Perish the Humanities?
Recently the International Australian Studies Association wrote in support of the continuation of the Chair of Australian Literature at the University of Sydney, following that University’s decision to discontinue this Chair unless external funding could be sourced.
It is further regrettable to hear today that the University of Western Australia (UWA) is closing its press (UWAP). Opening in 1935, UWAP has a long and important history. Publishing non-fiction, and academic scholarship, with a particular but by no means exclusive interest in Western Australian history, literary fiction and poetry, and with significant Australian and European and further distribution networks, UWAP has played a vital role in both fostering and promoting Australia’s cultural and intellectual capital. More parochially it has offered balance to an otherwise eastern seaboard bias.
While it is heartening that UWA is continuing the now decade-long Chair in Australian Literature (established in 2008), the decision to close its press tarnishes this position. Announcing the establishment of the Chair in 2008, Professor Alan Robson, the then Vice-Chancellor, said that the new Chair would ‘play an important role in developing Australia’s cultural and intellectual capital’, and that part of the Chair’s role would be to take ‘Australian literature to national and international audiences.’ The imminent closure of UWAP makes that role more difficult.
In responding to the University of Sydney’s decision to no longer support the Chair of Australian Literature at that university unless external funding could be sourced, we noted the relevance of this decision in the context of the ongoing Senate “Inquiry into nationhood, national identity and democracy”. Similarly, UWAP has long played a national and international role in the elevation of cultural issues now thought to be under threat. UWAP books are prize winners in various categories of awards, demonstrably making a major contribution to the Australian national conversation and our links to the region.
We strongly urge the University of Western Australia to reconsider its position and to continue supporting UWAP.
Associate Professor Noah Riseman,
President, International Association for Australian Studies
Associate Professor Anna Johnston
Vice-President, International Association for Australian Studies