President’s Report, 2008-2009

This report is divided into two sections (with a little overlap). The first section sets out matters for consideration, including what I think are pressing matters for ASAL in the next few years. The second section provides a record of ASAL’s activities over the last 12 months.


Matters for consideration

1. Secondary-tertiary nexus. ASAL needs to re-establish links with the secondary sector. We propose to do this by:

i.        the inclusion of a tertiary/secondary representative of the executive.

ii.      Invitations to the secondary sector for the conferences and the inclusion of events pertinent to secondary teachers – panels or workshops on the Australian literature in the new curriculum, and on online resources.

iii.    Considering whether ASAL has other roles in the implementation of the new curriculum?


2. The role of the ASAL executive

In part because of ASAL’s high standing and also because of the changing processes and structures of tertiary institutions, the president is increasingly involved in matters of ASAL’s position as a ‘stakeholder’ in research projects and in its relationship with other organisations within and without the education sector. This is gratifying and time-consuming. Along with ASAL’s nominated priorities, it also calls for some re-consideration of the role of the executive and the broader membership. I would suggest, for instance, that it would be advisable for the current president to retain responsibility for one of the priority areas – or for this to be assigned to another member of the executive. I also think there is a need for the executive to be increased or for certain roles to be assigned duties such as:

1.      Communications manager: website, establishment of links between ASAL and other organisations.

2.      A tertiary/secondary liaison representative

3.       Attending events as an ASAL representative

There is also a need for the state reps to establish links in each state:

  1. with academics and students for membership. We need to increase the membership by 20% in the next 12 months.
  2. with writers centres, ministries for the arts, and the secondary sector.

3. ASAL’s role in publishing – see below



Susan Lever has now completed her term as JASAL editor. In addition to her editorial work, Susan was responsible for setting up and overseeing the publishing arrangement with the NLA. This has been very successful and its record of the reviewing process has in no small way contributed to the high scholarly standing of the journal.

Issues of JASAL published:

1.      Vol 8 (2008)

2.      Vol 9 (2009)

3.      Special Issue: Australian Literature in a Global World

JASAL on-line only

The decision to cancel hardcopy editions of JASAL was made at the February executive meeting in response to the treasurer’s financial report. Even one more copy was prohibitively expensive. Our thanks to the editors of the Special Issue, Wenche Ommundsen and Tony Simoes da Silva, who accommodated this situation with good grace. The possibility of cancelling hard copies had been canvassed with the publishing committee prior to the executive meeting and no strong objections were made. There was some regret about this decision and an awareness that some of the membership would be disappointed – a viewpoint that was taken very seriously and debated at length. However, the decision was made by the financial report – as the treasurer’s report will make clear.

Susan Lever has suggested that we make all issues of JASAL available on-line. This would involve the generation of pdf files of the hardcopy issues. These could be available via the ASAL site and linked to the main JASAL site.


ASAL backlist

2. National Library of Australia has uploaded the ASAL books listed below onto its e-system, and they are linked to the NLA catalogue.


Jamming the Machinery: Contemporary Australian Women’s Writing by Alison Bartlett (1.21MB)
A Career in Writing: Judah Waten and the Cultural Politics of a Literary Career by David Carter (2.18MB)

Subverting the Empire: Explorers and Exploration in Australian Fiction by Paul Genoni (1.12MB)

Real Relations: Australian Fiction, Realism, Feminism and Form by Susan Lever (1.89MB)

Christina Stead, Satirist by Anne Pender

Susan Lever has suggested this list could be amplified by the inclusion of monographs written by ASAL members (not necessarily published by ASAL) that are now out of print an/or require updates for a new edition.

ASAL’s role in publishing in the future

At the July 2009 conference the ASAL publishing committee undertook to report to the executive by February 2009 on the subject of ASAL’s role in Australian scholarly publishing – which they did in a timely and fulsome manner. These responses were debated at the February executive meeting. The president expressed some concerns that decisions needed to be made in the light of more data regarding the current publishing initiatives and the perceived need to facilitate more scholarly publishing on Australian literature. This research is especially important in the view of the ERA as we need to ensure our members’ work has the authority of a respected publisher.

In view of these concerns the president undertook to contact a number of related organisations to see if we could produce a map of publishing activity that might clarify the ways ASAL could best assist in this field.

