President’s Report 2005-2006

The last year has been a period of consolidation for ASAL, which has allowed us to rethink some older functions of the organisation and explore fresh initiatives in our outreach and activities.

This report is delivered at the end of a wonderful annual conference around the theme of ‘Spectres, Screens, Shadows, Mirrors’. Deep and abiding thanks go to the conference convenors, Tanya Dalziell and Paul Genoni for a job spectacularly well done. I expect some of the dialogue generated by papers and panels this week will continue well into the future.

Congratulations go to our ASAL award-winners this year: to Gregory Day who won the ALS Gold Medal for his novel The Patron Saint of Eels (Picador); to David McCooey who won the Mary Gilmore Award for his collection of poems Blister Pack (Salt); and to Catriona Ross, who won the A.D. Hope Prize for her 2005 conference paper ‘Prolonged Symptoms of Cultural Anxiety: The Persistence of Narratives of Asian Invasion within Multicultural Australia’.

ASAL’s February mini-conference on ‘The Government of Writing’, organised by Lyn McCredden at the Melbourne Writers’ Centre, was also well-attended and generated some lively, and at times provocative, discussion on the relationship between politics and the arts. Next year’s mini-conference will be held in Sydney and honours the contribution of Elizabeth Webby to Australian literary research.

Our excellent journal JASAL is now available free online through the National Library of Australia. Thanks to Susan Lever, who has worked closely with Bobby Graham from the NLA, and to the JASAL editors Barbara Milech, Philip Mead and Bernadette Brennan. While hard copy of the journal will still be distributed to members, this new development opens up further online publishing possibilities which we will consider.

In the light of this, the ASAL Literary Studies series, which has been in something of an hiatus, is being reviewed. The publishing committee, which consists of Pat Buckridge, Elizabeth Webby and myself, is in the process of revising submission guidelines, which will be posted on the ASAL website.

We’re also looking into other activities that ASAL might sponsor or jointly host; in particular, seminars of relevance to postgrads, or to ARC funding opportunities. The new executive would be very interested in hearing of any proposals.

As many of you would be aware, there is now a ‘global’ email list of members and friends of ASAL, with which we can keep in more regular contact with you, informing you of conferences, seminars, and other events relevant to Australian writing and literary culture. This list will be regularly updated and expanded.

Early this year ASAL was approached by AustLit, seeking information on the range of Australian writing being taught at schools and universities. As there is no single national record of this, ASAL’s state representatives have set out to establish one, by gathering information on authors and works taught in their regions. When this is all collected and collated it will be a great resource for ASAL, as well as for AustLit. Our organisation can use it for outreach among secondary teachers, for example, or for promoting Australian writers and their work.

The ASAL website continues to evolve. On it you’ll now find the organisation’s memorandum and articles of association, in effect ASAL’s ‘constitution’, which all members can consult. In relation to this, the Treasurer, Secretary and myself have been looking into the relative merits of shifting ASAL from an incorporated company to an incorporated association, whereby we would have fewer reporting duties to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC). The matter is still being explored but, now that our ASIC responsibilities are becoming clearer, and more clearly defined in an evolving list of executive duties, it seems more likely that the status quo will prevail. You will, of course, under the terms of ASAL’s articles, be advised well in advance of any proposed change.

I would like to thank all the members of the executive for a job well done: Vice President Elizabeth McMahon, Treasurer and Tasmanian Rep ( and JASAL co-editor) Philip Mead, Secretary David Gilbey, JASAL co-editor Barbara Milech, Postgrad Rep Alison Wood, and all the State Reps: Kathie Barnes (ACT), Pat Buckridge (Queensland), Tanya Dalziell (WA), Kate Douglas (SA), Brigitta Olubas (NSW) and Meg Tasker (Victoria). The unpaid work they do is largely unacknowledged by university administrators, but ASAL could not survive without it. Special thanks to Philip Mead, who has sorted out some knotty financial matters, and to David Gilbey, who is stepping down after a second term as Secretary. Thanks, too, to Immediate Past President Lyn McCredden, into whose elegant court shoes I gingerly stepped in July 2005. Whenever I needed piloting advice, Lyn has only been a phone call away.

Finally, I would like to pay tribute to Barbara Milech, who is bowing out after five years as an editor of JASAL. Barbara has seen the journal through from its earliest inception to its latest leap into the bright new world of online publication, and JASAL could not have survived, and thrived, without her commitment and keen editorial eye for detail.

Peter Kirkpatrick

July 2006