Letter in Support of UWA Publishing from the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre Board of Management
See the original post on Facebook here
We are shocked and deeply concerned regarding the recent decision by the University of Western Australia to close UWA Publishing (UWAP) in its current and highly successful form, to revert to an open-access, digital model.
UWAP continues to publish award-winning books, a result to engender pride and support in any parent organisation as it has in the wider literary and reading community.
UWAP is the home of a distinctive and important catalogue of history, science, design, poetry and literary works. It is also the home of many talented WA writers, both established and emerging. In a time when Australian publishing opportunities are steadily diminishing, UWAP is a beacon of innovation, cultural education and story sharing, allowing unique and enriching narratives to bridge the gap between academic and mainstream audiences.
In recent weeks, we have heard numerous testimonies of how UWAP books have moved, inspired and educated readers. Without UWAP these books would not be out in the world, their contribution to thought and culture in Australia is obvious and essential.
It is a huge backward step to shut down such a successful press. It devalues our local writers and shows a lack of interest by the University in the literary culture of WA. The Australian literary landscape will suffer from this displacement of its writers and the decision to curtail the nurture of new voices into print.
We sincerely hope that UWA listens to the voices of the local, national and international writing and reading community and reconsiders this decision.
Chairperson, Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre
On behalf of the KSP Board of Management
Join the Hon Melissa Parke MP and sign the petition
The NTEU invites staff, students, artists, writers, visitors and community members to show support for UWAP with a lunch time pop-up festival dedicated to art and writing in all its forms.
When: Tuesday November 19, 1 PM – 2 PM
Location: Whitfield Court at UWA, in front of Winthrop Hall on Stirling Highway
For more info please click here: Facebook Event - Save UWAP or email email@example.com
Statement from Change.org:
I am the author of 'Do Oysters Get Bored? A Curious Life', which UWA Publishing released in 2018. This year it was shortlisted for the National Biography Award.
Firstly, I am concerned for my own rights as an author. If UWA Publishing is closed down, there will be no entity that is genuinely interested in representing their authors. This is not just a matter of access to back catalogues and royalties, though these are very important issues. UWA Publishing promotes their authors in numerous ways and builds strong relationships with them. When I was recently invited to an awards ceremony at the State Library of NSW in relation to my autobiography, the publisher, Terri-Ann White, was there by my side. When I take the stage, as a UWA Publishing author, the name of your University is showcased in a very positive way.
This is one small example. Take my case and multiply it by the numerous authors that Terri-Ann has worked tirelessly to bring to the printed page. She has made UWA Publishing a respected and progressive institution in the Australian literary scene. This is no small accomplishment.
Your University can decide to take the myopic course of publishing only works by their own staff. Or they can continue to support a flourishing press that publishes locally and connects the University with a national and international literary world, enhancing UWA's reputation for supporting innovative creativity and scholarship in the deepest sense. UWA Publishing has developed enormous good will and influence in the literary world. To simply terminate the operation will be to lose that good will and the reputational excellence associated with it.
Click here to sign the change.org petition and support UWAP!
Dear Tayyeb Shah,
We are writing to you as members of the judging panel for the 2017-18 Walter McRae Russell Award, to express our dismay at the shocking developments reported this week in relation to UWAP. No doubt you have been inundated with objections to this decision from a range of perspectives but we would like to add our voice to the chorus.
The Walter McRae Russel Award is given biennially to the best book of literary scholarship on an Australian subject published in the previous two years. While UWAP under Professor Terri-Ann White’s inspired leadership has published many brilliant creative and scholarly works, and has been instrumental in expanding First Nations’ literary voices, we wish to focus on the book that won the Walter McRae Russell Award in 2019, Tony Hughes d’Aeth’s Like Nothing on this Earth: A Literary History of the Wheat Belt. Hughes d’Aeth was awarded this prize from an extremely competitive field of books published both in Australia and internationally by prestigious presses.
Our judges’ report noted:
Tony Hughes d’Aeth’s Like Nothing on this Earth: A Literary History of the Wheatbelt is a hugely impressive achievement: original, ambitious, and beautifully written. It is a work of compelling scholarship, at once tightly focused on the writing of one region and capacious in the breadth and scope of connections and associations that it draws between that writing and the literature of Australia. It provides significant new perspectives on the texts that are its special focus but also on the practice of literary reading in a national context. The book makes a persuasive argument for the complexity of what it calls the “event” of the Wheatbelt – a process that it argues is both “gradual” and “natural,” taking place over generations” and also, in the context of “the deep time of ecological history,” a “sudden and spectacular” occurrence; an index to human construction as well as “radical disappearance”. This complexity is evidenced through the work of a number of writers, well-known and obscure, who lived around and wrote about the Wheatbelt. It reads human creativity as an index to place while expanding and enriching our understanding of what we mean by place, and, most particularly, of what this place, the Wheatbelt, is and has been.
