In 1994, while an Arts student at Edith Cowan University, Trudy Graham researched the establishment of a new writers’ centre. Her research won the support of: lecturers, fellow writers and the Shire of Wanneroo, who could all see the need for a writers’ centre to service the northern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia. The idea was acted upon, resulting in the Northern Writers’ Association being incorporated on 31st May 1995 by a steering committee including Andrew Taylor, Susan Hayes, and Glen Phillips, with Trudy Graham as the centre’s founding President and Julie Lewis as the first Patron. Representatives from the local Wanneroo Council attended committee meetings to assist with the successful establishment of the group. The new group met in different community locations and held creative writing workshops, ran competitions, created anthologies, involved local schools, and resulted in a steadily increasing membership.
In 1998, the Northern Writers’ Association became the Peter Cowan Writers’ Centre Inc in honour of Peter Cowan, an esteemed Western Australian writer and academic. Along with the name change, the Writers’ Centre was about to change its location to the former home of Edith Cowan, Peter’s grandmother and Western Australia’s first female member of parliament in 1921. (Read the excerpt)
The Centre started with a strong team namely: Trudy Graham, Julie Lewis, Glen Phillips, Andrew Taylor and Susan Hayes, the State Literature Officer. The committee’s goal was to establish a positive future for the craft of writing in the northern suburbs and advise members on publishing, all aspects of writing and grant applications. Trudy Graham was the first President and became its first life member in 1998, followed by Glen Phillips and Ena Taylor in 2005. There have been three further life members appointed since then, and a writer- in-residence has been based at the centre almost every year since 1999. Julie Lewis remained the centre’s Patron from 1995 until her death in 2003. The Centre’s current patron since 2008 is Professor Andrew Taylor.
In the years since its inception, Peter Cowan Writers’ Centre Inc has continued to grow and offer a range of writing opportunities for its membership and the wider writing community. The centre conducts four, annual writing competitions: The Peter Cowan 600 Short Story Competition, the Trudy Graham-Julie Lewis Literary Award for Prose, the Patron’s Prize for Poets, and the Glen Phillips Poetry Prize. These competitions attract entries from throughout Australia, providing both established and new writers alike with the opportunity to have their writing recognised and assessed by an independent judge.
Peter Cowan Writers’ Centre Inc. also holds regular member meetings, conducts an annual writing retreat, hosts an annual writer-in-residence, provides specialist writing workshops in memoir, prose, poetry, publishing and social media; and offers regular creative writing and editing sessions for its members and the wider writing community. The centre has continued with the objectives of the original steering committee: to be an ongoing source of support and development for emerging and established writers within the northern suburbs of Perth.