Bright futures: collaborative research opportunities through the Monash Arts Faculty

Advance your organisation’s goals and contribute towards your future success by joining with us to advance research excellence in the humanities and social sciences. Recent Australian Research Council (ARC) funding success at the Monash Arts Faculty demonstrates the excellence in collaborative research opportunities supported by our University. 

Research success by the Monash Arts Faculty

The Monash University Arts Faculty is pleased to announce a large number of successful and outstanding Australian Research Council (ARC) funding applications in 2013. As a result of these achievements, Monash Arts researchers have exciting plans to conduct research that will have a major social, cultural, economic and political impact.

ARC funding awarded within Monash Arts includes 10 successful ARC Discovery Projects, 1 Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award (DORA), 1 Future Fellowship and 2 Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRAs). Further, with the Monash Arts Faculty as the Administering Organisation (AO), there were an additional 7 grants that were accrued in the recent ARC results.

Up by nearly 20% in it’s overall ARC success rate since the 2011-12 funding round, Monash Arts is now firmly established as a hub of research excellence in the social sciences and humanities.

Research priorities with impact at Monash

Monash Arts is firmly represented within the University’s newly established four research priority areas which aim to bring together academic excellence through cross-disciplinary research collaboration. These areas link Monash to the Australian Government’s Strategic Research Priorities.

Recent Discovery Project ARC wins under each of the four priority areas below demonstrate the success of cross-discipline collaboration at Monash in advancing research excellence. These projects are due to commence in 2014.

Liveable Places and Sustainable Environments engages our researchers in the investigation of issues surround the global challenges of climate change and creating sustainable environments and more liveable cities and communities for future generations.

  • Extratropical Cyclones and their Associated Precipitation:  Understanding, Model Evaluation, and Future ProjectionsDr Jennifer Catto

Understanding Cultures promotes understandings of past, present and future cultural and social forces, and considers new and evolving forms of global citizenship. 

Resilient and Inclusive Societies research promotes resilient and inclusive communities at home and abroad to achieve greater social, mental and physical well being for the community.

Peace Security and Borders research works to advance our understanding of the sources of conflict, violence and harm at local, regional and international levels. 

  • Preventing Mass Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Conflict and Non-Conflict Countries, Prof Jacqui True
  • The Exploitation of unlawful migrant labour : crime, labour and regulationDr Marie Segrave (DECRA)

  • Rethinking the Victim: Gendered Violence in Australian Women’s WritingA/Prof Anne R Brewster (UNSW)

Join in the Monash Arts Faculty collaborative research success

Interested in partnering with us to extend the impact of what we do? 

We are seeking collaborative opportunities from industry, government and community groups who are mutually interested in supporting and contributing to the advancement of research excellence. We understand and support collaboration with stakeholders to strengthen and benefit research impact.  

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Monash student wins trans-Tasman essay award

Lucie Cadzow, a BA Honours student in Politics & International Relations, has won the 2014 Contemporary European Studies Association of Australia (CESAA) award for the best essay by an honours or postgraduate student for her paper on “The European Union’s decision to introduce a financial transaction tax in 2011-12″.

Lucie wrote the 5,000-word policy analysis as part of her assessment for the Honours/Masters unit, The Political Economy of European Integration.

In an exceptionally strong field of postgraduate papers drawn from universities throughout Australia and New Zealand, Lucie’s paper stood out to the judges. As part of her prize, the paper has been forwarded to the editors of the Australia and New Zealand Journal of European Studies for consideration as a published, peer-reviewed paper.

This is the second year in a row that Monash has won the CESAA prize. In 2013, Stuart Bruce won the 20th annual CESAA essay competition in the Postgraduate category.

The prize is generously supported by the Delegation of the European Union to Australia and New Zealand in Canberra.

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Lecture: Professor Muhammad Yunus

yunus3-WEBMonash University and the Monash Business School are proud to host a public lecture by Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and pioneer of microcredit and social business. The lecture will be followed by Q&A with the audience.

Event Details

Time/Date: Saturday 11 October 2:00 PM

Venue: Robert Blackwood Hall

About our Guest

Professor Yunus has established over 50 social business companies in Bangladesh, been awarded more than 50 honorary degrees from 20 countries, 112 awards from 26 countries and serves on the board of many national and international organisations. He is the author of two New York Times bestsellers and was named by the Fortune Magazine as ‘one of the 12 greatest entrepreneurs of our time’. Professor Yunus and Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for their efforts to lift people out of poverty.

We hope you will be able to join us for this truly remarkable occasion.

Ticket Prices
Standard: $10.00

Book now

Children
Children ages two years and under are complimentary when not occupying a seat.

Running Time
Approximately ninety minutes.

 

Australian Nightmares: the rise of a police state

By David Holmes

Possibly the most lamentable outcome of the raised tension and insecurity that has accompanied the theatre of terrorism in Australia is the decline in our political culture, which will last for as many years as such a threat is declared, even if it is never fully demonstrated. Opposition parties and mainstream media have become more or less paralysed into doing nothing other than focus on the power of terror, as a real threat and as a psychological spectre that is pre-occupying the minds of many Australians.

As satirised recently, the Australian Labor Party has been all but neutered by the call to protect citizens from a largely invisible threat that few Australians seem to understand, let alone know what to do about.

The failure to understand this threat largely rests with the spectacle-reporting that is pushed at us by the tabloid media in this country. The tabloids have been feeding off images of beheadings, while giving airtime to the proclamations of both extreme Islamists and the daily repetitive pounding of the security warnings of government ministers.

But here, we can point to a perspective for which the declarations of the radical islamists and of the Australian government actually share a common basis, one that is not easy to see unless we explore the background politics of terrorism in the modern era.

For this purpose, I am going to draw on the fascinating insights of a little-known BBC documentary released in 2004, known as the Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear. The program, produced by Adam Curtis, is in three parts, and explores the rise of both radical Islam and neo-conservative thinking on terrorism as having a common origin.

Imagined threat vs empirical evidence

Post-9/11, Power of Nightmares argues that much of the threat of terrorism is a fantasy, which has been exaggerated and distorted by politicians.

Certainly, this is true empirically. The University of British Columbia produced a Human Security Report the following year to show that, measured by fatalities, terrorism was much more significant in the 1930s than it was up to that time post- 9/11. It is just that today, the power of the “image” conveyed by instantaneous communication is hundreds of times more powerful than it was in the ‘30s.

As the Power of Nightmares explains, terrorism has become:

a dark illusion that has spread unquestioned through governments around the world, the security services, and the international media.

The film does not deny that terrorism exists, it is just that it is of great benefit to Western governments to exaggerate this threat. In turn, such exaggeration can be domestically divisive, causing alienation in one group and imagined fear in mainstream society, to the point where real violence can actually break out. The real event then vindicates those who had been promoting the imagined fear and, before long, the real and the imaginary state of affairs become indistinguishable.

This is the place that Australia is in right now.

As the power of the image asserts itself, it is not that it directly influences what people think, but that it changes the media ecology in which we think. This can therefore make decisions that would have been unacceptable before the spectre of terror was heightened come to be seen as entirely justified.

For example, almost two weeks ago, on his last day before retiring, the head of ASIO raised the terrorist alert level to high, even though no specific threat to Australia has been identified, only a general global threat.

A “show of strength” of 800 police was deployed last week in raids that resulted in only one arrest of a person who had made a threat in a private telephone conversation. On the same day, Australian military were deployed overseas to fight a terrorist group that the raid in Australia was trying to expose here. Daily the PM is making declarations about “those who would do us harm” and foreshadowing that the freedoms Australians are used to will have to be sacrificed in the name of security for many years into the future.

At first glance the protection being offered by the government, at least to non-Muslim citizens, seems to be the major benefit of these deeds and words, but what of the terrorists, the mass media and the Abbott government? Could they also be beneficiaries?

The Power of Nightmares

Part one of the documentary begins in the small town of Greely in the US state of Colorado in the summer of 1949. This is the place where a middle-aged school inspector from Egypt, Sayyed Qutb, spent time studying the US educational system.

The documentary traces Qutb’s unique kind of anthropological assessment of American society as a crass, hollow, materialistic and vulgar society into the thinking of extreme anti-Western Islamic doctrine. It makes the clam that: “Qutb was going to develop a powerful set of ideas that would directly inspire those who flew the planes on the attack of September the 11th.”

The documentary traces the direct influence of Qutb on the ideas of Ayman Zawahiri, who is infamously known as the mentor of Osama Bin Laden. A core thread running through the thinking of these men was contempt for what Qutb called Jahillayah, a state of materialistic “barbarous ignorance”, which Jihadist Islam sees as spreading like a cancer across Muslim states in the Middle East, particularly Egypt, infecting the minds of Muslims. Such people believed they were free but were in fact trapped by their own selfishness, according to Qutb.

At the same time as Qutb’s views were becoming influential, so were those of an obscure philosopher at the University of Chicago by the name of Leo Strauss, on the ideas of a group who were to become known as the neo-conservatives. The neo-conservatives were actually anti-liberal in the sense that they shared the same fears as Qutb about the destructive force of individualism in the US, that Western liberalism ultimately led to nihilism, a world without values that could bind people together, a state that some intellectuals later came to know as “postmodernism” … a situation in which liberalism had gone too far, leading people to question absolutely everything.

Strauss cultivated a strong following among figures who were to become extremely influential in the conservative circles of US politics, including Irving Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Chaney and Frances Fukuyama.

The Power of Nightmares, documents the resolve of the neo-cons to cultivate powerful myths for people to believe in: which could be in the name of religion, or a nation. In America, this myth was specifically the idea that America had been chosen with a unique destiny to battle the forces of evil around the world. What was important for the neo-cons was not that they themselves believed in such a myth, but that Americans needed something to bring them together, a kind of “team America” spirit or zeitgeist, which could transform both their selfishness and isolation.

