David Rowbotham AM, BA

2007 Patrick White Award
2005 Commemorative Medal for “Service to Australia” in World War II.
1991 Order of Australia (AM). For services to Literature and Journalism.
1989 Emeritus Fellowship Literature: Australia Council
1970 Captain Cook Bicentenary Medal
1965 Xavier Society Prize
1964 Grace Leven Prize
1950 SMH Poetry Prize
1949 Syd. Univ. Henry Lawson Prize
1948 Ford Memorial Medal (Qld Univ)

PATRICK WHITE AWARD 2007. I thought the citation marks out an apt beginning for a summary of what lies behind my work.  I was a rebellious boy in patched pants sitting in the apricot tree staring out at a world I could never enter in any other way than by scribbling poems and stories in my exercise book.  “His first published poem appeared in the Toowoomba Grammar magazine in 1939”.  I was then 14.   “He has been writing ever since.”  The citation’s ending just about completes the picture.  “He is one of Australian literature’s great survivors … and has written and published prolifically on subjects from landscape to wars, love, emigration and faith … [at 83] he continues to write vigorously and well.”

Now in my 80s, I have produced four paperbacks (2005-2006) of 100 poems that speak of our times.  My father was a boot-maker, my mother came from the farmlands.  “The Star of Engelmeer” (2006) was written to pay homage to their generation and kind.  They suffered, cruelly, two Great Wars and a Great Depression.  I also wanted to look at war and its waste from my own experience.  I was born at Toowoomba, the Darling Downs, in 1924, into space and all the colours of the rainbow.  For three years.  The war took it away from me.  Survival – in a fashion.

When I flew home from the Solomons, I felt free and alive again.  War deadens you.  I entered journalism, my paying profession, and did a stint teaching in Academe.  Because of ill-health I retired 20 years ago, and examined myths and aftermaths.  All of these things went into my 25 publications.  Small wonder, after much world travel, that space, and the greatest of issues – the human heart – went into my work, with the sound of my father’s hammer and my mother’s sewing machine somehow leading the way.  The onset of age and blindness has constrained me to look out of my night-time window, towards our vermiform river and its cantilever bridge, and beyond.  My thanks to providence, and the support and long sufferance of my family that, despite aftermaths and handicaps, I have been given a rich and eventful life, taking me from the beauty of laughter into the heart of mankind on the moon.