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WA Bush Poets History

Sometimes, when people think of Australian bush poetry, they think of the great bush bards from the early days like Adam Lindsay Gordon or the likes of Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson. But in fact, the bush poetry movement has been quietly growing in Australia for the last two centuries. Today, we are blessed with a myriad of talent from youngsters through to old timers, all hell bent on recording our everyday events and our unique bush history for future generations to enjoy. While plenty of locals have been writing bush poetry for years, the Western Australian club itself is relatively new.


Back In 1995, Perth resident Rusty Christensen decided to set about forming a club. He had been hearing stories about how bush poetry was gaining in popularity in the Eastern States and inspired by a book of poetry by Blue the Shearer, better known as Col Wilson, he decided that WA should join the trend.


With the assistance of fellow Rotarian Trevor Cooksley, the pair approached their local council, the City of Melville, and received enthusiastic support from Anne Farrin, the Council's Art Officer at the time. Anne agreed to take on the administrative role and Rusty set about bringing together all of the people he knew of who were out there, telling tall tales and quirky yarns, and writing poetry and spruiking It to anyone who would listen.


Tho groups first official concert was hold in the picturesque bush sotting of Wireless Hill Park in Ardross, a southern suburb of Perth on Sunday 15th September 1995


Wireless Hill Park, a unique place of bushland In the middle of suburbia, was Perth’s original Wireless Communication Station and was set up in 1912. Much of the original infrastructure can still be soon today and In spring, the park boasts some of the best examples of Western Australian wildflowers, making it an ideal setting for Bush Poetry


The first concert turned out to be a moderate success with 60 people attending. The group was encouraged enough to organise another event to coincide with the following year's Australia Day celebrations at the park and this time, 200 people attended.

Rusty Christensen and Rod Lee 2007


Early the following year, a group of bush poetry enthusiasts mot at the Tivoli Theatre at Canning Bridge in Applecross to form the now infamous WA Bush Poets & Yarn Spinners Association Incorporated.

A Constitution was duly drawn up and office bearers were elected, and the nearby watering hole, better known as the Raffles Hotel, became the venue for the monthly meetings that followed.


During 1996, the club decided to hold a series of selection heats to provide competitors for the following year's Australia Day Bush Poetry Competition at Wireless Hill Park. The winner of that competition was Keith Lethbridge, who took out the prestigious prize of a trip to Winton in Queensland for the Waltzing Matilda Bush Poetry Competition. Even today, Keith Lethbridge is still considered to be the benchmark for all Western Australian Bush Poets.


Since those early days, the Australia Day competition continued to be held at Wireless Hill Park. In 2004, the event was changed to a Bush Poetry Showcase to cater for the huge numbers clamouring to perform to the masses. The first State Championships were held in that year at the Fremantle Arts Centre.

In May 2017, the Assn's founder, Rusty Christensen passed away. Deteriorating health over the several years to that time saw his role gradually diminish, but he was still able to recite some of his favourites well into 2016. In 2008, Rusty had been awarded the Assn's first Life membership. On Australia Day, 2015 it was noted that all six of the people who had occupied the president's chair were present, namely, (in order) Rusty, Lorelie Tarcoma, Peter Nettleton, Rusty once more, Brian langley, John Hayes and the incumbent Bill Gordon. Following his retirement as President in 2007, Rusty had intended to write a history of the WA Bush Poets & Yarn Spinners Assn, but unfortunately, this was not to be.

Arthur Leggett

The association's aim is to stimulate Interest and enthusiasm for this very special style of Australian performing art, particularly among the younger generation.


The City of Melville and the Town of Victoria Park continue to support our association in these endeavours, as do the Federal member for Swan,  the WA MLC for Victoria Park, and occasionally "Healthway" the public face of the WA Department of Health, who's message "Act, Belong, Commit" now forms part of our ongoing promotional messages.


