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No longer the ‘smart state’ or Axing the Qld Premier’s Lit Awards in the National Year of Reading

‘There will be no net loss to Arts funding under a government I lead’ is basically what Campbell Newman and the LNP team promised during the recent Queensland state election.

Within two weeks of taking office they have broken that promise.

The awards that gave us stories like Rabbit Proof Fence are no more.

Late yesterday, word spread through social media that the premiere literary awards in Queensland, the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards, are being axed as part of ‘cost-saving’ measures — (updated) during the National Year of Reading and Aussie Author Month too.

They have not yet mentioned where the approximate $250,000 saving will go.

One pundit helpfully pointed out that this amount of money would pay for 37.5cm (or about a foot) of the Clem7 tunnel.

CEO of Queensland Writers Centre Kate Eltham is leading the push for the savings to be re-invested into emerging writing.

Call me cynical, but I doubt that this will happen.

It feels more like a not-very-stealthy way of gutting government funding for the Arts in Queensland. Something the sector has had severe misgivings about for more than a year now as the prospect of the LNP government became more real.

As John Birmingham put it this morning, it feels more mean-spirited than anything.

I was born in Queensland and grew up in the 1980s with an American father who continually pointed out how ‘backwards’ Queensland was.

Yet, in a country school that prioritised all forms of sport over the arts, I received a cultural award named after the politician who became the Police Minister in the aftermath of the Fitzgerald Inquiry and was later a Queensland Premier (albeit for only 73 days), Russell Cooper.

I then went on to achieve an honours degree with a creative writing thesis and have since picked up a book contract in non-fiction; Australian military history no less.

So, my heart drops and my insides are turned out by this announcement.

I see the hope that a state which recently prided itself on competing with the Prime Minister to host the richest literary prize in the country being squashed.

The loss of an award with 14 categories that crossed the writing spectrum — poetry, short and long fiction, non-fiction,  history, science, advancing public debate, children’s and young adult, scriptwriting for  film, drama and television, for established, new and indigenous writers —  is a devastating blow to creative practice and cultural enrichment in Queensland and Australia.

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**UPDATE (about no. 17)**

Wrap-up of coverage:

Things you can do:

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** What do you think about Campbell Newman’s economic decision-making so far? **

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Cheers

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