Writers to PM Tony Abbott: restore funding to the arts

An open letter

Dear Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Treasurer Joe Hockey and Minister for Arts George Brandis

We view with dismay the many proposed changes to health, education and welfare support announced in the 2014 budget, and fear that the consequences these changes are likely to have will be dire for our most vulnerable citizens: the young, the elderly, the disadvantaged and Indigenous Australians.

We also strongly object to the reduction in arts funding, specifically the Australia Council’s loss of $28.2 million (not to mention the attack on Australian screen culture with cuts of $38 million to Screen Australia’s budget and a massive $120 million cut from the ABC and SBS over the coming four years). This decrease in federal support will be devastating to those who make art of any kind in this country, and many important works, works that would inform national debate and expand the horizons of Australia and its citizens, will simply never be made. Ultimately, these cuts will impoverish Australian culture and society.

Cutting the support the Australia Council offers will mean the loss of libraries, galleries, museums, concerts, regional tours, writing centres, and community and regional arts centres. In 2009, 11 million people visited an art gallery. To give that number context, it’s more people than went to the AFL and NRL combined. Those numbers tell us what many already know: that art is as crucial a part of our national identity as sport. Australians are passionate about creating, attending, consuming and investing in art.

The sector is ‘central to the social life of Australians’, as last year’s Creative Australia policy noted, and ‘an increasingly important part of the economic mainstream’. Following two comprehensive government reviews and a long process of consultation, the Creative Australia policy had promised to invest an additional $200 million in the sector; there is no mention of this additional funding in the current budget.

Importantly, the arts sector is one of the largest employers in the country. ‘In 2011, cultural industries directly employed 531,000 people, and indirectly generated a further 3.7million jobs,’ critic and writer Alison Croggon recently observed. ‘Copyright industries were worth $93.2 billion to the Australian economy in 2007, with exports worth more than $500 million.’

The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that in 2008–9, the arts contributed $86 billion to the Australian GDP – that is, 7% – $13 billion of which flowed directly from our field, literature and print media.

It is worth noting that the mining sector only provides $121 billion to the GDP, and employs fewer workers (187,400 directly, 599,680 indirectly), yet receives far more government financial support at federal and state levels.

Government support of the arts is vital to civic participation, as well as employment, innovation, growth, education, health, trade and tourism. The arts, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found in 2011, help build a ‘socially inclusive society’, one that makes people feel of value, and encourages greater participation in employment, education, training and volunteering.

Australia has a long history of valuing the arts and supporting its artists and writers. The Commonwealth Literary Fund was first started in 1908 and eventually became the Literature Board, before moving to the auspices of the Australia Council. The $200 million in grants the Australia Council as a whole currently bestows enables large organisations, such as the Australian Ballet, to put on annual programs, but also allows regional companies such as Back to Back Theatre or Bangarra Dance Theatre to tour internationally. It helps decades-old publications continue to foster a love of literature, finding and supporting new writers who will become tomorrow’s great Australian authors.

The loss of funding indicated in the 2014 budget will devastate these smaller organisations and practitioners, robbing Australia of a whole generation of artists, writers, publishers, editors, theatre makers, actors, dancers and thinkers. Crucially, it will deprive people, particularly in rural and regional areas and in remote communities, of the opportunity to create, educate, learn and collaborate. These proposed funding cuts endanger us intellectually, artistically and severely damage our reputation internationally. Moreover, we fear the prospect of a world of culture and art that is unaffordable to the majority of Australians.

You have an opportunity now to restore and increase funding to the arts. We ask you that you don’t devalue our artists or their work, and instead recognise what art offers Australia.

We look forward to your response.

