Writers’ Victoria Patrons Celebration

Friday 13 November 2015

In gathering here tonight to thank people who have contributed to Writers’ Victoria it would be remiss not to mention a poet, critic, contributor to education and also an important figure in the history of this organisation. The person is Chris Wallace-Crabbe who just been awarded the Melbourne Prize for Literature.

Australian Book Review philanthropy manager Christopher Menz has been asking me for about a year or so to contribute a quote to their regular monthly feature about why ABR patrons support the magazine. I had been avoiding the issue until someone reminded me of the Australian Tax Office report which showed that most of the Australians who earn a million dollars a year make absolutely no donations to charity.

It’s a staggering thought and it prompted me to finally say yes to Christopher; provide him with a photo conveniently taken a few years ago; and the quote. The quote was: “Given that the majority of Australians earning a million dollars a year, according to the ATO give absolutely nothing to the arts and other charities I guess the rest of just have to try to do their bit.”

That’s why we need to celebrate patrons of the arts in general and literature specifically. There are too few patrons of the arts and books and writing out there and we have to not only encourage new patrons where we can but also, more importantly, value the ones we have.

So in saying that I would particularly like to acknowledge Trent Gillam, who joined us this year as our latest Personal Patron.

The Personal Patron scheme allows writers’ groups, book clubs, organisations and individuals to ‘adopt a writer’ of their very own. For a one-off donation, patrons support an emerging writer to be mentored by a professional author or get access to a writing studio to work on their manuscript.

Trent’s generosity allowed us to provide a studio residency for emerging writer Else Fitzgerald. Over the last three months, Else has been busily writing in her studio at the Old Melbourne Gaol, and keeping Trent updated about her progress on the way. I always think of it as a cold and rather frightening place but Else has found it warm and welcoming. I may, however, have been influenced by the fact that my father was incarcerated there at the end of the war for being AWOL after coming down to Melbourne to see his wife and new son.

In a letter to Trent, she explained it like this: “Knowing that there are people like yourself and the Writers Victoria team who believe in what we do as emerging writers and are willing to support it really means more than I can say.”

So thank you to Trent, and to the other Personal Patrons we have with us in the room tonight, for setting a standard in arts philanthropy.