President’s Report, 2007-2008

My first task as president concerned the deaths of colleagues and friends: Noel Rowe, Glenda Adams and Bernard Hickey. I would like to record here our deep sadness and to acknowledge ASAL’s gratitude for the contribution of each of these wonderful people to Australian literature.

Initiatives in Australian Literature and Australian literature teaching

1. Chair in Australian literature

In early August the government announced the round table on Australian literature and a new chair of Australian literature. I wrote to Ozco and the minister’s office to register our surprise and disappointment that ASAL was not invited into this process. I was later asked by the Minister’s office for suggestions for the selection committee, which I supplied. To my knowledge this advice was not taken on board in any way.

The good news is that UWA was successful in its bid for the Chair. Congratulations to all UWA staff involved.

2. Carrick Proposal

Congratulations to Philip Mead, Alice Healy and Kerry Kilner on the success of their joint proposal ‘Australian Literature Teaching Survey,’ submitted to the Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching Higher Education  under its Discipline-Based Initiatives Scheme. The project is collaborative involving the University of Tasmania, the University of Queensland and the University of South Australia.  ASAL has pledged its support and welcomes its outcomes.

The July 2008 conference includes a forum on teaching Australian literature, devised by Philip, Alice and Kerry, as part of this project.

3. 2020 Summit

Several ASAL members involved in putting together a case for ASAL involvement in this event. The bid was not successful but it was time-consuming and I thank those involved.

4. Orders of AustraliaIn January 2008, David Marr wrote an article in the SMH noting the absence of artists, musicians or writers in the long list of OAs. One reason is artists and the arts sector do not have the institutional support to organise submissions. At the February executive meeting we agreed that this was a fitting role for ASAL. I contacted Jeremy Fisher, the executive director of the Australian Society of Authors, for his advice. He was very helpful, explaining process and the history of literary success in this area. On the strength of this information I suggest that ASAL’s involvement could be to make formal recommendations to the ASA, who have an active committee to develop recommendations. Jeremy considered that ASAL endorsement would be a very good first step in securing the success of the nomination.

5. Response to ERA rankings

I sent members the current ERA rankings. I welcome any feedback on before July 4, as the preliminary report needs to be fed back into all our institutions to ensure any impact. (This date has been revised)

ASAL processes


We finally have a functioning website. Thanks to Emma Sampson who completed the work on this. We now need to flesh it out a bit with pics and to ensure regular updates.

The website now has the capacity for online credit card payment.

Australian Humanities Review

ASAL has agreed to act as publisher for Australian Humanities Review, edited by two ASAL members, Russell Smith and Monique Rooney.


The prize committees for the awardees at the 2008 conference are listed below. Very sincere thanks for all their work.

Magarey Medal

Alison Bartlett (Chair)

David McCooey

Melanie Nolan

Mary Gilmore

CA Cranston (Chair)

Ralph Spaulding

Stephanie Green

AlS Gold Medal

Damien Barlow (Chair)

Susan Martin

Paul Salzman

AD Hope

Paul Genoni

Peter Kirkpatrick

CAL funding has enabled us to bring the awarded to the prizegiving ceremony. I thank CAL below but note their contribution here also.

ASAL conferences


  1. ASAL would like to thank Ron Blaber and the team at Curtin for the February conference, Critical Regionalisms. It was a very successful and thoroughly engaging event.
  2. ASAL would also like to thank the UOW team Wenche Ommundsen, Tony Simoes da Silva and Jenn Phillips for all their work.


1.      February conference  In February 2009, ASAL will be a co-sponsor of a Vincent Buckley memorial conference, organised by John McLaren.

2.      Annual conference The July 2009 conference will be held at the Australian National University, and organised by Russell Smith and Monique Rooney.

CAL support

I would like to thank our immediate past president Peter Kirpkatrick for his excellent work in securing triennial funding for ASAL from CAL. I would also like to thank CAL, who will support us with $15,000 per year for 2008, 2009 an 2010. This will enable us to support postgrads, writers and award recipients to attend the annual conference. It would hard to overstate how valuable this is to ASAL.

Publications committee

We agreed in February that we need to rethink this committee and ASAL’s role as publisher. It may make more sense for ASAL to establish a committee that reads and recommends to mainstream publishers.

Barry Andrews fund

In August ASAL received the cheque for $18,057.25 from the Barry Andrews Memorial Trust at ADFA to pay for a Barry Andrews lecture at our annual conferences. We thank the Trust for nominating ASAL. We have agreed upon $1000.00 for the speaker at the July 2008 conference. Philip Mead contacted family members to invite Barry Andrews’ widow to the event but she is unwell.

The July conference includes Nick Jose as the inaugural Barry Andrews address under ASAL’s management.


Many thanks to the JASAL editors for the issue in the past 12 months: Philip Mead, Susan Lever, Gillian Whitlock and Victoria Kuttainen. JASAL has been awarded an ‘A’ rating in the first of the ERA documents. Congratulations.

Committee membership

Thanks also to all those committee members stepping down in 2008. Your contributions are much valued.

Happy Birthday to ASAL

Finally, I would like to extend a birthday congratulations to ASAL – 30 years young. We are delighted 2 of the founding members, Julian Croft and Ken Stewart, can be with us to celebrate and we extend our thanks to Mary Lord who cannot be here. A broader thanks to all who have supported ASAL from 1978 to now.

Elizabeth McMahon
July 2008