Award-winning Surf Coast poet captures spirit of the outback

April 15, 2021 BY

Surf Coast poet David Campbell (left) has been awarded one of the top prizes in Australia's poetry scene by Cloncurry mayor Gregory Campbell. Photo: SUPPLIED

A SURF Coast poet has found himself $10,000 richer following a nationwide poetry competition celebrating the spirit of the outback.

David Campbell received one of the largest prizes available for a single poem for his piece titled The Heart and Soul of Australia.

Mr Campbell skilfully used traditional rhyming verse to integrate the services of the Royal Flying Doctor with climate change and respecting First Nations people to win the Cloncurry prize.

“One of the significant things about Cloncurry is that it’s where the Royal Flying Doctor service began so I centred the poem around that spirit of selflessness to explore a couple of other areas that I think we need to deal with as a nation, climate change being one of them,” he said.

“I combined the attitude for the Flying Doctor Service to the sort of attitude we need when dealing with climate change and that involves embracing our Indigenous people.

“In terms of dealing with climate change, paying greater respect to our First Nations people and their understanding of how the seasons work and how to work with the land so it is not degraded is one of the greatest challenges if not the greatest challenge we face at the moment.”

The Cloncurry prize attracted 220 poems from writers all over the country and despite his 20 years of experience, Mr Campbell said he was not expecting to come out on top.

From his poem he writes, “the spirit that we’re seeking can be found in all that drives the compassion of the flying doctor crews in the twenty-four-hour service that has saved so many lives, dedication that so rarely makes the news.”

“And those fundamental lessons have to come, in part, from those well attuned to all the rhythms of the earth, our Indigenous First Peoples who have known the highs and lows of the seasons since the moment of their birth.

“For millennia have taught them how to work with nature’s laws, how to take just what they need and nothing more, a philosophy essential as an urgent global cause to avoid a vast environmental war.”

Cloncurry mayor Gregory Campbell said the concept behind the competition was to highlight the country and ignite a sense of national pride.

“David’s poem represents the spirit of the outback and pays tribute to services in the bush, which included a reference to the Royal Flying Doctor,” he said.

Cr Campbell, who said he has never won a competition this large, joined the Cloncurry mayor at the award presentation in North Queensland last month.

“In providing one of the richest poetry prizes in Australia, the council is encouraging poets to use their skills to continue the great poetic traditions established a century ago,” he said.

“I greatly appreciate the opportunity to be involved and congratulate those instrumental in creating the award and may it provide inspiration to poets in all styles of poetry for many years to come.”