The Copyright Agency has announced Magabala Books as one of the recipients of its Cultural Fund, set up to support authors, visual artists, and industry stakeholders through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $818,917 in funding will see the support of 25 new projects and will be delivered in two rounds, the first released in 2021 and the second in 2022.

Recipients of the funding include Sydney Story Factory’s Year of Poetry, Westwords for Writers in Schools in Western Sydney, The Age Book of the Year and the Belvoir Street Commissioning Series: Investing in Australian Stories. All are being funded as three-year projects.

The University of Notre Dame Australia has also received funding for the Copyright Agency Environmental Fellowship to support Wirlomin Noongar Australian writer and poet Claire G. Coleman.

“We are proud to be providing support for Australian artists and authors at various career stages and from diverse backgrounds via significant exhibitions, commissions for writers, national literary awards, and ongoing opportunities such as book reviews, writing initiatives and ongoing fellowships,” said Copyright Agency CEO Adam Suckling.

Broome-based publisher Magabala Books was awarded $60,000 for their Daisy Utemorrah Award.

The prize honours author, poet and community leader Daisy Utemorrah and is awarded to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander author for an unpublished manuscript of junior or young adult fiction.

The winner also receives $15,000 and a publishing contract with Magabala Books.

Nimunburr and Yawuru woman and Magabala Books Publisher Rachel Bin Salleh said after years in the publishing industry, it occurred to her that there needed to be more support for “First Nations writers and graphic novelists to write for a junior fiction or YA audience”.

“We are particularly passionate at Magabala about providing younger readers with representation and as many diverse voices as possible, as they will go on to craft the world in which we live,” she said.

Bin Salleh said unpublished manuscripts are a source for writers to showcase their natural storytelling to publishers. 

“This puts emerging and new writers in direct competition with established writers and works to reduce any unconscious bias that may exist within the industry,” she said.

“It is a process that allows for the discovery of new voices.”

The Daisy Utemorrah Award was established in 2019. In its inaugural year, it was awarded to Gunai woman Kirli Saunders for her verse novel Bindi.

“It’s incredible to see the success of her book Bindi. It’s now won two awards and been shortlisted for four others. Bindi is a freaking great read and kids love the main character,” said Bin Salleh.


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Last year, the award was taken out by Wiradjuri and Wailwan lawyer and activist Teela May Reid for her work, Our Matriarchs Matter.

Bin Salleh noted the hardship faced by the industry last year through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“2020 was challenging for many creators. Recognising the loss of income across the board, we increased our financial support for creative development by 426 per cent,” she said.

“We turned a challenge into an opportunity, providing the financial means for writers and illustrators to undertake professional development and initiate new work.”

The Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund is designed to fund projects which deliver opportunities to Australian creatives, and currently provides approximately $2 million a year in grants.

“We regularly refresh and update our support to ensure it is appropriate, effective and meets the needs of Australian creators,” said Suckling.

“We look to form new partnerships with the sector and other bodies to amplify our support, with the aim of increasing audiences for both Australian writing and visual arts as well as contributing to key sector and educational engagement and development.

“This ensures Australian creators can continue to tell our uniquely Australian stories.”

By Rachael Knowles