By Dr Lynda Hawryluk, Australasian Association of Writing Programs
The ever-changing higher education landscape affects all disciplines and their related industries in a variety of ways, and the creative arts discipline is not immune to these changes and challenges.
As academics and creative arts practitioners, we may feel emboldened by the ongoing relevance of developing, maintaining and teaching writing and communication skills for the modern and future workforce. The ability to express oneself clearly, concisely and cogently has significant value in this social-media saturated world, where the demand for media content of all kinds is immediate and unending. For undergraduate students, the development of the skills required to deliver creative content is gained through the knowledge acquired in creative arts degrees.
These degrees are focused specifically on building graduate attributes through creative and professional practice, and theoretical understanding. Students work on developing their communication skills across their degree, through experiential learning either on their own university’s literary journal or an internship off campus. Indeed, students are encouraged to develop contacts and participate in communities of practice through professional placements in arts organisations, participating in arts-based festivals and via creative residencies. As students graduate into postgraduate and research higher degree programs they also extend their capacity to produce research in and through practice, and hone this by participating in academic conferences and symposia–which provides another point of contact with like minded practitioners, as well as tangible outcomes for their academic studies.
It is heartening that the value of creativity is more widely acknowledged, with 65% of job advertisements in 2016 identifying ‘creativity’ as a desirable attribute. The recent Vivid Festival in Sydney echoed discussions held in forums such as the annual Australasian Association of Writing Programs Conference and writers’ festivals across the country, with sessions on ‘Creativity in Education’.
These bode well for graduates of creative writing programs who are seeking to enter the workforce: but a succession of deleterious arts policies indicate there is little reciprocal valuing of creativity and creative practice by Australian governments.
Several high profile campaigns by arts practitioners against poorly thought out policies have seen a rethink on arts funding and on proposed changes to copyright law However, the threats to the arts and its practitioners are ongoing, and the impact on undergraduate enrolments and confidence remains to be seen.
The renewed sense of vigour, and the energetic resistance by those in the arts industries, continue to mobilize arts practitioners, and to strengthen the communities of support. These actions, and the support networks they create, mirror the efforts of the university sector in encouraging and facilitating our students into communities of practice through their creative work.
This is a significant role of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs. The Association offers a multitude of opportunities for the writing discipline in Australasia. An annual conference, peer-reviewed publications like Meniscus , and TEXT and publishing opportunities for postgraduates and post-doctoral students demonstrate the breadth of the Association’s activities. The AAWP provides a platform for policy interventions, and for networking across university programs for academic staff and postgraduates in creative writing programs.
Dr Lynda Hawryluk is a Senior Lecturer in Writing at Southern Cross University where she is the Course Coordinator of the Associate Degree of Creative Writing. Lynda lectures in Writing units and supervises Honours, Masters and PhD students. An experienced writing workshop facilitator, Lynda has presented workshops for community and writing groups in regional areas in Australia and Canada. She is the President / Chair of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs, a Committee Member of the Byron Writers Festival and has been published in a variety of academic and creative publications.