EXCLUSIVE: The controversial decision earlier this month by the University of Western Australia (UWA) to close down its internationally renowned publishing house, UWA Publishing, has now been slammed by some of the giants of the Australian literature world in an open letter signed by hundreds of writers and artists.
Nobel Prize winner J. M. Coetzee has joined the likes of Schindler’s List author, Thomas Keneally, and Miles Franklin winner, Kim Scott, in calling out UWA and its plans to soon shut down its successful literature publishing arm.
Hundreds of other writers, academics and artists have also signed the open letter.
After almost 85 years in operation, the announcement to close UWA Publishing was made on Thursday, November 7, with the university suggesting it was due to financial reasons.
An internal memo from UWA deputy vice-chancellor, Tayyeb Shah, said the publishing business would undergo ‘a progressive close down of operations’, with director Terri-ann White and four staff earmarked to lose their jobs.
“We accept no economic argument,” the writers say in response to the university in their open letter.
“Money has been found for the arts and for academic research in the past; and it will be found again in the future. That is because we understand the society we live in is a dull and lifeless prison without these things.”
The writers state they too share the outrage the decision by the university to close UWA Publishing has provoked throughout the arts community and wider public.
“We protest for our wages and the wages of other writers. We protest for designers, printers, bookstores, IT professionals, and other associated industries. We protest for our historians, scientists, workers in politics, academics, and truth seekers,” the open letter reads.
“We protest for the emerging writers and academics UWAP consistently provides with first publication, and enables publication elsewhere through recognition, prizes, and events.”
IF YOU VALUE OUR JOURNALISM PLEASE SUBSCRIBE & HELP KEEP US ALIVE! WE DO THIS ALL UNFUNDED & IN OUR FEW SPARE MOMENTS. WE NEED 2,000 SUBSCRIBERS TO BE SUSTAINABLE. HELP US REACH OUR GOAL. WE ONLY NEED A FEW HUNDRED MORE OF YOU!
The open letter goes on to say the closure of UWA Publishing will particularly affect Indigenous writers and others from minority backgrounds in an adverse manner.
“We are without doubt this closure will substantially cut down Indigenous voices in writing and the publication of local First Nations’ substantiated and researched history. In turn, competing for limited opportunities with academic publishers outside Western Australia, shutting down UWAP will cut chances for publication of First Nation voices in other states,” the letter states.
“We protest for our culture and for those not born into it yet. They should have UWAP press to be proud of as we have every reason to be proud of it now.”
A public protest against the closure of UWA Publishing will be held in Perth on Tuesday, November 19.