Monday musings on Australian literature: The Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund

Australia’s Copyright Agency has been referenced here several times in this blog, mostly regarding the work it does via its Cultural Fund, but I wonder how many of us (besides artists) know just how much it does to support Australian writing and writers?

The Copyright Agency is a non-profit organisation (company) which describes its mission as being:

to provide simple ways for people to reproduce, store and share words, images and other creative content, in return for fair payment to creators. We are committed to encouraging the development of lively and diverse markets for published works…

Its main services to authors are to:

  • collect and distribute copyright fees for educational and government use of works. It manages, on behalf of the government, the education and government copying sections of the Copyright Act which allows educational institutions and governments to use content without permission, provided they make fair payment.
  • license writer’s content to corporations and others (though writers can also license their works themselves.)

It does other things too, one of which is to fund “writers’ projects and skills development” through its Cultural Fund, which is my focus for this post.

Cultural Fund

The Cultural Fund is the Agency’s philanthropic arm, and aims to support “cultural projects and creators’ professional development.” Its priority includes “to ensure that artists are better supported and are paid appropriately for their creative endeavours.” It is funded by members agreeing to 1.5% of the licence fees collected on their behalf being retained for the Fund. In the financial year, 2016-2017, they disbursed well over $2m through the Cultural Fund to “114 projects, 23 professional development grants and 5 fellowships.”


The fund offers various annual fellowships, with this year’s including:

  • Author: one offered each year, worth $80K. Open to novelists, playwrights, poets, non-fiction writers, children’s and young adult writers, and journalists to develop and create a new work. (Non-Fiction writers, this year could also apply for the non-fiction writing fellowship.) I noted in a previous post that the inaugural author fellowship went to Canberra-based author Mark Henshaw (who wrote The snow kimono.)
  • Non-fiction writing: worth $80K, and with more specific requirements than the author fellowship above. It’s “to develop and create a new work of creative non-fiction writing which will engage with key issues and topics for a broad readership” which means it’s not for academic or scholarly writing. They list the acceptable genres, which include biography, memoir, autobiography, environment, and history.
  • Publisher: two were offered in 2018, each worth $15K.
  • Reading Australia Fellowship for Teachers of English and Literacy: worth $15K, and self-explanatory from the title I’d say.


This year’s CREATE grants were recently announced, five going to writers and one to a visual artist, from over 135 applications. The writers were Peggy Frew ($20K), Jennifer Mills ($20K), Josephine Rowe ($10K), Jane Rawson ($15K), Lenny Bartulin ($20K).

Josephine Rowe, A loving faithful animalThe works of fiction these authors will be creating cover a variety of topics, “from xenophobia, self-interest and individualism to post-war migrant life in Tasmania during the 1950s, to cross-cultural friendships and ghost stories.”

Two of these authors have appeared here before, Jane Rawson with A wrong turn at the Office of Unmade Lists (my review), and Josephine Rowe with A loving, faithful animal (my review).


These are smaller grants, of up to $5K each. They are “to support individuals working in the writing, publishing and visual arts sectors to develop skills and progress their careers.” They include things like “mentorships, internships, residencies, leadership opportunities, and strategic promotional opportunities” but not academic or tertiary study.

Grants for Organisations

These seem to be more ad hoc grants – at least in the dollar-amounts offered, because they are not always specified. The grants themselves are not ad hoc, however, in the sorts of things that qualify, as the Agency defines on the webpage the sorts of things it will fund. These grants can be for single projects or for up to 3 years. They spread far and wide, from the Djilpin Arts Aboriginal Corporation (in the Katherine region of NT) to the Melbourne Writers Festival, from theatrical companies to libraries, from community groups to education departments, from supporting fiction to history. No wonder they have popped up regularly in my Monday Musings posts!

Some of the grants awarded under this banner, as far as I can tell from their 2017 Annual Report include:

  • Festivals and the like: These range from small symposiums and workshops to the big festivals, and include Australian Authors Week 2017 (by the Australia’s Embassy in Beijing), a craft and design writing symposium (by Craft ACT, in my town), the AALITRA Symposium (Australian Association for Literary Translation), the StoryArts Festival (by the Ipswich District Teacher Librarian network), the Canberra Writers Festival, and the Melbourne Writers Festival. Sometimes the grant is for a specified aspect of the festival, such as the “Getting it Write” workshop in Geelong Regional Library’s Word for Word Festival.
  • Griffith Review 58 Novella Project (2017)

    Griffith Review 58 Novella Project (2017)

    Journals: Several journals are listed as receiving grants – including The Big Issue, Griffith ReviewInside Story, Island magazine (to increase payments to writers), Meanjin, Westerly. Some of these are for specific editions, such as the Big Issue’s fiction edition and Griffith Review’s novella project.

