Arts Funding

How the Money Rolls In for Lefty Scribblers

In the culture wars, Leftist institutions never let their darlings be defeated or outed. It’s particularly important to the Left, for electoral strategy, to keep up the propaganda in schools. So any Left icon entrenched in classwork will be defended with doubled vigor.

There have been been two recent examples. The first involves the national Primary English Teaching Association’s error-riddled North Korean-style guideline Teaching the language of climate change science. It’s a manual for 3500 English teachers to turn a million small kids into warriors for costly and inefficient renewables. The Australian Publishers Association in September gave this tract a prize for best work in its category in 2021.  

The second instance is the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) awarding its formerly prestigious biennial Medal to none other than bogus Aborigine Bruce Pascoe. As a warm-up, the ASA’s affiliate Copyright Agency awarded Pascoe $25,000 from 2016 for “works in progress” that are yet to materialise.

The ASA, with 3700 author-members, actually gave Pascoe its Medal on November 11 for his (I’m not making this up) “truth-telling”.

Not since Caligula allegedly made his horse a consul has there been such a farce.

Pascoe’s “truth-telling” is peddled into the nation’s schools via Dark Emu and his Young Dark Emu. The “truths” involve nonsense about pre-contact Aboriginal farmers living in stone towns of 1000-plus and planting their yam-daisy crops and caring for their penned animals (wallabies? wombats?).

Here’s the ASA’s jaw-dropping announcement complete with its exclamation mark:

The Australian Society of Authors is proud to announce that the 2021 ASA Medal has been awarded to Bruce Pascoe!

Much of his work has shone a spotlight on the history of our First Nations people, sparked dialogue, widely engaged Australians on a re-consideration of Aboriginal agriculture, and challenged colonial assumptions.

The ASA regards Pascoe’s contribution as vital in this age of truth-telling. The Society deeply admires his literary works, as well as his commitment to mentoring

The ASA Medal criteria specifies an author or illustrator “who has made an outstanding contribution to Australian culture, both as a creator and an advocate.” In fact Pascoe’s Dark Emu claim to fame was eviscerated by Quadrant’s Peter O’Brien in his book Bitter Harvest (2019), which can be purchased here. O’Brien laid out side-by-side the explorers’ actual written extracts and Pascoe’s distortions and inventions, which are to be found in virtually every reference Pascoe makes to those sources.

Dark Emu’s fictions have proved too much even for some leftist academics. Melbourne University Press last June published Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers by anthropologist Dr Peter Sutton and archaeologist Keryn Walshe, who debunk Pascoe with requisite scholarly rigor.

I suspect the ASA’s selection of Pascoe (ignoring such minor scribblers as Geoffrey Blainey and Helen Garner) was because the ASA signed up for a Reconciliation Australia Plan (RAP), obligating it to deliver Aboriginality for Reconciliation Australia chief executive Karen Mundine.[1] The  ASA’s sister-body Copyright Agency has signed up for RAPs since 2015, which might account for its transfer of $650,000 of authors’ money as grants to Aborigines and Aboriginal entities since 2016.

Pascoe responded to the ASA honor with his trademark humble-brags:

“I thank writers and I thank artists, because we [who?] are burdened with the responsibility of making sure our [who?] story is told, and that it is told correctly [huh?], for the sake of our [who?] grandchildren, our [who?] great grandchildren, and this great country, with its 120,000 years [huh?] of history.

“I know that there’s anguish among writers considering writing about Aboriginal history. If you want to do this, Aboriginal people need to be known to you. The imprint of your lips needs to be on their cup, and theirs on yours. Your fingerprints must be on their table, and theirs on yours. That’s the condition.” 

I just love Pascoe’s seductive burble! I visualise his supposed Aboriginal forebears 120,000 years ago sitting down to Sunday brunch of diprodotron chops with tiny pieces of bread made of flour from low-yielding yam-daisies, and passing cups of native-berry mead along their dining table. All that’s missing is Jane Austen to record the witty conversation about the latest volcanic eruption.