Zora Sanders, Meanjin

Jacinda Woodhead, Overland

Alex Miller, author

Alexis Wright, author

Anna Funder, author

Christos Tsiolkas, author

JM Coetzee, author

Sonya Hartnett, author

Chloe Hooper, writer

Don Watson, writer

Hannah Kent, author

Shaun Tan, author and illustrator

Garth Nix, author

Peter Temple, writer

Sally Rippin, author and illustrator

Andy Griffiths, author

Kim Scott, author

Alison Croggon, writer and critic

Daniel Keene, playwright

Robert Drewe, author

Kirsten Tranter, author

Fiona Capp, author

Tony Birch, writer

Michelle de Kretser, author

Larissa Behrendt, writer

Lisa Dempster, Melbourne Writers Festival

Jennifer Mills, author, fiction editor Overland

Martine Murray, author

Andrea Goldsmith, author

Emeritus Professor John McLaren AM, author

Marion Halligan AM, author

Dr Clare Wright, author and academic

David Williamson, playwright

Kristin Williamson, author

Dr Jessica Wilkinson, poet, academic and editor

Ivor Indyk, Giramondo Publishing, UWS

Evelyn Juers, author

Peter Rose, Australian Book Review

Professor Gail Jones, author

Dr Jeff Sparrow, Overland

Favel Parrett, author

Dr Benjamin Law, author

Dr Maria Tumarkin, author

Matthew Lamb, Island

Sam Cooney, The Lifted Brow

Rjurik Davidson, writer and editor

Amy Middleton, Archer Magazine

Alice Grundy, Seizure

Elizabeth McMahon, Southerly

Tessa Lunney, Southerly

David Brooks, Southerly

Geoff Lemon, Going Down Swinging

Robert Skinner, The Canary Press

Alex Skutenko, Overland

Lesley Halm, Island

Dr Peter Minter, Overland

Dr Kate Fagan, author and musician

Susan Hornbeck, Griffith REVIEW

Geordie Williamson, Island

Kent MacCarter, Cordite Poetry Review

Josephine Rowe, author

Richard Watts, writer and broadcaster

Angela Meyer, author and literary journalist

Delia Falconer, author

Connor Tomas O’Brien, Tomely

Van Badham, writer

Melissa Keil, author and editor

Professor John Kinsella, poet and writer

Gideon Haigh, journalist

Dr Tom Cho, author

Judith Beveridge, Meanjin

Kalinda Ashton, author

Simon Mitchell, author

Margo Lanagan, writer

Lally Katz, writer

Sally Heath, writer and publisher

James Ley, writer and editor

Luke Davies, writer and poet

Omar Musa, rapper, poet and author

Ben Walter, writer

David Leser, writer and journalist

Ben Eltham, writer and journalist

Robert Macklin, author and journalist

Alan Close, writer

Chris Womersley, author

James Bradley, author and critic

Bronte Coates, Stilts

Carmel Bird, writer

Maxine Clarke, poet and writer

Alice Pung, author

Kate Larsen, writer and arts manager

Craig Sherborne, author

John Birmingham, writer

Steve Bisley, actor and writer

Candida Baker, author

Hannie Rayson, playwright

Di Morrissey, author

Marele Day, author

Rebecca Starford, Text Publishing and Kill Your Darlings

Susan Johnson, author

Mungo MacCallum, writer and journalist

Thomas Keneally, author

Melissa Cranenburgh, editor and writer

Charlotte Wood, author

Rachel Power, author and journalist

Andrew Nette, author

Sandra Symons, academic

David Whish-Wilson, author

Michael Rowbotham, author

Paul Clifford, Westerly

Delys Bird, Westerly

Kerry Greenwood, author

Isobelle Carmody, author

Linda Jaivin, writer and translator

Simone Howell, author

Steven Amsterdam, author

Giovanni Tiso, writer and translator

Wilma Mann, historian and writer

Dr Trisha Kotai-Ewers, writer

Sandra Hall, writer

John Harman, Author

Ben Ellis, playwright

Kate Richards, author

Elise Jones, editor, Allen & Unwin

Jon Doust, author

Kathryn Heyman, author

Vicki-Lee Alomes, screenwriter

Honorary Associate Professor Anitra Nelson, writer and academic

Andrew P Street, Time Out

Emma Jones, writer

Margaret Barbalet, writer

Patrick Holland, writer

Thomas Henning, writer

Shane Jesse Christmass, author

Dr Jessica White, author

Dean Bryant, writer and director

Marcel Dorney, playwright and director

Suzanne Ingelbrecht, playwright

Dr Carolyn D’Cruz, academic

Mitchell Oakley Smith, editor and author

Brigid Lowry, author

Ben Peek, author

Peter Bibby, playwright, poet and writer

Ben Brooker, writer and editor

Lefa Singleton Norta, Express Media

Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, writer and academic

Anthony Panegyres, writer

Emily Laidlaw, Kill Your Darlings

Emily Stewart, writer and editor

Hon Professor G R E Phillips, writer and academic

Mandy Beaumont, writer and academic

Martin Harrison, poet and academic

Pam Brown, poet, editor and reviewer

Oliver Mol, writer

Dr Mireille Juchau, writer

Tiffany Barton, playwright, actor and theatre producer

Robyn Cadwallader, writer

Tim Richards, journalist, author and critic

Jocelyn Richardson, writer and Chart editor

Adam Curley, writer

Dan Hogan, writer

Bec Zajac, Overland

Aden Rolfe, writer

Anwyn Crawford, writer

Dr Patrick Allington, writer, critic and editor

Jason Childs, writer

Netta Fitzgerald, writer

Karen Pickering, presenter and writer

Kate Blackwood, editor

Ness Demaine, writer

Lou Heinrich, writer

Max Cooper, writer

Eliza Sarlos, writer and creative producer

Jason Nahrung, editor, journalist and writer

Nick Parsons, playwright and screenwriter, Chairman and Screen Studies Editor Currency Press