The documentary charts the influence of Strauss and this group on the Reagan, Bush snr and Bush jnr administrations, but also the way that a neo-conservative American foreign policy set the agenda for even Democrat parties to take seriously the Commander-in-Chief role of the President in fighting “evil” throughout the world.

The emphasis quickly shifted from the Soviet Union to Islam at the end of the cold war. To secure popular support for the demonising and “othering” of such groups, neo-cons managed to make an alliance with a number of powerful preachers in America. Before the 1970s the millions of fundamentalist Christians in America avoided politics and did not vote. This was quickly turned around by these preachers, who the documentary argues swept Ronald Reagan to power.

As one fundamentalist preacher, James Robinson, told his audience in 1980:

I’m sick and tired of hearing about all of the radicals, and the perverts, and the liberals, and the leftists, and the Communists coming out of the closet! It’s time for God’s people to come out of the closet, out of the churches, and change America! We must do it!

At the same time, in 1979 Iran had become an Islamic state, proving to Zawahiri that a fundamentalist Islamic caliphate was possible. This development consolidated what was later to be expressed in US intellectual circles as the “Clash of Civilisations” thesis.

It is possible to argue that understanding the role of media, politicians and religion in the contemporary reality of terrorism in the contemporary world is not possible without looking at how the emergence of Islamic extremism and neo-conservatism co-developed.

Nightmare comes to Australia

In Australia, the rapid escalation of a real and imagined “state of terror” has occurred very much in the shadow of the practices of the neo-conservatives in the US. This is not to suggest that the LNP has adopted a neo-conservative policy in its attitude to Islam and in what some see as the overnight creation of a police state in Australia. There are several differences between the views of the neo-cons and those of LNP politicians, chief amongst them the inconsistency and pragmatism of the LNP. No sooner has the government been embarking on a classical liberalist platform of the rights of citizens to be bigots than we see the incarceration of members of a group identified as bigots.

It would be difficult to argue that the LNP is interested in bringing Australians together around a common spirit after the failure of its first budget that alienated so many groups. Nor does the party have a mass population of fundamentalist Christians to sign up to its support base. If there is an ideological apparatus ready-at-hand for this government, it would be the oligopolistic tabloid press which, as been noted, are the first to receive press releases from the prime minister’s office.

Certainly some of the techniques used by neo-conservatives, as depicted in the film, are also ones at play in Australia right now and in many Western democracies. But it is very difficult to see any kind of coherent philosophy behind it other than electoral survival. Some have noted the intellectual decline of the right in Australia and the sense that the LNP’s core agenda has become disconnected from science and a serious or intelligent discussion of social progress.

Perhaps, in the context of this decline, the LNP is simply defaulting to what has worked for neo-conservatives in the past, and the neo-conservative philosophy has temporarily become the content of a destructive pragmatism. But to the extent it is true that the LNP is sharing the views of the neo-cons, even if for pragmatic reasons, according to Curtis, they actually share the views of radical Islam itself.

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Monash academic book launch, Visiting the Neighbours: Australians in Asia

Agnieszka Sobocinska‘s new book, Visiting the Neighbours: Australians in Asia, will be launched next month. 

Launch invite - Visiting the Neighbours (2)

With an introduction by Professor Rae Frances, Dean of Arts at Monash University, the book will be launched by Paul Ramadge, Director of the Australia-Indonesia Centre.

Where: Readings Bookstore, 309 Lygon Street, Carlton
When: 6:00 pm, Wednesday October 15th

RSVP by October 8th to Agnieszka Sobocinska.

 

The Kurds: fighting the good fight?

by William Gourlay

Recent commentary has rightly highlighted the potential dangersand long-term implications of US President Obama’s decision to go to war against the ISIS. Tony Abbott’s portrayal of Australia’s involvement as a ‘fundamentally humanitarian mission’ is perhaps an attempt to downplay some of those concerns.

What remains unequivocal is that ISIS is a clear and present danger to its immediate neighbourhood, and potentially far beyond, and that checking its advance sooner rather than later is crucial. Obama and his secretary of state appear intent on building a coalition, including Middle Eastern countries, to take it on. But the two major regional powers against whose borders ISIS jostles, namely Turkey and Iran, have, each for their own reasons, declined to participate militarily.

The likelihood or benefits of working in concert with Iran can be debated long and hard, but in the meantime the Kurds clearly emerge as the immediate go-to allies in the forthcoming struggle.

Of course, the Kurds are not novices when it comes to tackling ISIS. The YPG militia of theSyrian-Kurdish enclave of Rojava have been fighting ISIS for almost two years, and, it might be added, making a good fist of it. It was also units of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that came to the aid of the Yezidis who were stranded and at the mercy of ISIS on Mt Sinjar in early August.

The wisdom of supplying and enlisting the Kurds to be the foot soldiers in the battlet against ISIS raises spectres for some. Comparisons are drawn to the West’s courting of Saddam Hussein during the 1980s and of the Islamic militias that preceded the Taleban in Afghanistan. Here were two little-known entities, chosen as allies on an enemy-of-my-enemy basis. Engaging with both had spectacular, unforeseen, negative repercussions.

The Kurds are an entirely different kettle of fish. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) based in Erbil in northern Iraq, through which aid and munitions will be channelled, is a legitimate political entity. Over two decades the KRG has established a functioning, if not flawless, democracy in its autonomous region, while also maintaining constructive relationships with Turkey, Iran and Baghdad.

For all that, the KRG understands that in a tough neighbourhood its existence is precarious and is dependent on support from the West. It was the no-fly zone imposed by the US and the UK after the first Gulf war in 1991 that allowed the Kurds to forge and consolidate their regime in Erbil. The KRG has since maintained a pro-Western stance and has, until recently, managed to avoid becoming embroiled in the strife that has plagued the rest of Iraq. It is also resolutely secular – hard-line, Islamist inclinations amongst Kurds are minimal.

This is not to say that the KRG does not have a political agenda of its own, but the chances of a Taleban-style, anti-Western Islamist blowback from the Kurds are negligible.

The Kurds, spread across the borderlands of Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran, follow a plethora of political groups, often with associated paramilitaries. (Following Kurdish affairs requires mastery of an array of acronyms.) Concerns have been raised that weaponry delivered by the West may fall into the hands of the ‘wrong’ Kurds. It is the PKK, which originated in Turkey, that attracts most consternation. Turkey classifies the PKK as a terrorist organisation, as do the US, the EU and Australia, largely at the behest of Ankara.

The PKK emerged with a Marxist agenda and the stated goal of creating an independent Kurdish territory within Turkey; its early campaigns involved terror tactics against Turkish targets. In recent years it has repudiated its original goals, however, and has engaged in extended peace negotiations with the Turkish government. It is generally following the same trajectory that the PLO did, that is from terrorist group to legitimate political actor.

Those PKK members who are still militarily active are operating in campaigns only against ISIS in Iraq. In fact, PKK militia have proven to be more effective in fighting ISIS than have thepeshmerga militia of the KRG. The complexity of intra-Kurdish politics, and associated rivalries between groups, is such that weapons or munitions supplied by the West to the KRG are unlikely to ever reach the PKK. Even if they do, they are even less likely to be used against Western interests, or against Turkey if Ankara maintains the momentum of negotiations with the PKK.

Of course, positioning the Kurds as favoured allies, and arming them, will change the dynamics of the region, but both the KRG and the PKK, of late, have chosen negotiation as the best option, resorting to military action only as a last resort. Meanwhile, as ISIS continues its assault, common sense dictates that supporting the Kurds is the best way to stop it.

William Gourlay is a PhD candidate in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University. His research focuses on notions of identity and citizenship amongst the Kurds of Turkey.

This article has appeared in Eureka Street.

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‘Medieval’ makes a comeback in modern politics. What’s going on?

by Clare Monagle and Louise D’Arcens

According to Hansard, in the parliament of John Howard’s first term of government the adjective “medieval” was used eight times. In the following term, however, it cropped up 46 times. What happened? Why did our members and senators suddenly need to describe things as medieval?

What happened was 9/11. The spectacle of planes crashing into skyscrapers prompted myriad politicians, in Australia and elsewhere, to denounce the perpetrators as “medieval”.

Right now, “medieval” is spiking again. In response to the footage of the beheading of James Foley, Prime Minister Tony Abbott declared in parliament:

What we have seen in recent weeks is medieval barbarism, perpetrated and spread with the most modern of technology.

Abbott is not alone; it has become commonplace to describe Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS or ISIL) as a brutal throwback to a murky violent past called, interchangeably, the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages. Why the Middle Ages? Why now?

Historians of the Middle Ages will tell you that al-Qaeda and IS bear little resemblance, in their words or deeds, to actual medieval people. The religious fundamentalism that characterises al-Qaeda and IS, for example, is a relatively recent phenomenon. Broadcasting choreographed violent spectacles as a means of creating shock and fear owes its strategy more to Hollywood and viral media than it does to the Middle Ages.

So why read Islamic terror as medieval?

The answer lies in the longer history of the idea of the Middle Ages as the convenient other to modernity in the Western cultural imagination. First deployed in the Renaissance, the term “medieval” was invented by scholars who wanted to celebrate the progress of their own age in contrast to the preceding centuries. Describing something as medieval has since endured as a successful form of negative branding.

Since the Renaissance, whenever modernity has found itself in crisis – when the shibboleths of rationalism, secularism, capitalism and the nation-state seem to be coming apart at the seams – fantasies of the medieval have suggested a mostly frightening, though sometimes alluring, vision of what the alternatives to modernity might be.

What are these cultural fantasies? The neo-medieval world of Game of Thrones suggests a few of them, with the evident pleasure it takes in its trinity of sex, violence and chivalry. Life in the seven kingdoms is cheap. People are heroes or villains, honourable or tyrannical, noble or base.

