10 January 2024

'Very concerned': Dr Joe calls for review of Booranga Writers' Centre funding cut

| Chris Roe
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Dr Joe McGirr wants a review of Create NSW's decision not to fund the Booranga Writers' Centre.

Dr Joe McGirr wants a review of Create NSW’s decision not to fund the Booranga Writers’ Centre. Photo: Chris Roe.

Wagga MP Dr Joe McGirr has called on the Arts Minister to review a decision by Create NSW to cease funding to Wagga Wagga’s Booranga Writers’ Centre.

“I am very concerned about the uncertain future facing Wagga Wagga’s Booranga Writers’ Centre and am working closely with the government in the hope of identifying a solution that would enable the centre to continue its important work,” said the Member for Wagga Wagga as he returned from the Christmas break.

“I have requested a review of the funding decision from the office of the Minister for the Arts, John Graham, and I am now liaising with departmental staff.”

Located on the CSU campus, the centre has been in operation for 30 years, supporting local writers, hosting events and publishing an annual anthology of new writing.

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In December, the centre’s two part-time employees were advised they had been unsuccessful in their application for a $60k project grant from Create NSW.

“While the group is seeking only a relatively small amount of funding, this support would make a huge difference in nurturing the growth of writers in Wagga Wagga,” said Dr McGirr.

“I’ll continue to liaise with the government and Booranga on this important issue.”

The writers’ centre operates on a modest budget and last year received $40k from the previous arts minister Ben Franklin.

Operating costs are supplemented through memberships, sales and poetry competitions.

Booranga Writer's Centre Business Manager Dr Greg Pritchard.

Booranga Writers’ Centre Business Manager Dr Greg Pritchard is hopeful that they can find a solution. Photo: Chris Roe.

Booranga Writers’ Centre President David Gilby said that by stretching the funding across two part-time roles, and with the support of volunteers, the centre had made the most of every dollar.

“The genius of the funding model was that it funded both an administrator and the director of our programs, which enabled the whole organisation to function, to invite writers in, to collaborate with other arts organisations and of course to write and research the grant applications,” he said.

“If you take away the funding for those two positions, you actually rip out the whole organisation. We’d be on life support without them.”

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He said the news had come as a shock.

“Every year we go through the anxiety of – will we get funded or will we not – but over the last year we’ve worked with Create NSW as they held a series of seminars and gatherings around the state, and we were applauded for the way we were fostering writing in this region.

“We were doing the things they said they wanted arts groups and creatives to do, so to find that our funding carpet has been pulled from underneath us does feel like a slap in the face for regions.”

With a committee meeting to be held next week, Booranga’s business manager Dr Greg Pritchard is hopeful they can find a way forward.

“I think it would be a real blow to the writers of the region if the centre was unable to continue,” he said.

“It is probable that [creative director] Kathryn Halliwell and I will lose our jobs which means it would have to, at the least, scale things back and be run by the committee.”

Region has contacted the office of Arts Minister John Graham, who returns from holidays this week.

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