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.