Judith Wright (born 31 May, 1915) was a prolific Australian poet, critic, and short-story writer. She was also an uncompromising environmentalist and social activist campaigning for Aboriginal land rights. She believed that the poet should be concerned with national and social problems.

Judith Arundell Wright was born near Armidale, New South Wales, into an old and wealthy pastoral family. Wright was raised on her family’s sheep station. After her mother died in 1927, she was educated by her grandmother. At the age of 14 she was sent to New England Girls’ School, where she found consolation through poetry and decided to become a poet. In 1934 she entered at Sydney University where she studied philosophy, history, psychology and English.

Wright’s first book of poetry, The Moving Image, was published in 1946 while she was working at the University of Queensland as a research officer.

In 1950 she moved to Mt Tamborine, Queensland with the novelist and abstract philosopher Jack McKinney. Their daughter Meredith was born in the same year. They married in 1962, although Jack was to live only until 1966.

In “In the Garden”, Fiona Capp revealed the story of the 25-year secret love affair between two of Australia’s most well-known and well-loved public figures, “the famous poet-cum-activist” Judith Wright and the distinguished yet down-to-earth statesman H.C. “Nugget” Coombs. She had moved to Braidwood in order to be closer to Coombs, who was based in Canberra and live her for the last three decades of her life.

Judith Wright was the author of several collections of poetry, including The Moving Image, Woman to Man, The Gateway, The Two Fires, Birds, The Other Half, Magpies, Shadow and much, much more. She was also an avid lover of nature.

Her work is noted for a keen focus on the Australian environment, which began to gain prominence in Australian art in the years following World War II. She deals with the relationship between settlers, Indigenous Australians and the bush, among other themes. Wright’s aesthetic centres on the relationship between mankind and the environment, which she views as the catalyst for poetic creation. Her images characteristically draw from the Australian flora and fauna, yet contain a mythic substrata that probes at the poetic process, limitations of language, and the correspondence between inner existence and objective reality.

Her poems have been translated into Italian, Japanese and Russian.

In 2003, the National Library of Australia published an expanded edition of Wright’s collection titled Birds. Most of these poems were written in the 1950s when she was living on Mt Tamborine. McKinney, Wright’s daughter, writes that they were written at “a precious and dearly-won time of warmth and bounty to counterbalance at last what felt, in contrast, the chilly dearth and difficulty of her earlier years”. McKinney goes on to say that “many of these poems have a newly relaxed, almost conversational tone and rhythm, an often humorous ease and an intimacy of voice that surely reflects the new intimacies and joys of her life”. Despite the joy reflected in the poems, however, they also acknowledge “the experiences of cruelty, pain and death that are inseparable from the lives of birds as of humans … and [turn] a sorrowing a clear-sighted gaze on the terrible damage we have done and continue to do to our world, even as we love it”.
Wright was well known for her campaigning in support of the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef and Fraser Island, becoming one of the founding members of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland.

She was also an impassioned advocate for the Aboriginal land rights movement. Tom Shapcott, reviewing With Love and Fury, her posthumous collection of selected letters published in 2007, comments that her letter on this topic to the Australian Prime Minister John Howard was “almost brutal in its scorn”. Shortly before her death, she attended a march in Canberra for reconciliation between non-indigenous Australians and the Aboriginal people.

Judith Wright died in Canberra on 26 June 2000, aged 85.