Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Queensland Premier's Literary Awards

When my novel, Rain May and Captain Daniel, won the Queensland Premier's Award Best Children's Book, I was over the moon. The novel was my second prose novel and my first foray into writing for younger readers. The prize money, $15,000, meant a great deal to me as I was a single parent with two children. But, more than that, the acknowledgement that writing meant something in the wider community enabled me to continue writing. I can't believe how short-sighted our governments are.

Who was it who coined the phrase 'the clever country'? Alas, no longer. There's nothing clever about a country that sits back and allows the erosion of its own culture and education. I also can't believe some of the commentary I've read on newspaper articles bemoaning the axing of the Queensland Premier's Awards. A proportion of this 'clever country' actually resent the meagre portion of their taxes which are used to support the arts in this country.

I have been making my living through writing and writing-related activities since 2002. Without awards such as the Premier's Awards of the various states and the Children's Book Council of Australia Awards, I would not be able to contribute the best way I can, to the health of our culture and the youth people of this country.

 I am not proud of a country that devalues its artists, scientists and educators. I'm not proud of a country whose wealth comes from digging another hole in the ground.

Mr Newman's decision to axe the Queensland Premier's Awards exemplifies an attitude that's not restricted to Queensland. It's Australia-wide and fuelled by greed and fear. It's hard enough trying to find the optimism to go on writing in today's economic climate and when another opportunity to have your work acknowledged is removed by an uncaring government, you really begin to question why you're working away at a profession that isn't valued. As Stephen Lang says in his blog:
Writers tell stories about the culture they live in. They describe who we are to ourselves, they offer us, literally, self-reflection, an opportunity to see who we are and thus the ability to decide if we like the way we are behaving. A decision like this tells writers that the government doesn’t care what they do. That the government is only interested in the money. That they are happy to take the GST on books but not to invest any of that back in those who are the cornerstone of the industry. And make no mistake; it’s only the beginning.
I disagree with Stephen on one point - it's not the beginning. A decade ago the GST was put on books, despite a spirited debate. That was probably the beginning. The axing of the Queensland Premier's Awards is another coffin nail in our literary world - and no doubt there will be more blows that follow it. We live in a country - perhaps even an era - that is mean-spirited, money-grubbing and visionless. But we need to keep writing, making art, researching and inventing. Small candles in the darkened windows of the world.


Cartillyer said...

It's always about the money. Newman also put an end to the money that the Qld government was putting into a large solar energy project. A recent news article has revealed that company/companies with interests in mining made large donations to the LNP. One of these companies is keen to start digging another huge hole for coal and I have no doubt they'll succeed, despite the many environmental hurdles they need to overcome. Qld has so much sunshine, but instead of harnessing a free natural energy, they will dig a hole because it makes them more money.
I wonder if the literary award would have survived the chop if a large donation to the LNP had come from Australian authors? We can't compete with the wealth of mining magnates on a monetary level, but we can on every other level.

Jo said...

Small candles indeed. I'm with you there, Catherine. And I disagree with the previous commenter - it isn't just about the money - the savings are so measly - this is a statement to the kind of people who voted them in, as is the pulling the plug on the solar energy project. I think we're going to need a lot of candles. Thanks for this post - I was going to do one on this topic but was feeling too ground down.

Cartillyer said...

HI Jo,
Maybe I didn't word that quite clearly. I wasn't referring to the small amount of money they will save by axing the QPLA. I was referring to the fact that they care more about the bigger people with the bigger money. If you don't have the money to influence, you don't count. Political parties have been making this statement for a long time, they're just more blatantly open about it now. The world is driven by greed.

AJ Ponder said...

It's so sad that the award is gone, especially now when so many markets are also falling over. "Small candles in the darkened windows of the world." indeed. Burn brightly :)