Showing all posts tagged: Australia

A poet laureate will need to bolster interest in Australian poetry

4 February 2023

By 2025 Australia will have a poet laureate, who will presumably be selected and appointed by the proposed Writers Australia peak body. As with many aspects of the National Culture Policy which was unveiled last Monday though, details remain thin on the ground for now.

For instance, how long would an incumbent serve, and what exactly would their role be? Poetry, certainly in Australia, is a niche form of literature, given less than five percent of the population chooses to partake of written rhyme, so one of the mandates of an Australian poet laureate would be to bolster interest in local poetry.

This is something Sarah Holland-Batt, professor of creative writing and literary studies at Queensland University of Technology, advocated for when making submissions to the National Cultural Policy:

“An Australian poet laureate would elevate the status of Australian poetry domestically and internationally,” Holland-Batt says. “Australian literature can struggle on the world stage so there would be a soft diplomacy element to it.” She said the laureate would be an advocate for Australia and Australian writing and the benefits would be beyond only poetry. “It would be a big boost for Australian literature to have someone with that authority invested by the state.”

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Will Writers Australia succeed where other peak bodies have not?

3 February 2023

Writers Australia is a new peak body to be established as part of the National Cultural Policy, which was released by the Australian federal government last Monday. While the exact functions of Writers Australia — which comes into being in 2025 — are yet to be fully detailed, its stated mandate is to provide direct support to the Australian literature sector.

While hopes are high the proposed new entity will improve the lot of local writers, Writers Australia is by no means the first attempt to establish an Australian peak literature body. There have been several attempts to do similar in the past, with some being anything but successful, as Adelaide, South Australia, based author Jessica Alice, writing for Meanjin, explains:

There are two years until the body will come into operation and those working in the field will remember past attempts to create a national literature body. There was Writing Australia, the unsuccessful attempt to create a peak body for writers centres that was defunct within two years, and more recently the Book Council of Australia debacle that heralded the Brandis era.

In that instance, a national body was established to represent the interests of publishers, agents and booksellers, with $6 million in funds taken from the Australia Council’s operating budget. It faced pushback from the broader literary sector culminating in an open letter signed by high profile figures like Nick Cave and JM Coetzee arguing it was a rush-job initiated without proper sector consultation and a limited terms of reference. The body was ultimately abandoned.

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The National Cultural Policy and the role of Writers Australia

1 February 2023

Among initiatives announced this week in the Australian federal government’s National Cultural Policy, is the formation of Writers Australia, a body that will, according to the policy document, “provide direct support to the literature sector from 2025.” Writers Australia will be part of a new peak arts investment and advisory body to be called Creative Australia, which will represent an overhaul of the current Australia Council for the Arts.

While the finer details are still to be made public, it is known Writers Australia will, among other things, administer the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, and make appointments to the (kind of) newly formed role of Australian poet laureate.

It can also be presumed Writers Australia will work to address remuneration for Australian authors, who according to recent research earn about A$18,000 per annum for their work. Australian workers need to earn at least A$25,675 per annum to be living above the poverty line. The income of local writers is a point underlined by Sophie Cunningham, Chair of the Australian Society of Authors (ASA):

“We’re thrilled to see the Government’s affirmation that artists and authors should be paid fairly for their work. This is fundamental to a fair and sustainable arts sector. As I and many other authors made clear in our submissions to Government, authors do not fall under the protection of awards or industrial agreements and, as freelancers, have to negotiate on a case by case basis to be paid fairly. We welcome the recognition of the ASA’s recommended minimum rates of pay in cultural policy.”

While supporting writers and literary organisations through funding, Writers Australia will take a proactive role in boosting incomes for writers and book illustrators, by raising their profile, and growing local and international audiences for their books. One way of achieving this could be to encourage broader promotion of Australian literary awards, in the same way the British publishing industry enthusiastically backs the Booker Prize.

In the meantime poetry can look forward to more prominence in Australia, through the creation of a poet laureate, an appointment Writers Australia will make. There has not been an Australian poet laureate since 1818, when Michael Massey Robinson, a British convict, held the role for about two years.

Poetry is a poorly appreciated form of literature in Australia, with just three and a half percent of local book readers indicating they are inclined to read works of poetry, according to recent research by Amazon Kindle.

Dropbear, a collection of poetry by Melbourne based author Evelyn Araluen, and winner of the 2022 Stella Prize, had sold in the order of fifteen thousand copies as of August 2022. In comparison, Apples Never Fall, by Sydney based novelist Liane Moriarty, was the bestselling book in Australia, with sales of just under two-hundred thousand copies, in 2021.

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Revive, Australia’s new National Cultural Policy unveiled

31 January 2023

Revive is the name the Australian federal government has given to a new five principle, five year, National Cultural Policy, that was made public yesterday.

Revive is a five-year plan to renew and revive Australia’s arts, entertainment and cultural sector. It delivers new momentum so that Australia’s creative workers, organisations and audiences continue to thrive and grow, and so that our arts, culture and heritage are re-positioned as central to Australia’s future.

Core objectives of the policy include the recognition of the work of Indigenous artists and creators, recognition of artists as workers, and increased support for cultural institutions. A revamp of the Australia Council for the Arts, and the creation of Writers Australia, which will “provide direct support to the literature sector from 2025”, are among other initiatives on the cards.

