Number 6

He managed to capture something that was/is in the heart of every Aussie.

Poet and writer

Henry Lawson’s voice dominates the literary nationalist movement of the 1890s. He did more than any other writer to free Australians from their deference to Britain and to plant the first seeds of republicanism. “And ye shall swell to any army vast/And free from the wrongs of the North and Past/The land that belongs to you.” He is also a key mythologiser of the outback as a place of stoic mateship forged amid arid hopelessness. Lawson was already a regular contributor to The Bulletin when its editor J.F. Archibald sent him up-country to Bourke in 1892 to collect material for the paper. Western NSW was in the grip of drought and depression. Lawson pushed on to Hungerford, a further 200km. From that hellish six-month trip, he produced some of his finest stories about the Australian bush – “the nurse and tutor of eccentric minds, the home of the weird”. Historian Russell Ward called Lawson’s bushman, “the national culture-hero on whose supposed characteristics many Australians tend, consciously or unconsciously, to model their lives”. Lawson himself wasn’t built for heroism. He was too unstable. Having tasted fame early, he was effectively finished as a writer by 40, poisoned by drink and depression. In death, however, his life became part of the Australian legend he helped to create. (Photo: ACP Photo Library)


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