This is not a world governed by the rule of law, of constitutionality, or of the nation-state. This is the place where, ultimately, both tribal affiliation and supernatural irrationality reign. Hence the dragons.

When commentators and politicians describe Islamic State as “medieval” they are placing the organisation opportunely outside of modernity, in a sphere of irrationality. The point being made is that they are people from a barbaric and superstitious past, and consequently have not matured into modern political actors. Medievalising IS supporters puts them a very long way away from the here and, even more pointedly, from the now.

The post-9/11 usage of “medieval” to describe Islamist terrorism tells us as much about vocabularies within Western political thought as it does about the ideologies of al-Qaeda and IS. Edward Said devoted his very famous book Orientalism to describing the Western penchant for imagining the East as outside of history, and as erotic and oppressive in the same instance.

Medievalism, as the scholar John Ganim has pointed out, functions in very similar ways to orientalism, and often in tandem. It reduces the Other to unknowability, and yet makes it exotic, bewitching and, ultimately, dangerous.

Why does this matter?

Recent political history tells us that the stakes of this conversation are very high indeed. After 9/11, the infamous Torture Memos produced out of the office of the then US attorney-general Alberto Gonzales insistently labelled al-Qaeda and the Taliban as feudal and tribal.

The point, in doing so, was to argue that since they worked within medieval non-national structures they could be categorised as non-state combatants. This meant that they did not need to be accorded the rights granted to prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention. Medievalising al-Qaeda and the Taliban was a crucial part of the legal strategy that led toGuantanamo Bay.

Lest this seem a Western practice only, IS, for their part, are participating wholeheartedly in their own medievalist script in their declaration of a new Caliphate. Their notion of a glorious fundamentalist Islamic Middle Age is also a fantasy. It bears little relationship to the historical record of the very complicated and diverse forms of Islamic governance that evolved in the Middle East and around the Mediterranean. The IS desire for statehood is a decisively modern one, which has its origins as much in the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia as it does in the history of Islam.

All of this is to say that when politicians, commentators and indeed terrorists try to get political mileage from using the term “medieval” they should understand that this idea does not align with historical fact. Instead, it is an idea that bears and perpetuates an ideology of othering.

Whether it is US Secretary of State John Kerry describing the beheading of Stephen Sotloff as “an act of medieval savagery”, or IS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi being declared by his followers as the “Caliph of all Muslims and the Prince of the Believers”, in both cases we see fantasies of the medieval being used as a shorthand to describe what is not modern or Western. It seems that it is almost impossible to think about postmodern futures without recruiting the medieval past.

Clare Monagle is a senior lecturer in the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies at Monash University.

Associate Professor Louise D’Arcens works in the English Literatures Program at the University of Wollongong.

This article has appeared on The Conversation.

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Ray Rice case the tip of an ugly NFL iceberg

by Waleed Aly

The Californian newspaper U-T San Diego has compiled an NFL Arrests Database. It only goes back to 2000, but comprises 727 entries. It’s serious stuff, too: assaulting police officers, violent child abuse, felony domestic violence and drug possession. And that’s just in the past six weeks.

Ray Rice, incidentally, isn’t one of these. He’s just the one you’ve heard about since TMZ released the sickening video of him brutally knocking his then fiance unconscious in an elevator, then dragging her limp body out of view. That incident is from February – entry No. 32. Now think about that: 31 players have been arrested since then.

Now, the NFL’s cover is blown: the rampant, frequently criminal violence of its players; the protection racket that surrounds the most talented stars; the culture of denial that sees someone like Rice pitifully suspended for only two matches until the full video becomes public and shames the sport into action.

And it’s far from an isolated case. To get a sense of how manifestly absurd it gets, consider that in covering the Ray Rice disaster, ESPN relied on an ex-teammate and mentor named Ray Lewis. He is a suspect in a double homicide and has admitted to hindering the investigation.

But for all that, the NFL is far and away the dominant American sport. It might even be the dominant American thing. It rates like nothing else on US television, setting new audience records year after year. It’s a multi-billion dollar business: the Dallas Cowboys are worth more than $3 billion alone.

Can sport really be that indestructible? Can we be so helplessly intoxicated by it that even when a number of its stars are felons, we simply shrug and move on? To date, the answer is yes. The very magic of sport is that it manages, somehow, to persuade us that it is anything more than utterly trivial. This, quite clearly, is a product of its unadulterated escapism. Sport is a parallel world that offers all the things the rest of life doesn’t: sharply defined social groupings, delineated by unambiguous tribal colouring; an indisputable, final result; the promise of a meritocracy. This is adult make believe; a neatly contained environment in which nothing else matters – especially not anything that really matters.

That apparently includes almost any of the players’ vices. More so than any of our public figures, our athletes are not people. Politicians may strike us as caricatures, pop stars and actors may be doused in layers of fakery, but they all build their success on at least the illusion of being human. Singers bare their soul by singing about their latest heartbreak; the actor draws on emotions we all understand in order to make us relate to their character; the politician searches endlessly for a common touch that places them among us (perhaps by feigning an interest in sport). The trick is to make us think we know them as people, even as we don’t. But the athlete? There is simply no such requirement. The athlete is defined by the colour of their guernsey, their deeds on the field and little else. So we boo them instantly the moment those colours change.

Sport is an utterly self-referential world. Extrinsic facts are of limited value. Only intrinsic scandals are truly scandalous. So we barely discuss that, for example, two AFL players (one recently retired) are presently facing rape charges. We are far more likely to be rocked by allegations of systematic doping, or match fixing. None of this is as serious as rape in any serious worldview. But sport is precisely about the suspension of a serious worldview. A player’s alleged rape seems to belong to a separate world we can quarantine and leave in the hands of the justice system. But a player’s use of performance enhancing drugs violates this world and for that reason becomes intolerable.

So, for all the well-established thuggery of so many NFL stars, it has never lost its grip on the American imagination in the way baseball did in the ’90s. First the players went on strike and then found themselves embroiled in a drugs scandal.

Here’s hoping Rice’s misogynist brutality is enough to make worlds collide. Here’s hoping it will finally be perhaps the first extrinsic scandal that is so heinous, so suffocating, that it becomes an intrinsic, inseparable part of the way we talk about the game. Only this can force the NFL to understand the severity of its failings and force sport more generally, to understand its moral obligations. Sport may be escapism, but it has an extraordinary power to teach and to lead society, to bring together people who would otherwise never interact. To do this, though, it must understand the expectations of the society it’s in. If sport is to be our uncritically loved parallel world, it must prove itself worthy of the privilege. Right now, the NFL isn’t.

Waleed Aly is a lecturer in politics in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University.

This article has appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.

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Ebola: A Health Justice Tragedy of International Concern

by Michael Selgelid

The number of deaths from Ebola in West Africa has almost tripled since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the disease a public health emergency of international concern in early August.

Though Ebola is controllable via public health measures, such as isolation of patients and tracking and monitoring of patients’ close contacts, such measures are heavily resource intensive. The situation is tragic partly because affected countries already lack necessary resources – and the resource gap grows with the rapidly rising number of cases.

While previous Ebola outbreaks were limited to small rural African communities, the current epidemic is unprecedented in affecting major population centres. It has killed more than all previous Ebola outbreaks combined, and the bigger it gets the harder it will be to bring under control. Given that affected countries are among the poorest in the world, justice demands more assistance from wealthy developed nations and donor organisations.

While the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledge of $50 million for Ebola control is a good start, there is a long way to go before the UN call for $600 million is met. After spending tens of millions of dollars in the search for the missing Malaysian airliner – an effort that would not have saved lives even if it had been successful – Australia has only pledged $1 million toward the fight against Ebola.

There are human rights and global justice reasons why wealthy countries should do much more to assist Ebola control efforts. But there are also straightforward self-interested reasons. When infectious diseases are allowed to run rampant in poor countries, this poses risks to wealthy countries. Infectious diseases, famously, show no respect for international borders. Of particular concern is that Ebola has been mutating while spreading. It is possible that a more transmissible strain of the disease could thus evolve. Given its high mortality rate, of approximately 50 percent during the current epidemic, this could turn into a global public health disaster.

Much ethical attention to date has focused on the use of experimental medications that have not previously been tested in humans. The consensus of a WHO ethics panel convened in August was that it would be ethically acceptable to use such interventions – and that we should gather as much scientific data as possible about their safety and efficacy.

Given that Ebola outbreaks have been occurring for almost 40 years, the fact that we do not already have scientifically studied Ebola therapies reflects a prior injustice. Because Ebola has primarily affected poor people in Africa, there was not much (if any) financial incentive for the pharmaceutical industry to invest in research and development (R&D) of Ebola medications. Though the failure of private companies to invest in such R&D is understandable, more public monies should have been devoted to such efforts.

A recent WHO consultation concluded that the safety and efficacy of blood and/or blood plasma transfusions from recovered Ebola patients, among other possible therapies, should be scientifically studied.

Given that such interventions have been used previously – for Ebola and other infectious diseases – it is remarkable that they have not already been subjected to proper scientific evaluation. The failure to better study such therapies in the past is perhaps best explained by the fact that we are here talking about natural products that might not be easy for private companies to patent and profit from.

While five of seven Ebola patients treated with the experimental monoclonal antibody treatment ZMAPP have survived, it cannot be concluded that this treatment is actually effective. This is because treated patients were not enrolled in controlled scientific studies. Their survival, thus, might be attributed to other care they received (including convalescent plasma transfusion).

The survival rate of Ebola patients during the current epidemic has varied quite widely – and thus could be due to variation in basic “supportive” care. In addition to scientifically studying new experimental medications, therefore, controlled studies of existing standard care measures are needed to determine what works best.

