Mixed fortunes for writers


Poet Renee Pettitt-Schipp, Jen Jackson of Paper Bird Children's Books and Jane Fraser. d448510
Poet Renee Pettitt-Schipp, Jen Jackson of Paper Bird Children's Books and Jane Fraser. d448510

But it is an industry that has fallen on hard times recently, with the latest blow a Federal Government decision to withdraw funding to the Australia Council for the Art’s new body, the Book Council of Australia, an entity that has only existed for a few months.

Writing WA chairman Dennis Haskell said it capped of a horrible 2015 for the industry, which also included changes to the federal arts funding model and the WA Premier’s Book Awards changing from an annual to biennial model, reducing opportunities for authors and publishers to promote their work.

“The funding set aside for the Book Council was taken from the Australia Council’s overall budget and, with the announcement of the closure of the Book Council, these funds have disappeared back into general revenue,” Mr Haskell said.

“They have not been returned to the Australia Council or set aside for investment in other literature programs, so literature has lost out in multiple ways, no longer a Book Council, no alternative investment in literature and a $2 million per annum reduction in the Australia Council’s contestable grants. The sector in WA is having to deal with the double blow – significantly contracting funding opportunities at both the state and federal level.

“Individual writers as well as the small publishers and writing organisations, which are key to the sector in WA, will suffer as a result.” In a case of mixed fortunes for the two local organisations, Fremantle Press was one of only two writing sector organisations to be successful in the State Government’s Organisations Investment Program 2016-2018, with The Literature Centre joining Writing WA in missing out.

Fremantle Press chief executive Jane Fraser said the effects of the cuts were immediate and the changes sent a message to the wider community that arts were not valued.

“I would like to see the WA community championing local literature and all arts creativity in this state like no other state in Australia,” she said.

“Let’s become the arts capital of Australia, with corporate and public leaders who unequivocally support and value the arts as providing happiness and wellbeing through entertainment, recreation and contemplation.”

The Literature Centre director Lesley Reece said it was fortunate to have one year left on its Department of Culture and the Arts contract, but had been assured by department’s director general that a review in the next few months would ensure the work of the centre would continue to be supported.