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Roland Robinson (1912-1992). Courtesy Lake Macquarie History.

Roland Edward Robinson OAM (12 June 1912 - 8 February 1992) was an Australian poet and prose writer.[1]


Robinson was born 12 June 1912 at Balbriggan, co. Dublin, Ireland, the 2nd of 3 sons of English parents Sarah (Searson) and Walter Robinson, a lace worker. The family moved back to England during World War I.[1]

The Robinsons emigrated to Australia when Roland was 9, settling at Carlton, Sydney.[1]

Roland was educated at Blakehurst Public School and then at Hurstville Technical School, where a teacher encouraged his interest in writing.[1]

Following his mother's death and his father’s remarriage, he went to work at 14 as a houseboy on a sheep farm near Coonamble, New South Wales, and then as a roustabout and station hand on other properties in the area.[1]

Robinson was born in Balbriggan, Co. Dublin, Ireland, in 1912. At the age of 9, in 1921 he was brought to Australia. After only a brief education he worked in various jobs, mainly in the bush as a roustabout, boundary-rider, railway fettler, fencer, dam-builder, gardener and as a lifelong love - a ballet dancer.

Robinson's first published poetry appeared in Beyond the Grass-Tree Spears published in 1944. He served in the Australian Army. His love of the Australian landscape and everyday scenes were inspiration for his poetry. He was one of the most dedicated poets to the Jindyworobak Movement.

As well as a prose writer and poet, Robinson was dance critic for The Sydney Morning Herald in the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1940s he took classes with Helene Kirsova and appeared in a number of productions by the Kirsova Ballet.[2]

Robinson was a distinguished poet and writer who spent his later years in Lake Macquarie. He was a magical storyteller; his booming, lyrical voice, and shock of white flowing hair inspired and excited his audiences. Children sat spellbound by his aboriginal tales and wonderful verses.

Robinson worked very closely with Aboriginal people from all over Australia writing down their myths. Perhaps his most important work was conducted with various Aboriginal people from the New South Wales. In particular his collaboration with Percy Mumbulla of the Yuin people.


After his death in 1992, Lake Macquarie City Council established The Roland Robinson Literary Award, an annual award to honour Robinson's contribution to literature and culture, and to foster creative literary talent in the city.

In 1997, Lake Macquarie City Council named the new library at Belmont in his honour.[3]


  • 1953 - Grace Leven Prize for Poetry
  • 1984 - recipient of the Order of Australia Medal, for "services to literature, particularly in the preservation of Australian Aboriginal mythology."[4]
  • 1988 - Patrick White Award
  • 1991 - Honorary Degree, Doctor of Letters, University of Newcastle[3]
  • 1991 - Freeman of the City of Lake Macquarie[3]



  • Beyond the Grass-Tree Spears: Verse. Melbourne: Georgian House, 1944.
  • Language of the Sand: Poems. Sydney: Lyre-Bird Writers, 1949.
  • Tumult of the Swans. Sydney : Edwards & Shaw, by arrangement with the Lyre-Bird Writers & the Commonwealth Literary Fund, 1953.)
  • Deep Well. Sydney: Edwards & Shaw, 1962.
  • Grendel. Brisbane: Jacaranda, 1967.
  • Poems. Adelaide: Australian Letters, [1969?]
  • Altjeringa, and other aboriginal poems. Sydney: Reed, 1970.
  • Selected Poems. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1971.
  • The Hooded Lamp. Sydney: Edwards & Shaw, 1976.
  • Selected Poems, 1944-1982 (edited by A.J. Bennett & Michael Sharkey). Armidale, NSW: Kardoorair Press, 1983.
  • Would I Might Find My Country, and other poems. Warners Bay, NSW: Picaro Press, 2010.


  • Black-Feller, White-Feller. Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1958.


  • The Feathered Serpent: The mythological genesis and recreative ritual of the aboriginal tribes of the Northern Territory of Australia. Sydney: Edwards & Shaw, 1956.
  • The Man Who Sold his Dreaming. Sydney: Currawong, 1965.
  • Aboriginal Myths and Legends: Age-old stories of the Australian tribes (illustrated by Roderick Shaw). London & New York: Paul Hamlyn, 1969.
  • The Australian Aboriginal (photos by Douglass Baglin). Sydney: A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1977.


  • The Drift of Things: An autobiography, 1914-52. Melbourne: Macmilan, 1973.
  • The Shift of Sands: An autobiography, 1952-62. Melbourne: Macmillan, 1976.
  • A Letter to Joan: An autobiography, 1962-73. Melbourne: Macmillan, 1978.


  • Wandjina, Children of the Dreamtime: Aboriginal myths & legends (illustrated by Roderick Shaw). Brisbane, Qld: Jacaranda, 1968.


  • Jindyworobak Anthology, 1948. Melbourne: Jindyworobak, 1948.
  • Legend and Dreaming: Legends of the dreamtime of the Australian Aborigines as related to Roland Robinson by men of the Djauan, Rimberunga, Mungarai-Ngalarkan and Yungmun tribes of Arnhem Land. Sydney: Edwards & Shaw, 1952.
  • The Nearest the White Man Gets: Aboriginal narratives and poems of New South Wales. Sydney: Hale & Ironmonger, 1989.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[5]

Audio / video[]


  • The Back of Beyond (1954) directed by John Heyer[6]
  • "Roland Robinson: The land as voice" (Artwrite Pictures: 1987)[7]

See also[]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Peter Kirkpatrick, Roland Robinson, Australian Dictionary of Biography, , Australian National University, 2016. Web, July 24, 2020.
  2. "Robinson, Roland (1912 - 1992)". Australia Dancing. Retrieved 2008-04-07. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "About Roland Robinson". City of Lake Macquarie. Retrieved 2008-04-07. 
  4. "It's an honour - Robinson, Roland Edward". Australian Government. Retrieved 2008-04-07. 
  5. Search results = au:Roland Robinson, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Jan. 26, 2015.
  6. "The Back of Beyond". Australian Screen. Archived from the original on 2008-02-10. Retrieved 2008-04-07. 
  7. "A nation is built and Roland Robinson: The land as voice". State Library or NSW. Retrieved 2008-04-07. 

External links[]

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