Create NSW funding decision

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Writing NSW is set to lose its ongoing state government funding at the end of this year, as part of a decision to grant just 5% of long-term arts funding to literature. It’s devastating that the state’s peak organisation for writers is being defunded in the middle of a global pandemic, says our Chair, Joel Naoum. You can read Joel’s full statement below, along with statements of support from our community. A media release about the funding decision is here.

Read the latest update on the future of Writing NSW from chair Joel Naoum here.

Read the lastest update about our meeting with NSW Minister for the Arts, Don Harwin here.

Here are some actions you can take to help us save Writing NSW:

  • Write to or phone your NSW Member of Parliament. Contact details for all state MPs are here. Customise this template letter to make your views known.
  • Send a copy of your letter to the Honourable Don Harwin, Minister for the Arts: office@harwin.minister.nsw.gov.au.
  • Post about the funding decision on your social media platforms tagging @writingNSW and using the hashtag #SaveWritingNSW
  • Spread the news to your colleagues and friends in the writing community and ask them to make their views known
  • Sign this open letter to Create NSW and the NSW Minister for the Arts from writers and active members in the literary community
  • Sign this petition from Jamie Parker, MP for Balmain, to NSW Minister for the Arts, the Honourable Don Harwin.

Create NSW funding – a message from our Chair

Writing NSW received the news last week that our multi-year funding from Create NSW will be discontinued at the end of this year. It is devastating to see the state’s main support organisation for writers and the literature sector de-funded in the middle of a global pandemic, at a time when organisations across the arts are already stretched to breaking point.
 
More broadly, we are deeply disappointed to see the literature sector receive only 5% of the total long-term arts funding awarded to organisations. Literature has always been the poor cousin when it comes to funding, but this appears to be a new low.
 
We congratulate the four literature organisations that will receive ongoing funding, Red Room Poetry, Varuna, the Sydney Review of Books and WestWords. Ongoing funding is essential to allow organisations to plan effectively and to provide all the support writers need. We are sure the four funded organisations will make great contributions to the writing culture of our state.
 
Writing NSW will continue to do everything we can to support writers and the literature sector in coming months. We know these are difficult times for writers and we will not relax our efforts to help you meet the challenges of a disrupted world.
 
For Writing NSW to continue in its current form, a new source of funding will need to be secured after our Create NSW funding comes to an end in December. Our Board and staff will be working hard to do that and to find a new way forward for the organisation. We will let you know more about that in coming weeks, as the picture becomes clearer.
 
With best wishes to you all,

Joel Naoum
Chair, Writing NSW

Support for Writing NSW

Benjamin Law, writer and broadcaster: “Right now, we are facing a reckoning in the arts and media about whose stories are told, and who gets to tell them. To deny a world-class organisation like Writing NSW the resources to do the work they’ve done for decades – in developing diverse and marginalised voices; in bringing those voices to the centre – is disappointingly short-sighted at best, and catastrophic to the arts at worst.” 

Kate Forsyth, writer: “I am stunned and appalled to hear our state’s most important organisation for writers has been defunded during these incredibly challenging times. I may never have achieved my lifelong dream of being a published writer without Writing NSW. As a young unpublished author, I attended courses, publishing seminars, and literary festivals in its beautiful grounds, and was encouraged, inspired and taught my craft. I have now published more than 40 books in 20 countries, but I will never forget what an important influence Writing NSW had upon my career. The services it offers are vital for creating and fostering a lively literary community, not just for aspiring authors but also for published authors who must find some way to earn an income if they are to survive in an increasingly difficult economic environment. Writing NSW works tirelessly to bring readers and writers together, to celebrate the importance of books in all their many diverse forms, and to support writers at all stages of their careers.”

Cathy Craigie, writer and cofounder of the First Nations Australia Writers’ Network: “It’s devastating to hear that the state government is defunding Writing NSW. I have been involved with this vital organisation for over 25 years and have worked on many events and programs during that time. The organisation has always been committed to supporting Indigenous writing and has employed many Aboriginal writers as well as helping to identify and mentor exciting new Indigenous voices. I acknowledge Writing NSW as national leaders in providing platforms for Indigenous writers.”

Emily Maguire, Stella Prize and Miles Franklin Award-shortlisted author: “I am heartbroken by the news that Create NSW will be discontinuing Writing NSW’s multi-year funding at the end of this year. As a member for 17 years and a workshop facilitator, tutor and writing mentor for the last decade, I have seen again and again the difference that the organisation makes to the creative and professional development of NSW writers. Writing NSW prioritises the nurturing and growth of a diverse, inclusive, vibrant and supportive writing community in NSW. The defunding of such a vital not-for-profit organisation represents an almost unfathomable loss both to individual writers and to the NSW and Australian literary landscape.”

