Bruce Dawe

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Bruce Dawe

BornDonald Bruce Dawe
(1930-02-15)15 February 1930
Fitzroy, Victoria
Died1 April 2020(2020-04-01) (aged 90)
Caloundra, Queensland. Australia
Years active1947–2020
Notable awardsOfficer of the Order of Australia

Donald Bruce Dawe AO (15 February 1930 – 1 April 2020) was an Australian poet and academic. Some critics consider him one of the most influential Australian poets of all time.[1][2]

Dawe received numerous poetry awards in Australia and was named an Officer of the Order of Australia.[3] He taught literature in universities for over 30 years.

Dawe's poetry collection, Sometimes Gladness, sold over 100,000 copies in several printings.[3]

Early life[edit]

Bruce Dawe was born in 1930 in Fitzroy, Victoria.[4][5] Dawe's paternal ancestors originated in Wyke Regis in Dorset, England. The family moved to Australia in the mid-19th century. His mother was of Lowland Scottish ancestry - she often recited Scottish poems from her childhood.

Dawe's parents came from farming families in Victoria. Dawe was the only one in his family to complete primary school. His parents and four siblings always encouraged him to write poetry (his youngest sister also wrote poetry).

As a child, Dawe attended six schools. At age 16, he dropped out of Northcote High School in Melbourne without completing his Leaving Certificate. He then worked as a clerk, a labourer, a sales assistant, an office boy in an advertising agency and a copy boy at The Truth and The Sun News-Pictorial. Dawe also worked as a labourer in the Public Works Department, as a tailer-out in various Melbourne saw-mills and as a farm-hand in the Cann River valley.

In 1953, Dawe completed his adult matriculation by part-time study. In 1954, he enrolled at Melbourne University on a teaching scholarship. However, at the end of 1954, he moved to Sydney, working as a labourer in a glass factory and later in a factory manufacturing batteries. Also during 1954, Dawe converted to Catholicism. In 1956, Dawe returned to Melbourne, where he worked as a postman for two years and as a self-employed gardener.

In 1959, Dawe joined the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF),[6] initially as a trainee telegraphist but remustered as an education assistant.[2] After completing his recruit training at RAAF Base Rathmines, he was posted to Ballarat, Victoria. On commencing duties as an education assistant, Dawe was posted to RAAF Base Wagga, Victoria Barracks Melbourne and Toowoomba, Queensland.[2]

In 1966, Dawe was posted to Malaysia for six months.[2] During this posting, Dawe wrote the lyrics for the school song of the RAAF School on Penang.[7] This song was used until the school’s closing in 1988.[7]

After leaving Malaysia, Dawe returned to Melbourne.


Leaving the RAAF in 1968, Dawe began teaching at Downlands College, a Catholic boys college in Toowoomba, Queensland. After teaching English and history at the secondary level for two and a half years, he became a tertiary lecturer in English literature at the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education (DDIAE) in Toowoomba.

In 1971, Dawe was appointed as a lecturer at DDIAE. In 1980, he became a senior lecturer at DDIAE. In 1988, Dawe received the inaugural DDIAE Award for Excellence in Teaching. In 1992, when DDIAE became the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), Dawe was appointed associate professor.

In 1993, Dawe retired from full-time teaching and was appointed as the first honorary professor of USQ. He then taught University of the Third Age classes.

Dawe would achieve four university degrees (BA, MLitt, MA, PhD), all completed by part-time study.

In 1999, Dawe endowed the Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize of $2,500 to be awarded annually to an Australian poets. The endowment is held in trust by the University of Southern Queensland and administered by its Faculty of Arts, judged by the English Literature staff.[8]


Dawe wrote poetry about ordinary people in modern Australia, their interests in cars, novels, films and other popular items. He also wrote about abortion, environmental degradation, and the treatment of the Australian Aboriginal community.[9]

In discussing Dawe's poetry, John Kinsella remarked"

Always behind Dawe’s seemingly playful banter with us, his readers and public, is his commitment to sympathy and connection with the less empowered, the disenfranchised, downtrodden, neglected and exploited.[10]

Personal life[edit]

On 27 January 1964, Dawe married Gloria Desley Blain, Between December 1964 and July 1969, the couple had four children: Brian, twins Jamie and Katrina, and Melissa. Gloria died in 1997.

Dawe died in Caloundra, Queensland, on 1 April 2020, at age 90.[11]





