Lake Macquarie History

Roland Robinson 1912-1992

Roland Robinson was born in Balbriggan, County Clare, Ireland in 1912. He came to Australia with his parents at the age of nine. After a brief education he worked at many jobs, including rouseabout on a sheep station, boundary rider, railway fettler, fencer, dam builder, factory worker, ballet dancer, gardener and golf course groundsman.

photo: roland robinson

His love and pursuit of poetry intertwined throughout this amazing array of occupations and his travels with swag throughout the land. Everywhere he went he wrote poetry and was fortunate in meeting and being encouraged by fellow writers like Mary Gilmore. He in turn became a tireless worker encouraging younger poets through activities like writers workshops, and publishing many in a series of books from his own imprint Lyrebird Press.

His first collection of poetry was published in 1944 and his publications included verse, short stories, autobiographies and a television play. He was an outstanding member of the group of poets who called themselves the Jindyworobaks. This was a nationalistic Australian literary movement which ran from the 1930s to 1950s. The members of this group both black and white, endeavoured to promote indigenous Australian ideas and customs, particularly through poetry. The movement was born at a time when the high rate of immigration raised concerns about the influx of introduced cultures and their effect on Australian arts.

As you would expect, he made many friends among the aboriginal people he met and came to know so well, and he fought more than one battle on their behalf. Above all he has always listened to, loved and understood their stories, myths and legends. Many of these Roland recorded and rendered into his poetry. He was a Member, Kirsova Ballet from 1944-47 and carried his love for dance into his work as a ballet critic for the Sydney Morning Herald. Roland was a book reviewer and ballet critic for both the Sydney Morning Herald and the Newcastle Herald. He was also editor of Poetry Australia and President of both the Poetry Society of Australia and the Lake Macquarie Poetry Society.

Roland spent his later years in Lake Macquarie. After his death in 1992 Lake Macquarie City Council established the annual Roland Robinson Literary Awards to honour his contribution to literature and to foster creative literary talent in the City.

All requests for permissions to commercially reproduce, publish or perform Roland Robinson's work should be sought from the publishers - Harper and Collins Australia.

Awards and Honours

  • the Patrick White Prize 1974;
  • Emeritus Professor
  • Literature Board of the Australia Council 1982;
  • Order of Australia 1988;
  • Honorary Doctor of Letters, University of Newcastle University1991,
  • Freeman of the City of Lake Macquarie 1991.
  • Lake Macquarie had been Roland's home for many years before his death at Belmont in 1992. To honour Roland 's life and his association with Lake Macquarie, the City established an annual Roland Robinson Literary Award which ran from 1994 to 2004
  • The new Belmont branch of Lake Macquarie City Library was opened in 1997 and was named in memory of Roland Robinson D. Litt, OAM. Robinson was a resident of Belmont North.



  • Beyond the Grass-Tree Spears. Adelaide, Jindyworobak, 1944.
  • Language of the Sand. Sydney, Lyre Bird, 1948.
  • Tumult of the Swans. Sydney, Edwards and Shaw, 1953.
  • Deep Well. Sydney, Edwards and Shaw, 1962.
  • Grendel. Brisbane, Jacaranda Press, 1967.
  • Altjeringa and Other Aboriginal Poems. Sydney, Reed, 1970.
  • Selected Poems. Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1971.
  • The Hooded Lamp. Sydney, Edwards and Shaw, 1976.
  • Selected Poems, 1944-82, edited by A.G. Bennett and Michael Sharkey. Armidale, New South Wales, Kardaordir Press, 1984; revised edition, Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1989.

Short Stories

  • Black-Feller, White-Feller. Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1958.


  • Legend and Dreaming: Legends of the Dream-Time of the Australian Aborigines. Sydney, Edwards and Shaw, 1952.
  • The Feathered Serpent: The Mythological Genesis and Recreative Ritual of the Aboriginal Tribes of the Northern Territory of Australia. Sydney, Edwards and Shaw, 1956.
  • The Man Who Sold His Dreaming. Sydney, Currawong, 1965.
  • Aboriginal Myths and Legends. Melbourne, Sun, 1966.
  • The Australian Aboriginal in Colour, photographs by Douglas Baglin. Sydney, Reed, 1968.


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

As editor

  • Wandjina: Children of the Dreamtime: Aboriginal Myths and Legends. Brisbane, Jacaranda Press, 1968.
  • The Nearest the White Man Gets. Sydney, Hale and Iremonger, 1989.


[n.d.] Roland Robinson research file, research papers, newspaper clippings, ephemera in possession of Lake Mac Libraries, Speers Point, NSW

Acknowledgement of Country

We remember and respect the Ancestors who cared for and nurtured this Country. It is in their footsteps that we travel these lands and waters. Lake Macquarie City Council acknowledges the Awabakal people and Elders past, present and future.

Council acknowledges traditional custodians throughout Australia. We commit to listening deeply to and collaborating with First Peoples in our work.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website and Council's cultural collections may contain images, voices or names of deceased persons in photographs, film, audio recordings or printed material.

This website may contain place names, opinions and terms that reflect authors' views or those of the period in which the item was written or recorded. These may not be considered appropriate today.

If you experience any issues with the website or its content please contact us [email protected]