Last, but not least, the efficacy of various kinds of public health measures – such as screening of passengers at airports for fever, tracing of various kinds of patient contacts, and quarantine – is largely uncertain. As well as scientifically studying the safety and efficacy of medical interventions, the efficacy of measures such as these should be evaluated during the current Ebola epidemic. Again, we cannot rely on private industry to fund this kind of research.

A much larger investment from wealthy countries, including Australia, is thus needed both to do things already known to work and to learn more about what else might work to curb the current Ebola epidemic, and those that will arise in the future.

The tragedy will grow if the global community fails to adequately address Ebola due to bad timing. Ebola is perhaps not receiving the attention it warrants because world powers have been so heavily focused on crises in Israel/Palestine, Ukraine, and Iraq since this public health emergency of international concern was declared.

Professor Michael J. Selgelid is the Director of the Centre for Human Bioethics – a WHO Collaborating Centre for Bioethics – at Monash University.

A version of this article has appeared in The Australian.

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Principles of accountability apply to churches and truckers alike

by Gary Bouma

Some religious groups are feeling under attack. They claim their “freedom of religion” is being impaired. For example, federal Attorney-General George Brandis, speaking to the Law School of Notre Dame University, attacked Fairfax Media and the ABC for alleged prejudice against religion in their reporting particularly of clergy abuse of children. I have heard similar complaints from Christian groups as disparate as Catch the Fire Ministries, Catholics and Presbyterians.

The issue comes down to freedom on the one hand and, on the other, standards of transparency and accountability to which all organisations are being held today. “Trust me, I am a ……” is no longer acceptable, nor is “Obey me, I am a ……”

In a funny way, in this respect churches are like trucking companies, a comparison Cardinal George Pell made recently at the royal commission into institutional abuse. Both are accountable and neither likes it when the harsh light of accountability is shone upon them.

However, being “religious” is no excuse nor does it provide a shelter from examination. Ironically, the very standards of openness, responsibility and accountability by which religious groups are being judged have their roots in, among other places, religious ethics. Religious figures who have been ready to judge others find it uncomfortable to be judged themselves, by their own standards.

Religion has lost its special status

I can understand how difficult it is and will be for some organisations that had long considered themselves “special” to accept that they are accountable to others and to the society in which they operate. The objection by some religious charities to the not-for-profit (NFP) regulatory regime instituted recently is another example.

Most NFP organisations have been quite happy with the regulations. These turned out not to be onerous, but did require accountability, including that money collected for tax-deductible purposes be spent for those purposes and not siphoned off to other activities.

While some may feel that this insistence on accountability is a deliberate attack, it is more the result of cultural change. Cultures that once accorded a special status to religion and religious leaders have changed and no longer do so. In part this has been a reaction to the excesses of some religious leaders, but it is more a product of cultural changes promoting equality, dignity for all and the removal of the protective veil from once “special” groups, professions and organisations.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states in Article 18, paragraph 1, that:

Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

This right like the other rights declared in the ICCPR stems from the dignity of the human person and is held in tension with the rights of others and of other rights. Article 18, paragraph 3 states:

Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

Balancing religious and non-religious rights

The ICCPR does not promulgate a hierarchy of rights with some more inviolable than others. However, the discourse about religious rights often begins to sound like these rights are pre-eminent and not subject to the laws of the land, let alone the rights of others – as the author and others explained in a 2011 research report to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The challenge facing Australia today is how to balance and negotiate the rights of the religiousand those who have no religion. The right to have a religion and to practise it – including allowing it to shape the way one lives – is protected. But if one delivers a service to the public, the fact that one’s beliefs may limit what is provided must at least be made clear.

For example, regulations regarding the provision of and referral for abortions are being tested in the Victorian courts. Matters become more complex when a religious organisation receives government funding to provide a service, but claims to be limited by belief from delivering the service to some citizens of the society.

These issues are complex. It is unhelpful to claim attack when there is none, but what is experienced is in most cases the consequence of social and cultural change. What was once “cultural” has become counter-cultural.

Emeritus Professor Gary Bouma works in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University.

This article has appeared in The Conversation.

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Monash Criminology at the European Society of Criminology conference 2014

The 14th Annual Conference of the European Society of Criminology was held in Prague (Czech Republic), from 10-13 September 2014. Monash Criminology’s Dr Asher Flynn attended to present a co-authored paper (with Professor Mark Halsey, Flinders University and Associate Professor Murray Lee, University of Sydney) on Alcohol-Fuelled Assaults: Violence as Emblematic.

The conference brought together delegates from multiple continents to exchange ideas and research findings in all areas of criminological research, with a particular focus on how different countries could learn from each other’s crime policies, rates and causes, and share perspectives on changing societal conditions.

There were four plenary papers over the four-day conference who spoke to current debates in criminology theory; problems of transition and current trends in criminology; drug policies; and immigration challenges.

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Doping and Bad Arguments

Professor Julian Savulescu will present ‘Why the ban on performance enhancing drugs is ruining sport in Australia’ on Thursday 18 September at Deakin Edge, cnr Flinders and Swanston Sts, Melbourne, starting at 6pm.


Ahead of Friday’s court ruling on whether ASADA’s investigation into the Essendon Football Club was lawful, world leader in practical and medical ethics Professor Julian Savulescu,looks at whether there is a role for performance-enhancing drugs in elites sports.

“The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority has built a ”non-presence” drug case against 34 Essendon footballers, adopting a strategy similar to the one used to ban Lance Armstrong without a positive test.” [The Age, June 14 2014]

1. What should we think about the drugs “scandal” at Essendon says about the so called “war on doping” in the AFL, and in sport in general?

This fiasco has been going for two years. It is a waste of public money. You would have thought they were an international ring of paedophiles given the amount of money, legal expertise and attention this issue has received. It is a national embarrassment.

At worst, Essendon players were taking Thymosin Beta 4. This is a naturally occurring substance in the human body thought to be involved in healing and repair. If the rules set down by WADA ban this, then the rules are absurd to classify something that assists recovery from injury as an illegal enhancement. Rugby and AFL are terribly damaging to players’ bodies. They ought to be on everything that protects them from this lifelong damage, provided it is safe.

What should be banned, but isn’t, is the use of analgesics, local anaesthetics and anti-inflammatory drugs during training and competition that perpetuate further damage. It is absurd.

Why are we wasting millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money vilifying people from taking safe, natural substances to help them recover from injury?

The problem with WADA is that is based on a fanatical, quasi-religious crusade against any kind of substance used to enhance performance. That singular value is inconsistent with sport and life. It is also virtually impossible to enforce. We should rethink the values that inform our policy. People ought to be able to take substances that promote health and recovery.

2. What does the Essendon situation say about the fairness of the current anti-doping rules and the issue of player welfare?

It shows that the AFL, WADA, ASADA don’t really care about player welfare. There is no evidence of anyone being harmed during this supplements scandal. Indeed, the alleged substance, thymosin beta 4, has only ever been used in clinical trials to assist regeneration and repair after damage. It would promote player health. Yet analgesics and local anaesthetics are allowed by WADA and ASADA, which increase damage. So they ban things beneficial for health and allow things which are damaging. It is not health they care about, but some “drugs”. But these are naturally occurring substances that the body already produces to manage injury.

It is grossly unfair because the rules are either unclear or poorly based on any coherent ethic. Caffeine is performance enhancing  – it is not natural to the body and it is dangerous if taken in large amounts. Is Thymosin Beta 4 more dangerous than caffeine? On the evidence available, it is hard to see how it is.

Analgesics, anti-inflammatory drugs and local anaesthetics are ubiquitous in football and rugby, and are used during competition to enable athletes to continue to perform and perform better. This is dangerous: athletes go on to get worse injuries than they would have received by playing through the pain. They are also addictive. American football’s National Football League is currently being sued by over 500 ex-players over the use of such painkillers, which has left many players addicted, and others suffering side effects from the drugs, or from playing through serious injuries.. But most importantly, for the spirit of sport, analgesics  obviate the need for courage, determination and “toughness” that sport is meant to test. One player is quoted as saying:

“The stuff works. It works like crazy. It really does. There were whole seasons when I was in a walking boot and crutches. I would literally crutch into the facility and sprint out of the tunnel to go play.”

Such painkillers, like Tramadol, ought to be banned, in my view, at least during competition.

3. Should we support a lifting of a ban in doping in professional sport?

Yes.

It is unenforceable. The only way to catch people using naturally occurring substances like Thymosin Beta 4 is through constant surveillance, forced testimony or they take excess amounts. The Lance Armstrong-style witch-hunt with forced testimony in exchange for more lenient punishments.

You can’t do blood or urine tests to accurately detect the use of substances which are a part of normal physiology because there is a normal human variation. I would be in favour of allowing people to take substances which leave normal physiology intact. You can concentrate then identifying abnormal physiology – which is easy to detect – or substances which aren’t a part of natural physiology, which can be tested for, like caffeine (which incidentally used to be banned but is now allowed).

This is safe, enforceable and allows you to concentrate on stuff that dangerous or corrupts the spirit of a particular sport. But assisting recover is not against the spirit of sport – it si the point of medicine.

4. What would be the major benefits to legalising doping in a competition like the AFL?

Players could have longer careers; recover from injuries better. Physiological doping would be like proper diet and hydration. It would allow doctors to maximise physiology for performance and health.

5. The AFL is a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Agency code – should AFL administrators consider no longer being a signatory, and if so why?

The AFL should no longer be a signatory to the WADA code. It is out dated, unfit for purpose and unethical. They should allow physiological performance enhancement – adjustment of physiological parameters maintaining a normal physiological range. Supervise athletes health through qualified doctors and ban unsafe practices.