Sophie Masson AM, writer and New England Writers’ Centre Chair: “Writing NSW may be based in Sydney, but it is definitely not Sydney-centric, reaching out well beyond the cities into the regions. Writing NSW has been a collegial, dynamic and crucial linchpin for regional writers’ centres such as ours. The New England Writers’ Centre recognises the central importance of Writing NSW as the peak State-based arts organisation dedicated to literature, and as a true engine-room of literary creativity and diversity. We warmly urge Create NSW to reconsider this recent decision and to find a way to maintain funding of this important and very dynamic organisation.”

Meredith Curnow, Publisher, Penguin Random House: “I was shocked and incredibly disappointed – for future writers of NSW and the entire literary industry – to hear that Create NSW has not committed ongoing funding to Writing NSW. It is the first port of call I recommend to the emerging writers, young and old, who ask where they can go for advice and support, to practise and learn their craft, to mix with like-minded people. Writing NSW ensures we have an audience ready to take the next steps into the literary world educated and prepared. I very much hope new sources of funding can be found to keep this valued organisation flourishing.”

Alice Pung, writer and author: “Writing NSW is invaluable for mentoring emerging writers and ensuring they get support and access to world-class workshops, programs and initiatives. It also supports Australian writers through granting us paid teaching engagements and introduces readers to exciting new voices. I am so sad to hear that it has lost significant funding, and hope that this decision be reconsidered so that this organisation can continue providing its invaluable services.”

Graham Davidson, Director, IF Maitland Indie Writers Festival: “I cannot begin to express how bewildered I was when I learned of Create NSW’s decision. It illustrates how incredibly short sighted they are and how little understanding they have of the arts in general. As a lifelong creative professional I believe the importance of Writing NSW to the broader creative community cannot be understated. I can’t think of anyone I know who is making money from their writing and haven’t benefited in one way or another from the services Writing NSW offers. I have personally gained a great deal from participating in their festivals, both as a panelist and as an attendee. Their open days and workshops have also been incredibly enlightening. There is no way I ever would have got the IF Maitland Festival off the ground without the opportunities opened up for me by Writing NSW.”

Kaaron Warren, award-winning author: “I joined Writing NSW very early on, when I was an unpublished author reaching out for inspiration, motivation and ideas. I’d read the newsletter avidly, admiring (and a little bit jealous of) those members whose publishing achievements were listed. Once I moved to Canberra, my connection continued, with the SpecFic weekends organised by the Centre. I formed connections at these events that continue to this day. I’m now a widely published author and I hope that on those weekends I passed on inspiration, motivation and ideas to other writers. This centre has played a vital role in my own career and must remain as a venue for ideas, friendship, instruction and much, much more.”

Jacqueline Harvey, author: “I am shocked and disappointed to hear that Writing NSW has effectively been defunded by the State Government. I have been involved with Writing NSW for almost twenty years and during that time have presented courses, been a guest at various literature festivals and benefitted from the collective knowledge of staff and members. I know many authors, both fledgling and published who rely on the centre and make great use of the services they offer. The support of Writing NSW has been invaluable to me personally and to so many others. If as a society we place any value on Australian voices and stories, it is imperative this decision is reversed and funding reinstated.”

Nick Earls, writer and author: “Our stories are a foundational part of who we are as a society, and they don’t write themselves. For decades Writing NSW has been at the heart of nurturing and developing the state’s writers. It is horrifying to think that the value of this is so underestimated by the state arts funding body. A reliably resourced Writing NSW is a key part of the state’s writing and publishing culture. Stories matter. Writers matter. Writing NSW provides a focal point where writing careers can begin, develop and flourish. This needs to be valued and supported.”

Tony Spencer-Smith, award-winning novelist and writing trainer: “What a time of darkness has come upon us. A pandemic, global warming and politicians seemingly drained of their humanity and empathy at the very time we need inspired leadership. I have given and taken courses many times at Writing NSW. It is a home for the life of the mind, the flourishing of imagination and the storytelling that illuminates the joy and agony of our existence. Such a wide range of people come to your courses, all finding a place to grow themselves, increase their expertise and deepen their understanding. Please, NSW, don’t let the lights go out on this beacon for our troubled times.”

Dr Charlotte Wood, AM: “Writers at the top of their industries and the height of their professional careers often began learning their craft at short courses exactly like those offered at Writing NSW, and by entering professional networks through the people they met there. I know I did. Without Writing NSW offering short, affordable, flexible professional development for the next generation of writers, our literary culture – and all the offshoot industries mentioned above – will suffer and NSW will lose out to other states in the benefits these bring to our cities and regions.”

