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Literary sector pushes for Book Council consultation

More than 40 literary organisations including publishers, writers’ centres, literary journals and writers’ festivals are calling for the government to consult with the literary community on planning for the Book Council of Australia.

Signatories to an open letter published online include small publishers Affirm, Giramondo, Scribe and UWA Publishing, as well as industry body the Small Press Network; literary journals the Griffith Review, Island, Kill Your Darlings, Overland and Westerly; the Media and Entertainment Arts Alliance, the union representing writers; the Australian Literary Agents’ Association; bookseller Readings; and the Brisbane and Melbourne writers’ festivals.

Prime minister Tony Abbott announced the Book Council of Australia in December last year, allocating $2m in funding over the next three years. ‘Nearly eight months later, however, it remains unclear what the Council will do, how it will run, who will be invited to contribute to both its strategy and operations, and how the $6m allocated to its funding will be attributed,’ the letter reads. ‘There has been no visible consultation with the industry to date and any proactive enquiries into the policy and strategy behind the Council have gone largely unanswered.’

The letter sets out some of the sector’s recommendations and aspirations for the Council that they ‘would have normally expressed in a regular consultative forum’, including a hope the Council recognises the breadth of the sector, including writers’ centres, festivals, prizes and bookstores, among others; recognises the breadth of participants, including writers, readers, editors, publishers and critics, among others; and support for digital publishing and innovations.

An arts ministry spokesperson has told ABC Radio National that more details will be released ‘shortly’. ‘The Book Council of Australia will advise the Australian government on strategies to raise and strengthen the national and international profile of Australian writing,’ the spokesperson said. ‘Members of the Council will be drawn from a wide range of literary and industry organisations.’

As previously reported by Books+Publishing, arts minister George Brandis told a Senate hearing in May that the proposed council will ‘promote books’ and ‘is about more than writers’. Brandis also told the Senate that Australian Publishers Association president and Melbourne University Publishing CEO Louise Adler was ‘an important figure’ in the planning for the Council.

Books+Publishing sought comment from the APA on the concerns raised by the sector in the open letter but a spokesperson said it was ‘unable to contribute’.


Category: Local news