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Dorothea Mackellar was born in Sydney, the daughter of Sir Charles Mackellar, a highly regarded physician and parliamentarian, and Marion (nee Buckland) Mackellar. Following her education in Australia (where she was privately tutored and then informally attended classes at The University of Sydney), Mackellar travelled overseas. She was fluent in French, German, Italian and Spanish and was able to act as translator for her family. Mackellar travelled again to Europe during the 1920s and 1930s.
Mackellar's best known and much loved poem 'Core of My Heart' ('My Country') was written during a sojourn in England when she was nineteen years old (although it was revised on her return to Australia). During that same visit Mackellar formed a friendship with the English writer, Patrick Chalmers.
Mackellar's writing was published in Australia and abroad in such newspapers and magazines as the Bulletin, the Spectator (UK) and Harper's Magazine (USA). She published two novels with her friend Ruth Bedford (q.v.). She formed the Sydney branches of Zonta and the PEN Club.
Her health deteriorated in the late 1920s and eventually put an end to her writing. However she was made an Officer of the British Empire in 1968, shortly before her death, for Services to Australian Literature.
See also Bernice May's article on the young Dorothea Mackellar in The Australian Woman's Mirror, v.3, n.49, 1 November, 1927, pp. 11, 54. May writes about Mackellar's use of colour in her poetry and the article also includes a portrait photograph.