A letter to the Australia Council about Writing Australia

29 April 2013

Libbie Christie
Acting Chief Executive Officer
Australia Council for the Arts
PO Box 788
Strawberry Hills NSW 2012

cc: ACT Minister for the Arts, ACT Cultural Council, artsACT

Dear Ms Christie,


I am writing to express the Childers Group’s concern at what we understand to be the Australia Council for the Arts ending its funding arrangements with Writing Australia and, through this decision, withdrawing its support for national writing infrastructure.  This letter follows previous correspondence from the Group about Writing Australia, sent in January 2012.

The Childers Group is an arts advocacy body for the ACT region, and comprises arts leaders committed to developing and promoting the arts activity from Canberra and its environs.  We situate our advocacy in a national context, as evidenced by our membership of Arts Peak.

As no doubt you and your colleagues are aware, the writing sector is currently undergoing considerable change.  The nation-wide network of writers’ centres is a key component of the national writing infrastructure and is well placed to provide advocacy and increased opportunities for professional writers during these dynamic times – in this regard, the newly formed Writing Australia organisation aimed to be a coordinated and articulate voice.

The Childers Group’s previous advocacy on this matter centred on the need for Writing Australia to maintain its presence in Canberra, with its administration operating from an office provided by the National Library of Australia. The National Library, in the context of the other national cultural institutions, was the appropriate place for the operational base of Writing Australia.  Furthermore, Canberra and its surrounding regional areas have a high level of engagement in professional writing activities, as evidenced by The Invisible Thread (Halstead Press, 2011; editor Irma Gold), a major anthology published as part of the current centenary of Canberra celebrations.

Through artsACT, the ACT Government’s arts funding agency, the ACT Writers Centre, the University of Canberra, the National Library of Australia, and a working group of eminent ACT-based Australian writers including Marion Halligan and Alan Gould, the ACT made a considerable contribution to the early development of the Writing Australia concept.

wa_logoHowever, the Childers Group is now concerned to be informed by the literary sector that Writing Australia has lost its support from the Australia Council.  This concerns the Group for two reasons: (1) that the Australia Council appears to be walking away from the emerging Writing Australia organisation and all that it had achieved to date, particularly in terms of touring established professional writers to areas beyond Sydney and Melbourne; and (2) that the Australia Council’s decision appears to set the various state and territory writers centres adrift into a new period of regionalised support rather than coordinated arts development within a national framework.

It is also of concern that there has been no official announcement or correspondence from the Australia Council about this decision, leaving the message to be circulated through rumour and innuendo.

The Childers Group maintains its view that there is a need for writers to have access to national infrastructure, and that the foundation of this infrastructure is the network of writers centre, which needs reinforcing through an appropriate level of financial and organisational support.  The Group also maintains its view that in order for writers to maximise the opportunities presented by this rapidly changing operating environment that there needs to be a level of coordination and singularity of purpose which had been available through Writing Australia.

Respectfully we ask two key questions:

  • What is the status of the Australia Council’s funding of Writing Australia?
  • How is the Australia Council, through its Literature Board, continuing to support the national coordination of writing infrastructure in Australia?

To correspond with the Childers Group on this matter, please email childersgroup@gmail.com.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,


David Williams AM


Arts advocacy in the era of the barbecue stopper

bbqWe all do it: watch the television or listen to the radio or scroll through our Facebook and Twitter feeds waiting for news of a politician who has spoken in an informed, energised and convincing manner about the value of the arts to Australian society.  Of course, it does happen – for example, in April this year the Australian Government launched Creative Australia, the national cultural policy – but it’s fair to say that it happens all too infrequently.

Contemporary political discourse tends to focus on what some have deemed to be the ‘barbecue-stoppers’: immigration, taxation, interest rates, and, most recently, the National Broadband Network and the alternative proposed by the federal opposition.  In this context, discussing challenges faced by artists and proposing solutions does tend to get drowned by what are considered issues that matter to ‘working Australian families’ – as if artists don’t have families and don’t have work to do!

With the federal election looming in September this year, how can all those with an interest in the arts make a difference?

Keep reading over at artsHub.