Pascoe’s biggest backer has been Ita Buttrose’s ABC, which not only dishes his nonsense to kids in a 14-part series by ABC Education but also insists it will complete a giant, two-part visual panegyric to its hero sometime next year. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that Pascoe in his ASA speech damned all those urging less taxes going to the ABC pack:

These people [ABC critics] are representing themselves as the voice of Australia, but are in fact trying to shut down the voice of Australia.[2] If we [who?] don’t leave our front door and get on the streets for the sake of the ABC we [who?] have the potential to lose that institution and we [who?] are going to regret it.

Is it fair to call the ASA “leftist”? Well, deputy ASA chair Sophie Cunningham is  ex-editor of the leftist Meanjin, currently edited by the ABC’s Jonathan Green. Her recent triumph was editing a collection “Fire, Flood, Plague: Australian writers respond to 2020”. This exercise was bankrolled with $75,000 last year from the Copyright Agency, directed to the essay authors through publisher Penguin Random House and the far-left Guardian. The book’s 2020 opening timeline includes bagging Prime Minister Morrison as unpopular in Cobargo, but the timeline has nothing to say about Victorian Premier Dan Andrews’ bungled quarantine that killed 768 people. Cunningham’s essayists, while purportedly “diverse”, are the usual suspects — Lenore Taylor (Guardian editrix); Tim Flannery, the false drought prophet; weepy IPCC author and ANU climate activist Joelle Gergis, and left journo George Megalogenis. If the $75,000 was meant to prop up struggling authors during COVID, it went to what many would see as the wrong people.

ASA board member Sarah Ayoub did her PhD on “intersectional teen literature”. My first look-up was that intersectionality “shows how a feminism that focuses on women – without also addressing the fact that women come from different classes, and are marked by differences in ethnicity, sexuality, ability and more – favours the needs of those who are white, middle-class, heterosexual and able bodied.” Ah, now I understand intersectionality!

 But what about the Copyright Agency’s $25,000 to Pascoe I mentioned earlier?

♦ In 2016 the Agency handed Pascoe  $15,000 of authors’ royalty money  

“enabling him to continue work on a pair of novels, Imperial Harvest, which looks at violence and colonial expansion. The first book, The Grain Armies, begins in Mongolia and will cover most of Europe, the areas dominated by Ghengis Khan, and the main character will continue into Book Two, The Great Dividing Range, as he ventures into the New World and eventually Australia. The Australian section will involve Aboriginal government before European Invasion.”

Pascoe looks set to eclipse Tolstoy’s less expansive War & Peace, except five years after Pascoe got the dosh there’s still no sign of the books. I suppose if Marcel Proust took 13 years to write Remembrance of Things Past, and Wagner 26 years to finish his Ring cycle, Pascoe, 74, might produce this masterpiece by say, 2035.

I emailed Kate Pasterfield, Director Members & External Affairs at the Copyright Agency and asked “is the Agency aware of completion of this project? If not, will it ask Mr Pascoe for a refund?”

She replied, “The first grant to Bruce Pascoe has been satisfactorily acquitted, in accordance with Cultural Fund guidelines.”

♦ Two years ago the Agency was at it again, handing Pascoe a further $10,000  for a “key project” to write his “Cutter & Coota – a play for young people” – to date unperformed.

The Agency justified that largesse because  Pascoe is an “indigenous” author (he isn’t), and his Aboriginal/colonial play would “invite reflection” on our historical complexity. The play was supposed to be put on by Sydney Living Museums at Hyde Park Barracks early last year but the Museums’ website says the deal is still pending.

The Living Museums describes Pascoe as “one of Australia’s most influential Indigenous writers and historians” (he isn’t indigenous and he’s a crap historian, according to genuine academics Peter Sutton and Kerryn Walshe). Somehow the colonial settler Pascoe will use his fictive play characters (a colonising rat called Cutter and an indigenous bandicoot Coota) to lecture us about “Indigenous perspectives”.

I emailed Ms Pasterfield, “Is the Agency aware of completion of this play script? If not, will it ask Mr Pascoe for a refund?”

She replied, “The grant was to Sydney Living Museums to commission Bruce Pascoe to write a play, which will be presented next year. Presentation of the play has been delayed due to COVID. Sydney Living Museums is due to acquit this grant once the work has been presented.”

