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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Check your moral disapproval: Buzzard at MIFF

by Russell Manning

The Kafkaesque nightmare that underpins Joel Potrykus’ Buzzard might not be just located on the screen. Buzzard, which screened at MIFF 2014 as part of the international panorama program, is an uncomfortable film.

We watch helpless as the haplessly unethical Marty Jackitansky (Joshua Burge) descends into degeneration fuelled by petty crime. He cashes cheques that aren’t his and pulls off minor conman stunts. However, as the film unfolds and Marty’s crimes catch up with him, for me, the moral compass turns squarely on the audience. The film is a dissertation against contemporary capitalism and its ravages – but equally it’s an invitation to audiences to check their own sources of moral disapproval.

If Buzzard is subversive, that is because on the surface the film appears as a warning against Marty’s petty, nerdish aggression. But while we may disapprove of his pathetic acts, our lives often contain similar defects. Marty has a penchant for junk food, computer games, heavy metal music. He hates his job, if with some perversity. These are common traits – they can hardly be summarily dismissed as quirky or alternative.

Finding subversion in Buzzard

The typical language developed for such a piece of “independent” cinema is “grunge weirdness”. That’s the term Variety used. Potrykus himself says of Buzzard, “It’s an art film disguised as a violent, slacker black comedy nightmare”.

The audience I watched the film with at MIFF was well tuned to the independent slacker genre and the tribulations of a heavy metal afflicted pop culture addicted loser. Where the film is subversive is in the way it mocks an audience who might want to see Marty Jackitansky as a strange “other”.

Potrykus pushes Marty’s habits to the limits, using close-ups of his Buster Keaton-esque, hang-dog face to evoke his pain in everyday life. But this pain also mirrors our own inevitable foibles. The everyday banalities of life, the small idiosyncratic affectations we practice and the antagonisms and anxieties we produce are universal. Using this logic Buzzard challenges the viewer to account for the ethical dimension of their lives, not judge the paucity of Marty’s.

Lucky I am not Marty

Potrykus gives us plenty of reasons Marty Jackitansky and his ultra-geek friend Derek (played by Potrykus). But these guffaws are at least in part due to the fact that the film audience doesn’t identify with them. They are geeks and nerds and we are not. They obsess with snack foods and computer games and we don’t. They inhabit an arthouse film world – but we know that this is not the real film world. Buzzard can be seen to inhabit that world on the other side of Silver Linings Playbook (2012).

Buzzard is in effect quirky – and quirk belongs on the fringe. Or does it?

Life itself might be quirky and the default position is with mind numbing jobs and the minutiae of day to day existence. An obsession with snack food is structurally similar to an obsession with vegetable juice or cappuccino. We need to develop a different vocabulary of interpretation to deal with films like Buzzard – one that doesn’t just marginalise it as weird or quirky.

The story first appeared on The Conversation.

Russell Manning is a PhD candidate at Monash’s School of Media, Film and Journalism.

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Take time out to to hear Monash authors in conversation

It is scarcely possible to pass an hour in honest conversation, without being able, when we rise from it, to please ourselves with having given or received some advantages. Samuel Johnson, 1750

It has sometimes been lamented that the Clayton campus has not developed as a place where people regularly come to relax and enjoy themselves, in addition to their work and study.

The University Library and Monash University Publishing are hoping to strengthen campus life through a new conversation series to be held in the Matheson Library.

These will be afternoon events at which Monash University Publishing authors will discuss 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.

Announcing the series, the director of Monash University Publishing Nathan Hollier said he hoped ‘Authors in Conversation’ would become ‘must attend’ events for staff each year.

“We hope these events will come to be known as an enjoyable thing to do when you’re on campus and have perhaps answered one too many emails for the day, can’t face another form to fill in, or you’ve always been intrigued about a particular issue that one of our authors has written about. Or perhaps you’re just wanting some mental stimulation and interest,” Mr Hollier said.

The series will commence with well-known historian Marian Quartly discussing her co-authored work The Market in Babies: Stories of Australian Adoption, on Wednesday 27 August, and will continue in September with Meredith Fletcher talking about her biography Jean Galbraith: Writer in a Valley. In October,  John Rickard will discuss his book,  An Imperial Affair: Portrait of an Australian Marriage.

Further information on the events can be found on the Monash University Publishing website.