The only place TB4 would be banned is under the Code is under a general clause:

“as well as any other growth factor affecting muscle, tendon or ligament protein synthesis/degradation, vascularisation, energy utilisation, regenerative capacity or fibre type switching and other substances with similar chemical structure or similar biological effect(s”) …

Arguably, TB4 affects regenerative capacity. Can someone please explain to me why we should ban something that assists regeneration and repair? Surely we should be offering people growth factors that assist regeneration and repair. WADA is walking in the wrong direction, the opposite direction to where a rational policy would lead us.

6. If the doping ban was lifted in the AFL, should all drugs be legalised? What exceptions might there be?

Substances or practices that are unsafe, like gene doping or using unresearched novel agents.

Substances which corrupt the spirit of a particular sport should be banned. Sport should be about having to deal with pain and not increasing injury through the use of analgesics during competition. They should be banned, in the interests of player health and the spirit of sport. The worst kind of doping is mental doping – the use of substances to change fear, or pain, or determination. Fortunately, the things, like cocaine or amphetamine, are relatively easy to detect because they are not natural.

7. What about our children? Won’t this send the wrong message to children taking part in sport?

Having given many talks on the legalization of doping, one objection comes up time and again. Allowing drugs in sport will send the wrong message to children and harm them. This objection, however, fails at many levels.

Firstly, there are many things which are legal for adults but not legal for children such as drinking alcohol and driving. This is an expression of the risks involved and the requirement for maturity and competence in handling those risks. The same applies to performance enhancing drugs.

Secondly, the message which would be sent is that it is permissible to take drugs which are safe enough to enhance performance, but not dangerous performance enhancers. This is the message that is sent by now allowing caffeine. What children currently see though is that athletes cheat and that you need to take drugs from the black market to compete. They see mixed messages from athletic practice and societal agencies like WADA. It is ok to take caffeine and analgesics, according to WADA and ASADA, but not TB4. It is ok to play rugby and risk breaking your neck, but not take steroids to recover from injury. Regulation should be about ensuring a health, safety and maximising performance. We should use science to achieve these goals, not reject it

Thirdly, there are only limited resources for the prosecution of a war on drugs. It is far better to use these to prevent the use of performance enhancers in children, than spread them thinly over the whole of sport. And for testing athletes for inappropriate use of painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, amphetamines and other dangerous drugs that would damage their health.

I don’t want my kids taking things that are dangerous for their health. There are plenty of performance enhancing substances that are safe. I would want them to increase their performance, with say beetroot extract, which increases performance by about 20 per cent, if it is safe.

The main issue is safety, not performance enhancement.

Postscript: AOD 9604 approved by FDA as a food supplement July 2014

Professor Julian Savulescu is the Louis Matheson Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Centre for Human Bioethics at Monash University and the Uehiro Chair in Practical Ethics, University of Oxford.

You can read more of Professor Savulescu’s doping manifesto here.

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‘The more things stay the same, the more they change’

by Ben Wellings

If planning a holiday is half the fun of actually taking one, then something similar is true of referendums. In politics it is not necessarily the holding of a referendum that is important but the fact that it came to one in the first place. In this way, Scotland’s pro-independence campaign has already gained a significant victory.

When the results of the referendum are known on 19 September, the United Kingdom may still be in existence.

But only just. And the push for independence in Scotland will force change throughout the (barely) United Kingdom.

So even if the United Kingdom survives, it will be a case of ‘the more things stay the same, the more they change’.

The first reason for this is that even if the independence campaign loses, Scotland will gain greater autonomy from Westminster than it already possesses. Nationalism in Scotland has historically been more inclined to autonomy than outright independence and this referendum will strengthen and deepen that tendency. If well-over 40 per cent of the Scottish electorate vote for independence, then this is a significant indicator of discontent that current and future governments in Westminster cannot ignore. Already, the major political parties have scrambled to announce that greater powers of autonomy be devolved to Scotland, starting the day after the referendum.

The second reason is the fracturing of the political culture along national lines. Scottish Conservatives are a dwindling breed. From 1997 to 2001 there was not a single Conservative MP representing Scotland at Westminster. From that time until today there has been only one. The establishment of a Scottish Parliament in 1999 helped the Conservatives a little, but even in this forum they currently on muster 15 of the 128 Members.

This state of affairs has its roots in recent British history. Thatcherism was not as popular in Scotland as it was in (southern) England and the Conservatives leeched support, particularly after the civil disobedience associated with the Poll Tax. When New Labour gained power in Westminster in 1997 it seemed as if Scotland’s left-leaning political culture was aligned with that of ‘Middle England’.

But this happy situation did not last. New Labour’s growing unpopularity provided an opportunity for the Scottish National Party. No longer derided as the ‘Tartan Tories’ on the lunatic right of Scottish politics, nor as ‘ninety minute nationalists’ prepared to support the Scotland football team (and anyone playing England) but otherwise politically quiescent, the SNP positioned themselves left of New Labour.

Not that this was a difficult task. New Labour was a great disappointment to the progressive left in Scotland. This was true throughout the United Kingdom, but in Scotland, progressives had the option of secession.

Progressive opinion in Scotland wishes for its own social democracy like Norway, or a place at the EU table like Ireland. It may even envy Australia’s independence (but perhaps not its current government). In Scotland, progressives are nationalists.

Of course, nationalism is usually a no-go area for those on the left of the political spectrum. Or more accurately, other people’s nationalism is usually something to be deplored whilst one’s own nationalism is re-branded patriotism and assumed to be a normal and unproblematic state of affairs. Our own Prime Minister seemed to align with such a position: independence was right and proper for Australia, but should be deplored in Scotland’s case.

In Scotland the progressive left and nationalism live in what approximates to political harmony, at least as long as the conflation of Westminster, Conservative Party and England sustains their secessionist inclinations. What has gone with this is a reworking of the status of nationalism from ‘nasty’ to ‘nice’. This is not the case in England, where progressives look more like their Australian cousins: suspicious of nationalism, but little aware of the changed political dispensation north of the River Tweed.

Britain now has what the French the call a ‘plural left’, although in this case the plurality is national and regional rather than ideological. Northern England has its own Labour politics and New Labour is confined to a rump in the more salubrious parts of London.

Welsh secessionism enjoys different bases and levels of support than Scottish nationalism, but it exists nonetheless. Nationalists and Unionists in Northern Ireland have their own reasons to watch the result of Scotland’s poll closely.

On the right, the Conservatives have almost abandoned Scotland and are the ‘English National Party’ in all but name. The English right also has secessionist tendencies of its own, but these are directed at the EU rather than the UK and are being challenged hard by the populist United Kingdom Independence Party.

Thus the United Kingdom has already changed. If it is still with us on 19 September this should not be taken as evidence that our view of Britain will not need updating.

Dr Ben Wellings is the Deputy Director of the Monash European and EU Centre at Monash University and the author of English Nationalism and Euroscepticism: losing the peace (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2012).

This article also appeared in the Canberra Times.

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Monash Authors in Conversation: Dr Meredith Fletcher

The University Library, along with Monash University Publishing, are planning to strengthen campus life through the initiation of a new conversation series to be held in the Matheson Library, Clayton.

These will be afternoon events in which Monash University Publishing authors will discuss (with Press Director Nathan Hollier) their experiences in writing their recently published books, what they learned along the way, what they were surprised by, and what impact they hope their books will have.


Jean Galbraith at her table c. 1990, in Tyers, Gippsland, Victoria. Photo: Barrie Turpin
Jean Galbraith at her table c. 1990, in Tyers, Gippsland, Victoria. Photo: Barrie Turpin

Dr Meredith Fletcher will be the second author to take part in this Authors in Conversation series, hosted once a month at the Matheson Library, Clayton Campus.

Dr Fletcher’s book, Jean Galbraith: Writer in a Valley, is the compelling story of Jean Galbraith (1906–1999), one of Australia’s most influential botanists and writers on nature, plants and gardens. As a garden writer, she was particularly notable for spreading knowledge of Australian flora and encouraging the cultivation of natives in home gardens. During a writing career that spanned seventy years, Galbraith developed new forms of garden writing in Australia, and turned botanical writing into a literary art.

Meredith Fletcher is a historian specialising in environmental, local and community history. For twenty years she was director of the Centre for Gippsland Studies at Monash University Gippsland Campus, and is now an adjunct research fellow at the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies, Monash University. Her book, Digging People Up For Coal: A History of Yallourn was short-listed for the NSW Premier’s History Awards.

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October’s Authors in Conversation will feature Professor John Rickard.

 

 

Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowship

The Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowships, sponsored by the Readings Foundation, offer merging writers across all genres support, as well as a place to work for two months.

Louis Bravos, a sessional tutor in Japanese and Translation at Monash, has been chosen as one of the 2014 fellows, affording him an opportunity to work on his translation of Yukio Mishima’s novel Kyoko no Ie.

The novel – one of only two of Mishima’s novels yet to be translated into English – is a complex, unsettling novel by one of the most controversial figures in Japanese literature. Set in Tokyo and New York in the 1950s, it is both international and intensely personal. Louis will begin his fellowship on September 29th.

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A heart-felt need for dairy food

3d837537e4ecc0d4b5e84c5e40c0d11d_nA daily small serve of dairy food may reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke, even in communities where such foods have not traditionally formed part of the diet.

A study of nearly 4000 Taiwanese, led by Emeritus Professor Mark Wahlqvist from Monash University’s Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine and the Monash Asia Institute, considered the role increased consumption of dairy foods had played in the country’s gains in health and longevity.

“In a dominantly Chinese food culture, unaccustomed to dairy foods, consuming them up to seven times ­ a week does not increase mortality and may have favourable effects on stroke,” Professor Wahlqvist said.

Cancer and cardiovascular disease are the leading causes of death among Taiwanese. When Professor Wahlqvist’s study began in 1993, there was little apparent concern about dairy foods, in contrast to a current belief that they may be harmful to health and in particular raise the risk of cancer.

The study showed such fears to be unfounded.