It’s a puzzle why Pascoe needs to hoover up other authors’ money when he’s probably a royalty-millionaire for his Dark Emu/Young Dark Emu sales of 300,000 or so. He’s certainly not on Struggle Street compared with the 99 per cent of Australian authors who failed in 2018-20 to sell 1000 copies, suggesting few make even $3000 royalties. About 80 per cent of these writers fail to earn even $15,000 a year.

But Pascoe also has in his extensive money-making portfolio the Melbourne University job as “Enterprise Professor in Indigenous Agriculture”. This pays $200,000 if full-time, plus perks. Melbourne University strangely refuses to clarify the nature of his professorship. All of Pascoe’s business “enterprises”, incidentally, are duds.

Two Aboriginal Land Councils representing 40,000 members have complained to ICAC, alleging corruption by Sydney University for declining to verify the Aboriginality of hordes of staff and students now enjoying privileges there as self-identified Aborigines (The Australian, paywalled, 26/11/21 p1). I’d like to see Victorian Land Councils meting out similar treatment to Melbourne University for failing to demand that its Professor Pascoe name one Aboriginal ancestor.

The Copyright Agency with its $130m income and $1.6m latest annual cultural slush fund is at the centre of a leftist web of institutions and individuals getting fund transfers and sinecures.  For left-oriented grant winners, see here.  The Agency’s favoured heavies themselves are doing pretty well from it all.

CEO Adam Suckling took a moment from fondling his half-million salary cheque to extol his 37,000 authors who “generously commit 1.5% of the agency’s revenue each year toward the Cultural Fund to benefit the Australian creative landscape.” Suckling, who retires from the job in February, is technically correct but he never asked me and colleague Peter O’Brien if we wanted to “generously” donate to the likes of Bruce Pascoe.[3]

Suckling’s predecessor CEO Jim Alexander trousered $490,000 back in 2013. That’s the Agency’s last bit of transparency on this topic, apart from a coy note in 2019-20 accounts that three executives were paid more than $250,000. The Agency’s latest annual report has only. an obscurity that key executives got paid a total $970,000.

Let’s imagine the CEO’s pay has improved by just an annual 2% since 2013. That would put Suckling’s pay today on $574,000, comfortably ahead of the Prime Minister. Scott Morrison is on $550,000 for his less onerous duties than organising, collecting and doling out copyright money.[4]

Speakers at Sydney, Melbourne and similar Writers Festivals are near a 100 per cent leftist stack, as Gerard Henderson of the Sydney Institute documents each year.[5] To help pay these leftists’ speaker fees, the Copyright Agency will throw anything from $5000 to $30,000 to the organisers. The Agency has sent $400,000 to these city festivals in the past five years.

What’s the most left mainstream newspaper in the country? The on-line Guardian, of course. How much has the Copyright Agency thrown to this Malcolm Turnbull-sponsored green icon? More than $100,000, in annual tranches of $20-30,000 a year.

When it comes to the “little” leftist literary mags, let’s start with the quarterly Griffith Review, which in 2020 had puny sales of $93,000. Copyright Agency alone handed it $36,000 that year, and a total $190,000 in the past five years. Other backers include mega-rich Greens Party bankroller Graeme Wood, founding investor of Guardian Australia.

The Copyright Agency has diverted $120,000 of authors’ money to the University of Melbourne’s Meanjin since 2016. Pre-2016 the Agency total to Meanjin was at least $146,500, including a whopping $64,000 donation in 2010. Meanjin doesn’t disclose sales but mentions them as an afterthought to its university and Copyright Agency gravy.[6]

Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre was set up by Labor as a state agency, and any right-of-centre speaker there in the past decade was a terrible mishap. Of Wheeler Centre’s latest 228 talking heads (all paid at professional rates from grants), the Centre boasts that 59 were LGBT+, 46 were “First Nations”, and 111 were culturally and linguistically diverse. Notwithstanding Wheeler’s routine multi-million largesse from taxpayers, Copyright Agency passed it $15,000 last year for speaker fees.  

The Agency gave leftist author Anne Summers a $15,000 windfall five years ago, a few months before her eponymous Anne Summers Reports magazine folded. She gave the $15,000 back. Top marks, Anne!

