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Australian Book Review and the Australia Council

Book Talk

Australian Book Review and the Australia Council

Book Talk

Australian Book Review, while congratulating successful applicants, deplores the Australia Council’s decision not to fund it and other literary magazines in the 2021–24 round. For the first time in decades, Australia’s national literary and arts review will not be funded by the federal government. 

In depriving ABR and other fine literary magazines of funding, the Council and its peers demonstrate an unfortunate disregard for the magazine sector, little understanding of its contribution to the literary ecology, and no appreciation of the dire consequences for readers, authors, contributors and publishers. 

ABR, with its literary and arts criticism, plays a leading role in an already diminished critical culture, one that benefits the literary and arts sectors. Its enthusiastic support for emerging writers and freelance writers is widely acknowledged.

There is no point in sugar-coating ABR’s predicament. Non-funding imperils the work and the future of magazines around the country, already battered by the unique threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. It seems extraordinary that the Australia Council, at such a perilous time, will not fund seasoned, proven, innovative magazines that so strongly promote Australian writing and publishing.

ABR does not have a wealthy owner or a vast bequest. It is not part of a university. After a most successful year in 2019 we presented to the Council an ambitious and expansive program, with many new features, including (most importantly) rising rates for our hundreds of writers, an additional issue each year, and total payments to writers of $1,200,000 in 2021–24.

The program we outlined is now impossible, to the great disadvantage of the 300 writers we publish each year. Economies will be significant and immediate. All our energy and passion will be devoted to the preservation of this sixty-year-old cultural institution beyond 2020–21, which is now in doubt.

ABR is blessed with a tremendously capable and committed staff and board, led by Colin Golvan AM QC, who will be succeeded as Chair by Sarah Holland-Batt on April 15 (Colin will remain on the board after that). We enjoy considerable loyalty from subscribers, contributors and Patrons who, we know, will be very concerned by these developments. We will keep them apprised as we look elsewhere for support and goodwill at this doubly difficult time.

We will have more to say when we learn more about this egregious decision and the very regrettable disregard for the support of a number of the nation’s key cultural periodicals.

Peter Rose, Editor and CEO

Australian Book Review and the Australia Council

Comments (3)

  • Dear Alex Miller, it's not the Australia Council which has failed ABR, it's our successive Lib/Nat federal governments and arts ministers which have failed the Australia Council, reducing its funding so that it has lost more than 20% of its income to distribute to arts organisations such as ABR, the Sydney Writers' Festival, Australian Theatre for Young People, and many more.
    Posted by Jane Messer
    07 April 2020
  • This looks, on the face if it, to be a downright disgrace. In a country which still hopes to be literate and educated, this journal links us to our major cultural tradition. No doubt somebody will purport to explain and support the decision.
    I also note that the cruel choice was made at exactly the point in history when --
    beset by pandemic -- we will lack cultural education very sadly indeed.
    Posted by Professor Emeritus Chris Wallace-Crabbe
    06 April 2020
  • The Australian Book Review is our assurance of our freedom as writers. It occupies a uniquely critical space in our culture that we leave vacant at our peril. If ABR is forced to close due to a lack of support from the Australia Council, then the Australia Council will have failed all of us. To lose ABR would be a humiliation of the freedom of thought in this country. The critical voice of ABR is essential to the intellectual health of our society.
    Posted by Alex Miller
    06 April 2020

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