Isobel Marion Dorothea Mackellar was born on 1 July 1885, at her family's home "Dunara" that stands on Point Piper, overlooking Rose Bay on Sydney Harbour. The Mackellar family owned several properties in the Gunnedah area, including "Kurrumbede" and "The Rampadells" approximately 25 km north west of the town bordering the Namoi River.
In 1983, Gunnedah celebrated the unveiling of a bronze statue of Dorothea Mackellar sitting side-saddle on a horse drinking from a stream. The statue is in ANZAC Park Gunnedah, opposite the tourist centre, and was the result of several years of fundraising by locals – led by post war immigrant Mikie Maas. Mrs Maas, upon relocation to Australia, read My Country and was deeply moved by the patriotism displayed in the poem.
In 1983, Mrs Maas (OAM PHF), with the support of volunteer judges Rosemary Dobson and Joan Phipson and local poet Anne Bell, orchestrated the foundation of the Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society Inc. – the body that now hosts the '29 years young' Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards.
The poetry competition grew from strength to strength. In 1984 with initial numbers of 300 entries from schools throughout NSW the competition, now Australia wide, attracts up to 15,000 entries each year from school students. The competition also has a dedicated following from teachers whose support is integral to its continued success.
In 1982 Jean Isherwood (a famous artist) heard on the radio that a statue was to be erected as a memorial to Dorothea Mackellar at Gunnedah, on Australia Day, 26 January 1983. Isherwood had long had it in mind to create a series of works illustrating the writer's most famous poem. Prompted by the imminent celebration, Isherwood created a series of thirty four watercolour paintings for exhibition in Gunnedah in conjunction with the unveiling of the statue.
The Dorothea statue is now one of Gunnedah's most visited landmarks. The Jean Isherwood watercolours are housed at the Creative Arts Centre reflecting the affinity that Gunnedah feels with Dorothea. And, during peak season, the Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards' website plays host to thousands of visitors entering their own creative works, honouring the memory of one of the most enduring poets Australia has ever produced.
Click the following link to view Jean Isherwood's collection:
Please click here for the poem "My Country"
Telephone: 02 6742 1200
Fax: 02 6742 1435
PO Box 113, GUNNEDAH NSW 2380
Gunnedah Visitor Information Centre,
Anzac Park (South Street)
GUNNEDAH NSW 2380