Another $5000 went last year to me-too campaigner Tracey Spicer, whose crusade in 2019 led to a privacy breach during her narration for the ABC Silent No More filming—and her lawyer then sent defamation warning letters to those who complained on-line about the breach. She got the $5000 for “interviews with Australian women and marginalised writers conducted by noted reviewers and writers”.

An interesting grant was a substantial $20,000 from the Agency in 2017 to Sally Morgan, author of My Place (1987) which gained an astronomic 600,000 sales as a schools’ textbook. The Agency’s rationale for that $20,000 grant reads

“Creating a collection of linked stories in verse, individual stories will be historically based and will examine the effects of colonisation on Aboriginal people. The focus of the stories is the Pilbara, where Sally’s family come from, and relate in some way to the experiences of Aboriginal people.”

All I can find on-line in the way of recent Morgan works is material like a board book this year Beneath the Stars which she illustrated, with her son Ezekiel Kwaymullina doing the minimal text – the book is for babies aged 0-2. Sixteen of 20 works listed on Austlit written or illustrated by Morgan from 2017 are for children.  

I emailed Ms Pasterfield of the Copyright Agency, “Is the Agency aware of completion of this project? If not, will it ask Ms Morgan for a refund?”

She replied, “The grant to Sally Morgan has been satisfactorily acquitted in accordance with the Cultural Fund guidelines.”

There’s just been an electoral tussle for an Agency author-director board slot, with journalists Anthony Klan and Chris Pash unsuccessfully challenging incumbent Adele Ferguson, who was named the winner last Friday. Klan was running on a reform-the-Agency program: “My key focus is improving the equitable and efficient distribution of funds to authors.” Damn,  I didn’t notice the poll before it closed on November 22.  Anthony would have got my vote.

Tony Thomas’s just-published “Foot Soldier in the Culture Wars” ($29.95) is available from author at or publisher Connor Court


[1] ASA latest annual report says: “The ASA commenced its Reconciliation journey, committing to a REFLECT Reconciliation Action Plan.” A Reflect plan involves, inter alia, “exploring your sphere of influence, before committing to specific actions or initiatives… Prepare business cases to senior leaders for future reconciliation initiatives.”

[2] Outgoing ABC News Director Gaven Morris conceded last week that this ABC “voice of Australia” has failed to relate to half the population, especially “working class people” and conservatives.

[3] Suckling retires next February as CEO.

[4] A 3% annual salary rise would put the Copyright CEO on $620,000 today.

[5] Sydney Writers’ Festival speakers 2021: Emma Alberici, Julia Baird, Caroline Baum, Sophie Black, Linda Burney, Julian Burnside, Jennifer Byrne, Peter Carey, Barrie Cassidy, Annabel Crabb, Andrew Denton, Kate Ellis, Anton Enus, Mehreen Faruqi, Osman Faruqi, Nick Feik, Richard Flanagan, Tim Flannery, Jan Fran, Helen Garner, Nikki Gemmell, Richard Glover, Kate Grenville, Eleanor Hall, Rebecca Huntley, Jane Hutcheon, Bridie Jabour, Erik Jensen, Paul Kelly (the singer, song-writer), Thomas Keneally, Malcolm Knox, Ramona Koval, Benjamin Law, Scott Ludlam, Sarah Macdonald, Jacqueline Maley, Paddy Manning, David Marr, Kate McClymont, George Megalogenis, Karen Middleton, Louise Milligan, Rick Morton, Kerry O’Brien, Bruce Pascoe, Tanya Plibersek, Margaret Pomeranz, Craig Reucassel, Mike Seccombe, Sami Shah, Tim Soutphommasane, Jeff Sparrow, Jason Steger, David Stratton, Norman Swan, Wayne Swan, Chris Taylor, Laura Tingle, Virginia Trioli, Christos Tsiolkas, Don Watson, Marian Wilkinson and Clare Wright.

[6] “It currently receives funding from the university, and CAL as well as receiving vital support through subscriptions and other sales.” 

21 thoughts on “How the Money Rolls In for Lefty Scribblers

  • Peter OBrien says:

    Great article Tony. Your indefatigability in outing these troughers never ceases to amaze me.

  • Dallas Beaufort says:

    Prime bullshitter in charge of Australian Universities corruption and money laundering.