In our view, this is a work of global significance that places Western Australian at the centre of the growing and vital field of the environmental humanities. It expands our understanding of the intimate relationship between regional and global histories, and the centrality of literary language to our felt understanding of these histories. Yet it is hard to imagine that it could have been published by any other publisher. Indeed, UWAP was its rightful home. Our concern is that, if UWA proceeds with this ill-thought-out decision to close its press, books like this may no longer find the audience they deserve. It is a distinctively West Australian work though one with global relevance and implications.
We would like to express our strong support of UWAP and hope you will recognise its enormous significance in the Australian literary studies landscape. We implore you to reconsider this decision in the light of the damage it will do to the vibrancy of Australian literary culture.
Professor Emerita Elizabeth Webby AM FAHA, University of Sydney
Professor Brigitta Olubas, University of NSW
Dr Marguerite Nolan, Australian Catholic University
To: Tayyeb Shah, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Global Partnerships, UWA
Dear Professor Shah
Re: Proposal for change, UWA Publishing
I wish to express my profound dismay at the proposal to close down the operations of Australia’s second oldest university press, one of the country’s most respected publishing houses, and one of UWA’s, and Western Australia’s, most important cultural assets. I write as an author whose writing career was launched, and has been encouraged, nurtured and supported, by UWA Publishing and its director Terri-ann White.
In 2015, it was my great honour to have been invited to speak at the 80th Anniversary celebrations of UWA Publishing. I talked about my long association with the press, at the time going back more than 28 years, first as a freelance editor and later as an author. The following is a brief extract from that speech:
I have now published three books with UWA Publishing, and the experience of being published has been life-changing, for many reasons. Most authors would say the same. At the heart of those reasons, I think, is faith.
Publication is an act of faith in a writer. The publisher—a bridge between creator and audience—shouts to the world: This book, this one here, has been worth our time, and it is worth your time, too. It becomes a crucial validation of the faith that any writer, in order to write, must find in themselves.
Faith also kept reappearing in my thoughts about this small press, led by visionary thinking, and what it manages to achieve today in often-precarious, always-challenging times.
This press has faith in substance over fluff, originality over formula.
It believes in ideas, in diversity, in inclusivity; in the examination of the social world, the natural world, the political, the ethical, as a necessary human endeavour.
It respects readers: it has faith in them, too.
It honours the beauty and power of language. It honours scholarship.
It upholds the conviction that illuminating the past is vital to imagining a future.
It has faith in the capacity of books to engender empathy and compassion. To be enriching and redemptive. To aspire, at least, to effecting change.
Faith in the secular miracles that the arts are capable of.
I am proud to be on the list of this kind of publishing house.
I remain proud, immensely proud, to be a UWAP author, and grateful to the press for its support of my writing career. I write mostly literary historical fiction, with a strong focus on Western Australian history, and the press’s acceptance of my first novel (the product of a PhD) was for me a strong validation of my belief that our history is a rich source for fiction, for exploring what makes Western Australia unique and what makes the desires of its people universal. The fact that some of my fiction has been inspired by the work of eminent historians with whom I’ve worked as an editor for UWAP, and by many other UWAP books, speaks to the strong relationship between creativity and scholarship that a flourishing university press fosters.
But my faith in the university itself—what it stands for, what it values—has, as a result of this new proposal, been shaken.
I have just returned from China, where I spent four weeks as a guest of the Sun Yat-sen University Writers’ Residency, the one Australian writer among a group of eight from around the world (United Kingdom, United States, New Zealand, Spain, Austria, Italy, Jamaica). The residency provided outstanding opportunities for cultural exchange, for talking about Western Australian history and literature, and for international exposure (my work was translated into Mandarin during the residency)—a ‘global partnership’ of the most enriching kind.
I owe these and similar opportunities to the fact that UWA Publishing took a chance on me. And I know that I am only one of many writers who would tell you a similar story.
Please reconsider your proposal to dismantle something so precious, so fine and so important to the culture, history, and creative and intellectual life of Western Australia. Please reassure Western Australians that the state’s oldest university understands the value of what it has in UWA Publishing.
Dr Amanda Curtin
This is a letter I have written to Tayyeb Shah, Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Western Australia, regarding his decision to close University of Western Australia Publishing. If you, too, don’t wish the press to close, I urge you to sign the Change.org petition
I am writing in relation to your recent decision to close University of Western Australia publishing. I am an academic and award-wining writer (I was shortlisted, among other prizes, for the WA Premier’s award), and my third book, Hearing Maud, was recently published by UWAP. This book is a hybrid memoir about my experiences of deafness, the history of deaf education, and the life of Maud Praed, the deaf daughter of 19th century Queensland novelist Rosa Praed.
As a person who has been deaf since age 4, my life depends on watching watching how people communicate. I notice those who listen, those whose voices are amplified, and those who are muted. The decision to silence a press of 85 years standing, at the helm of which is a publisher who is innovative, committed to creating Australian literature of quality and who takes risks (which many major publishers are not nimble enough to do), signals to me that you do not value the way in which this press elevate the voices of several hundred writers (many of them Western Australian, including Noongar writers as well as Miles Franklin award winners) and their significant contributions to Australia’s literary landscape.