“We observed that increased dairy consumption meant lower risks of mortality from cardiovascular disease, especially stroke, but found no significant association with the risk of cancer,” Professor Wahlqvist said.

Milk and other dairy foods are recognised as providing a broad spectrum of nutrients essential for human health. According to the study findings, people only need to eat small amounts to gain the benefits.

“A little is beneficial and a lot is unnecessary,” Professor Wahlqvist said.

“Those who ate no dairy had higher blood pressure, higher body mass index and greater body fatness generally than other groups. But Taiwanese who included dairy food in their diet only three to seven times a week were more likely to survive than those who ate none.”

For optimal results, the key is daily consumption of dairy foods – but at the rate of about five servings over a week. One serving is the equivalent to eight grams of protein: a cup of milk, or 45 grams of cheese.

Such quantities rarely cause trouble even for people considered to be lactose intolerant, Professor Wahlqvist said.

The study, which was published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, also involved researchers from the National Health Research Institutes and National Defence Medical Centre in Taiwan.

 

Airstrikes on IS in Syria’s backyard are high-risk if Assad objects

by Ben Rich

The expansion of airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) into Syria announced by US President Barrack Obama marks a predictable, if necessary, escalation of coalition operations against the Jihadist insurgent group. Debates over the wisdom of the operation aside, any military campaign aiming to cripple IS (also known as ISIL or ISIS) as an organisation must target its core logistical and command and control hubs. Most of these appear still to be based in Syria’s east.

The Syrian government, however, remains understandably suspicious of coalition intentions in its backyard. A senior minister in the Assad government, Ali Haidar, warned that any action undertaken without the approval of Damascus would be considered “an aggression against Syria”.

Haidar’s statement reflects a common concern among Assad loyalists. They view the prospect of any coalition activity inside Syria proper as a potential precursor to direct intervention and regime change. But after three-and-a-half gruelling years of war, is the Syrian regime still in a position to resist outside aerial encroachment and threaten coalition operations?

Down but not out

The simple answer is yes. The civil war has taken a heavy toll on the ground troops and air power of the Syrian Arab Armed Forces (SAAF), but its air defences have remained largely unaffected. While not the most advanced in the world, Syrian anti-air systems still pose a considerable threat.

According to the annual defence report of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Damascus has access to modern Russian platforms. These include the Pantsir-S1, the Strela-10 and the likely culprit in the MH17 tragedy, the Buk/Buk-M2. Despite repeated discussionsover the potential deployment of the formidable theatre-level S-300 system, its status in Syrian hands remains ambiguous.

Such weapons were responsible for the downing of a Turkish warplane along the Syrian periphery in 2012, sparking a minor diplomatic crisis. Closer to home and several decades earlier in 1983, the SAAF used similar platforms to down two US Navy aircraft in Lebanese airspace, much to the consternation of the Reagan administration. Last year, Israel had concerns over the deployment of the Buk in southern Syria and its potential transfer to Lebanese Hezbollah. The IDF launched a devastating airstrike near Damascus to destroy the weapons before they could reach their destination.

The Syrian regime couldn’t hope to fend off a direct assault by the US and its partners. However, it could disrupt an operation against IS. This could have severe political consequences and lead to a rapid escalation and regionalisation of the conflict.

Given IS’ positioning inside Syria, coalition air strikes will likely be centred on the eastern city of Raqqah, where the group has made a serious effort to establish itself. While SAAF forces havelost considerable ground since 2011, they nevertheless hold territory within 50 kilometres of the city. This counts much of the government arsenal out, but still leaves systems like the Buk as a credible threat to coalition aircraft.

As the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia showed, even the stealthiest of aircraft can be downed by relatively low-grade Russian and Soviet equipment.

Dealing with the devil

Until now, the US and its allies have been able to engage IS in Iraq with impunity. The greatest threats they face have been pilot error and equipment failure. Syria is not Iraq, however, and the replication of such invulnerability in Levantine airspace is predicated on an understanding between the Assad government and intervening forces.

Given that much of the coalition has spent the past three years calling for the regime’simmediate dissolution and has just committed to expanding support for its opposition, this is a daunting task on both sides of the aisle.

Some may bank on the regime simply taking a step back and allowing one enemy to kill another. It seems to have been more than happy to employ this strategy against warring factions in the opposition. Yet not securing some form of information-sharing relationship between Washington and Damascus leaves far greater room for mishap.

With a considerable portion of the international community now committed to direct involvement in the Syrian conflict, the possible ramifications of such avoidable errors are dire.

Ben Rich is working on a PhD at the Global Terrorism Research Centre, in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University.

This article first appeared on The Conversation.

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Lecture: Is there a role for drugs in elite sport?

Professor Julian Savulescu,  from Monash’s Centre for Human Bioethics, will present ‘Why the ban on performance enhancing drugs is ruining sport in Australia’ on Thursday 18 September at Deakin Edge, cnr Flinders and Swanston Sts, Melbourne, starting at 6pm.

Attempts to prevent illegal performance-enhancing drugs being used in sport will never succeed, a medical ethics expert will argue in a forthcoming public lecture.

As the Essendon scandal rumbles on, it is apparent that, despite years of investment in testing for drugs, it is not working either as a means of detection or as a deterrent. There is also considerable confusion about what constitutes doping.

World leader in practical and medical ethics Professor Julian Savulescu, the Sir Louis Matheson Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Centre for Human Bioethics at Monash University, will argue that not only are attempts to stop this type of cheating doomed to failure, but some types of doping are compatible with the spirit of sport. Used in moderation, he says, they may pose an acceptable risk in the context of elite sport.

“We need to both reduce cheating and preserve the spirit of sport, while protecting the elite athletes who are prepared to risk everything to win,” Professor Savulescu said.

“We can only do this by allowing safe levels of physiological doping, where athletes use naturally occurring compounds to enhance their normal physiology, and focusing resources against unsafe doping methods that contravene the spirit of sport.”

Professor Savulescu is the Uehiro Chair in Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford and Director of the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics, and the Institute for Science and Ethics at the Oxford Martin School.

This is a free event. As there is no allocated seating, you are advised to arrive early.

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Monash Asia Institute: Research on Asia showcased

The 2014 Monash Asia Institute research day demonstrated the breadth of research on Asia from across the university. The School of Media Film and Journalism was well represented, with five staff or HDR students presenting their research on topics covering southeast Asia, south Asia, and east Asia.

L-R Gil Soo-Han, Justin O’Connor, Parichay Patra and Earvin Cabalquinto
L-R Gil Soo-Han, Justin O’Connor, Parichay Patra and Earvin Cabalquinto

Professor Justin O’Connor presented some of his research on Chinese cultural economy and Associate Professor Gil-Soo Han spoke about his work on South Korean nationalism. DrNasya Bahfen discussed her collaborative research on nationalism and modernity in the work of prominent Malaysian cartoonist Lat.

One of the school’s HDR candidates, Earvin Cabalquinto presented his research on mobile communication by members of the Melbourne-based Filipino community, while fellow PhD student Parichay Patra spoke about his work on Indian cinema.

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Apply now for Oxfam-Monash Innovators!

The Oxfam-Monash Partnership is excited to announce that applications have now opened for the 2014 Oxfam-Monash Innovators program. The Innovators program is a unique opportunity for Monash students to drive real-world change with their own new and creative ideas, and we’re looking for big and bold thinkers to apply!

Guided by a number of expert mentors, participants in the Innovators program work in teams to develop innovative solutions to challenges set by Oxfam Australia. They then pitch their solution to a panel of judges from the development sector, and the most exciting and innovative idea is awarded funding and ongoing mentoring to help make it a reality. It’s an incredible opportunity for students to exercise their creativity, develop a range of important skills, and show professionals from across the development and social enterprise sector what they can do. And, of course, to play a real role in strengthening Oxfam’s development work and impact around the world.

Participants in the 2014 Innovators program will work on one of two core challenges:

Challenges-2

 

Applications close on the 13th of October, and the program will run from the 25th of November to 11th of December. For more information and to apply, click here, and for any queries contact Anna Donaldson.

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Home and exile for ‘Brilliant Creatures’

Barry Humphries and Howard Jacobson at their interview for Brilliant Creatures in London. Photo: ABC
Barry Humphries and Howard Jacobson at their interview for Brilliant Creatures in London. Photo: ABC

A Monash academic is helping to tell the stories of four Australians who were the vanguards of enormous cultural change.

They left Australia in the late 50s and 60s and went on to become cultural iconoclasts at the centre of western life: London and New York. Now, their not insignificant contributions to public life are the subject of a two part sixty minute documentary series for the ABC and the BBC called ‘Brilliant Creatures, which looks at the personal stories of Australian expat cultural rebels Barry Humphries, Robert Hughes, Germaine Greer and Clive James.

Helping to tell their stories is the School of Media, Film and Journalism’s Dr Tony Moore, author ofDancing with Empty Pockets  which contains chapters on each ‘Brilliant Creatures’ subject. Dr Moore has also written a previous book, The Barry McKenzie Movies, on the satirical character created by Barry Humphries.

Brilliant Creatures is presented and authored by Man Booker prize winning writer Howard Jacobson. The documentary aired in the UK in July and will be broadcast on the ABC in two parts on 16th and 23 September, at 8.30 pm AEST.  Dr Moore is featured in part one.

 

What raising Australia’s terrorism alert to high would mean for you

by Greg Barton

The National Terrorism Public Alert System is a way of communicating to the public what the current risk of terrorism is to Australia. It has four levels:

  1. low: a terrorist attack is not expected
  2. medium: a terrorist attack could occur
  3. high: a terrorist attack is likely
  4. extreme: a terrorist attack is imminent or has occurred.

Before 2003, we had a three-point system. Following the September 11 attacks in 2001 and the Bali bombings in October 2002 the alert level was raised from low to medium. Ever since introduction of the three-point system we’ve remained on Level 2 – Medium. So to potentially go to ,“high”, or number three out of four on our current alert system, indicates a significant shift in the risk environment.