  • Katzenjammer says:

    David Irving sued Deborah Lipstadt for defamation, which gave Lipstadt the opportunity to clearly demonstrate Irving’s lies. Lipstadt’s “defence opted for ‘justification’ – that is, it decided to prove that Lipstadt’s allegations were factually correct, an absolute defence in law.”

    Keep prodding. Is Pascoe game to prosecute a defamation case?

  • Peter OBrien says:


    I have given Pascoe ample opportunity to sue me for defamation. I don’t think he’ll go there. Nothing in it for him. As Tony has pointed out, the money keeps rolling in.

  • brandee says:

    Tony, this list of excess to the unworthy Left demands reform. Oh to have a conservative government with a leader willing to fight and win the culture wars. For a good start they could promote through the ranks TT – a foot soldier in the culture wars!

  • Adam J says:

    A good look at the incestuous, inbred Australian oligarchy. 99% of people don’t know them from a bar of soap and wouldn’t care to, but they have somehow gotten control of the bank books and therefore keep going at our expense.

  • March says:

    What are the odds of a deep pocketed conservative establishing a counter agency to provide funding to conservative and libertarian writers and thinkers?

  • Stephen says:

    I’m sorry to go all Milton Freidman on you but I don’t see why, as a tax payer, I should be giving grants to writers who’s works I wouldn’t buy and read in a pink fit. If they can’t find a market they should consider it a hobby and not give up the day job. Being an author is an elite profession. For every Stephen King there are a million writers wouldn’t sell more than a few copies mostly to family and friends. All of the arts are like this. I’m not against the Government supporting the fine Arts that have stood the test of time and are monuments to civilization but hack propagandists can beg on the street.

  • STD says:

    This all seems so elitist and smacks of their white privilege- The Sydney Writers Festival ,2021, certainly is a veritable who’s who in the left wing zoo. Emma’s on par with that iconic doyen ,Jules of Burnside.
    However we can all take hope, from the mere fact that intelligence does not always correlate with intellect and common decency and or for that matter uncommon sense.

  • DougD says:

    Brandee – I’de be happy with a conservative leader willing to fight the culture wars. Winning would be a bonus.

  • Tony Thomas says:

    The Society of Authors CEO has written to a member who complained about Pascoe’s ASA Medal as follows:
    Thank you for taking the time to write to us to express your concerns regarding the recent announcement of Bruce Pascoe as the recipient of the 2021 ASA Medal.

    The process for decisions about the ASA Medal is as follows: nominations for the ASA medal are received from the membership, and then the recipient of the Medal is decided by the ASA Board. This process, and the criteria for the Medal were published on our website and included in member publications. As stated on the website, “The ASA Board biennially awards the ASA Medal to an Australian author or illustrator who has made an outstanding contribution to Australian culture, as both a creator and an advocate. The recipient will have a significant body of work but, in addition, will have strived to encourage and support their peers, as well as having mentored and fostered emerging writers and/or illustrators.”

    The Board based its decision on the fact that Bruce is an award-winning author of over 30 books, an editor, publisher, anthologist, researcher and educator. Bruce’s literary output ranges from short stories to essays, reviews, textbooks, children’s fiction, adult fiction, anthropology, indigenous language and history. He has been published locally and internationally. In 1999, Bruce won the Fellowship of Australian Writers Literature Award. In 2018, he won the Australia Council Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature.

    Bruce founded a publishing company and, along with Lyn Harwood, founded the magazine, Australian Short Stories which published the works of over 500 emerging and established authors, including Helen Garner, Gillian Mears and Steven Carroll from 1982 to 1998. He has had an important role in nurturing the careers of other Australian writers.

    Bruce has taught and mentored young First Nations authors for example via the NSW Writers Centre’s Mentorship program for emerging Indigenous writers, provided opportunities to First Nations illustrators, worked to preserve the Wathaurong language, and is currently a Professor on Indigenous Agriculture at Melbourne University. This role is intended to help build knowledge about indigenous agriculture, food science and native food traditions.

