About 80 activists and artists gathered outside the Queensland Government Executive Building on April 13 to voice their discontent over the axing of the Premier's Literary Awards.
The picket was called by Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of South Brisbane in the April 28 by-election, Liam Flenady, and Hannah Reardon-Smith, both of who are also artists.
“Scrapping the Premier’s Literary Awards in the name of budget savings makes no sense,” Reardon-Smith said. “The $244,000 saved amounts to a mere 0.00028% of what we’re told by Campbell Newman is our state’s $85 billion debt.
“Choosing this as one of the first cuts and one of the first public acts of governance is clearly a political and ideological decision, meant to send a ‘strong’ message about ‘cracking down’ on ‘unnecessary spending’ and clearly implying that the arts are not valued by our new Premier.
“This is especially apparent when viewed in tandem with Newman’s record as Mayor of the Brisbane City Council, when he slashed the funding available to emerging artists and our city festival, and even cut nearly $1 million out of the budget for library books.”
Among the awards scrapped is the David Unaipon Award — a unique Australia-wide prize for unpublished indigenous writers.
Respected local Aboriginal elder and activist Sam Watson is the father of two winners of this award. He told the rally that all of the Premier's Literary Awards gave artists a stepping stone into the publishing industry.
“We need to recognise the value of Queensland’s stories,” he said. “That is what these writers do, they tell our stories.”
He said that it was a tragedy how few Australian writers can live off their work. He urged all present to take action, to go into their local bookstore and ask if they have a section dedicated to local authors and to indigenous authors.
Greens candidate for the seat of Central Ward in the upcoming Brisbane City Council elections and community dance teacher Rachael Jacobs said: “There is more to a state than growth and tunnels.
“This is a bad economic decision, this will cost jobs. We need to stand here and tell the Newman government that we are angry.”
Colourful signs and banners dotted the crowd, painted with slogans such as “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture” and “Don’t send us back to Joh’s Dark Ages”.
Many artists at the rally spoke about how important the awards are and how important arts funding is to our state. They collectively urged Queenslanders to continue to take action against funding cuts.