Posted by: Debra Kolkka | September 1, 2012

I love a sunburnt country

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains
Of ragged mountain ranges
Of droughts and flooding rains……

Somehow I don’t think Dorothea Mackellar had this in mind when she wrote the poem about her beloved Australia…..but I’m sure it would have made her smile, it certainly made me smile when I came across it.


This delightful painting is on a signal box cover in Brisbane city. I love it!



Artforce is a Brisbane City Council initiative which calls on residents to design and paint an artwork on a traffic signal box. There are 1,000 boxes in Brisbane and 900 of these are painted. Don’t you think that is a great idea? It is much better than looking at dull grey boxes.

Dorothea Mackellar was in England and homesick for Australia when she wrote her poem which was eventually called My Country. It was first published in 1908. I remember learning it when I was at primary school.

I would love to have shared the whole poem with you, but it is subject to copy-write. I asked permission to print the poem, but it was not given. I suppose there may be a good reason for this…..but I can’t think of one.

Take a look at the official site to see the entire poem.

I leave Brisbane for Bagni di Lucca tomorrow….I will be returning to my sunburnt country in November.


  1. hat a great idea. I love the paintings, and the poem. 🙂

    • I think it is a clever idea, and certainly brightens up the city.

  2. Enjoy your time in BdL, Debra. Happy travelling. I am in Brisbane and loving it as always. I think this city is the best in Australia and I love this country too, but Italy comes second.

    • Thank you! I love my life in both places, just as well I don’t have to choose between the 2.

  3. Safe travels!

    • Thank you. It is a long way, but so worth it.

  4. Brilliant post Debra….just what I needed. All the best for your return to your beautiful new retreat in Bagni di Lucca.

    • Thank you, I am looking forward to being back in the village.

  5. A favourite poem of mine too. A very different interpretation of the title by this clever artist.
    Travel well. We look forward to the new posts from Bella Italia

    • It is a pity I was allowed to share the poem….people are funny.

    • Hi what is your interpretation from the artists point of view?

  6. A very funny interpretation of the poem. Thank you, Debra. Have a good trip. I shall see you in October.

    • We will have a coffee at Bar Italia or Il Monaco.

  7. What a great poem. Whenever I get homesick poems and music do the trick! 😀

    • I could probably still recite the whole poem. I remember our grade 5 teacher reciting it in front of the class.

  8. It’s a wonderful poem, as is the painting. Would love to see some more of the signal boxes. Safe travels.

    • I will photograph more of them when I return to Brisbane in November.

  9. Painting all the signal boxes that are often sooo ugly. Now a place for some clever public art in the most surprising places throughout the city. Such a simple & great idea.

    • I think it is a great idea. There are some great boxes.

  10. This is the work of Lazer Beak Man, very big in the Autism world. An inspiration and I think Dorethy would have loved him!
    ciao lisa x

    • Laser Beak Man has done some wonderful art and s very popular.

  11. Safe travels Debra….. Lovely to catch up again while you were in Brisbane and good luck in finishing your project. We look forward to visiting Bagni Di Lucca hopefully soon..

    • Hopefully the house will be finished when I leave in November.

  12. Debra – love the signal box art – you could do a hundred blogs on them. Bill Bryson wrote a wonderful book called In a Sunburned Country ( – I had no idea the title came from a poem. Shame on them for not letting you print the whole thing. For heaven’s sake!

    • I will photograph more of them when I get back. This one has been newly painted and I love it.

  13. have a good trip and a wonderful relaxing time in bella Italia.
    Todays post made me smile – I wish we could do this here in South India, too. Ciao

    • Thank you, I am looking forward to getting back to Bagni di Lucca.

  14. “My Country” is one of my favourite poems, too! I often quote it whenever I drive through different parts of our beautiful Australian countryside. I agree that colourful paintings look better on dull grey signal boxes. Great to see local art being expressed in different ways.

    • The painting of signal boxes is a great idea. It is certainly better than looking at a dull grey box.

  15. Yup, love places with painted boxes. Imagine thw whole world doing the same thing……

    • I’m surprised more places don’t do it.

  16. Love the idea of painting the boxes. I think it says a lot about a place when they have initiatives like that.

    • Perhaps you could suggest it in your town.

  17. You lucky gal! Safe travels and I look forward to hearing about your house and your time in my favorite place.

    • I am keen to get around the villages in Bagni di Lucca I haven’t been to yet.

  18. Oh you are away across the ocean again. bon voyage! c

    • Thank you, I am looking forward to some more Italia.

  19. Safe travels. Are you interested in meeting some lovely Bagni di Lucchesi? Just spent a week there with some family and friends and mentioned your blog to some smart, nice people there, who deeply care about their town.

  20. Ooh lucky you to be heading back to Europe! I hope this Australian winter politely makes way for the warmer weather… there hasn’t been much hint of that sunburnt country since our return. And I hope the other traffic box artwork is as fun and uplifting as this one 🙂

    • Winter in Brisbane has been lovely. It is still hot in Italy, but I’m hoping it will cool down soon.

  21. I love that, as much for the primary colours as the humour. It reminds me very much of children’s interpretation of things – when Robin was in primary school in England for one term, she had to write a story about Easter and Passover. She finished up with “and then they all had a barbeque”! Happy landings Deb – I do hope your plane has been nicely swept.

    • My plane to Hong Kong looked very clean.

  22. What an absolutely brilliant idea, I love it – kudos to the Brisbane City Council. And the reinterpretation of the poem on the traffic light box made me smile.

    • It is a great initiative by the council. I wonder whose idea it was.

  23. The poem is BEAUTIFUL and the illustration is hysterical. Very, very clever. I find it REALLY odd that you can’t reprint the poem here. And you were so nice to ask…how many people would have done that???

    • Had I been able to find my old poetry book i probably would have copied it unknowingly from there. It was just that I went to the official site that I saw the copy-write notice. I really didn’t think I would be refused.

    • I thought it odd too, it is such a well known and loved poem.

  24. Happy travels Debra.
    (another here, who finds the fact that the poem reprint was denied?…Why, when it is soooo well known, and with appropriate attribrution?)

  25. What a fancy idea to paint the signal box covers. Gives the people a sense of pride and ownership in their city. Great idea!

    I’d never heard that poem before and now I realize I suppose that is where Bill Bryson came up with the name of his book about Australia “In a Sunburnt Country.”

    • I think all Australian school children learned this poem in my era. I wonder if they still do.

  26. What a fabulous idea to paint the signal boxes. I love the humour used in basing it on one of Australia’s most loved poems!

  27. Excellent find! The painted signal boxes around Brisbane and Gold Coast are brilliant, wish there were more of them.

    • I think it is a great idea.

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