The University of Western Australia has announced that it is set to ‘wind down the present form of UWA Publishing’.
In an interview on ABC radio, UWA Publishing’s Director, Terri-ann White, stated that staff were only informed of the plan on Tuesday. The news came ‘completely by surprise’ when they were presented with a ‘proposal for change’, including a plan to move away from print books to an ‘entirely digital open-access model’.
White argued that ‘the visibility of Perth and WA is very low and hard to penetrate on the other side of the continent. Books certainly help that, especially dynamic books that express the extraordinary culture, people, biodiversity and history of this place.’
Among UWA Publishing’s list is Josephine Wilson’s 2017 Miles Franklin winning title, Extinctions. The Sky Runs Right Through Us by Reneé Pettitt-Schipp won the 2018 Western Australian Premier’s Prize for an Emerging Writer, and Dancing in Shadows: Histories of Nyungar Performance by Anna Haebich was shortlisted for this year’s Prime Minister’s Literary Award.
Changes are due to start taking place from 19 November 2019, and current staff believe they will lose their jobs. Addressing concerns about what arrangements would be made for the publishing house’s backlist, and the 35 books due to be published in 2020, UWA released a statement saying that ‘current publishing works already in train this year and next year are set to continue.’
Many members of the literary community, both in Western Australia and interstate, have spoken out in support of Terri-ann White and UWA Publishing, which was founded in 1935. An on-line petition has been started to protest the decision.