Mutual benefits flow from ABR sponsorship

Professor Richard Maltby, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Education, Humanities and Law (left) with Mr Peter Rose, editor of Australian Book Review
Professor Richard Maltby, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Education, Humanities and Law (left) with Mr Peter Rose, editor of Australian Book Review

Flinders has extended its sponsorship of Australian Book Review (ABR) for an eighth year.

ABR, founded in Adelaide back in 1961, is the country’s premier literary review. Principally based in Melbourne but with an office at Flinders University, ABR recently moved into a major new community arts hub called Boyd. Located in the Southbank precinct, close to Victoria’s key cultural organisations, Boyd offers staff and students at Flinders frequent exposure to Flinders alumni and the public-at-large.

ABR editor Mr Peter Rose, noted poet and novelist who has academic status at Flinders, said the continuation of this sponsorship agreement will benefit the University and magazine alike.

“In the first phase of our partnership, the benefits for both parties were mostly editorial, because of my regular visits. Previously we published relatively few folk from Flinders. Now we publish many more Flinders academics and postgraduates than we do from any other university,” Mr Rose said.

“People like Robert Phiddian, Graham Tulloch, Ruth Starke, Gillian Dooley and Ian Gibbins have become frequent contributors. With our move to Boyd, though, the partnership will become much more public – much more entrepreneurial, in a sense,” he said.

Each year ABR publishes about 250 writers in its ten issues, of whom roughly fifty have never published a review before.

“We’re serious about introducing a wide range of Australian writers to our readers. It’s part of our commitment to raising critical standards in this country,” Mr Rose said.

“Often young writers are surprised by the speed with which we commission them. The magazine is unusually open to new writers.”

It is a message he recently shared with student at a series of Flinders seminars.

“I stress that this partnership is unique in the Australian tertiary sector. No other university sponsors an independent magazine based elsewhere,” he said.

“We can both be proud of this arrangement – and students in particular should ‘seize the day’. You’ve got a head start. I’m often around and when I’m not you can email me.”

Mr Rose said that the current threats to Australian publishers and the media intensified ABR’s sense of responsibility to writers, readers and academics.

At a time of major contraction in the literary sector, ABR is going through a phase of rapid growth and diversification – partly because of the success of its cultural philanthropy program. ABR now has more than 130 individual Patrons, plus support from arts ministries in South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland.

ABR administers its own wide range of prizes and programs to support writers, including the Peter Porter Poetry Prize, the Calibre Prize, the Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize and the ABR Patron’s Fellowship.

The irony of the latter contribution from Arts Queensland was not lost on Peter Rose, in light of the state government’s decision to axe the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards.

Possibly an even greater irony is that an alternative competition, the Queensland Literary Awards, created by “the people” has just announced its inaugural winners: among them, Peter Rose, winner of the Judith Wright Calanthe Poetry Award for his collection Crimson Crop.

Flinders staff and students are able to access to the ABR Online through the Library portal.

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