Dorothy Porter

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Dorothy Porter
Dorothy Porter.jpg
BornDorothy Featherstone Porter
(1954-03-26)26 March 1954
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Died10 December 2008(2008-12-10) (aged 54)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Education Queenwood School for Girls
Alma mater University of Sydney

Dorothy Featherstone Porter (26 March 1954 10 December 2008) was an Australian poet. She was a recipient of the Christopher Brennan Award.

The Christopher Brennan Award is an Australian award given for lifetime achievement in poetry. The award, established in 1973, takes the form of a bronze plaque which is presented to a poet who produces work of "sustained quality and distinction". It is awarded by the Fellowship of Australian Writers and is named after the poet Christopher Brennan.


Early life

Porter was born in Sydney. Her father was barrister Chester Porter and her mother, Jean, was a high school chemistry teacher. Porter attended the Queenwood School for Girls. She graduated from the University of Sydney in 1975 with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English and History. [1]

Chester Porter QC is a prominent retired Australian barrister.

Queenwood School for Girls Independent single-sex primary and secondary day school in Australia

The Queenwood School for Girls, often abbreviated as Queenwood, is a multi-campus independent non-denominational Christian co-educational primary and secondary day school for girls, located in the suburb of Mosman, on the Lower North Shore of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

University of Sydney Australian university founded in 1850

The University of Sydney is an Australian public research university in Sydney, Australia. Founded in 1850, it is Australia's first university and is regarded as one of the world's leading universities. The university is known as one of Australia's 6 sandstone universities. Its campus is ranked in the top 10 of the world's most beautiful universities by the British Daily Telegraph and The Huffington Post, spreading across the inner-city suburbs of Camperdown and Darlington. The university comprises nine faculties and university schools, through which it offers bachelor, master and doctoral degrees.

Works and awards

Porter's awards include The Age Book of the Year for poetry, the National Book Council Award for The Monkey's Mask and the FAW Christopher Brennan Award for poetry. Two of her verse novels were shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award: What a Piece of Work in 2000 and Wild Surmise in 2003. In 2000, the film The Monkey's Mask was made from her verse novel of the same name. In 2005, her libretto The Eternity Man , co-written with composer Jonathan Mills, was performed at the Sydney Festival. [2]

The Age Book of the Year Awards were annual literary awards presented by Melbourne's The Age newspaper. The awards were first presented in 1974. After 1998, they were presented as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival. Initially, two awards were given, one for fiction, the other for non-fiction work, but in 1993, a poetry award in honour of Dinny O'Hearn was added. The criteria were that the works be "of outstanding literary merit and express Australian identity or character", and be published in the year before the award was made. One of the award-winners was chosen as The Age Book of the Year. The awards were discontinued in 2013.

The Miles Franklin Literary Award is an annual literary prize awarded to "a novel which is of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases". The award was set up according to the will of Miles Franklin (1879–1954), who is best known for writing the Australian classic My Brilliant Career (1901). She bequeathed her estate to fund this award. As of 2016, the award is valued A$60,000.

<i>Wild Surmise</i> book by Dorothy Porter

Wild Surmise is a 2002 verse novel by Australian poet Dorothy Porter which was shortlisted for the 2003 Miles Franklin Award.

Porter's last book published during her life was El Dorado, her fifth verse novel, about a serial child killer. The book was nominated for several awards including the inaugural Prime Minister's Literary Award in 2007 and for Best Fiction in the Ned Kelly Awards. [3]

The Ned Kelly Awards are Australia's leading literary awards for crime writing in both the crime fiction and true crime genres. They were established in 1996 by the Crime Writers Association of Australia to reward excellence in the field of crime writing within Australia.

Two other works have been published posthumously: her poetry collection The Bee Hut (2009), as well as has her final completed work, an essay on literary criticism and emotions, entitled On Passion.

Porter, who found many outlets for writing, including fiction for young adults and libretti for chamber operas, was working on a rock opera called January with Tim Finn at the time of her death. [3]

Tim Finn New Zealand musician and member of Crowded House

Brian Timothy "Tim" Finn is a New Zealand singer and musician. His musical career includes forming 1970s and 1980s New Zealand rock group Split Enz, a number of solo albums, temporary membership in his brother Neil's band Crowded House and joint efforts with Neil Finn as the Finn Brothers.

Personal life

Porter was an open lesbian [4] and in 1993 moved to Melbourne to be with her partner, fellow writer Andrea Goldsmith. The couple were coincidentally both shortlisted in the 2003 Miles Franklin Award for literature. [3] In 2009, Porter was posthumously recognised by the website as one of the most influential gay and lesbian Australians. [5]

Porter was a self-described pagan, committed to pagan principles of courage, stoicism and commitment to the earth and beauty.


Porter had been suffering from breast cancer for four years before her death, but "many thought she was winning the battle," according to journalist Matt Buchanan. [3] In the last three weeks of her life she became very sick and was admitted to hospital, where she was in intensive care for the final 10 days. She died aged 54 on 10 December 2008. [3]

On 21 February 2010, actress Cate Blanchett read excerpts from Porter's posthumously published short work on literary criticism and emotions in literature, On Passion, at the Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne. [6]


Poetry collections
Libretti (with composer Jonathan Mills)
Verse novels
Fiction for young adults
Literary criticism

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  1. AustLit, the Australian Literature Resource.
  2. McCallum, Peter: Review: The Eternity Man, The Age , 24 January 2005.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 "Dorothy Porter dies" by Matthew Buchanan, The Sydney Morning Herald , 10 December 2008
  4. "Porter dead at 54", Sydney Star Observer , 10 December 2008, retrieved 19 December 2008
  5. "25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians 2009" Archived 26 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine at
  6. "Blanchett delivers Porter's 'Passion'" by Frances Atkinson, The Age , 22 February 2010