Bush Poetry

The Australian Bush Poets Association defines Bush Poetry as ‘metered and rhymed poetry about Australia, Australians and/or the Australian way of life’. The genre includes such iconic works as “The Man From Snowy River” by Banjo Paterson and “My Country” by Dorothea Mackellar.

John O’Brien

‘John O’Brien’ was the pen-name of a bush poet and Catholic priest Patrick Hartigan, who was parish priest of St Mel’s parish in Narrandera from 1917 to 1944.  Recording with humour and pathos the lively faith, solid piety and everyday lives of the people around him, Hartigan successfully combined the old faith of Ireland with the mateship and ethos of the bush, towards the end of an age when the small selectors and squatters went by sulky or ‘shandrydan’ to ‘The Church Upon the Hill’.

The John O’Brien Festival and Competitions

Since 1994 Narrandera has held an annual Festival in honour of the town’s beloved poet and parish priest, with 2014 marking the Festival’s 20th anniversary. The John O’Brien Festival showcases the works of ‘John O’Brien’ himself along with other bush poets from across Australia, and sees wonderful performances each year of both original works and traditional classics.

The John O’Brien Festival seeks to inspire a new generation of bush poets by hosting a number of poetry writing and recital competitions each year, along with an appropriately themed short story writing competition. The Jim Angel Memorial Award is presented annually for the best performance of an original poem.

Click on the links below to find out more about these competitions:

John O’Brien Poetry Competition

Bush Poetry Competition (and Jim Angel Award)

Short Story and Poetry Writing Competition

The winners of each competition will be announced on this website.

Poetry and Writing Competition Results

John O’Brien Festival Competition results for 2016:

Open Writing Competition

Poetry Section

Tony Hammill – Blood and Love: The Irish Saga

Short Story Section

Margot Ogilvie – The Legend of Paddy O’Malley


Poetry Performance Competitions

John O’Brien Poetry Competition:

Heather Searles with The Road to Danahey’s


Bush Poetry Competition:

Serious section
Winner – Sue Pearce
Runner-up – Ted Webber

Humorous section
Winner – Rhonda Tallnash
Runner-up – Heather Searles

Jim Angel Award
Sue Pearce with Love You Daddy