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Libby Hathorn presents poets of Australia: Dorothea Mackellar

Students will explore known Australian poet Dorothea Mackellar. Students will listen and respond to her poem 'My Country'. The activities will culminate in the students writing their own poem inspired by their environment. Each Activity has a duration of 40 mins.
Stimulus #1: 
Libby Hathorn's Poets of Australia - Dorothea Mackellar
Stimulus #2: 
Dorothea Mackellar's My Country
Stimulus #3: 
Dorothea Mackellar, writer, 1927, photograph by Moore, May, 1881-1931
Stimulus #4: 
Glass plate negatives of Sydney Harbour from the Holtermann residence, St. Leonards, 1870-1875
Stimulus #5: 
Vineyard, Castle Hill 1927
Stimulus #6: 
Picnic at Mrs Macquarie's Chair, 1855
Stimulus #7: 
Sydney Harbour, 1900
Stimulus #8: 
Photograph album of the employees and inhabitants of the Coolangatta Estate, Shoalhaven River, N.S.W.
Stimulus #9: 
Sydney street life, harbour and beach scenes, domestic animals, ca. 1880s-1900
Stimulus #10: 
Civil Ambulance & Transport Brigade of New South Wales

Featured content

State Library of NSW presents Libby Hathorn's Poets of Australia: Dorothea Mackellar

Caption on bottom

Text type

  • Narrative: poetry

Background notes for teachers

Learning intention

Students are learning:

  • To use language to shape and make meaning according to purpose, audience and context

  • To think in ways that are imaginative, creative, interpretive and critical

Success criteria

Students will be successful when they can:

  • Analyse the writing of Dorothea Mackellar and create a poem using inspiration similar to what she used

  • Learn and recite a verse of Dorothea Mackellar's poem 'My Country'

Background information:

Dorothea Mackellar was born in Point Piper, Sydney in 1885 and died in 1968. Though Dorothea was born in Sydney, her family owned various properties in the country near the Hunter Vally and Gunnedah. Dorothea would often visit the properties. It was her affinity to the land that would be her inspiration for 'My Country'.

'My Country' is one of the most well known and loved Australian poems. Dorothea wrote it at age 22 while she was living in England and missing her home country. It is considered THE quintessential Australian poem. It was first published in the London Spectator on 5 September 1908 and was titled 'Core of My Heart'. The poem was later renamed 'My Country' when it was published in a book of her poetry called 'The Closed Door, and other Verses'.

The 1908 published version can be viewed on Trove


Dorothea Mackellar’s poem, ‘My Country’ is listed on the UNESCO Memory of the World register.  The register recognises and protects heritage documents that are significant for Australia and the world.  For further information click here.

Useful websites:

The Australian Dictionary of Biography is Australia's most important dictionary of national biography. In it you will find concise, informative and fascinating descriptions of the lives of significant and representative persons in Australian history. For further information click here.

I Love a Sunburnt Country by Trevor Knight based it on Dorothea McKellar's iconic poem 'My Country’. Watch it here.

My Country (I love a sunburnt country). Watch it here. Words adapted from the poem My Country by Dorothea Mackellar, music by Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent, arranged by David Lawrence (1982). Origin of audio track uncertain.

Useful Resources:

Australian Dictionary of Biography published online

The ABC Book of Australian Poetry: A treasury of poems for young people compiled by Libby Hathorn

Classic Australian Poems Edited by Christopher Cheng

60 Classic Australian Poems, with commentaries by Geoff Page

The Penguin Book of Modern Australian Poetry edited by John Tranter and Philip Mead


My Country by Dorothea Mackellar

The love of field and coppice 
Of green and shaded lanes, 
Of ordered woods and gardens 
Is running in your veins. 
Strong love of grey-blue distance, 
Brown streams and soft, dim skies 
I know, but cannot share it, 
My love is otherwise. 

I love a sunburnt country, 
A land of sweeping plains, 
Of ragged mountain ranges, 
Of droughts and flooding rains. 
I love her far horizons, 
I love her jewel-sea, 
Her beauty and her terror 
The wide brown land for me! 

The stark white ring-barked forests, 
All tragic to the moon, 
The sapphire-misted mountains, 
The hot gold hush of noon, 
Green tangle of the brushes 
Where lithe lianas coil, 
And orchids deck the tree-tops, 
And ferns the warm dark soil. 

Core of my heart, my country! 
Her pitiless blue sky, 
When, sick at heart, around us 
We see the cattle die 
But then the grey clouds gather, 
And we can bless again 
The drumming of an army, 
The steady soaking rain. 

Core of my heart, my country! 
Land of the rainbow gold, 
For flood and fire and famine 
She pays us back threefold. 
Over the thirsty paddocks, 
Watch, after many days, 
The filmy veil of greenness 
That thickens as we gaze ... 

An opal-hearted country, 
A wilful, lavish land 
All you who have not loved her, 
You will not understand 
though Earth holds many splendours, 
Wherever I may die, 
I know to what brown country 
My homing thoughts will fly. 

Student Activities

Who is Dorothea Mackellar?

Students will learn about who Dorothea Mackellar is and her influence on Australian literature.

Number of set tasks: 1

My Country

Students learn about the poem 'My Country' written by Dorothea Mackellar, and write their own poem inspired by their local area.

Number of set tasks: 3

NSW Syllabus for the Australian Curriculum: English K-10

A student:

  • composes, edits and presents well-structured and coherent texts EN3-2A
  • uses an integrated range of skills, strategies and knowledge to read, view and comprehend a wide range of texts in different media and technology EN3-3A
  • uses knowledge of sentence structure, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary to respond to and compose clear and cohesive texts in different media and technologies EN3-6B
  • thinks imaginatively, creatively, interpretively and critically about information and ideas and identifies connections between texts when responding to and composing texts EN3-7C



Engage personally with texts

  • Understand and appreciate the way texts are shaped through exploring a range of language forms and features and ideas.
  • Experiment and use aspects of composing that enhance learning and enjoyment

Respond to and compose texts

  • Compose imaginative and informative texts that show evidence of developed ideas
  • identify the relationship between words, sounds, imagery and language patterns in narratives and poetry such as ballads, limericks and free verse (ACELT1617)

Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features

  • understand, interpret and experiment with the use of imagery in imaginative texts, poetry and songs, eg similes, metaphors, personification and sound devices such as alliteration


Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features

  • Analyse how text structures and language features work together to meet the purpose of a text (ACELY1711) 
  • Recognise and compare how composers use a range of language features, including connectives, topic sentences and active and passive voice, to achieve their purposes


Respond to and compose texts

  • select appropriate language for a purpose, eg descriptive, persuasive, technical, evaluative, emotive and colloquial, when composing texts


Engage personally with texts

  • Recognise and explain creative language features in imaginative, informative and persuasive texts that contribute to engagement and meaning

Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features

  • Identify the relationship between words, sounds, imagery and language patterns in narratives and poetry such as ballads, limericks and free verse

In each year of Stage 3, students must study examples of:

  • spoken texts
  • print texts

Across the stage, the selection must give students experiences of:

  • Texts which are widely regarded as quality literature
  • Widely defined Australian literature, including texts that give insights into Aboriginal experiences in Australia
  • Wide range of literary texts, including poetry, drama scripts, prose fiction and picture books

General Capabilities

  • Creative and Critical Thinking
  • Literacy