Campbell Newman might have hoped the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards were dead, buried and cremated: the allocated prize pool of $230,000 shared across 14 categories had been scratched from his budget and any mention of the awards, including past winners since 1999, was thoroughly wiped from his website.
But miraculously - or rather due to the harnessed outrage and exhaustive efforts of volunteers from Queensland’s literary and arts community - a new suite of literary awards has arisen from the ashes without a skerrick of government funding, nor the Premier’s name in the title.
Short on lead time and with no funding in place, the group led by Matthew Condon, Krissy Kneen and Stuart Glover assembled in April to create a website and Facebook page which attracted more than 1000 fans in under a week.
The Copyright Agency Cultural Fund injected $20,000 into the kitty, and a fundraising campaign on www.pozible.com raised more than $30,000 for author prizes and associated costs. Avid Reader bookshop offered its premises to house and distribute the 600-plus book and manuscript submissions the campaign received.
The inaugural Queensland Literary Awards, announced last night in Brisbane, were described by Frank Moorhouse - winner of the QLA Fiction Book Award for his novel Cold Light - as “the noblest prize this year.”
“It has some cache because it’s a citizen’s prize,” he said, “not the Premier’s prize.”
Echoing sentiments expressed by Anna Funder in her Miles Franklin acceptance speech earlier this year, Moorhouse expounded: “Governments are not only there to legislate, but to affirm civilised values.”
“But if citizens are going to have to fund it with two dollars here and five dollars there,” Moorhouse continued, “it is rather a shameful situation. It sends a very sad message to kids who want to get into the creative arts.”
From a shortlist of 68 titles, the winners in each category of the Queensland Literary Awards received $1000, with Queensland novelist Simon Cleary, winner of the inaugural Courier-Mail’s People’s Choice Queensland Book of the Year, snapping up $5,000 for his novel, Closer to Stone.
Premier Campbell Newman and Ros Bates, Minister for Science, IT, Innovation and the Arts, so far have not offered their congratulations.
History Book Award
The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia by Bill Gammage
Science Writer Award
Sex, Genes & Rock ‘n’ Roll: How Evolution has Shaped the Modern World by Rob Brooks
Literary or Media Work Advancing Public Debate
The Australian Moment: How We Were Made for These Times by George Megalogenis
Emerging Queensland Author - Manuscript Award
Island of the Unexpected by Catherine Titasey
Unpublished Indigenous Writer - David Unaipon Award
Story by Siv Parker