Western Australia’s writing and publishing sector has nurtured many nationally and internationally acclaimed writers and illustrators, and produced hundreds of books that have been honoured with countless awards and nominations. Think of Academy Award-winner Shaun Tan; of four-time Miles Franklin Award-winner Tim Winton and two-time Miles Franklin Award-winner Kim Scott; of Prime Minister's Award-winners Stephen Daisley, Joan London, Sally Morgan and Meg McKinlay; of internationally recognised illustrators Chris Nixon and Kyle Hughes-Odgers; of nationally and internationally best-selling authors Paul Carter (2 million books sold world-wide); of Rachael Johns (ranked 9th on the Australian Fiction best-seller lists for 2015/16); and of Brooke Davis (whose debut novel has been sold into 35 countries). And this is to name just a few.
The success of Western Australia's writing and publishing culture is reliant on individual practitioners (writers, illustrators, editors, manuscript assessors, designers, and so on) being supported by a network of not-for-profit organisations (writers centres and groups, festivals, representative bodies) and commercial entities (publishers, book shops, distributors, other service providers).
The future success of the Western Australia writing and publishing sector is also reliant on appropriate State Government policy and investment.
The Current Funding Situation
In 2015 the WA Department for Culture and the Arts (DCA) introduced a revised process — the Organisations Investment Program (OIP) — to determine which West Australian arts organisations would receive funding from State Government for the 2016-2018 triennium.
At the conclusion of the process, 35 WA arts and culture organisations were identified for funding. Of these, only two organisations — Fremantle Press and Magabala Books — represent WA’s writing and publishing culture.
Three previously funded writing sector organisations — The Literature Centre, the Australian Writers' Guild (WA) and the sector peak body, writingWA* — were advised that funding would be discontinued. A further three organisations (Westerly, the Fellowship of Australian Writers WA and Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre) were also notified that their applications had been unsuccessful.
OIP TOTAL FUNDS: $9,991,464
Literature total: $619,862
Literature % of total funds: 6.2%
The outcome of the OIP process was yet another blow to the writing and publishing sector in a year which started with the news that its most important State-based literary awards — the WA Premier's Book Awards — would be reduced from an annual to a biennial opportunity.
* Why was writingWA not recommended for funding?
- Each applicant in the OIP process was assessed across 3 criteria — artistic merit, community contribution and financial value — and each assessor was asked to give a score out of 5 against these criteria.
- 7 out of 8 panel assessors responded very positively to writingWA’s application with scores of between 10-13 out of a possible 15.
- A single assessor responded extremely negatively with a score of 4 out of 15.
This anomaly resulted in writingWA not being recommended for further funding.
Writing Sector Review
Following the very disappointing result for WA's writing sector from last year's funding process, the DCA has now initiated a review of our sector, to be conducted by Queensland-based consultants Positive Solutions.
The purpose of the review is to “analyse the writing sector in WA to inform future policy decisions in support of WA’s writers and the community’s engagement with them.”
This represents an opportunity to highlight the significant contribution made by our sector to national culture and therefore the need for appropriate investment to ensure that the sector’s full potential can be realised across our social, political and economic environments.
writingWA has prepared a brief overview of the value placed on writing and reading by the community, contrasted with recent government investment levels. You can review this information here:
An Opportunity for the Sector
A review of the sector is timely and welcome. However, writingWA believes that the DCA Writing Sector Review must also be supported with a budget commitment from government. Such a commitment will be essential to ensure that investment can be directed to areas of demonstrated need and that our sector can build on its considerable success and achieve its full potential.
We know the value of the enormous contributions made by writers, publishers and other sector practitioners to our national culture. Now is the time to ensure that our representatives in Parliament are also aware of that value and are prepared to invest appropriately.
With appropriate investment and clearly defined strategy, writingWA working in partnership with State Government can grow and maintain a thriving Western Australian literary culture admired nationally and internationally.
The Case for an Independent Peak Body
writingWA’s State Government funding is confirmed until June 30, 2017. The future of writingWA and the services we provide beyond that time will be dependent on the outcome of the DCA Writing Sector Review.
To be reminded of some of what has been achieved in the writing and publishing sector "With writingWA" click here.
The Director-General of DCA has noted on several occasions that the Sector Review will provide an opportunity for the Department to consider a greater role for the State Library of WA — a portfolio agency of State Government — in the delivery of services to the State’s writing and publishing sector.
writingWA works with and supports all of our member organisations, regardless of their position in the supply chain. We have an excellent relationship with the State Library which is also a valued member organisation of writingWA.
However, we believe that the sector’s peak body should remain independent and not be taken under the umbrella of government for the following reasons:
1. ARM'S LENGTH: As an independent body we are best placed to represent the cross-sectoral nature of the industry — including government as a major stakeholder.
2. AGILITY: As an independent body we can be more responsive and flexible than an agency of government in representing the interests of a diverse sector.
3. EQUITY: As an independent representative body and not a stakeholder with our own interests, we can address the overarching needs of a complex sector which includes individual practitioners, not-for-profit organisations, and commerical entities.
4. COST-EFFECTIVENESS: As an independent body we have demonstrated our capacity to achieve an extremely high outcomes-to-investment ratio
Next Steps WITH YOU
1. If you believe that (a) the sector is deserving of greater investment from State Government and (b) that it should be represented by a peak body that is independent of government please sign our Petition.
2. As we lead into the next State Government election, ensure that MPs across all parties are aware of the value that you place on our State’s literary culture by writing to Hon. John Day, MLA, Minister for Culture and the Arts; Hon. Michelle Roberts, MLA, Opposition Spokesperson for Culture and the Arts; Hon. Lynn MacLaren MLC, Greens Arts and Culture Spokesperson; and your local MP.
To assist you in this we have provided a sample letter that you can use or adjust as you think appropriate.
3. Help spread the word to your readers, members, staff, colleagues, friends, social media networks, and so on. The greater the reach, the louder our voice.
Tweet your views: @writingwa #writingmatters