A new literary competition to be held annually in Sutherland Shire aims to encourage local talent and show the area is rich in more than just sporting prowess, beaches and bushland.
Sutherland Shire Council has launched the competition, which will carry a first prize of $1000, plus $500 and $250 for second and third places, in each of the three categories – traditional (rhyming) poetry, free verse poetry and short stories.
The council hopes to attract entries from poets and short story writers around Australia.
The Sutherland Shire Literary Competition is an initiative of Cr Barry Collier, who won first place in a category of the 2017 Henry Lawson National Literary Awards for a poem, Millennium Drought.
A bipartisan working party, which also included councillors Tom Croucher and Michael Forshaw and library services manager Deborah Best, supported the idea, and the move was backed by council staff and other councillors.
The staff report said the shire was “well known for its successful sporting teams and natural environment, and also has a rich vein within the literary, visual and performing arts, which warrants celebration”.
“Hazelhurst Regional Gallery is recognised as the focus of the shire's emerging visual artistic heritage and together with the Sutherland Entertainment Centre is starting to provide greater diversity in the performing arts,” the report said.
“There is less recognition and promotion of literature and writing throughout the shire, a need filled, in part, by council’s libraries.”
The report said there were three writer's groups operating within the shire.
Cr Collier, the sub-committee chairman, said achievements in sport, music and art in the shire had long been recognised.
“But, we now need to nurture, promote and celebrate literary creativity, building on the love of literature and reading fostered by our libraries as well as the contribution of our local writing groups,” he said.
Cr Croucher said the competition would not only promote a very positive image for the shire, but would also showcase the talents of local writers.
“If these awards also encourage people to develop and use their literary skills then we will all be better off for having a permanent high-quality record of life through the eyes of shire residents,” he said.
Cr Forshaw said the the initiative was “a fantastic addition to the shire’s cultural and artistic life”.
“It will be an opportunity to celebrate and encourage local authors, poets and literature groups, and to promote our shire throughout the nation,” he said.
Many councils in NSW already run such competitions.
Cr Collier said the structure and organisation of the competition followed consultation with local writing groups, other councils. recognised poets and judges, academics, national competition organisers and extensive research.
The competition is open to all Australian residents over 18.
Entries open on Monday, February 5, and close on Monday, April 30.
Cr Collier said, in addition to prizes for the first three placegetters in each category, there may also be a separate prize of $250 for the best entry by a shire resident in each category.
“Like other councils conducting similar competitions, prize money and direct costs associated with our very first Sutherland Shire Literary Competition will be met by entry fees and sponsorship from local businesses and organisations,” he said.