Mixed for­tunes for writ­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions, as sec­tor suf­fers cuts

Cockburn Gazette - - NEWS -

WITH a pub­lish­ing house and a chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture cen­tre, Fre­man­tle has strong ties to the book in­dus­try.

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 ex­isted for only a few months.

Writ­ing WA chair­man Den­nis Haskell said it capped off 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, which re­duced op­por­tu­ni­ties for au­thors and pub­lish­ers to pro­mote their work.

“The sec­tor in WA is hav­ing to deal with the dou­ble blow – sig­nif­i­cantly con­tract­ing fund­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties at both the state and fed­eral level,” Mr Haskell said.

“In­di­vid­ual writ­ers as well as the small pub­lish­ers and writ­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions, which are key to the sec­tor in WA, will suf­fer as a re­sult.”

Hamil­ton Hill au­thor Meg McKin­lay said she had ben­e­fited from th­ese or­gan­i­sa­tions pro­vid­ing men­tor­ship, mas­ter­classes and fund­ing, which has helped her de­velop her ca­reer.

“There’s a real en­ergy about the sec­tor th­ese days, a sense of mo­men­tum and I be­lieve this owes no small debt to or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Writ­ingWA now un­der threat,” she said.

In a case of mixed for­tunes for lo­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions, Fre­man­tle Press was one of only two writ­ing bod­ies 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.”

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

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