Met with Jeremy Fisher, the director of the Australian Society of Authors.

Met with Zoe Rodriguez, the Cultural Funds advisor with CAL.

Have had a discussion with Nicola Evans from the Literature Board of the Australia Council for the Arts.

Received a submission from Kerry Kilner, director of Austlit.

Held discussions and correspondence with ASAL members.

There are a number of related issues as I see it: one relates to fiction publishing and the other to scholarly publishing.

Who is publishing Australian literary scholarship – and in what forms? Is there literary scholarship not being published?

David Carter has kindly offered to play a role in generating data and reports from Austlit regarding Australian Literature criticism in the past 15 years – perhaps longer.

Who is publishing Australian literature?

Who is managing the backlist of Australian literature?

What is the best way of ensuring Aust. Lit is available for teaching  (at least) – including printing on demand, reversion of rights etc. Sydney  UPress and the Australian literary classics project is one such project and is the development of the Austlit service) How might we expand this type of service?

The ASA is interested in involvement in the form of a register of authors and the provision of advice on process.

CAL is interested in accepting an application for funding re its Cultural fund to facilitate data on

Section 2: ASAL activities since July 2008


Paul Genoni (incoming president) has drafted a document of Guidelines for the organisation and reporting of the main conference.

1. Vincent Buckley 20 Years After, was held at Newman College, University of Melbourne 10-11 February 2009. The conference was presented by Victoria University, supported by Newman College and sponsored by ASAL. This was a very successful conference and provided fresh approaches to Buckley’s poetry. Thanks to John McLaren. Bridie McCarthy and the other members of the organising committee: Penelope Buckley, Charon Freebody, Damien Barlow and Lyn McCredden

Upcoming conferences

1. Old Lags on Norfolk Island conference will be held 9-17 October 2009. Registrations are still open for this conference. Please see the wesbite for details

2. 2010 Reading Across the Pacific: Australian-United States Intellectual Histories will be held 14-15 January 2010, The conference is presented by Australian Literature at the University of Sydney in association with the American Association for Australian Literary Studies (AAALS) and the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL)

Abstracts of up to 250 words are due by 31 July 2009

3. July 2010 conference will be held at UNSW

Matter for consideration: one day conferences and symposiums. The executive will accept applications for sponsorship of small conferences and symposiums. In addition to the promotion of papers and debate, these events are good ways to build the ASAL membership.

Reports and Activities

1. Submission to the ARC on the ERA  (July 2008)

As arranged at the 2008 conference the president undertook to accept submissions from the membership to prepare a submission from ASAL to the ARC on the ERA rankings. As part of this process the president received many submissions, over 60 emails, in addition to the discussion at the ASAL AGM. The president also spoke with the ARC, who expressed great interests in the elaborate way this document was prepared by experts in the field, including the editors of many journals. The ARC asked that I include an account of this process with the submission.

It is therefore disappointing that there is little evidence of this report having had any impact at all.

The president also wrote an essay for Australian Author on the ERA (40.2, August 2008 11-14) and was interviewed by the US Chronicle of Higher Education (55.7, A10).

2. Submission to InAsa on Australia/Japan connections (June 2009)

ASAL responded to a request from InASA to submit a response to its review of Australian Studies in Japan. The president prepared the report from submissions made by the membership.

3. In response to a widely-circulated email from Professors Coleman, Dixon and Whitlock, the president attended a day-long symposium on the new national English curriculum held in Melbourne in October 2008. The president was also interviewed by the Australian newspaper on the role of Australian literature in the NSW curriculum.

4. The president represented ASAL at the Prime-Minister’s Literary Prize (Canberra, September 2009)

5. The president represented ASAL at the announcement of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2009 Best Book and Best First Book South East Asia and Pacific Regional Winners, Macquarie Foundation, Sydney, 11 March 2009.

6. The president represented ASAL at the Australian Society of Authors’ 2009 Barbara Jefferis awards.

7. The president will represent ASAL (as former ASAL president) at a panel on Australia’s Literary Futures the PEN anthology of Australian Literature on 1 August 2009.

8. The president has been a member of the steering committee of the Aus-e-Lit project Collaborative Integration Services for Australian Literature Communities

Elizabeth McMahon
July 2009