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Member only guide to the Australian book industry.
On 30 January 2023 the Albanese Government announced the new National Cultural Policy, Revive. The ASA lobbied hard to introduce policy settings to support authors’ and illustrators’ vital work and applauds the key wins for literature in Revive.
Background and consultation process
From July 2022, the Office for the Arts embarked on a consultation process seeking submissions on the following five pillars:
The new National Cultural Policy presented a once-in-a-decade opportunity to move the dial for authors and the ASA relentlessly advocated to ensure that the new policy centred and supported authors after years of declining funding.
As well as attending Town Hall events and meetings with both the Minister and Susan Templeman MP, Special Envoy to the Arts, the ASA made a significant submission. You can read the ASA submission here.
You made submissions too – thank you to everyone who answered our call – our voice is very powerful when we stand together. A key take away from the consultation process was the impassioned, unified and clear call from authors for Government policies and investment to support our writers and illustrators, who largely live impecunious and financially uncertain lives. Read our summary of the submissions from the writing community here.
The Minister gave a powerful speech at the ASA’s annual Colin Simpson Memorial Keynote, to an audience of authors, illustrators, publishers and industry professionals on Tuesday 15 November 2022, in which he affirmed the Government’s commitment to delivering what has been missing for a decade – a National Cultural Policy which recognises the work of authors and illustrators. Read more and listen to his speech here.
We supported our submission to the National Cultural Policy consultation process with a submission to Treasury for budgetary support. You can read our Pre-Budget 2023-24 submission here.
Summary of Revive
On 30 January 2023, Revive was announced and the ASA applauded the key wins for writers such as the creation of Writers Australia, together with a substantial increase in investment in literature and the introduction of digital lending rights.
Revive is a 5-year plan to renew and revive the arts sector with additional investment of $286 million over 4 years. The policy is underpinned by some refreshing and very welcome acknowledgments: that First Nations stories are at the centre of Australian art and culture, that our arts and culture build our national identity, that our artistic output is important to cultural diplomacy, and that our writers and artists are workers and deserve dignity and fair remuneration. While of course there is more to be done to address the sustainability of author and illustrator careers in Australia, we welcome this policy which puts essential foundations in place from which we can build a thriving literary industry.
At the centre of the National Cultural Policy is the establishment of Creative Australia (a revamped Australia Council) with restored and additional funding, and four new bodies to be established within its structure:
Writers Australia (allocated $19.3 million in funding), is due to commence activities in 2025, and will:
In our submission to the National Cultural Policy the ASA highlighted the fact that literature has been sidelined, underfunded, and needed a national plan and we are gratified by the response in Revive. The establishment of Writers Australia will allow better strategic engagement with all stakeholders – publicly funded, philanthropic and commercial – in an overall national vision for literature. The $19.3 million in funding represents an increase of investment in literature, and is a good start.
Writers Australia represents a real opportunity for literature: to embed and grow longer-term funding, to develop and modernise our industry and to build a framework for our sector for years to come. It will be able to commission much-needed research and advocate on behalf of literature. Revive focusses on broad structural change, and the detail of individual investment via grants or fellowships is left to future planning. We must not lose sight of the need to invest in creation and we will be advocating for a strong author voice on the Writers Australia Board, and the current spotlight on the financial challenges faced by individual writers and artists to be maintained.
Creative Australia will also invest in a works of scale fund ($19 million). The examples of “works of scale” in Revive include those works which have evolved to reach larger audiences such as “the way Secret River went from novel, to play, to television drama, The Drover’s Wife went from short story, to play, to feature film, and Cloudstreet went from novel to play to television series to opera”. We are keen to know more about the ways the works of scale fund may be accessed by authors.
Key to Revive is the recognition that First Nations stories are at the centre of Australia’s arts and culture. The Government has reaffirmed its commitment to implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full and announced the establishment of a First Nations-led Board within Creative Australia for autonomous and self-determined decision-making around funding, commencing activities in 2024. This body will set priorities, invest in and create works of scale and promote best practice cultural safety protocols.
Other actions include:
Australia’s leading Indigenous publisher, Magabala Books, which is an Aboriginal owned and led publishing house, was included as a case study in the Policy, modelling best practice for the publishing of First Nations stories.
The ASA warmly welcomed the decision to modernise and extend Lending Rights (PLR / ELR) to include digital formats under the schemes, with an additional $12.9 million in funding. As previously announced, this is a common-sense change that has been sought by the ASA for many years, supported by writers and illustrators and all industry stakeholders. This action will make a material difference to the lives of writers and illustrators, and we will bring you more details about the expanded scheme, including eligibility criteria, timelines and payment as they become available. Read our report on the introduction of Digital Lending Rights here.
A number of submissions made by individual creators and organisations to the National Cultural Policy called for the establishment of a National Poet Laureate to celebrate and elevate poetry within Australian society. We are pleased that the Government has listened, and will introduce the role of Poet Laureate through Writers Australia.
There is little detail about the position outlined in the Policy, other than that the Poet Laureate will “promote poetry and mentor up and coming poets.” We support the call by the First Nations Australian Writers Network for the first Poet Laureate to be a poet of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander heritage.
Encouragingly, the reality of individual creators’ lives is clearly recognised in the Policy, with an affirmation of the principle that creators should be fairly remunerated for their work. The ASA’s rates of pay are specifically mentioned:
“Funding bodies should continue to affirm the principle that artists should be paid for their work, including through recognition of Awards, recommended rates of pay and codes of practice such as the Live Performance Award 2010, the Broadcasting Recorded Entertainment and Cinemas Award 2010, Australian Society of Authors rates of pay, Australian Writers Guild benchmarks, and the National Association for the Visual Arts Code of Practice.”
Authors and illustrators will be all too familiar with requests to work for below minimum rates, or for free. We hope this acknowledgement within our National Cultural Policy will encourage you to negotiate with confidence for the remuneration you are entitled to.
It will be interesting to see the scope of the new Centre for Arts and Entertainment Workplaces, which will be set up to provide advice on issues of pay, safety and welfare, to fully implement the Respect at Work report, to support the development of codes of conduct and to build capacity particularly for smaller organisations.
The policy outlines that “individuals and organisations receiving government funding will be required to adopt and adhere to these standards as a condition of funding.” We will look for opportunities to enshrine fair rates of pay for writers and illustrators into standards set by the Centre for Arts and Entertainment Workplaces.
Revive affirms the principle that our national cultural collection ought to be representative of modern Australia. We know that the low earnings of creators and issues of access bar many marginalised voices from being heard. The ASA believes that Writers Australia will have a key role to play in investing in marginalised voices that would otherwise find it difficult or impossible to achieve publication.
Other actions in Revive include:
The ASA strongly objected to the Job-Ready Graduates reforms introduced by the former government, which resulted in a doubling of fees for some tertiary courses in the humanities. Given our concerns about the cost of humanities degrees becoming prohibitive, particularly for students from low SES backgrounds, and the potential loss of employment opportunities for writers who run creative writing and literature-related courses, we are pleased that Revive included a commitment to review the Job-Ready Graduates reforms.
Below we extract some other announcements in Revive that we think our members may find noteworthy:
Creators battle financial insecurity and isolation and have felt ignored by government policy for a long time. Revive presents an opportunity. The language of respect and deep acknowledgment from the Government is a first restorative step, a vote of confidence in our writing community and a statement that we matter. The ASA will do everything we can to ensure this moment is seized to optimise conditions for authors and illustrators, as well as build the potential of our entire industry.
Read the National Cultural Policy in full here.