She said UWA’s reputation would be severely damaged by the decision.
On November 10, the first tranche of 6000 petition signatures was presented to UWA by the publishing house’s director Terri-ann White, plus the signatories’ “reasons for signing” – a document that ran to 62 pages.
A letter that ran in The Saturday Paper said the signatories protested for not only for writers and their wages, but for the associated industries of designers, printers, bookstores and IT professionals, historians, scientists, workers in politics and academics.
“We protest for the history and current reality of our West Australian First Nations, so recently minted as public discourse, and well attended at UWAP under the exemplary watch of Terri-ann White,” it said.
“UWAP is Australia’s second oldest university publisher, a well organized and effective business, and an asset to us all.”
They said money had been found for the arts and research in the past and would be found again in the future, because society was “dull and lifeless” without these things.
Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre board of management wrote that UWAP’s award-winning books should engender the same pride in its parent organisation as it did in the wider literary and reading community.
The board wrote that UWAP was the home of a distinctive and important catalogue of history, science, design, poetry and literary works by many talented WA writers, both established and emerging.
In a time when Australian publishing opportunities were diminishing, UWAP was a beacon of innovation and cultural education, bridging the gap between academic and mainstream audiences.
“It is a huge backward step to shut down such a successful press,” the board wrote.
“It devalues our local writers and shows a lack of interest by the university in the literary culture of WA.”
Writing WA also issued a comment saying the university had dealt an enormous blow to the industry.
It stated that the university’s given rationale disregarded the reality that most successful publishing houses now managed a combination of print and online publishing to better cater to consumer preferences and needs.
Providing open access for scholarly works did not have to extinguish opportunities for print publication, or publication of important literary works.
“The loss of UWA Publishing in its current form will lead to an inevitable contraction in publishing opportunities for our writers and as a consequence, a diminution of Western Australia’s capacity to create the books that inspire and innovate,” it wrote.
“We fear that the ripple effects of this decision will become apparent in the broader cultural and academic life of our state.”
A spokesman for UWA said the university would be consulting widely about the future of the publishing arm to broaden the university’s publishing reach and impact, and to boost accessibility.
“Those consultations will take into account feedback from UWA staff and the wider community which will assist UWA Publishing in adapting to an evolved model; with options to examine a mix of print, greater digitisation and open access publishing,” he said.
“All current UWA Publishing commitments will be honoured.”
Emma Young covers breaking news with a focus on science and environment, health and social justice for WAtoday.