About John Blay

John Blay, writer and naturalist, was born at Parramatta in 1944 and has written extensively about the bush and its people in prose, drama and poetry. During an epic bushwalk in 1982, he discovered a new species of wattle in the Brogo wilderness. Growing to over 30 metres, the species was named Acacia blayana in his honour. He has served as a national Arts & Reviews Editor and has published photographs and stories in magazines like Good Weekend. He continues his work in the SE Forests and writes about the region’s natural history.

After 2001, he has been involved in researching the Bundian Way in association with local Aboriginal communities and as the Bundian Way Project Officer for Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council. His extensive researches and bushwalks whilst investigating the important traditional route, resulted in its official recognition and NSW Heritage listing in 2012.

His prize-winning sculptures have been shown in Sydney, Bermagui, Jindabyne and Delegate. A selection of his photographs was exhibited in Sydney in November 2004 and feature in an ongoing exhibition in Delegate at the Bundian Way Aboriginal Art Gallery (2012-18).

Publications Authored


Wild Nature: walking Australia’s south east forests

Published by NewSouth 2020

This is a beautiful and enchanting book. John Blay is a superb walking companion – a naturalist, historian and philosopher whose writing glows with wit, wisdom and wonder. I savoured every word and relished every step. Wild Nature is a journal of meditation, observation and exploration, and a delicate natural and human history of the south east forests. What is nature, and how do we value it today? How did we save these special places and how might we lose them? Pick up this book and set foot in another world, a wild one nested within our own.       — Tom Griffiths

Moving and vividly told. John Blay’s Wild Nature is a book like no other, written on the soles of his boots and in the wildness of his heart. At once personal, historical and political, it bears witness to the majesty and fragility of a unique Australian environment        — Mark McKenna

A brilliant natural history of the south east forests. Blay brings a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion to every walk     Inga Simpson

Back Country Trek through the Deua and Wadbilliga

Published by Canopy Press  2016

John Blay’s first book in the trilogy, Back Country Trek through the Deua and Wadbilliga, follows an extraordinary walk through the history and ways of Australia’s south-eastern escarpment ranges and their very special wildlife. This edition has been extensively updated and revised.

…an environmental classic…  Canberra Times

On Track: Searching out the Bundian Way

   Published by NewSouth 2015

The Bundian Way is a reconciliation … This is a track, a meeting place, that links the freshwater to the saltwater, the beaches to the mountains. People traversed that track for a lot longer than most of us can get our heads around. And it should be a track for all of us to come together now.    — Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner

On Track is proof that the land still has its mysteries, and that after more than 200 years, the age of explorers is not yet over. John Blay, with a poet’s sensibility and a poet’s eye for detail, takes us step by step across country as he puts the Bundian Way back on the map.   — David Malouf

The Australian Wildflower Diary

   Published by Wildlife Presentations 1995

The Australian Native Plant Gardener’s Almanac 2nd Edition

   Published by Wildlife Presentations 1995

The Australian Native Plant Gardener’s Almanac

   Published by Wildlife Presentations 1994

It doesn’t matter if you don’t plant anything, this book is so practical and so beautifully designed you’ll wish you wanted to     – Susan Geason, The Sun Herald

Back Country

   Published by Methuen 1987

…the prose is as tough as the salt pork that the likes of Eyre and John McDouall Stuart used to gnaw at when they were lost… his encounters with bush people and reflections on the infinite— all contribute to a bracing read… It’s a rewarding experience to follow     — Derek Whitelock, Sydney Morning Herald

…the text is peppered with sensitive observations on the country through which he travels and the people he meets. Most of the writing is brisk and good humoured, including lively episodes which display the skill of a practiced playwright… It kept taking me back in fond imaginative memory to Ovid and the child in David Malouf’s An Imaginary Life.     — Ray Ericksen, Habitat

…more in the tradition of English narratives of long walks in strange and lonely places. Blay is a professional writer and it shows in his robust text which attains a plateau of excellence not often reached by writers about the bush… a classic tale     — Graeme Barrow, The Canberra Times

Part of the Scenery

   Published by McPhee Gribble/Penguin 1984

…Thanks to its over-riding good humour, it has the spontaneity of Richard Brautigan’s rewriting of Thoreau’s Walden. It’s a wonderful book of characters and things that clamber through the forest with details delivered with a confident poetic touch.     — Tom Thompson, National Times

…There are no shallow panegyrics in Part of the Scenery about pre-industrial paradises in nature, nothing facile about the attainment of spiritual oneness. Blay speaks to us of hard work, experiment and emotion­al desperation. But his quiet expertise about lyrebirds and bushrats in his Bermagui forest never fails to impress and fascinate…– David Myers, Sydney Morning Herald


Bedbug Celebration

Pram Factory 1981

Vinegar Hill

(Verse Play) ABC Radio 1972

The Journeys of Aubrey D

ABC Radio 1974


ABC Radio 1972


ABC Radio 1974

Doin’ our Best to Deny It

ABC Radio 1975

The Great Village Dream

ABC Radio 1976

Variations on a Theme of the Lyrebird

ABC Radio 1987

The Jazz Singer

ABC Radio 1987

The Fleet

ABC Radio 1988




Journalism & Reviews

  • Sydney Morning Herald
  • Canberra Times
  • National Times
  • Books & Writing
  • Good Weekend
  • Arts & Reviews Editor: The Republican
  • Australian Geographic
  • The Australian Literary Review

Papers & Essays

Seeing the Forest and the Trees

The Australian Literary Review, February 2008 (vol.3 no.1)

Truth and Terror in Fire’s Ancient Kingdom

The Australian Literary Review, April 2009 (vol.4 no.3)

Moving Forwards

ICOMOS conference 2013 Historic Environment 2014 (Vol 26 No. 1 – 2014)

AWAY on the Bundian Way

(with Blackburn and Dorrough) in Marshall A. J. (ed.) Land of sweeping plains. CSIRO Publishing, 2014

The Bundian Way: mapping with stories

Science and stewardship to protect and sustain wilderness values:

Tenth World Wilderness Congress symposium; Salamanca, Spain 2013. Publication: US Forest Service 2014


Uncle Bill Campbell and the Blue Boat appeared in Sculpture on the Edge at Bermagui in March 2017.
Les St Hill and the Tin Canoe appeared, in different forms, at Bondi (2017), Bermagui (2018) and Jindabyne (2018) .

Awards & Grants

  • Farmers Poetry Prize – 1969
  • Young Writers Fellowship – 1972
  • New Writers Fellowship – 1973
  • Writers Fellowship – 1975
  • Creative Writing Fellowship – 1975
  • Senior Writers Fellowship – 1980
  • Parks Writers Award – 1981
  • Bicentennial Commission – 1987
  • Australian History Award – 2002
  • Australian History Award – 2003
  • Heritage Volunteer Award – 2012 (in association with ELALC and the BWAC)
  • Major Award, Lake Light Sculpture Jindabyne – 2018

Film Development Grants

Australian Film Commission – 1988

  • Australian Film Commission – 1989
  • Australian Film Commission – 1990
  • Australian Film Commission – 1991


Arts & Reviews

The R- 1997/8

Arts & Reviews

The New Republican – 1998/99