Kate Holden, writer: “Writing NSW is an established and invaluable part of the arts sector in this state. It supports and encourages writing at all levels, has a proven history of management, and gives much-needed employment to writers and editors – workers who already have some of the lowest income in the country. Countless students have taken programs run by Writing NSW, been mentored, been given important advice both artistic and practical, and produced work that has gone on to contribute to the national literature – even to earn money. I am an established author of two bestselling books, a long-running newspaper column and a large body of freelance work. Employment from the organisation has given me income that is much appreciated. To give you an idea of my earning status, I have spent three years working on a book for a major publisher. In that time I have been advanced a total of $10,000. To supplement my income I have to take freelance work, but that is sporadic and appropriates time from my work on the book. Writing NSW has given me the opportunity to earn money by teaching – and this has been especially important since the Covid-19 pandemic cancelled other teaching and speaking events. The organisation allowed me to run an online, 5-month mentoring and editing program, from which I earned a few thousand dollars. This meagre sum has actually meant a great deal to my bottom line. In addition I got to encounter talented writers and to encourage them in their projects.Writing NSW is an invaluable part of the literary landscape in this state, and I cannot imagine how its loss could benefit anyone.”

Amanda Neihaus, writer and biologist: “More than ever, we need centres of writing community like Writing NSW, to support new ideas and debates; enable people to access their hopes, fears, and anger in creative ways; and showcase writing and teaching that inspires us all to find the joy in our everyday lives.”

Dr Laurel Cohn, editor: “I am absolutely stunned at the decision to defund Writing NSW. It is one of the most important incubators for writers in the country, and has been for the last twenty-five years. At this moment in time, during the pandemic, its role in helping people stay connected and creative is more important than ever. Without writers who can tell our stories, who can dream and imagine ways of being, ways of thinking, ways of surviving, we cannot become a stronger, more resilient society. We need writers to help us make sense of the world. And writers need Writing NSW. ”

Pamela Hewitt, editor: “This is an organisation grounded in the community. Through its writers’ groups and festivals, workshops and speakers’ panels, the information in newsletters as well as mentorships and manuscript assessments, Writing NSW has helped nurture some of our finest writers. I have watched workshop participants who were new to their craft develop into accomplished published and critically acclaimed authors in the twenty or so years that I have been associated with Writing NSW as a member and tutor. Participants in courses come from all over NSW and beyond to develop their skills. The Boundless Festival of Diverse Writers is one of its many important, innovative and joyous events that has given a voice to emerging writers. The relatively small amount of funding provided for Writing NSW multiplies in the community many times over, enriching the publishing industry and the arts generally, and through them, the general economy and society of NSW.”

Vanessa Berry, writer: “I was shocked and appalled to hear of the decision to withdraw funding from Writing NSW. There is no other institution like it for the vital support it provides to writers at all stages of their careers across NSW. In my involvement as a tutor and member I’ve seen firsthand their commitment to providing inclusive, diverse, and accessible programs, and to growing a strong and vibrant literary community. To have this work threatened during this time of social crisis deprives writers of the skills, opportunities, and empowerment that Writing NSW provides. This is unconscionable in a time when the stories and ideas that writers bring us are more important than ever, to connect, inform, and comfort us, in all the varied ways that literature reflects our lives and experiences.”

Marele Day, writer and Byron Writers’ Festival board member: “We are dismayed and saddened to learn of Create NSW’s decision to reject  Writing NSW’s application for ongoing multi-year funding.  Since its inception, with NSW government support, Writing NSW has been the state’s flagship organisation for the literary community and writers of all levels from beginners to established.  The value of the advice, support and mentoring it provides, its comprehensive program of workshops, and its commitment to showcasing Indigenous and culturally diverse writers through platforms such as the Boundless Festival is immeasurable.  We hope that funding can be made available so that Writing NSW can continue its important work.”

Hilary Bell, playwright and author: “It is beyond belief that Writing NSW has lost its funding. Now more than ever, people are turning to literature for comfort, guidance, wisdom, perspective, context, and reassurance that one is not alone. To pull the rug out from under writers and their readers is at best misguided, at worst cultural vandalism. Not only does the organisation enable writers to write, but it also creates teaching work in a profession of unpredictable income. And it provides community, so important for freelance, solitary artists. I have had the privilege of involvement with Writing NSW as both teacher and artistic director of its playwriting festival, and know how crucial its existence is as it feeds into the broader Australian culture. We can’t afford to lose it.”

