Australia’s university presses play a vital role in the publication and dissemination of studies of Australian culture and society. These presses tell local stories, be they national, state-based, regional or rural.
The protests against the decision to close, or fundamentally reorient, UWA Publishing (UWAP) point to the importance of such presses to the Australian research and literary community. UWAP has gained an international reputation for the quality of its publications, and has a long tradition of publishing both Western Australian literary voices, and those of the Australian scholarly and literary community more generally. It makes available content that speaks to our history, heritage, identities and society. It is therefore an important institution in our cultural landscape.
This announcement must be seen in the broader context of threats to research, teaching and publication of studies about Australia and of work undertaken in the national interest. The future of Australian academic journals and our university presses matters because our research system depends centrally on the circulation of research undertaken in Australia. They disseminate a broad array of work undertaken across the system, but particularly that which focusses on problems or issues that directly concern Australians themselves – work that we cannot expect others to do or to publish.
Any diminution of our network of quality publishing outlets for local content risks marginalising studies primarily focussed on Australia, rather than affording them the national importance they demand.