‘We will fight’: Writers aghast as university signals closure of UWA Publishing

Deputy vice-chancellor Tayyeb Shah issued a memo to affected staff on Tuesday proposing a progressive close-down of the press in its “current form” from the end of November with a view to replace it with an open-source digital publishing model.

The memo called this the first step in aligning the press’ output with a “strategic vision to provide open and digitised access to information and knowledge in its support of the university’s academic writing and research”.

Closing the press would allow “reinvestment” into activities that could meet this objective.

The jobs of the employees and director Terri-ann White, who has led UWA Publishing for 13 years and worked at UWA for many years prior to that, would be “surplus to requirements”, the memo said.

“We’re absolutely fighting this,” said White, who has been known in the Australian literary landscape since her days as owner of Northbridge’s Arcane Bookshop in the 1980s and 1990s.

Canberra poet and former Prime Minister’s Literary Award winner Melinda Smith put up a change.org petition overnight that had passed 1200 signatures and was being shared across writers’ social media groups on Friday morning. [Update: almost 5000 signatures by Saturday afternoon]. 

“It’s already going gangbusters,” White said.

“My inbox is going crazy as well; I am so heartened by the support we are getting for the work we do.”

UWAP has more than 320 books in its backlist and around 35 books scheduled for 2020, many of which are already in production.

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