A Brave and Passionate Life – Dawn de Ramirez

Dawn de Ramirez is a Queen of reinvention. At 75 she won’t age gracefully. Hell, a woman of Dawn’s calibre won’t age at all. Dawn did what many of us have longed to do at one time or another; she ran away and toured with a circus! An alluring Bohemian spirit inhabits this regal woman, and I am spellbound.

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Tell me about when you left home. You were very young.

Yes, I was. I was fourteen. I was an aspiring actress in the Attic Theatre Group in Sydney. I was written up as Sydney’s most promising ingénue in the Daily Telegraph! I left it all behind to join the circus.

How did that come about?

I went and inquired about typist work at Bullen Brothers. Old Ma Bullen and Bullen Bill put me on as Bill’s knife-throwing assistant!

Because of my Koori heritage, he said that I looked like an American Indian. I went to England in my early 20’s and needed work to fund my stay. I saw a flyer to become a Digger Pugh girl and signed up. I was a high-wire trapeze artist and toured throughout Europe, handled snakes and became part of a motorcycle trapeze show.

I worked in Germany, France, Belgium, Italy and Spain as well as in Australia. I got to know Slim Dusty and his wife Joan on the road, as well as Jimmy Little and many others. It was the ‘60’s and the happiest time of my life.

Dawn Ramirez

What happened next?

I married a Spanish fellow in Munich and we settled in the Shoalhaven. I had children, and worked at the Australian Bureau of Statistics for many years.

What a change!

Yes it was! I then found myself needing extra money, and the CES said that they needed someone to work in the Indigenous Field on suicide prevention. I devised a program, and loved my work, as gut-wrenching as it was. They are still using my program up in Darwin

Dawn became my dear friend when she was judging a poetry competition. She rang to tell me I had placed and we have been mates ever since. That was over ten years ago. Her poetry is where we can all connect with Dawn – uninhibited and untempered just as in her own life. Even in her late 60’s she was giving impromptu performances at pubs, passing a hat around at the end with enough to recoup the cost of her trip to England.

How did you become a renowned Bush Poet?

My eldest daughter came to me in a panic as she had forgotten to write a poem for school that day. I hurriedly penned a poem about old age and it was a hit! I have been writing and performing ever since, and have had several volumes published.

Dawn points at two trees, seeing significance in their differing shapes.

See how one is round and the other peaked? There is difference in nature, and so there is in us. We have to learn to celebrate those differences!  I heard a lot of Dreamtime stories from my Grandmother, and she always said, “learn from nature, girl.”


Dawn seeks authenticity in all she does. She can’t stand people who think they are above others, which is why you’ll find her with old mates at festivals loving living and a good glass of red. Here she is in the clips below, charismatic and lively, bringing her words to life.


See the video Dawn the Poets made for the ABC

Read how Dawn’s cirucs routine impacted boundaries of racial and gender identity