We would only go to the highest “extreme” level on this alert system if there was already an attack under way or specific intelligence of one being imminent.

While the public threat level might officially be at “medium” at the moment, inside the intelligence community they’re working on even finer gradations of risk.

We got a bit of a sense of that last night when ASIO’s Director-General, David Irvine said on 7.30 that the threat level was “at a very elevated level of medium and I’m certainly contemplating very seriously the notion of lifting it higher”. That reflects a more calibrated approach to thinking about levels of risk within the intelligence community.

Should Australians be worried about David Irvine’s warning?

Yes, I think we should. We shouldn’t dismiss this lightly. We’ve had this current four-point terror alert system since 2003 and it’s never been moved beyond medium.

But the purpose of these terrorism alerts is not to make Australians anxious; instead, the most useful thing we can all do is realise there is some urgency about this now, and feel emboldened to speak if we see something suspicious or if we have concerns about someone we know potentially being radicalised.

Are you surprised by the discussion of raising it from medium to high?

Not really, because we’ve heard this being foreshadowed for some time from Irvine. He’s really one of the few voices we hear from ASIO [the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation], and he’s very measured and careful. He’s been warning us of these growing dangers for the past couple of years, but particularly over the past three months since the fall of Mosul to ISIS.

It’s interesting that this discussion about raising our terrorism threat level didn’t happen immediately after the UK raised their threat level [from substantial to severe, meaning a terrorist attack in the UK is considered “highly likely, although there is no intelligence to suggest that one is imminent”. The fact that Australia isn’t simply following suit, but has waited and is now talking about it, indicates there may be some specific intelligence relating to Australia that has prompted this discussion.

Who is David Irvine? And should Australians take his warnings seriously?

David Irvine is sometimes colourfully described as Australia’s most senior spy. He’s the Director-General of ASIO, he’s been in that post for five years, and he’s retiring this Friday, September 12. He’s stepping down and his replacement will be former Special Forces chief Duncan Lewis.

Irvine has always been very professional and non-partisan, and he’s not given to loose rhetoric. Also, as he is about to retire has no reason to be saying any of this to curry favour with the government or anyone else.

His statements to the public are always very carefully crafted. He’s one of only a handful of people in ASIO and our intelligence community who can even tell the public what they do and where they work – current legislation prevents most other ASIO staff from doing that – and he’s taken that responsibility of talking with the public very seriously.

As ASIO’s Director-General, he’s gone out of his way to build greater rapport with the community. For instance, in recent weeks he’s spoken with a number of Muslim media outlets and community groups, as well as on national TV and at the National Press Club. [Editor’s note: you can read Michelle Grattan’s recent interview with David Irvine here.] On every occasion, he’s tried to explain the evidence and the reasons behind the increased terrorism threat.

Very importantly, he’s recognised and emphasised in his work with Australia’s Muslim community that when we talk about any radical homegrown terror threat, we’re only talking about a tiny minority and sub-culture. Our 500,000 Australian Muslims are not the problem; it’s the one-in-a-thousand that are the problem. In fact, very often Muslim community members have provided some of the best leads about potential security risks and their relationship with the intelligence community is crucial.

Are there particular terrorism targets in Australia that are seen as being at greatest risk?

I think one of the nightmare scenarios keeping people awake at night are terrorists going for a so-called “soft target”, like a sporting venue, an entertainment venue or a public transport system. We saw that happen with public transport both in Madrid and in London.

We saw what can happen with those soft targets with the Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi last year. And that echoed the siege in Mumbai in November 2008, where just 10 guys using assault weapons killed more than 160 people over three days of siege.

That kind of attack could happen easily in any Western democracy, especially now that it’s not as hard as it was in the past to obtain assault weapons. The reason it’s so difficult to deal with situations like that is that you have a large number of people, you can’t easily move all of them quickly, there’s confusion, often confusion about whether hostages might be involved.

If you’re talking about a shopping mall or a sports ground, you simply can’t put everyone through a metal detector or be checking every bag or doing all the security checks you can do at places like an airport, because our society would stop functioning. We’re trying to balance carefully continuing to live life as we know it with managing these risks.

The best security we have comes from human intelligence – and that means having the involvement of people right across the community, but particularly within communities where there’s a degree of radicalisation going on and where people are being preyed upon by radical elements.

That’s our best line of defence. If we rely on having an armed official to stop a terrorist, then it’s probably too late.

The London Olympics were an excellent example of that. There were a lot more uniformed guards in the streets, but the reason the Games went so well was not so much because they were there. Instead, it was like ducks on a pond: everything looked very calm, but what you didn’t see was the furious paddling beneath the surface – the huge amount of work, watching people of concern, listening to patterns of chatter, as well as a lot of work with community. And it went wonderfully well, thanks to all that work beneath the surface.

That’s why I think David Irvine was right on 7.30 last night, to point out that while Australia has been very lucky to avoid an attack on Australian soil, we have had to work hard to stop terrorist attacks occurring here in Australia. So it’s not all luck.

Terrorism kills only a fraction of the people who die globally from disease and other causes. A number of readers have asked: could the motive for increasing the terrorism threat be political rather than real? Or has Australia got it right in what we’re doing and spending on terrorism?

As best we can tell, I think we’ve got it about right.

We’ve just had a new federal government, which is very fiscally conservative, announce an extra A$630 million for counter-terrorism, including work with community groups.

The fact they’ve been willing to do this in the current budget environment suggests there must have been a very compelling case made to spend that money.

But it’s important to stress that the best counter-terrorism work is mostly done preventatively and through intelligence. Simply buying offensive weapons and equipment, as has been done by some US county sheriffs, won’t make communities safer.

What’s the most useful thing Australians can do in response to any increased terrorism alert?

The first thing is to recognise that Australia in a good place in terms of security because of the high degree of community solidarity that exists here. That means anything we do – especially any loose talk that rashly demonises entire communities based on their faiths or ethnicity – is a threat to our national security.

Trust between different ethnic and religious groups across Australia and with our security authorities is the bedrock of our security, it is of vital importance.

In making this announcement about possibly increasing the terrorism threat level, the hope would be to encourage more people to speak up, rather than keep their concerns to themselves. And if you do speak up and report those concerns, you will get a more receptive response from the authorities at the moment.

It might be something you see on your social networks, or in the community: if your gut reaction is that something isn’t quite right, then speak up.

That’s not asking people to peek through their venetians and spy on their neighbours. It’s just asking people to be thoughtful and observant; for instance, if you see a truck on your street for a couple of days that looks out of place, you can get someone to check it out.

Or if you’re worried about your brother, or your son, or your friend who hasn’t seemed themselves lately – maybe they’ve broken off old friendships or suddenly changed their views.

People speaking up about their loved ones and friends has been the front line of defence, saving those young people – especially young men – from going overseas and likely harming themselves and possibly others. In many cases where passports have been withheld in Australia, the tip-offs have come through the community.

When it comes to terrorism, prevention is far better than cure.

Professor Greg Barton is the Herb Feith Research Professor for the School of Social Sciences in the Faculty of Arts at Monash University.

This article originally appeared in The Conversation.

 

How finals fever can make a footy player better – or worse

by Julie Tullberg

The AFL final series – with the semi-finals starting today – is one of the most ferocious and toughest contests we will see in Australian sport.

Behind the scenes, there is no doubt a fair percentage of footballers who will be learning how to cope with a mountain of pressure.

The best players embrace the challenge of finals and tend to feel inspired when the pressure builds. These players know how to use adrenaline to their advantage, and use their peak readiness state to play inspiring football.

But there have been many cases when players “choke” or just can’t get their hands on the ball in the finals. We saw this happen in the first half of the Port Adelaide and Richmond elimination final on Sunday.

The Richmond Tigers invested so much emotional energy in their nine-game winning streak to qualify for the finals. The team’s last home-and-away clash was played like a final, played as a titanic struggle against top-of-the-ladder giants, the Sydney Swans.

The Tigers appeared to experience an emotional release after beating the Swans 68-65 and they simply appeared flat against pumped-up Port. The Tigers eventually lost to Port 132-75.

Emotional readiness is just as important as playing form and fitness. If players aren’t emotionally in tune to playing finals football, they will appear flat-footed in the frenetic pace of top-class games.

Why some players ‘choke’

Inexperienced players often “choke” or become over-anxious or over-aroused during huge finals games – and this is caused by performance anxiety and pressure.

Some footballers will be over-excited but it takes mental focus and maturity to handle big-game situations. This becomes a test of character – it’s as simple as that.

The reality is that not many psychologists in the world can offer athletes the skills in handling these moments. Managing pressure is often dependent on the make-up of the athlete, the qualities which define them as elite athletes.

If the athlete has the tenacity and character to cope with match pressure, they will often respond to these situations. Players who experience pressure on the training track will often replicate their physical and team skills on match day.

Footballers are told to treat each finals game like a normal game, as they cope in blocking out external distractions, such as fans, the huge crowds and media scrutiny.

Feel the nerves

Feeling nervous is often a good sign before a big game. Players who strive to play optimally need to find their peak readiness state, which is often a reflection of their emotional state.

Footballers who are too relaxed often appear to start slowly, while over-anxious players can fumble, kick poorly or run at top speed – only to burn unnecessary energy.

The pressure is on to perform in front of the fans – here a Hawthorn supporter captures a selfie during last year’s AFL Grand Final between the Hawthorn Hawks and the Fremantle Dockers at the MCG. AAP Image/David Crosling Click to enlarge

It’s healthy for athletes to feel a little nervous and excited, releasing the adrenaline to perform at their peak. The physiological reaction needs to happen. Anxiety keeps the body warm and helps to release adrenaline and prepare the body and mind for peak readiness state.

