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Melbourne - City of Literature

As one of seven UNESCO Cities of Literature, Melbourne's literary heritage and culture is internationally recognised.

Part of UNESCO's Creative Cities Network, UNESCO Cities of Literature must have:

  • Quality, quantity and diversity of publishing and editorial initiatives
  • Quality and quantity of educational programmes
  • An urban environment in which literature plays an integral part
  • Experience hosting literary events and festivals, promotion foreign and domestic texts
  • Libraries, bookstores and cultural centre/s
  • Made active effort to translate literary works from diverse languages
  • Use of new media to promote and strengthen the literary market

UNESCO Cities of Literature work together to build strong global partnerships: encouraging literary exchanges, creating cross-cultural initiatives and developing local, national and international literary links. Each city is also dedicated to pursuing excellence in literature on a local level, engaging citizens in a dynamic culture of words.

The Victorian State Government's City of Literature initiative was announced in 2006. Since then the Government has committed around $20 million to raise the profile and status of literature in Victoria through four major initiatives:

  1. UNESCO City of Literature status for Melbourne

After Edinburgh, Melbourne was the second city to receive designation as a City of Literature within UNESCO's Creative Cities Network in 2008.

  1. A new Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas at the State Library of Victoria, now the Wheeler Centre

The Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas was the centre piece of Melbourne's UNESCO City of Literature initiative. Dedicated to the discussion and practice of writing and ideas through a year-round programme of talks and lectures, readings and debates, the Wheeler Centre also brings together literary organisations including Writers Victoria, Melbourne Writers Festival, Emerging Writers Festival, Express Media, Spunc and Australian Poetry.

  1. Increased the national and international profile of Melbourne Writers Festival

Melbourne Writers Festival is an internationally-acclaimed festival featuring over 300 writers from across the globe taking part in interviews, literary banquets, debates, readings, performances and workshops.

  1.  Revamped Victorian Premier's Literary Awards

The Victorian Premier's Literary Awards were inaugurated in 1985 and are now administered by the Wheeler Centre on behalf of the Premier of Victoria. Following a review and consultation with the literary sector, the Awards were streamlined and refocused and a new structure was implemented in 2011. Prizes in the main Awards are now presented in the categories of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama and young adult writing with the winners of these five categories contesting the Victorian Prize for Literature, the richest writer's prize in Australia.

Two further prizes are also awarded at different times of the year, the $15,000 Award for an Unpublished Manuscript which is presented as part of the Emerging Writers’ Festival and the biennial Awards for Indigenous Writing.

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Related news:

A dedicated Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature office opened in the second half of 2014. Find out more