My fellow Australians….especially those who abhor arty types like me

I’m a children’s author. My job is to tell stories to Australian children and beyond our shores. Stories that will stir them, make them laugh, take them into another world, stories that will make them think. 

I don’t expect to win a literary prize any day soon, (although it would be very nice to) but I don’t begrudge those who do. It helps their careers in an industry where Australian authors earn 6-10% of a book’s price.

We children’s writers run school workshops to survive, but schools’ funding for arts exposure has diminished. A vicious circle forms. More outside work means less time and energy for authors to write, which equals less publications, lower earnings.

 Government literary grants and awards for writers and artists are as valid to Australia’s development as a nation as sports funding or farm aid to those battlers on the land. That’s why we in the arts community, plus those Australians who believe in what we do, are so angry and dismayed at the new Queensland government’s action, under Premier Campbell Newman, to slash the State’s Literary Awards.

Many of us believe it’s the start of a pogrom against the arts in our beloved country.

When Winston Churchill was asked why didn’t he cut arts funding when money was needed in those darkest days of Britain’s battle against Nazi Germany, this great tactical leader replied, ‘Then what are we fighting for?’ 

Do you support funding the arts? Do you think it’s an essential part of our society?

Thank you to Fiona MacKenzie for the use of the Flickr image.

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5 comments on “My fellow Australians….especially those who abhor arty types like me

  1. Ironic that in the national Year of Reading this is one of the first steps the new Queensland Premier takes. I loved the Winston Churchill quote and figure that if democracies could fund the arts when they were fighting for their very existence then we can now too – tight budgets or not.

    The literary world is fortunate indeed to have such a wonderful advocate as you, Sheryl. Thank you.

  2. I agree with you all so passionately. Every single study shows how important reading is to the brain of the individual and to the good of society. Ezra Pound said that a man reading was a man intensely alive, the book like a ball of light in his hand. Well, MRI scans show that when we read, our brains light up like a ball of light. No other single activity has the same effect on our neural synapses. We need to make sure that we keep alive a reading culture, else the human brain will slowly atrophy. Writers work incredibly hard for little reward, and prizes are one way to acknowledge and support the work that we do. There should be more prizes, not less! Queensland has such a brilliant writing community, and it should be celebrated and applauded and supported.

  3. Its so embarassing that a person in charge of a state could be so short sighted as to do this. Has he cut sports grants and all other awards as well or is this a case of bullying a minority. The money is a drop in the ocean, but to allow people to attack the arts like this is unforgiveable. I thought we were trying to lift our literacy rates to be competative with the rest of the world. It starts with the actions and attitudes of our leaders. Dumb move from people who should know better. Perhaps you need to get out into the real world more. TV should never be suggested as a substitute for reading. Shame on you all.

  4. Well said, Sheryl. In terms of state funding, the amount given for these wasn’t much – but it was what it signified that counted: support, belief, acknowledgement of the role culture and the arts and those who practice the latter for a living contribute to both. The cutting of this as the first act of a premier is not only cowardly (because not enough people care – writers are an easy target), it also signifies the LNP’s attitude to a sustainable arts future. The commentary around the action and its perceived repercussions is, to say the least, shocking: in its nastiness and ignorance.

    The way writers and their product are being portrayed as millstones around Australia’s neck -that are overpaid and underworked anyway is distreesing and soooo wrong! It’s as if Can-Do has given permission for those who have no regard for the arts (and that’s their prerogative) permission and a platform from which to spew bile and peddle misinformation. I find it distressing that books and writers (never mind other artists) are so little valued and are being so reviled in the blogosphere… When did we become so hated? Why are people laying in the boot? Why don’t they care about the broader ramifications of this act?

    Ironically, when a writer is successful (Peter Carey, David Malouf, Shirley Hazzard, Kate Forysth, Kim Wilkins, Marcus Zusack eg), the state or country claim ownership and then bask in the positive glow of their works and what they mean locally and globally. We’re proud of these wordsmiths and the way they translate inner states and ways of being for all to enjoy. The way they challenge, move and inspire. How many of us remember a story that gave us solace in a trying time, that we had read to us as a child? Or one that we shared as teens? How many of us turn to books to relax, be thrilled, move out of our comfort zones? How many of us, when imagining a holiday, think of books and time to read and escape? Many of us, surely?

    Suddenly, in one fell swoop, Campbell has relegated such an important and usually quiet aspect of culture to the scrap heap. Writers and books are not worthy of recognition; public and government endorsed acknowledgment beyond the book store or home is not available anymore. I was so pleased that some of my taxpayer dollars went to those awards… Again, not so much for the specific books or authors that won (though I was always proud of them too, Sheryl), but for what the awarding of prizes in this area meant in the broadest possible terms: that we valued words, imagination, creativity, history, and so on.

    I fear we’ll rue this day and in ways in which we cannot conceive. It’s never been about the money, or left-wing elitist back-slapping as some have claimed. This is about all of us: writers and non-writers, readers and non-readers. This is about valuing the imagination and the creative foundations and recording of culture, people, time and place… Only not in QLD. Not anymore :((((

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