Over the past day and a bit, I've been reading a lot on the debate about the scrapping of the Queensland Premier's Literary Award.
I believe having these awards in some form is important. It's about celebrating outstanding Queensland Literature. It's the recognition of those writers' contribution to the culture of our state.
It's disappointing that the new government didn't make an effort to consult with stakeholders on this and look for a workable solution. I don't believe there would have been as much outrage if the awards stayed, but with private enterprise funding the categories - even if that meant the prize money dropped. Or if the awards continued minus the prize money at all.
That certainly is what appears to be what could be happening for starters with some dedicated people launching the Queensland Literary Awards.
Here are some of the quotes I've found most interesting that have come out of the debate:
Stuart Glover on ABC: What most of the awards are about are about signalling a valuing of literary activity and an encouragement of cultural and literary discourse. And what this signals, in the particular context of Queensland is that that isn't valued.
Tanya for TLC Books: Awards are important to writers as many many books get published every year and the awards and those books that are long and short listed get recognised as works worth reading, of being in a bookstore, or library, or a school text. The most prestigious awards not only give honours but lead to significantly increased sales. They are an important part of the business. (I really loved this whole article - a very well thought out and non-political piece).
Sue Abbey on ABC: It's such a unique award and opportunity in Australia. Out of it came writers such as Doris Pilkington, of course the author of Rabbit Proof Fence, which went on to become the film Rabbit Proof Fence and premiered all over the world.
Chad Parkhill on Meanjin: It’s hard to put a fiscal value on these benefits, but given that the breadth of Queensland’s awards was unparalleled amongst state literary awards—it gave prizes across 14 separate categories compared to NSW’s 13, Western Australia’s 10, South Australia’s eight, Victoria’s seven, and Tasmania’s three—it seems to have performed very well for a minimal investment. $244,475 is a strikingly small amount in a state budget that runs to $4.6 billion deficit. The cost in terms of Queensland’s cultural reputation is impossible to calculate, yet already inevitable comparisons between Newman and Joh Bjelke-Petersen been aired. In the meantime, writers are already seeking to rebuild. The Unaipon seems most likely to survive, as it previously existed independently of the other awards. Queensland authors Matt Condon and Krissy Kneen have announced their intention to run independent awards structured along much the same lines as the old awards, albeit without the state’s imprimatur. UQP’s general manager, Greg Bain, has pledged his support for the new awards and reaffirmed UQP’s commitment to publishing the recipients of the Unaipon and Emerging Queensland Writer awards. Just how successful these new awards will be in a hostile political climate and without access to the state’s resources remains to be seen.
For more blog posts, news and opinions check out the Queensland Writers Centre's Queensland Premier's Literary Award page.