind's mouth,
who comes with a breath of ice
from the blue caves of the south.
Now my five senses
gather into a meaning
all acts, all presences;
and as a lily gathers
The blacksmith's boy went out with a rifle
and a black dog running behind.
Cobwebs snatched at his feet,
rivers hindered him,