Sydney Philanthropist Criticises Axing of Queensland Premier’s Literary Award

Sydney Philanthropist Criticises Axing of Queensland Premier’s Literary Award

The day after the Queensland government scrapped the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award, which included the Award for an Unpublished Indigenous Writer, the David Unaipon Award, Belvoir has announced The Balnaves Foundation Indigenous Playwright’s Award. Neil Balnaves AO of The Balnaves Foundation made an impassioned speech at the launch decrying governments’ lack of support for the arts.

‘This is a trend that we have to change; this is a trend that all Australian’s have to do something about. Governments are backing out of their responsibilities to take care of our arts, to support our arts to the extent they should. They make an announcement about cutting a quarter of a millions dollars from the Queensland budget, but I’ve never heard an announcement about cutting a politicians salary.

‘I find it an absolute contradiction that they can play with the soul of this country, in all forms of the arts, in this case literary and with an Indigenous slant, and in their minds they think this is clever. It sends the wrong signal and it puts more pressure on people like me who are giving away the large majority of our wealth simply because politicians aren’t doing enough for this country. I’m not doing it because I want to be a hero; I’m doing it to address the shortfall from government.’

The axing of the Literary Awards by Queensland's new Liberal National Party, part of a cost-cutting drive, will save an estimated $244,000. The cut was not, however, specifically flagged during the LNP campaign, and has drawn widespread criticism across the arts community.

Back to the good news, however, and the new Balnaves Foundation Indigenous Playwright’s Award.

In launching the award on April 4, Rachael Maza, Artistic Director of Ilbijerri Theatre Company and one of the award judges, said ‘This initiative is particularly exciting because it’s not just an award, there’s prize money attached to it, and the incredibly exciting aspect of this award is the commission so the writer can give up the coffee pulling job and write.’

Maza will be joined on the judging panel by the Artistic Director of the Queensland Theatre Company Wesley Enoch and the Literary Manager of Belvoir Anthea Williams.

In 2010 The Balnaves Foundation announced it would partner with Belvoir to support the presentation of two indigenous works as per year as part of Belvoir’s annual season. To further their commitment to the telling of indigenous stories through theatre the Foundation has committed $20 000 per year to an annual award to an indigenous playwright.

The award will comprise of a $7 500 cash prize and a $12 500 commission to write a new play with the support of Belvoir.

Photographer: Patrick Boland.

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