Publisher: Robert Watkins

As part of The Stories We Tell Ourselves, we invited independent publishers to respond to equity and inclusion in the publishing industry – how their own work engages with it, as well as the change they believe is most essential. Here, Robert Watkins shares his perspective on the progress of inclusivity in Australian publishing.

When I think about Australian publishing and its approach to inclusivity, it’s clear that we aren’t moving fast enough to address the historic imbalances that exist. I really admire the work many publishers are doing with different organisations to promote a more inclusive landscape – Pantera’s partnership with Liminal, Hachette’s ongoing partnership with black&write!, the publishers involved with the Writing NSW publishing intern program – these are all excellent examples of great work to progress the industry’s efforts.

As Radhiah Chowdhury pointed out in her Beatrice Davis fellowship report – there is need for the industry to be hiring more inclusively across all levels of the publishing workforce, not just offering entry-level opportunities. As she goes on to highlight, there’s also a need for staff support systems, professional development and training.

I look to the initiatives in place at some publishers in the UK – Stephen Page at Faber recently highlighted their Diversity Action Plan, aiming to increase inclusivity across all aspects of their business, including setting targets for a diverse workforce and bespoke plans within the company – including how they publish, design, market and sell their books. I’m eager for our local industry to seek actionable change in a similar fashion.

Broadly speaking it’s a fact that there is still so much for us to do, whether that be in how representative our publishing and workforce is for Aboriginal creatives, writers and workers of colour, those living with a disability, those from the queer spectrum or those who come from a working-class background. It’s time our industry and what we publish showed respect for, and uplifted work from, the full spectrum of our society, instead of a chosen few.

Portrait of Robert Watkins

Publishing Director of Ultimo Press, Robert Watkins, has over 20 years experience in the Australian book industry having worked in book retail, sales, marketing, publicity, publishing and more recently as Head of Literary at Hachette Australia.