Henry Lawson: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Mary Evans

Mary has taught elementary school for six years and has a master's degree in education.

What was life like for a young, adventurous, deaf poet in Australia in the late 1800s? Read this lesson on writer and 'bush poet' Henry Lawson to find out that it might not be what you would imagine.


Henry Lawson was destined to become one of Australia's most famous poets, but his life didn't begin very extraordinarily. Lawson was born in New South Wales, Australia on June 17, 1867, and his family moved around a lot so his father could join the gold rush. Unsuccessful at that, they settled on a plot of land at Pipeclay Creek, near Eurunderee.

Henry was the oldest of four children. His parents were unhappy in their marriage and their financial stress put a lot of drain and worry on Henry as well. On top of that, he started to become deaf after becoming sick at around eight or nine years old, which made it difficult for him to make friends or do well in the newly established school in his town. Henry was withdrawn and shy, but he did have kind teachers who helped cultivate, or grow, his interest in poetry.

Photograph of Henry Lawson in 1902, when he was around 35 years old
photo of Henry Lawson

Becoming a Writer

Having had only three years of schooling, it seems unlikely that Henry would be such a literary success. But after his parents' divorce he went to live with his mother in Sydney, where he worked a string of dead end jobs and eventually became completely deaf. She was quite a lady! Louisa was involved in the women's movement, edited a women's newspaper, and eventually published Henry's first book. She and her friends encouraged Henry's writing, and likely had a big impact on it.

In addition to poetry, Henry also tried his hand at newspaper writing. He contributed poetry and prose (writing in paragraph form), moving to Brisbane to write for the Boomerang. The paper folded after a short time, so Henry returned to Sydney, where he wrote for the Bulletin.

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