Natasha Mitchell, broadcaster, podcaster and science journalist: “Writing NSW and its sister writer organisations in other States are now more important than ever. Storytelling, writing, words are what will help us make sense of this tumultuous time and our own experiences of it. They will bind us together and give us hope, insight, meaning as we all rebuild after this pandemic.”

Jacqui Dent, writer: “Writing NSW gave me my first job, my first fellowship and my first grant. The story of my career in writing and the arts is impossible to tell without this vital organisation.”

Patti Miller, author and writing teacher: “I have been teaching memoir writing classes for nearly thirty years at Writing NSW for people who want to write their life stories. These are not elitist classes, they are for ordinary people who have lived through interesting times and want to write their story for their family and their community.  People pay for the courses, but through funding, Writing NSW has been able to offer them at a reduced price so that anyone can afford to do them –  people of all classes,  all ethnic and cultural backgrounds, the vast diversity that makes up our country, are enabled to tell their story. Please continue to support the story-tellers of our communities.”

Greg Woodland, screenwriter and author: “The wonderful Writing NSW has been front and centre of my writer’s journey for all this time. I’ve given workshops here on scriptwriting, then taken too many seminars and workshops to remember. Not to mention meeting my fellow writers and becoming part of the writers community. And just this month I have finally achieved my dream of becoming a published author. I’m one writer amongst thousands that have passed through the beautiful rooms and gardens of the House and been inspired to follow their path and to hang in for the long haul. And to learn the journey really is more important than the destination. ”

Kirsten Krauth, bestselling author, editor and journalist: “Writing NSW has shaped my career as an author, editor and journalist. Since attending their courses, I’ve had two books published, appeared at the Sydney Writers’ Festival talking about how to market books, and started a freelance writing and editing business. Innovative, forward-thinking, adaptable – this organisation has always been a leader in the arts community, offering writers a place to connect with others and extend their skills. Without a writers’ centre in NSW, writers in this state will fall behind other states in terms of output and opportunity. This will harm the chances for writers in many fields. Without writers, we would not have the entertainment and creative options – film, television, books, digital content – that so many of us are relying on during the pandemic to help us through.”

Shankari Chandran, writer, author and lawyer: “Writing is a lonely, anxious and uncertain path. For decades, Writing NSW has created a community for writers to test their work, learn from others and contribute to the work of fellow writers. The centre nurtures diverse voices and does not defer to white norms in story-telling or publishing. Writing NSW has supported me to write stories that reflect my ancestral background and its impact on contemporary Australia. My voice would simply not be heard without the centre’s help. Writing NSW believes that stories have power, and with the right support, these stories can emerge into the world – to reflect it and to enrich it.”

Roanna Gonsalves, writer and author: ” When I was a young and unpublished writer, I took heart from the range of programs offered at Writing NSW, where I slowly built confidence that one day I would realise my dream of being a published author. Now, as a working writer, I feel immensely privileged to have been invited to participate in the activities offered by Writing NSW, such as at a wonderfully supportive panel focused on Indian-Australian writers, and the incredibly empowering Boundless Festival for diverse writers.”

Andy Griffiths, best-selling author: “I recently had the pleasure of being invited to contribute to the Writing NSW magazine. I did this happily and waived the fee in recognition of the fact that writing centres were crucial to my early development as a writer and this was a small way to acknowledge my gratitude as well as helping to inspire the next generation of writers. Writing Centres helped to connect me with practitioners who were able to guide my fledgling efforts and help to connect me with the industry. Writing NSW in particular provided me with valuable teaching income which helped keep me afloat in those early tough years. Whether people go on to become professional writers or just learn to express and understand themselves more profoundly through writing, the value that comes from writing centres is immeasurable. Please restore the funding to NSW Writing.”

Mathilda Imlah, Publisher, Picador Australia: “As a publisher based in NSW, one of the key touchstones of my industry and community is Writing NSW. I look to it for amplification and development of emerging voices and ideas, for coordination of resources, and a much needed source of promotion and support for writers at every career stage. Without stable funding for institutions like Writing NSW, the entire ecosystem stutters – access, diversity, creativity and innovation become the casualties.”

Media Links:

Writing NSW faces existential crisis after funding cut, Sydney Morning Herald, 10 August 2020

Create NSW funding recipients announced; future of Writing NSW ‘at risk’, Books + Publishing, 10 August 2020

Funding cuts may close Writing NSW, ArtsHub, 10 August 2020

State arts service organisations: effective, engaged but endangered, The Conversation, 14 August 2020

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