Review sparks war of words

LITERARY organisations say a state government review threatens their existence and disadvantages local talent.

Between them the Fellowship of Australian Writers WA, WA Poets Inc, Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre, the Peter Cowan Writers Centre and the Society of Women Writers WA have more than 200 years’ experience fostering writing talent.

They are worried about a writers’ hub at the state library, which was recommended by the government’s Writing Sector Review. It would be run by writingWA, which is partly government funded.

Fellowship spokesman Colin Young says centralisation could decimate their membership and destroy the identity of local writing.

“We have real concerns; we all cater for different writers in different areas, each of us is a peak body,” he says.

In a joint statement the five writers’ centres slammed the government review, refuting its claims that writing in WA is in serious deterioration and that centres only deal with “low level” beginning writers, fail to provide professional assistance and duplicate services.

• Poet Peter Jeffery

Empire building

WritingWA was originally set up to support regional writers, but has expanded over a number of years and the report recommends it goes further in operating a writers’ hub.

“The review states it should become a state writer centre modelled on the Victorian equivalent resisted for so long in WA,” Poets Inc spokesman Peter Jeffery says.

WritingWA works with the various writer centres, publishers, libraries and other key players in the industry, which makes it the ‘supply chain’ for writers and therefore the peak body, CEO Sharon Flindell says.

But she scoffed at claims her organisation was empire building: “I think [the writers centres] are jumping the gun.”

Local government, sport and cultural industries spokesperson Ashleigh Rowland says there are no plans to centralise control of WA writing groups.

She says the review identifies barriers and opportunities for sustainable writing and feedback would be considered when the report was finalised.

None of which allayed the fears of the writing centres: centralised hubs in other capitals have been a disaster, Mr Jeffery says.

“Usually, after initial honeymoon periods, there has occurred a sharp diminution in membership…even to the point of killing them off.”

by JENNY D’ANGER

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