Keen readers will know that Rupert Murdoch, or the Genocidal Tyrant as he prefers to be known, recently gave his kids $60m each. Well, it is nearly Christmas.

And cute little failed junior GT Lachie put on one of his best suits the other day and with even cuter blond son in tow dutifully turned up at the Mornington Peninsula outside Melbourne where his grandma, Dame Elisabeth, presided Medici-like over the handing out of $100,000 to a painter who says he’s an amateur sculptor, the inimitable Rick Amor. Alas, his winning sculpture, Relic, was not of the dame who enters her 100th year in February.

Such Murdoch philanthropy seemingly knows no bounds. The family name is splashed across centres of learning and medicine in Melbourne.

One place where it’s not revered, however, is in the Melbourne suburb of Darebin. There, GT’s nondescript local giveaway, part of the huge Leader chain, stands accused of ripping off writers, some under 18.

But whose fault is it? Now, we all know public transport is slow, but it is enchanting to find that the reason for the delay in writers getting their prizes in Leader’s short story contest is said to be Yarra Trams, one of the sponsors.

All this Murdoch-inspired arts chaos emerged after this email from one Nancy Frazzetto, Leader Personal Assistant, although to whom ’twas not said:

Many thanks for taking part in the recent Darebin Literary competition run in the Northcote and Preston Leaders.

Without your contribution, Leader Community Newspapers would not have had a competition, and it would not have had Around The Block, the anthology of local writing.

The anthology, published with the assistance of NMIT’s Flat Chat Press, is an impressive celebration of the competition entries. It contains writing across all the age groups, and in all its forms.

Around The Block is available for purchase from the Leader offices at level 2, 192 High St High, Northcote, opposite the old Northcote Town Hall.

It is a lasting souvenir of your work.

The anthology is $25. Cash only please.

Not only did cash not begin to flow to the need Leader coffers, such a rage of emails ensued as to scorch the lattes of the writer-packed northern suburbs.

The proud mother of a prize-winning daughter expressed serious reservations about how the competition and anthology were run.

“Although my daughter was told she had won around two months ago, she still has not been sent a cheque for her $300 prize money which she has felt quite disappointed about.”

She says she was told the money would be handed over at a public reading:

It didn’t happen and no mention of the money was made. Furthermore, the prizewinners, many reading on the day (without a fee) were NOT given a complimentary copy of their work in the anthology, which would be expected.

I imagine they will receive NO royalties, and further to this were asked to PAY $25 for a copy, or do without, which is very unusual in poetry circles (excepting for certain exploitative companies which the Australian Society of Authors and other writers’ organisations have warned their members to avoid, as they are basically money-making schemes).

At least three prizewinners have not been paid, including two children, and had to pay $25 for the anthology. This was described as shameful and a hard lesson for the young. This writer was further enraged because the Leader flack also sent the woman’s email address to a huge number of people, “which is an invasion of privacy.”

Another entrant protested that it is a breach of copyright to profit from entries to a competition that did not inform competitors or have a release form signed by them:

Regardless of whether this is a clause in your terms and conditions, you cannot go ahead and publish an anthology without informing contestants prior. Further, it is against the privacy act to share personal information with other contestants, as you have done with this group email.

Unless you compensate all contestants and apologise for the extremely unprofessional way this competition was run, I will be taking further action. I encourage all contestants to do the same.

Wrote another:

If you are not going to pay for contestant’s work, you don’t have a right to release our entry to the public. When I entered this competition I was under the impression that only the Leader editors and the competition organisers would have a copy of my entry.

If I had known that I was going to be exploited and used I would not have entered. Some of the writers including me, are under the age of 18. You can not do anything further with my entry without my or my parents’ permission.

How stupid can you be taking my work and then making me pay for it so you can benefit from my hard work? You cannot publish an anthology without seeking contestants’ permission first.

Another writer says there are 84 entries in the book. Leader said it had 1,000 (it says 530 on the back of the book) so clearly not all are published.

Sponsors include City of Darebin, Darebin Libraries and Yarra Trams. The printers are Flat Chat Press, part of North Melbourne Institute of Technology’s Professional Writing and Editing Course at Greensborough TAFE, so the publishing is supported via fee-paying students who work on the production of books. Which is another saving for GT.

A correspondent expressed the hope that next year, if the contest is run, winners would be promptly paid at the prize-giving ceremony, and get a complimentary copy of the anthology containing their work.

Some chance.

Disclaimer: Kevin Childs, author of eight books, entered this contest but won’t buy the anthology.

Peter Fray

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