  • Dawe, Bruce (1962). No fixed address : poems. Melbourne: F. W. Cheshire.
  • — (1965). A need of similar name. Melbourne: F. W. Cheshire.
  • An Eye for a Tooth (Cheshire, 1968)
  • Beyond the Subdivisions : Poems (F. W. Cheshire, 1969)
  • Heat-Wave. Melbourne (Sweeney Reed, 1970)
  • Condolences of the Season : Selected Poems (F. W. Cheshire, 1971)
  • Just a Dugong at Twilight: Mainly Light Verse (F. W. Cheshire, 1975)
  • — (1978). Sometimes gladness : collected poems, 1954-1978. Hawthorn, Vic.: Longman Cheshire.
  • Selected Poems. (London, Longman, 1984)
  • — (1986). Towards sunrise : poems, 1979-1986. Melbourne: Longman Cheshire.
  • — (1988). Sometimes gladness : collected poems, 1954-1987. Melbourne: Longman Cheshire.
  • This Side of Silence : Poems 1987–1990 (Longman Cheshire, 1990)
  • Mortal Instruments : Poems 1990–1995 (Longman, 1995)
  • A Poet's People (South Melbourne, Addison Wesley Longman, 1998)
  • The Headlong Traffic : Poems and Prose Monologues 1997 to 2002 (Longman, 2003)
  • Towards a War: Twelve Reflections (Picaro Press, 2003)
  • Sometimes Gladness : Collected Poems, 1954–2005, 6th Edition (Longman Cheshire, 2006)
  • Blind Spots (Picaro Press, 2013)
  • Kevin Almighty (Picaro Press, 2013)
  • Border Security (UWA, 2016)


Title Year First published Reprinted/collected
Enter Without So Much as Knocking 1959
And a Good Friday Was Had by All 1963 Bruce Dawe, Melbourne : Twentieth Century vol. 18 Spring 1963 pg. 334
Homo Suburbiensis 1964 Bruce Dawe, Melbourne : Longman Cheshire, 1971 selected work poetry pg. 96
In the New Landscape 1966
Homecoming 1968
Drifters 1968
Miss Mac 1969
Somewhere Friendly 1969
Search and Destroy 1970
Weapons Training 1970
The Corn Flake 1975
Going 1978
The Sadness of Madonas 1985
The wholly innocent 1986 Dawe, Bruce (1986). Towards sunrise : poems, 1979-1986. Melbourne: Longman Cheshire. Dawe, Bruce (1988). Sometimes gladness : collected poems, 1954-1987. Melbourne: Longman Cheshire.
The High Mark (for Nick Lynch) 1987
The Beach 1991
Gordon's quest 1995 Dawe, Bruce (October 1995). "Gordon's quest". Quadrant. 39 (10): 18.
Beyond Limbo 1996 Dawe, Bruce (March 1996). "Beyond Limbo". Quadrant. 40 (3): 8.
A park in the Balkans 1996 Dawe, Bruce (July–August 1996). "A park in the Balkans". Quadrant. 40 (7–8): 16.
The human moment 1996 Dawe, Bruce (July–August 1996). "The human moment". Quadrant. 40 (7–8): 16.
Life Cycle 2009

Critical studies, reviews and biography[edit]

  • The Man down the Street, edited by Ian V. Hansen, Melbourne, V.A.T.E., 1972
  • Times and Seasons: An Introduction to Bruce Dawe, by Basil Shaw, Melbourne, Cheshire, 1974
  • Adjacent Worlds: A Literary Life of Bruce Dawe, by Ken Goodwin, Melbourne, Longman Cheshire, 1988
  • Bruce Dawe: Essays and Opinions, edited by K.L. Goodwin, Melbourne, Longman Cheshire, 1990
  • Bruce Dawe, by Peter Kuch, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1995 .
  • Attuned to Alien Moonlight: The Poetry of Bruce Dawe, by Dennis Haskell, St Lucia, UQP, 2002


  1. ^ University of Southern Queensland Biography Archived 20 March 2018 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 29 August 2017
  2. ^ a b c d Australian Biography: Bruce Dawe, National Film and Sound Archive Accessed 19 February 2022
  3. ^ a b Carmody, Broede (3 April 2020). "'Our protest poet': Tributes flow for Bruce Dawe". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 August 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-22.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "Bruce Dawe - Griffith REVIEW". Archived from the original on 17 July 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-16.
  6. ^ "Obituary - Donald Bruce Dawe - Obituaries Australia". Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  7. ^ a b "School Song". Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  8. ^ "The Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize". 20 May 2009. Archived from the original on 20 May 2009. Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  9. ^ Goodwin, K. L. (14 April 1986). A History of Australian Literature. Macmillan International Higher Education. ISBN 978-1-349-18177-3.
  10. ^ "Bruce Dawe's passing is a great loss but his remarkable, socially aware poetry will remain relevant". The Guardian. 3 April 2020. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
  11. ^ Romei, Stephen (2 April 2020). "Australian poet Bruce Dawe dies, aged 90". The Australian. News Limited. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  12. ^ a b c d e f "Brisbane Writers Festival – Bruce Dawe". Brisbane Writers Festival. Archived from the original on 6 August 2007. Retrieved 26 August 2007.
  13. ^ "Modern Australian poetry – Australia's Culture Portal". Australian Government – Culture and Recreation Portal. 24 August 2007. Archived from the original on 29 August 2007. Retrieved 26 August 2007.
  14. ^ "It's an Honour". Australian Government. Retrieved 11 January 2007.
  15. ^ "USQ.EDU.AU". University of Southern Queensland. Archived from the original on 9 August 2011. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  16. ^ "Mildura Writers' Festival, Thursday 20 – Sunday 23 July 2006". Arts Festival 07 Mildura/Wentworth. Archived from the original on 8 June 2007. Retrieved 4 August 2007.
  17. ^ "It's an Honour". Australian Government. Retrieved 11 January 2007.

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