December 17, 2015

In sweeping budget cuts, Australian government scraps Book Council


Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 5.20.39 PMOh, woe!

Less than a year after its inception, the Book Council of Australia has been scrapped “as part of $52.5 million in cuts to the Arts and Communications,” Dewi Cooke, Garry Maddox, and Linda Morris report for The Sydney Morning Herald. ($47 million of that funding will, it’s worth noting, be funneled into “major Hollywood film studios for Thor and Alien sequels.”)

Established at the beginning of 2015, the Book Council was meant to focus “on promoting Australian writing nationally and internationally; developing and extending audience engagement with Australian literature; and nurturing a vibrant reading and writing culture.”

In an op-ed written this September, the Council’s inaugural chair, and chief executive of Melbourne University Publishing, Louise Adler, wrote:

“Australia’s literary culture has long been the poor cousin, receiving only $9 million of the Australia Council’s total of $199 million in grants. If we have failed to advocate effectively for the cultural, social, and economic value of Australian writers, it is not surprising that we have been overlooked.”

Even in its short life, the Book Council has been the subject of controversy. Sam Twyford-Moore, a former director of the Emerging Writers’ Festival, “helped collect more than 350 signatures protesting the Book Council’s leadership and its triennial funding of $6 million at the expense of the Australia Council.” According to him:

“Those moneys—in the right hands—could have been used wisely as strategic investment in a fragile sector. Now a lot of magazines and emerging organisations will very likely die . . . everything in the world of Australian letters is at risk.”



Taylor Sperry is an editor at Melville House.