Isobel Marion Dorothea Mackellar Biography : Australian Poet



Isobel Marion Dorothea Mackellar

Isobel Marion Dorothea Mackellar, OBE was an Australian poet and fiction writer. Her poem "My Country" is widely known in Australia, especially its second stanza, which begins: "I love a sunburnt country / A land of sweeping plains, / Of ragged mountain ranges, / Of droughts and flooding rains.



  • Isobel Marion Dorothea Mackellar was born on 1 July 1885, at her family’s home “Dunara” that stood on Point Piper, overlooking Rose Bay on Sydney Harbour.
  • The third of four children, Dorothea was the only daughter born to renowned physician and Parliamentarian, Sir Charles Kinnaird Mackellar and his wife, Marion (nee Buckland). The young Dorothea received private tutoring in painting, fencing and languages and later attended lectures at Sydney University, though she never formally enrolled as a student. Speaking French, German, Italian and Spanish fluently, Dorothea acted as interpreter when the family travelled overseas. Having lived a privileged and sheltered life, Dorothea’s first experience of painful reality was the death of her brother Keith in the Boer War.

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.

Totalling more than 2400 ha (6000 acres), these properties were purchased by Sir Charles in 1905. The family already owned a property called “Torryburn” near East Gresford in the Hunter Valley, where Dorothea spent time as a young girl. Sir Charles handed these properties over to his two remaining sons, Eric and Malcolm, who both became well respected and generous members of the Gunnedah community. Over the years Dorothea often visited the area, staying with her brothers and maintaining her horseriding skills.

She became responsible for her ageing parents, and consequently wrote very little after her father’s death in 1926. She had acquired “Tarrangaua”, a splendidly located retreat at Lovett Bay on Sydney’s Pittwater where she swam and read. Her mother died in 1933 and Dorothea divided her time mostly between “Cintra”, a house in Darling Point, and “Tarrangaua.”

Her brother Malcolm sold “Kurrumbede” in 1939 as there were no direct Mackellar descendents. The last 10 years of Dorothea’s life were spent in a Randwick nursing home in increasingly ill health. She outlived her younger brothers however, dying in her sleep on 14th January 1968. The funeral service was held at the historic St Mark’s Church at Darling Point, and her poem “Colour” was read at the service. According to her nurse, Adrienne Howley, Dorothea regarded this poem as her finest work. Her ashes were placed in the family vault at Waverley Cemetery in Sydney.


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