Government support for Australian writers declines

7 April 2022

The Australian federal budget was handed down last week, but there was little in it for writers. Funding for the arts sector is being reduced by almost twenty-percent, with the RISE Fund, which was established to support the sector during the pandemic, scheduled to be phased out.

Unlike the performing arts, which benefit from a dedicated funding stream inside the Australia Council, literature has enjoys very little federal support. In 2020-21, the Australia Council gave out just $4.7 million in grant funding to literature – 2.4% of the total funding pool last year. In contrast, the major performing arts organisations received $120 million.

The funding situation serves to draw attention to just how little writers earn. Sydney based author Charlotte Wood, speaking at a recent parliamentary hearing, set things out in pretty blunt terms:

Wood told a House of Representatives inquiry into Australia’s cultural sector that “writers themselves are in absolutely dire economic difficulty”. She cited figures that literary writers’ annual income from their books was just $4,000 a year.

Four thousand dollars a year? What is anyone meant to conclude from that? Writing is indeed poorly looked upon in Australia.

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