Claire Nashar, writer

Simon Collinson, The Lifted Brow

Inga Simpson, writer

Susie Conte, playwright

Dmetri Kakmi, author

Can Yalcinkaya, academic, writer and editor

Daniel Best, non-fiction writer, publisher and journalist

Jane Abbott, writer

Dan Bledwich, author

Vince Ruston, poet, editor and artist

Vivienne Glance, playwright and poet

James Robert Douglas, writer

Kyla Lee Ward, author and poet

Clare Strahan, writer and play-maker

Sara Wiseman, actor

Christine Bongers, author

Hannah Mae Cartmel, The Rag and Bone Man Press

Melissa Archer, writer and journalist

Cameron Rogers, author and screenwriter

Andrew Bovell, playwright and screenwriter

Patrick Lenton, writer and marketer

Diana Jenkins, writer

David M. Green, comedian and writer

Toby Fitch, poet

P.M. Newton, writer

Gillian Polack, writer

Belinda Lopez, writer and radio producer

Lex Hirst, editor & co-director of the National Young Writers’ Festival

Chad Parkhill, writer and editor

Bert Goldsmith, writer and comedian

Jane Bodie, playwright, Playwriting Australia, former Head of Playwriting at NIDA

Lyndal Beer, artist

Nina Smith, author

Justine Indigo-Rose, artist and musician

Cat Sparks, author and editor

Florence Forrest, writer, poet, artist

Peter Matheson, dramaturg

Lana Schwarcz, playwright, puppeteer and performer

Lana Rosenbaum, writer

Mark Calderwood, artist, writer

Ellena Savage, writer and editor

Kate Hennessy, writer

Katherine Lyall-Watson, playwright and editor

Nathan Curnow, poet

Stuart Barnes, writer and editor

Jodi McAlister, writer and academic

Ned Manning writer, actor, teacher

Rachel Leary, writer and performer

Craig Hildebrand-Burke, writer & teacher

S. G. Larner, writer

Vanessa Page, poet

Elena Gomez, poet and editor

JYL Koh, writer

Abigail King, performer

Joshua Allen, writer and editor

Stephen Sewell, writer

Meredith Curnow, publisher

Jill Jones, poet and academic

Rebecca Hawkings, writer and academic

Darryl Emmerson, writer and singer

Jessica Jones, author

Anita Bell, author and producer at Tarampa Studios

Laurie Ormond, researcher, writer and editor

Russell Fletcher

William McBride, writer and performance maker

David Follett, comics creator and illustrator

Kristy De Camps, author, writer, editor

AH Cayley, writer and broadcaster

Marty Hiatt, poet and translator

Dan Goronszy, theatre maker, interactive arts

Meera Atkinson, writer

Tara Cartland, writer

Tom Holloway, playwright

Deborah Parsons, writer

Luke Carson, actor and writer

Judith Ridge, writer, editor and arts program manager

Robert Reid, playwright

Terri-Ann White

Emma Ashmere, writer

Meredith Forrester, editor

Bronwyn Mehan, Spineless Wonders

Amanda Langlois puppeteer, musician, teacher

L Phillip Lucas, writer and editor

Patti Miller, writer

Henrietta Zeffert, writer, Right Now

Rihana Ries, writer and editor

Mark Roberts, editor, Rochford Street Review

Krissy Kneen, writer

Sarah Armstrong, writer

Denise Lines, writer

Eli Glasman, author

Telia Nevile, writer

Margaret Hamilton AM, The Children’s Book Council of Australia

Margaret Hamilton writes: ‘The CBCA is a national, voluntary organisation which promotes and encourages Australia’s children’s authors and illustrators. It will suffer from budget cuts to the Australia Council. The CBCA national conference in Canberra on 16-18 May secured funding which enabled us to pay speakers ASA rates. Without this kind of support the 2016 national conference in Sydney would be in jeopardy and the creators of children’s books would be severely disadvantaged. As a CBCA National Board member I urge the government to continue its support for this vital work in raising literacy standards and promoting reading.’

