Creating lifelong literary connections

July 31, 2019

The Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund supports Australia’s literary community in myriad ways and sometimes, serendipitously, creates connections that go far beyond expectations.

Our support for the 2019 Miles Franklin Literary Award has helped introduce new audiences to the award-winning author Dr Michael Mohammed Ahmad, who was shortlisted for The Lebs (Hachette Australia). Each shortlisted writer receives $5,000 from the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund.

Dr Ahmad, won the 2019 NSW Premier’s Literary Multicultural Award for the book and is also the founder and director of the Western Sydney Literacy Movement ‘Sweatshop’, which provides critical mentorships to writers from culturally diverse backgrounds.

Mohammed says, when he was an emerging writer, there were no Arab-Australian mentors available – but he was fortunate for the support of Ivor Indyk, from Giramondo Publishing, who was his doctorate supervisor at Western Sydney University and who published his first book, The Tribes.

Two emerging authors he has personally mentored are Arab-Australian author Omar Sakr and Tongan-Australian author Winnie Dunn, both of whom have received grants from the Cultural Fund.

Omar has published two collections of poetry. The highly acclaimed, These Wild Horses (Cordite, 2017) and The Lost Arabs (UQP 2019).

Of his mentorship, Omar says “It’s been such a generative time with Mohammed, and I think I’ve grown a great deal as a writer in the past year”.

“The publishing world remains largely white in Australia, and so, any project which supports marginalised artists creating new work that more accurately reflects our society will undoubtedly benefit the creative community as a whole.”

As Omar’s mentorship wraps up, Mohammed sees a lifelong relationship between them and notes wryly that there is room for more than one male Arab-Muslim author.

Winnie, who is the first in her family to receive a university degree, will develop her creative writing practice in prose and autobiographical fiction under Mohammed’s mentorship, including research into Pacific oral storytelling traditions.

Winnie has stories published in The Sydney Review of Books, Meanjin, The Lifted Brow and the Griffith Review, to name a few, as well as editing four anthologies through Sweatshop. The most recent anthology, Sweatshop Women: Volume One sold out at the 2019 Sydney Writers Festival.

She says, “Having a one-on-one mentorship with Dr Ahmad … an intercultural dialogue, is very special.”

“It’s also very special to be a recipient of a Cultural Fund grant … being paid to work on my short stories and take that next step to being a published author as well as being one of, if not the first, Tongan-Australian published author,” she says.


Apply for a CREATE grant before 1pm on 19 August 2019. CREATE grants support mid-career and established writers and visual artists to create and develop new work with amounts of $10,000, $15,000 or $20,000.



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