But some players get too nervous and excited – and as a result, some can’t hold down their food or they can even experience gastric upsets. This can affect anywhere from 10% to 20% of players, according to my research so far.

Footballers who can handle the pressure well usually perform better in finals.

Experienced and stable AFL teams, who finish in the top four, usually resist pressure and ease into big games. That’s why it’s hard to go past Sydney and Hawthorn – and it’s no surprise they qualified for preliminary final berths.

The players will be extremely focused on their football and will virtually live in a bubble in these final weeks. They will find comfort in a normal routine with support from family and friends. The most successful players say maintaining a normal routine, without feeling overwhelmed by the occasion, will help them perform at their peak.

After all, they are professional footballers and they are expected to learn physical and mental techniques which will allow them to perform optimally.

Qualifying for the AFL Grand Final is the dream of every footballer, and it’s this privilege that drives the players during the build-up to this magnificent event.

Get your tips here

I am tipping the Geelong Cats to beat North Melbourne in the second of two semi-finals, played tomorrow.

Cats captain Joel Selwood is an excellent leader and will guide players who have experienced the highs and lows of finals football. The Cats are still bitterly disappointed after losing to Hawthorn in last year’s preliminary final.

I believe Fremantle will beat Port Adelaide in the first semi-final, played this evening. Fremantle’s Ross Lyon is one of the best coaches in the AFL and he will likely guide the Dockers to a preliminary final berth against Hawthorn.

We could see another Hawthorn-Swans Grand Final this year, to be played Saturday September 27 at the MCG. Both teams will benefit from the week’s rest and they both have stable line-ups.

Hawthorn and Sydney handle pressure better than Geelong or Fremantle, and will draw on last year’s finals experience.

But don’t be surprised if the Cats or Dockers threaten the league leaders. They are very well coached and have the fire and tenacity to challenge the benchmark teams.

Julie Tullberg is a PhD candidate and teaches sports journalism in the School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University.

This article first appeared in the The Conversation.

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Glimpses of Indigenous empowerment emerge from archives

Baldwin Spencer seated with the Arrernte elders, Alice Springs, Central Australia, 1896.
Baldwin Spencer seated with the Arrernte elders, Alice Springs, Central Australia, 1896.

European colonisation is portrayed mostly as an era of brutal subjugation of Indigenous peoples, but new studies show the cultural engagement may not always have been quite so one-sided.

Monash University historian Professor Lynette Russell is leading a project that is investigating the vast archives generated by an early 20th-century expedition to Australia by members of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS).

In 1914, as Europe was on the brink of war, an expedition of several hundred scholars from the UK’s finest institutions sailed to Australia as guests of the Australian government, and undertook a whirlwind schedule of lectures, state events and field trips.

Their visit reflected a fascination by British scientists, the public and humanitarians in the indigenous people of the colonies, an interest dating back to the mid-19th century. Scholastic debates had begun to grapple with the origins and hierarchy of races.

Professor Russell, the director of the Monash Indigenous Centre, said the BAAS expedition embodied the story of early anthropology and gave glimpses of Aboriginal empowerment in the face of forces that tried to subjugate them.

Professor Russell described a field trip to South Australia’s Coorong region, encompassing the vast mouth of the Murray River, in which the BAAS scientists were chauffeured to a corroboree staged by the local Ngarrindjeri people. The visit was organised by a business-savvy Aboriginal elder.

“There is one little cryptic comment made by someone at the corroboree,” Professor Russell said.

“This person describes the Aboriginal promoter of the corroboree as a man who would have found a comfortable career as an entrepreneur in London’s West End.”

Professor Russell says Australian Aborigines were seen as passively accepting European colonisation. But events such as the Coorong corroboree offer a different reading. The comment about the corroboree promoter suggests the local Aboriginal group cannily brokered a deal for the performance of the ceremony and dances, and probably for payment.

“The reality, we find, is far more complex than this idea of anthropologists studying disadvantaged, disconnected, disassociated Aboriginal people. My argument would be that Aboriginal people were never that disconnected or disestablished,” Professor Russell said.

Later this year, Professor Russell starts a visiting fellowship at the University of Oxford, which holds the BAAS archives.

Read the full story of Professor Lynette Russell’s research in ‘Merchants of Culture in Monash: Delivering Impact magazine.

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An appetite for life

Researchers found that elderly people with fair or poor appetites had higher risks of mortality than those with good appetites.
Researchers found that elderly people with fair or poor appetites had higher risks of mortality than those with good appetites.

A simple question about appetite can provide insights into old people’s general health that may help reduce their risk of dying.

In a study published in the journal Appetite, Emeritus Professor Mark Wahlqvist from Monash University’s Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine and the Monash Asia Institute, led a team investigating the connection between appetite and mortality.

“Appetite is generally regarded as one of the most important indicators of health,” Professor Wahlqvist said.

The urge to eat is often reduced in the elderly, with many afflicted by the “anorexia of ageing”. Chewing difficulties, general deterioration or the side-effects of medication may have an adverse effect on appetite, as may psychological factors such as loneliness or depression. Family circumstances and other environmental factors may also play a role.

“Factors of this kind lead to poor appetite and related poor health,” Professor Wahlqvist said.

“We found that elderly people with fair or poor appetites had higher risks of mortality than those with good appetites.”

The study, based on data from more than 1800 independently living Taiwanese over the age of 65, found that those who had poor appetites consumed a less diverse diet than others, with a consequently lower intake of energy, protein, vitamins and other nutrients.

It also showed appetite to be a reliable predictor of mortality, Professor Wahlqvist said, but one that opened up the potential for helpful intervention.

“Poor appetite may be a valuable early indicator of incipient nutritionally related disorders and disease, and of premature mortality.”

Poor appetite does not directly bring about death: it’s the resulting poor diet that causes the harm.

“Knowledge of old people’s appetite therefore has considerable potential to be useful in both clinical and community settings, and should be part of an integrated approach to diet that underpins a healthy old age,” Professor Wahlqvist said.

The research study also involved the National Defence Medical Centre, the National Health Research Institutes and the School of Public Health in Taiwan.

 

Amphlett Lane puts rock legacy back on the map, literally

by Catherine Strong

When Chrissy Amphlett, lead singer of the iconic Australian rock group The Divinyls, passed away as a result of breast cancer in April last year, it was only a matter of weeks before the question of how to commemorate her was raised.

Journalist Jessica Adams started a petition to have a laneway in the Melbourne CBD named in Amphlett’s honour, and this was quickly signed by more than 7,000 fans, as well as gaining support from industry heavyweights. On Tuesday night, Melbourne City Council unanimously approved the renaming of Corporation Lane 1639, located between Harwood Place and Spring Street off Little Bourke Street (behind the recently closed Palace Theatre where the Divinyls once played) in Melbourne’s CBD.

By this morning fans had already adorned the new Amphlett Lane with chalk murals celebrating the name change.

Amphlett Lane joins ACDC Lane, Paul Hester Walk and the proposed Rowland S. Howard Lane in St Kilda as part of a growing trend in Melbourne to commemorate rock stars through the naming of public places.

This is part of a trend across the western world where popular music is starting to be talked about in terms of heritage, and to be acknowledged in official ways as an important part of the history of nations and cities. This can be seen most clearly in places such as Liverpool, where an industry has grown up around not just The Beatles but the entire music scene in the city.

The benefits of making popular music a part of the story that cities and countries tell about themselves has, in cases like Liverpool, proved to be not just a way of creating a more inclusive version of the past, but a very lucrative project. Melbourne City Council undoubtedly realises this; bringing tourists to the city has always been one of the reasons for establishing Amphlett Lane.

However, in Australia so far the heritagisation of popular music has been done in a very ad hocway. Chrissy Amphlett has been lucky enough to have a tenacious group of fans who have dedicated a lot of time and effort to raising support for her laneway – but what of artists whose fans are less well equipped to wade through the bureaucratic processes associated with a name change, or who face more conservative officials who still don’t see rock stars as worthy of commemoration?

Even Melbourne only has a few Corporation Lanes left that could be used in this way – most of those remaining are tiny and/ or packed with rubbish bins, hardly a fitting tribute to any public figure. When laneways are no longer an option, what could be used instead? The idea of aseries of plaques (similar to those used in the UK) has already been suggested as part of the council debates around naming ACDC Lane. If these were adopted, who would decide what names were worthy to put on them?

These are questions that need to be considered seriously, as the naming and claiming of public space is a highly political act. In Australia, where places have been named for people, we have followed the European trend of naming them for politicians and leaders of military and industry, and these have been for the most part white males.

In this sense, Amphlett Lane is a wonderful new addition to the Australian landscape in that it not only puts our popular music history even more firmly – and literally – on the map as something that is worth taking seriously and celebrating, but does so with reference to a female musician. Women are frequently neglected in history generally, and in popular music history specifically, so keeping Amphlett in the public eye and collective memory in this way speaks to the diversity of our past.

Who has the authority to shape the past will also be worth considering as other ways of commemorating Australian popular music take shape. Calls are coming from a number of places for the establishment of a permanent museum for the preservation and display of Australia’s rock and pop memorabilia, or those relating to specific states.

Music Victoria would like a Hall of Fame established, and the group behind the Amphlett Lane campaign has set up the Australian Music Museum Project. This project has taken the lead from a number of overseas rock museums in making fans central to the music history being constructed, rather than curators or historians.

Giving voices to fans recognises that rock and roll has always been a messy thing, and the type of neat story we often like to construct to understand the past won’t capture what has been important about it. As popular music becomes a part of the story Australia tells about itself we need to keep the messiness, and give as many people a voice as possible.

Putting fans front row and centre is one way of doing this, and the creation of Amphlett Lane is a great step in this direction. Dr Catherine Strong works in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University.

This article originally appeared in The Conversation.

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