In 2004, the Association joined the Technology age and commenced this website with just 3 pages of information. Since that time the website has grown to Include performing member profiles, upcoming events, contact information, some member's poems and a whole lot more about the association and "Bush Poetry" in general In addition, This website now Includes an ever expanding list of Bush Poetry


The Association currently has around 100 members, about sixty of whom live in the greater Perth Metro Area, the remainder are scattered throughout the state. While a significant number of members are other writer or performers (or both), many simply join for the enjoyment of being part of the Bush Poetry scene, In Albany, Bunbury and Geraldton groups meet regularly .


In the past, some members have had regular Radio Programs on WA Regional Radio, however programming changes have seen this aspect become a thing of the past but, from time to time members appear in guest spots on various radio stations throughout the State. In 2016, you are more likely to see Bush Poets, including West Australians on YouTube than hear them on the radio.

The Association (or its members as individuals) is involved in the the management of many Bush Poetry Events throughout the State. Currently (2017) there are 3 major events in WA, By far the longest running is the Bush Poetry events that accompany the WA Country Music Festival at Boyup Brook each February. (This was originally set up by Brian Gale in 1991). Later, Ron Evans took over the reigns which have now been passed on to Bill Gordon The major Bush Poetry event at this festival has attracted audiences of over 2000.

The second is the Annual "Bush Poetry Showcase" held on Australia Day at Wireless Hill Park in Suburban Ardross - this typically attracts an audience of several hundred.


A new event which had its inauguration in November 2012 is the Annual Toodyay Bush Poetry Festival. The 2012 event, initially started by John Hayes was a fore-runner to what, now is a full weekend of Bush Poetry Concerts, Workshops and Competition In 2017, in association with the Annual Festival, the Australian Bush Poetry Assn will hold their National Championships. This is only the second time that the "Nationals" have been held in W.A., the one previous time, in 2004 was in Perth.


In Albany, Peter Blyth gets a group of Poets together to perform at the Albany Show. Corin Linch in Jurien has been the Bush Poetry co-ordinator for the Waddi Festival at Badgingarra (which unfortunately only ran for a few years) and for some other events in the region.


Victoria Brown in Esperance co-ordinates a Bush Poets Brekky at the Esperance Ag. Show, along with running sometimes workshops on the south coast.


Irene Conner, in Jurien has spread her wings and talent and has become involved in the organising of a number of regional written competitions, along with assisting others in the running of country events.


Catherine McLernon in Geraldton gets involved in a number of local events,


In 2013, Alan Aitkin started a new group in Bunbury which meets regularly while up at Derby, members organise the local Annual Bush Festival in early July •

In the past, prior to running a touring and entertainment business (Diggers Camp in Oakford) in which a significant part is Bush Poetry, Rod and Kerry Lee were involved in the management of several near country Bush Poetry events. Other members have also been involved in the management of various regional festivals and events. Past member Peter Capp having moved to Eastern Parts fids himself as part of the performing group "3 Randy Poets" while other performing members also use their skills in various theatrical endeavours.


On the non performing scene, a considerable number of West Australian members have won prizes in writing Bush Poetry in various written Verse competitions both in the State and Nationally. Foremost among these are V.P. Read, Keith Lethbridge, Terry Piggott and Irene Conner.


The Monthly Muster venue has changed over the years. For a time it was at the Tivoli Theatre, then the Raffles Hotel. When the Raffles was knocked down for re-development, we moved to the South Perth Bowling Club followed later by the Mt. Pleasant Bowling club.


In June 2008, we moved to the Auditorium at Bentley Park Retirement Village (Previously Swan Cottages) , with a view to increasing muster attendance, in Novemebr 2012 we moved to the East Victoria Park RSL Hall. The hoped for increase in Muster attendance did not happen and so in July 2013, we moved back to Bentley Park (link to Google Maps) where we remain to this day.


Commencing at 7.00pm, typically around 45 people, members and friends, come along each month to enjoy the poetry and stories and also the camaraderie of being with people who share a common interest.


New visitors are very welcome to come along and join in the Association's fun and activities.

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