Anna Solding, author, editor and publisher at MidnightSun

Hila Shachar, writer and lecturer

Jeni Thornley, writer, filmmaker and lecturer

Gillian Dooley, editor, librarian, writer, musician

Briony Kidd, writer and filmmaker

Tim Littlemore

Amanda Webster, writer

Juan Garrido Salgado

Michael Sharkey, editor, Australian Poetry Journal

Klare Lanson, Writer, Poet, Performance Maker, Sound Artist

Belinda Jeffrey, author and illustrator

John Hamilton, Screenwriter

AS, writer

Sharon Kernot, writer

Graham Parks, writer and military historian

Jim Hearn, writer

Lou Pollard, performer and writer

Elizabeth Little, librarian and writer

Cherie Grant

Philip Salom, Poet, Novelist, Reviewer and Opinion-artist!

Jacky T, Poet, MC, Producer (Slamalamadingdong)

Rebekah Clarkson, writer

Zoe Dattner, Sleepers Publishing

Emma Rooksby, writer

Julie Check

Emilie Collyer, writer

Bel Schenk, poet

Katherine E Seppings, artist, writer, photographer, poet and editor

Dr Kate Richards, writer

Toby Tremayne, writer

Duncan Graham, playwright

Pip Newling, writer

Perry Gretton, writer and editor

Amelia Groom, writer

Amy Maynard, writer and academic

Stefanie Bennett, poet, author and editor

Kristin Martin, poet and writer of children’s fiction

Valerie Parv, writer, editor and scriptwriter

Geraldine Burrowes, writer and artist

Deb Kelly, writer

Trent Jamieson, writer

Craig Behenna, writer and director

Claire Aman, writer

Noel Mengel, journalist, author

Nicki Bloom, writer

Liana Brenner, Artist

Ella Roby, writer and editor

Bridget Haylock, writer

Steph Harmon, editor

Laurie Duggan, poet and critic

Lucy Treloar, writer

John Connell, author

Carmen Cara

Don Smith comedian and writer

Geoff Orton, Writers Bloc, Younger Young Writers’ Program

Claire Thomas, writer

Daniel Young, Tincture Journal

Lauren Strickland, writer and editor

Alison Miles, librarian and writer

Liz Horne, writer and printmaker

Somaya Langley, sound & media artist, producer & digital curator

Bessie Byrne, journalist

Autumn Royal, poet

Andrew Keen, writer and filmmaker

Donna Ward, publisher, Inkerman & Blunt

Jessica Bellamy, playwright

Kim Haworth, writer, editor

Peta Murray, playwright

Felicity Nicol, Director & Artistic Director of Ashfield Youth Theatre

Aashish Kaul, author

Marek Platek, comedian & writer

Eluned Lloyd, poet and library worker

Kathryn Ledson author

Melissa Lucashenko, writer

Tegan Lang, arts worker

Koraly Dimitriadis, writer and performer

Rachel Hennessy, writer

Mark Langham, playwright

Demet Divaroren, writer

Mia Wotherspoon, writer

Phillip A Ellis, author

Phillip Kavanagh, playwright

Michelle Cahill, Mascara, editor, poet

Gabrielle Bryden, poet and writer

Fiona McGregor, writer

Les Wicks, poet

Juliette Zavarce, producer, AJZ Productions

Alirio Zavarce, artistic director, AJZ Productions

Tobias Manderson-Galvin, MKA: Theatre of New Writing

Emeritus Professor Dennis Haskell, Westerly Centre, UWA

William Lyons, author and playwright

Virginia Duigan, author and screenwriter

Dean Watson

Judith Hamann, cellist

Elise Jones, editor

Sophie Splatt, editor

Sally McInerney, writer and photographer

Stephanie McCann

Joanne Burns, writer

Elena Carapetis, actor and writer

Zoe Pollock, historian and arts administrator

David Blumenstein, writer

Franz Docherty, writer

Belinda Bradley, writer

Loma Bridge, writer, editor

Petrina Meldrum, writer

Rohan Shearn, Australian Arts Review

John Bryson AM, author

Byron Bache, writer and theatre critic

Phil Spencer, playwright, performer, artistic director

Andy Kissane, writer

Rebecca Slater, Seizure

Geoff Setty, writer, reviewer and comedian

Stephanie Van Schilt, writer and editor

Jenni Nixon, poet

Joyce Morgan, arts journalist and author

Seizure Kaiser, writer, comedian, producer and director

Avi Bernshaw, comedian and producer

Martin Hammond, poet and storywriter

Lynette Washington, writer

Danelle Dobinson, poet and writer

Ashley Capes, poet, novelist and editor

Hugo Gleeson

Jessica Sykes, writer and editor

Tess Williams, author and writer

Carrie McCarthy, writer

Matt Turner, writer

Dean Richard Peter Edwards, writer and editor

Lachlan Philpott, playwright

