The Robert Burns Fellowship

The Robert Burns Fellowship is New Zealand's premier literary residency. It was established in 1958 by a group of anonymous Dunedin citizens to commemorate the bicentenary of the birth of Robert Burns, and to perpetuate the community's appreciation of the part played by the related Dunedin family of Dr Thomas Burns in the early settlement of Otago. The Fellowship aims to encourage and promote imaginative New Zealand literature and to associate writers with the University.

The annual, 12-month Fellowship provides an office in the English Department and not less than the minimum salary of a full-time university lecturer. It is open to writers of poetry, drama, fiction, biography, autobiography, essays or literary criticism who are normally resident in New Zealand, and who, in the opinion of the Selection Committee, have established by their published work, or otherwise, that their writing would benefit from their holding the Fellowship.

Previous Fellowship recipients since 2008

See the list of all previous Fellowship recipients


Photo of Majella Cullinane

Majella Cullinane

Robert Burns Fellow 2014


2014 Robert Burns Fellow Majella Cullinane couldn’t believe it when she took the phone call informing her of her success.

“I asked if she was sure she had the right person,” Majella says.

“It’s one of New Zealand’s most renowned writing residencies so it was a real surprise.”

Born and raised in Ireland, Majella became a New Zealand resident in 2008. She completed an MLitt. in Creative Writing at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, in 2006, and has won several awards for her poetry. She has also held Fellowship and Writer-in-Residence positions in Ireland and Scotland. In 2011, her first poetry collection Guarding The Flame was published in Ireland by Salmon Poetry, and in 2012 she was runner-up in the Landfall essay competition.

“I have two projects I’d like to work on next year,” Majella says.

“A second poetry collection and my first novel, set around the First World War and slightly after. The novel begins in Scotland, moves to Ireland and to the battle fields of Europe and features Dunedin as well. I’ll need the whole year to work on something so ambitious. I’m really looking forward to having so much time to write,” she says.

Majella will travel from Paekakariki to Dunedin with her partner Andrew and three year-old son Robbie to take up the Fellowship in February 2014.

Otago Fellows University of Otago