Victoria University academic Dr Natalie Kon-yu has called for the first statistical research study about whether diversity is adequately supported within the Australian Publishing Industry — particularly as it relates to First Nations writers and writers of colour.

Dr Kon-yu is working with writers and academics from around the country to create the first ever quantitative analysis of the Australian publishing industry in terms of race and cultural identity. The Editor of #MeToo Stories from the Australian Movement (Picador) says: “There is a distinct lack of statistical research in this area. This project would be the very first look at the representation of First Nations writers and writers of colour within the Australian Industry. Modelled on The Stella Count, the first FNPOC count would confirm the number books by First Nation and POC writers published in 2018.”

“We live in a time in which we see narratives about minorities rather than narratives by minorities. In contemporary Australian culture we are seeing a rise in the rhetoric of ‘otherness’ attached to ideologies of culture and race. Writing back to the centre matters, and it matters now. This is the radical potential of words.”

The lack of diverse publications has been increasingly highlighted and challenged internationally in recent years. In the US in 2011 in the New York Times, 88% were published by Caucasian authors. In the UK, only 8% of people in publishing came from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

This research will provide much needed demographic data on the industry and become an invaluable resource for future researchers, and for industry-wide organisations to get a better sense of the current landscape.

The findings will also function as a jumping-off point for more qualitative analysis on cultural diversity within the Australian publishing industry. The results of this study will inform publishing practices to provide greater opportunities for First Nations and POC writers to develop their practice.

Gaining funding for this research is already underway, via The Australian Cultural Fund, a platform for Australian artists and academics. This research project will cost $36,868, which will cover the survey, access to Nielsen Bookscan, the payment of researchers and advisors to critically inform the survey, and the compilation of a final report based on the project results, to be published through MEAA, Djed and Peril Magazine.

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