Colleen Brown, citizen, blogger and voter

Aidan Jones, comedian and writer

Dionne Lister, author and editor

Cat Hope, composer, musician and academic

James WF Roberts, author and poet

Christina Ballico, academic

Rachel Ford, writer and publisher

Julia Wakefield, writer, artist and community radio broadcaster

Ross Mueller, playwright, columnist and children’s author

Robbie Coburn, poet

Meg Travers, archivist and musician

Zoe Blain, writer

Catherine Fargher, playwright and digital scriptwriter

Glenn Saunders, writer and theatre-blogger

Hamish Danks Brown, poet

Samantha Brown, editor and journalist

Katie Lavers, director and writer

Vanessa Bates, playwright and writer

Drusilla Modjeska writer

Mary Masters, arts manager

Alice Bishop, writer and editor

Belinda Rule, writer

Susan Hawthorne, poet and publisher, Spinifex Press

Ivy Ireland, poet, academic

Brenda Walker, writer

Sue Abbey, editor and mentor

Rita Kalnejais, playwright and screenwriter

Kim Lock, author

Michelle Offen, screenwriter

Foong Ling Kong, editor

Larissa Bricis, editor

Luke Beesley, poet

Francesca Sasnaitis, writer and artist

Brad Coleman, painter, musician, filmmaker and digital artist

Libbie Chellew, writer

Willa McDonald, writer and academic

Clayton Lin, aspiring writer

Natalie Andrews, publishing

Matthew Bryson, academic author

Elizabeth Lhuede, blogger and writer

Leigh Redhead, writer

Duncan Felton, editor and writer

Noëlle Janaczewska, writer

Ron Pretty, poet and editor

Bernard Cohen, writer

Jessica Knight

Irma Gold, author and editor

Graham Houghton

Heather Gammage, writer and co-director, Clarion South Writer’s Workshop

Anthony Uhlmann, director, writer and Society Research Centre

Kerryanne Farrer, producer, performer and regional arts development officer

Sophie Allan, writer and editor

Belinda Locke, director, performer and researcher

Rebecca Haley

Caroline Reid, writer and advocate for the arts and artists

Craig Munro, editor and writer

Dr Rachel Morley, academic and writer, UWS

Katrina Torenbeek, producer

Jane Camens, writer, founder of The Asia Pacific Writers and Translators Association

Jack Tandy, comedian and writer

Tom Flood, writer, songwriter and editor

Julie Maclean, writer

Carody Culver, writer and editor

Heather Ewings, writer

Adam Ouston, writer

Kristy Bushnell, editor

Susie Greenhill, writer

Dr Jessica White, writer

Dolores Lorette, comedian and writer

Bronwyn Parry, novelist

Wendy J Dunn, author and academic

Kirsty-Lee Workman, editor

Natalie Day, writer and academic

Dharmavanam Daws, poet and musician

Andrew Burke

Jon Perring, musician, sound artist and live music venue owner

Fiona Wood, writer

Laura Scrivano, screenwriter and director

Dr Nathanael O’Reilly, poet, academic and editor

James Dryburgh, writer and council worker

Mischana Dellora-Cornish, Actor

Dr Lainie Jones, writer

Hayley Stockall, Stilts

Phillipa Fioretti, writer

Joe Nuttall, musician and writer

Ros Bandt

Andrew Stuckgold, writer and photographer

Penny Barraclough

Kelli Lonergan, writer

Tegan Jane Schetrumpf, poet

Dimitra Harvey, poet

Kate Forsyth, writer

Theodore Ell, writer, translator and co-editor, Contrappasso Magazine

S Way, journalist and storyteller

Nat Pree, writer

Natalie Scerra, writer and researcher

Frances Buring-Pichler

Aidan Coleman, writer

Katherine Howell, author

Karen Chisholm

Alan Carter, author

Adrian Deans, author

Dr Tansy Rayner Roberts, author

Angela Savage, author

Lindy Cameron, author and publisher

Bethany Clark, editor and arts marketer

Tania Chandler, editor

Paula Duggan, writer

Jacqui Horwood, Sisters in Crime Australia

Geoff Brown, author and publisher

Ava Hubble, writer and journalist

Martin Ed Chatterton, author

Antony Mann, writer

Kim Magnussen

Janice Simpson, author

Ilsa Evans

Victoria Heywood, author

Léa Antigny

Frances Johnson, writer

Mandy Oldham, author

(We are still collecting signatures for this letter. If you are a writer, editor or publishing worker, please leave your name in the comments section of the letter over at Meanjin, or email Jacinda Woodhead at jacinda@overland.org.au)

Editorial team

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