    The ASA Board is very aware of many critiques which have been made about Dark Emu, including Dr Peter Sutton and Dr Keryn Walshe’s work: Farmers or Hunter-Gatherers? The Dark Emu Debate. The Board does not dismiss the scholarship of Dr Sutton and Dr Walshe but disagrees with your assertion that Bruce Pascoe is discredited. The Board welcomes the publication of a range of voices and the discussion that followed Dark Emu, as did Bruce Pascoe himself. In the Board’s view, none of these discussions undermine the fundamental importance of Dark Emu and what it has achieved, nor do they undermine Bruce’s long career as a prolific author and passionate advocate.

    The Board’s opinion is that the award-winning Dark Emu (2014) and Young Dark Emu (2019) has done what it set out to do: shine an important spotlight on the history of our First Nations people, spark dialogue, widely engage Australians on a re-consideration of Aboriginal land management and practices, and challenge colonial assumptions. We regard Bruce’s contribution as vital and believe it is a positive development that his work has sparked further examination of our history.

    The Board does not accept your claim that Bruce Pascoe is a cheat or trickster. As regards his Indigenous heritage, Bruce Pascoe is accepted by Yuin elders and celebrated by First Nations writers across the country. He was nominated by both an Aboriginal member of the ASA and non-Aboriginal member of the ASA.

    I hope this explanation has assisted you to understand the decision of the Board.

    Best regards,
    Olivia Lanchester”

  • wdr says:

    Utterly outrageous- many thanks for writing this important article. It is too bad that Scott Morrison and most of his ministers appear to have no interest in the woke hijacking of Australian academic culture, unlike John Howard.

  • wdr says:

    Does anyone know of who pays for the Society of Authors? According to its online financial statement for 2021, it apparently receives most of its income from member’s subscriptions- but does it receive any funding from the Federal government or from state governments, or from big private donors? I have never heard of this body- although I am an author- and it appears to do good work on behalf of authors, who are often ripped off, but, like most such bodies, it has been colonised and captured by the Left.

  • Tony Thomas says:

    Hi WDR, the ASA accounts are at
    Last year revenue total, ca $832,000 of which subscription revenue $511,000, activities $147,000, publications $28,000, grant income (unspecified) $89,000, investment income $44,000.
    They don’t seem much reliant on grants.

  • Blair says:

    “The Board’s opinion is that the award-winning Dark Emu (2014) and Young Dark Emu (2019) has done what it set out to do: shine an important spotlight on the history of our First Nations people…”
    Shine an important spotlight on what history?
    “As regards his Indigenous heritage, Bruce Pascoe is accepted by Yuin elders”
    “Bruce Pascoe is a Bunurong man born in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond. ”

  • pmprociv says:

    Brilliant stuff, as always, Tony. But I’m not so sure about: “passing cups of native-berry mead along their dining table.” Wouldn’t you think Dark Emu lager would have been more appropriate? Although the ingredients (as shown here: are mainly barley malt, with Uncle Bruce’s locally-grown native grass seeds merely thrown in for flavour. I can’t wait to try some of his bread, soon to feed the nation. It’s great that government funds have enabled him to grow this stuff. Who needs those capitalistic “market forces”?

  • pbridge says:

    Katzenjammer. Your sources, BBC, Skunky Evans, Lipstatz, come from the same international stable as the local crocks, the subject of our ire.
    Immense amounts were disbursed to destroy the finest historian of WWII. Though bankrupted and his library stolen by criminals, his work will survive, as the official and media driven version will not.
    Perhaps, since you can send emails, you might search for more balanced materials.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    One could weep for the way the outrageous left have captured the funding of Australian writers and publishers if funding there must be at all. Perforce these days, conservative writers are mostly dabblers and hobbyists writing without recognition in the interstices of the internet unless they somehow become well-known. Read what Wikipedia has to say about Quadrant these days to see how the denigration of the conservative mainstream centre-right works as the gatekeepers move the Quadrant needle to the ‘far right’.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    But well done again, Tony. A gadfly keeping them on their toes. They need to know that conservative eyes are watching them in their plundering. And recording it.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    As an aside, The Australian recently ran a jokey piece about the presents the pollies were putting under the childrens’ charity Christmas tree. A lot of these presents were books. In a comment I noticed that none of them had chosen Pascoe’s Young Dark Emu, noting that perhaps Pascoe’s star was falling.

    Rejected out of hand, of course, by the moderators there. Don’t diss the Bruce.

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