You’ve probably already heard this, I’m slow to the punch as usual, but this week two prize winners at the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards donated their prize money to charitable causes. This is kind of a big deal for two reasons, firstly because authors are traditionally not big earners and who couldn’t use a sizeable injection into the mortgage repayments? And secondly because nothing happens in a vacuum and the political context in which Richard Flanagan (who shared the prize for fiction for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North with Steven Carroll and A World of Other People) donated $40,000 to the Aboriginal Literacy Foundation, and Bob Graham (who won in the children’s category for Silver Buttons) donated $10,000 to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, is significant. Of course, as Flanagan pointed out in his acceptance speech most writers earn in the region of $10,000 a year for their work and it just so happened that he had been exceptionally fortunate this year. (In case you’ve been living under a rock his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North also won the Man Booker Prize.) It certainly isn’t expected or suggested that other writers who did not donate their well deserved earnings to charitable causes should have martyred themselves on the altar of financial ruin to make a point. In fact, no artists should have to do that. But Flanagan and Graham chose to do so and the charities to which they donated are no doubt well pleased.
I haven’t read any of the award winning books, so I can’t comment on their relative merits, but I’d suggest you read the full list of winners here and support and celebrate them all.
And here’s a thing and, don’t freak out, I’m getting to my actual point. It’s a gift giving time of year for many. Do we consider where the proceeds of our own good fortune end up? Can we perhaps afford to donate a little bit of cash, or some gifts, or some time, to those who need it? Even beyond that, can we consider shopping for gifts at independently owned stores, buying books and treasures that help feed the artists and creatives who make them. Charity begins at home and art really does make the world a better place. And by embracing both perhaps we can too.