Members of the Queensland literary community are working to ensure that the state continues to offer literary awards, following this week's shock decision by the newly elected Queensland government to cancel the 2012 Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards.
Author and editor of Qweekend Matthew Condon told Bookseller+Publisher that members of the local literary community decided to informally establish the Queensland Literary Awards last night, as they were all 'numb and outraged over the decision by [Premier] Campbell Newman to axe the awards'.
Condon is working with author Krissy Kneen and others to garner support for the new awards, which Condon told Radio National this morning 'may go ahead with no money'. The team behind the proposed awards have started a Facebook page and are 'trying to organise advertising for submissions to the awards,' said Condon.
'Greg Bain, CEO of University of Queensland Press, confirmed to me this morning that he would continue to publish the winners of both the Unaipon Award and the Emerging Writers category,' said Condon of the support received for the awards so far. 'This morning the Brisbane Writers festival also pledged a venue and a slot in their program later this year. We have already received pledges from volunteer judges and pro bono administrative assistance.'
'It has all happened very quickly and there has yet to be a formal meeting of those interested in driving this,' said Condon.
Bain confirmed to Bookseller+Publisher that UQP is committed to supporting the David Unaipon Award, which has been presented in the past for an unpublished work by an Indigenous writer, and the Emerging Queensland Author Manuscript Award. 'The Unaipon was a UQP initiative back in 1989 and was supported by successive state premiers until now,' said Bain. 'I am committed to keeping this award alive, and already looking at a number of possibilities.'
'To say I am disappointed by this news would be a staggering understatement,' said Bain, of the government’s decision to cancel the awards. 'Fancy receiving this news in the official National Year of Reading? Arts funding is clearly seen as a soft target. How do we nurture our creative minds, our artists and our creative communities? They vote too.'
The Queensland Government said this week that it will no longer offer the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards, as part of its 'plan to control government spending', according to a statement sent to the Brisbane Times. The government said the move will 'save Queensland taxpayers $244, 475, not including the cost of resourcing the awards'. The awards were not specifically mentioned during Campbell Newman’s election campaign and the cut came just nine days after he assumed officer as premier.
Bookseller+Publisher understands that the 2012 Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards were to open for entries next week. In 2011, then Premier Anna Bligh called for entries for the awards at the end of February, and entries closed in early May. The winners of the 2011 awards were announced during the 2011 Brisbane Writers Festival in September 2011.
An online petition has also been established to lobby the Queensland Government to reinstate the Premier’s Awards. The petition is available online here.