  • Prizes: Some of these grants seem to support the administration of the prize rather than the prize purse itself, such as a three-year grant to the Stella Prize for “promotion of the winners.” Also listed are the David Unaipon Award, the Miles Franklin Award (also three years), and the National Indigenous Story Award. In the past, they’ve supported the CAL Scribe Fiction Prize (which seemed to only run from 2009 to 2012), and the Finch Memoir Prize (which is not being offered in 2019 because of lack of funding)
  • Writing projects: Like many other of their grants, these cover a variety of forms, such as Belvoir Theatre’s “Investing in Australian Stories” commissions.
  • Other: Such as supporting a stipend for the Children’s Literature Laureate, or the Early Career Researcher Scheme (organised by the Australian History Association). Smaller fellowships, in addition to the large ones listed above are also supported through organisations such as Queensland University Library’s Creative Writing Fellowship, the Sydney Review of Books Emerging Critics Fellowships, and the Eleanor Dark Foundation’s Fellowships for Indigenous Writers.

Reading Australia

Reading Australia is a service established by the Agency and partly (mostly?) funded through the Cultural Fund. Its focus is the education sector, aiming “to create in depth teaching resources on Australian literature, to encourage homegrown stories to be taught in schools.” Among other activities, they produce book lists, and resources for the primary, secondary and tertiary education sectors.

I first wrote about Reading Australia five years ago, and again last year when I posted on the Reading Australia-Magabala Books partnership. Education is so fundamental to the health of our literature (and our culture) that this seems a good point on which to conclude this post.

If you’re Australian, are you aware of the Copyright Agency and/or its Cultural Fund? I’d love to know how well-known it is.

17 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: The Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund

  1. I dont think we have anything like this in the UK. We do have a Newspaper Licensing Authority which introduced a new scheme years ago where you could not copy a newspaper article or a magazine article unless you had paid for a license.

  2. I knew there was a mechanism to distribute copyright fees, but not all the rest, so glad you put it up. I wonder if this enables the government to get credit for funding writing without actually having to put up any money. Also I hope writers aren’t put in the same position as scientists – having to chase grants instead of doing actual work.

    • Thanks Bill, I’m glad I did then too. The Fund has appeared so many times in my blog I decided that I really needed to find out more about it.i really enjoyed writing Thu s post, but I would love yo hear from recipients and applicants. They are pretty tight in their requirements, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I completely take your point about chasing grants. An exhausting business I’m sure. I hate it.

  3. CAL also generously sponsor the Stella Prize longlist, allowing each longlisted writer to receive $1000. To my knowledge, few (if any) other literary prizes offer prize money to longlisted AND shortlisted writers (they get $3000 and three weeks at a writing retreat – thank you Equity Trustees and the Trawalla Foundation). The winner, of course, gets a generous $50,000 (thank you NAB).
    But funding for the Stella Prize is not yet secured on an ongoing basis, so any and all donations gratefully received! (
    And my apologies, Sue for this lengthy Stella advertisement. I won’t do it too often, I promise!!

  4. Hi Sue, as an author who receives money through CAL, let me explain one very relevant matter which is pertinent to Bills Q about the government taking the credit…
    As I understand it, institutions e.g. schools, universities etc pay CAL fees for the right to copy materials, and that money is used to pay authors. BUT authors don’t get paid for *every* copy that’s made. What happens is that institutions are selected (randomly or by some system, I don’t know) to audit the copying. In schools, some poor bunny gets the job of administering the audit which means they have to harry everyone at the photocopier to record exactly what they’ve used, (and as you can imagine, there’s plenty of times when the bunny finds a discrepancy between the number of copies made and the records, with no way to find out who the culprit is). The bunny also has to do a mass of paperwork, and respond to emails from CAL when they’ve made a mistake. Which bunnies often do. I know, because I’ve been the bunny twice. I suspect that many a school bunny doesn’t care very much if the audit is done properly. Why should they? It’s a heap of extra money with no benefit to the bunny or the school.
    And I was the bunny twice because at our school it was the lucky librarian who got the job and I was the teacher-librarian for ten years, i.e. our school was audited twice in ten years. And all the copying that got done in between was never paid for, of course.
    I know, because most of my money came from the series of Indonesian resource books I published and I know who sold them and because I got so much happy feedback about them, that my books are in regular use in every school that teaches Indonesian. But I have not had a cent from CAL for three years now. And that’s the sampling system. I guess all the schools they’ve sampled over the last three years don’t teach Indonesian…

  5. Hi Sue, i didn’t know about the Cultural Fund until today! I think it is a good idea as It supports its members. I am sure it would give confidence and would encourage the ‘creators’ to produce new works. It is a pity that some members miss out, but obviously there is a limit to the funds.

    • Thanks Meg. I’m really glad I’m bringing it to people’s attention – or did you hear about it on ABC RN Book show this am which coincidentally talked about the CREATE award?

      Anyhow, I’m glad people are hearing about it, by whichever way.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s