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Funding uncertainty may see online database Trove close down

10 January 2023

Trove, an online library database containing digital copies of significant historical and cultural Australian documents, maintained by the National Library of Australia, may be forced to cease operating at the end of June 2023, unless it is allocated more funding, according to its recently published strategy document:

The Library has sufficient resources to maintain Trove until June 2023. The future of Trove beyond July 2023 will be dependent upon available funds. To achieve the full strategic vision will require substantial investment. More modest investment sustained over a longer term would enable achievement of the strategy at a measured pace. In a limited funding environment, Trove may reduce to a service focused on the National Library of Australia’s collections. Without any additional funds, the Library will need to cease offering the Trove service entirely.

While funding for Trove, and other collecting institutions, including the National Gallery of Australia, and the National Museum of Australia, was not part of the recently unveiled National Cultural Policy, Australian federal arts minister Tony Burke suggested the matter would be looked at as part of this year’s federal budget, which is traditionally handed down in May.

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Proposed new policy boosts funding for Australian arts sector

2 January 2023

Speaking at the annual Woodford Folk Festival that concluded yesterday, Australian federal arts minister Tony Burke announced a raft of initiatives to bolster the local arts sector. A proposed five-pillar policy includes an undertaking to increase recognition of the work of Indigenous creatives, and plans to introduce fairer remuneration rates for artists:

The minister promised to treat “artists as workers”, criticising the [previous] Coalition government for exclusions on jobkeeper wage subsidies and for the comments by the former prime minister Scott Morrison praising “tradies … building the stage” but not artists.

In addition, streaming services such as Netflix and Stan will be subject to quotas, ensuring they air more Australian made content. Also the Lending Right Schemes, which pays a royalty to authors when a library loans one of their books out, will be expanded to include ebooks.

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What’s wrong with people who don’t eat meat or drink? Nothing

2 January 2023

Despite Australia’s apparent reputation as a nation of big drinkers, forty-six percent of Australians either abstain completely from alcohol, or only consume one drink a month. If the thirteen percent of people who only partake of a tipple two to three times monthly are added, that’s almost sixty percent of the population who barely drink at all.

Yet people who have chosen to give up alcoholic beverages still find themselves under pressure to drink at social gatherings, particularly at this time of the year. This is something I’ve seen in the now ten years since I cut back on alcohol. Today I might have a drink maybe once every two months. While most people appear to be accepting of this choice, I’ve run into a few who aren’t. One or two even seem to feel threatened when the question comes up, but I’m not sure why this should be.

Australia, for instance, is also a nation of coffee drinkers, of which I am one, but I don’t hear of anyone who doesn’t drink coffee, or only has decaffeinated coffee, being put-down. The same goes for people who, say, don’t own a car, or even drive. I think you can even choose to refuse recreational drugs with total social impunity. Why then are some lifestyle choices greeted with virtual indifference, while other cause derision?

I also know people who embrace veganism are sometimes subjected to the same contempt as non-drinkers. Some people choose to eat a non-animal based diet instead of an animal one. So what? What’s in the Australian psyche that results in people who avoid meat or alcohol being derided? It is because those who we perceive to be outliers appear to pose some sort of threat? It is because meat and alcohol are — or were — so ingrained in our way of life, and no one should therefore upset the apparent status quo?

I might be optimistic, overly optimistic maybe, but I think attitudes are changing, albeit slowly. Is it really so hard to live and let live?

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National Dictionary Centre word of 2022 delivered on teal wave

23 November 2022

The Australian federal election, held in May 2022, saw a record number of teal, or independent, MPs elected to the Australian Parliament. Their strong showing has variously been labelled a teal bath or teal wave, after many teal candidates unseated a significant number of sitting members, most of whom belonged to the previous Liberal-National Coalition government.

It perhaps comes as no surprise then to learn the Australian National Dictionary Centre has declared “teal” as their word of 2022:

Previously associated with a dark greenish-blue colour, or even a breed of duck, teal now has another meaning in Australian English. The word came to prominence this year during the federal election. A ‘teal wave’ of independents successfully challenged government members of parliament in a number of seats.

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Dinner by Nagi Maehashi a cookbook selling like hot cakes

20 November 2022

Sydney based Australian chef Nagi Maehashi’s cookbook, Dinner, is quite literally selling like hot cakes. Published only six weeks ago, on 11 October 2022, the recipe collection has already outsold works by the likes of Jamie Oliver, and Yotam Ottolenghi:

Dinner is now leading the cookbook charts for 2022, with more than 74,500 copies sold. That’s three times as many sales as the second most-popular book, Jamie Oliver’s One, at 23,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookData. Even at the end of August, Maehashi had pre-orders that were more than double the first week sales of Yotam Ottolenghi’s Flavour.

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What is in the 2022 Australian budget for the arts sector?

29 October 2022

The arts sector had been keenly anticipating the 2022 federal budget, with hopes Australia’s recently elected Labor government might offer some respite to the arts after a difficult few years.

The government has all sorts of matters to deal with, the return of inflation, rising interest rates, and increasing power costs, to name a few, but in what arts and culture advocate Esther Anatolitis describes as a budget that is safe-ish, while daring to be boring, there is something for the sector.

Again, it’s only election commitments that are enumerated in last night’s Budget; Minister for the Arts Tony Burke has consistently focused our expectations on the comprehensive National Cultural Policy development and not immediate gestures.

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