Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures for 2011 indicate that just over 6,600 people were employed as writers or print media workers in Victoria, accounting for over a quarter of the national total. Of these, around 84% resided in Melbourne. This statistic does not factor in hobbyist writers or students and shows the depth of talent that continues to work in the state.
Our history of producing writing talent is vast, from the 19th Century work of Rolf Boldrewood (Thomas Browne), Marcus Clarke and C. J. Dennis, to the post-WWI preoccupations of displacement and political change of Lesbia Harford, and how these themes continued in the light of WWII immigration. Changes in literary taste brought about by new cultures and voices, has challenged a lot of preconceptions of what ‘art’ and ‘literature’ mean. Even to this day, the lines between fiction and non-fiction, for example, are often contested.
Among other writers who have achieved success are Peter Carey, Shane Maloney, Arnold Zable, Clare Wright, Christos Tsiolkas, Helen Garner, Alex Miller, Brian Castro, Drusilla Modjeska, Don Watson, John Marsden, Alice Pung and many, many others.
A number of organisations exist to support the writing and publishing industry, which in turn helps the future prospects of writers – among the number include the Australian Publishers Association (APA) and the Small Press Network (SPN), which runs an annual Independent Publishing Conference.
The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards were inaugurated by the Victorian Government in 1985 to honour literary achievement by Australian writers and to mark the centenary of the births of of Vance and Nettie Palmer, two of Australia’s best-known writers and critics who both made significant contributions to Victorian and Australian literary culture.The awards are administered by the Wheeler Centre on behalf of the Premier of Victoria.
The winners of the main suite of awards – fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry, writing for young adults and the biennial award for Indigenous writing – each receive $25,000. The winner of the Award for an Unpublished Manuscript receives $15,000. The winner of the People’s Choice Award is named alongside the general category winners, and receives $2,000. The winners of these award categories go on to contest the overall Victorian Prize for Literature, worth an additional $100,000. This is the single most valuable literary award in the country.
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