Authors in Conversation events:

Professor Marian Quartly – Wed 27th August

Dr Meredith Fletcher – Wed 24th September

Professor John Rickard – Fri 24th October

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Why does our Prime Minister oppose independence for Scotland?

by Ben Wellings

When a small nation of four million people pushed for independence there were many in the international community who felt it was rash, unwise or just impossible. For some international observers, belief in the nation wasn’t there: the new nation just didn’t have the capabilities for self-determination free from Westminster’s tutelage. England’s enemies on the world stage would surely exploit this seeming weakness in the British polity. But ultimately Australia thrived under independence after 1901 and the rest, as they say, is history.

Of course in this regard Alex Salmond is right. Independence seems to have done Australia no harm. So it does seem puzzling that our Prime Minister, along with many others in the Australian community, appears to reject the possibility – or certainly the desirability – of Scottish independence. If we are arguing from first principles, why should self-government be denied to one nation when we have gained this ourselves?

Australia does not have the kind of sub-state nationalism that the United Kingdom has. Therefore Australian objections cannot be based on fears of a secessionist precedent such as those voiced by the out-going president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barosso or the sullen silence emanating from Madrid, concerned about the independence referendum in Catalunya to be held in November.

The prospect of the break-up of Britain may seem disturbing from Australia for several reasons. Tony Abbott appears to have had his strategic hat on when he made his recent remarks to The Times. With his head no doubt full of briefings about ISIS and MH17 he appears to have been thinking that Scottish secession would appear as British weakness to international adversaries.

He may also have been hoping to do a favour for his ideological confrere, David Cameron (although Cameron may have been tempted to think ‘I wouldn’t have said that’). Certainly other international leaders have been queuing up to reiterate support for a ‘united United Kingdom’ in the words of Li Kequiang, sentiments echoed by Barack Obama.

It is difficult to know what effect opinions from such leaders will have on the electorate. Voting to keep Britain together in order to serve Chian’s strategic interests may be an unedifying prospect. As with calls for Britain to secede from the European Union, most international opinion favours the status quo, hoping that Scotland stays in the UK (and the UK stays in the EU).

Aside from strategy and politics, such opinions fail to appreciate the distinctiveness of Scottish politics and society. The Scottish National Party (SNP) shifted from being the ‘Tartan Tories’ in the 1970s to a position that was able to exploit disgruntlement with New Labour in the 2000s. Many Scots on the left of politics support nationalism as means of being rid of the Conservative Party once and for all. Having lost faith with New Labour, many social democrats in Scotland dream of being a new Ireland or a new Norway.

With a solid one third of the electorate in favour of independence for about the last twenty years and over fifty per cent in favour of remaining in the UK, it is the ‘don’t knows’ who hold the key to Scotland’s future; less in the sense of deciding if Scotland will be independent (it probably won’t), but what sort of concessions the scale of the vote for independence will bring. A secessionist vote over 40 per cent wouldn’t be a bad platform for the SNP to negotiate further measures of autonomy into the future. And this is probably what the majority of the electorate are comfortable with.

In other words, many Scots would be happy with a trajectory a bit like Australia’s gradual path to independence during the twentieth century.

But something more is at stake for Abbott and other Australians. His reverence for the Scottish Enlightenment suggests that he does not want to lose what Scotland represents to conservatives in the English-speaking world: the political philosophy of David Hume and most importantly, the economics of Adam Smith. English politicians often append such figures to stories about the development of British politics and Abbott has followed suit.

But Scotland isn’t England and England isn’t Britain. Abbott’s Anglophilia is primarily just that: a passion for England and the English-speaking peoples and their economic and political cultures. This is the lens through which he views Scottish independence.

Ultimately his intervention in the debate may backfire: when Scots find out his politics are like those of Cameron’s Conservatives, only more so, the effect will likely drive Scots towards independence. The kind of conservative neo-liberalism that Abbott espouses has been out of favour in Scotland for almost thirty years.

This doesn’t mean that Scotland will vote for independence, however. The SNP’s referendum will probably fail, but it won’t be all bad news for the nationalists. Noble failures have served Scotland well in the past. They may do so again in the future.

Dr Ben Wellings is a lecturer in European studies in the Monash European and EU Centre at Monash University.

This article also appeared in The Drum.

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Wetlands: sugar and spice at MIFF

by Janice Loreck

Wetlands, directed by David Wnendt and based on the best-selling novel by Charlotte Roche, is part of an ever-expanding body of work that gives the lie to the “sugar and spice” conception of women and girls’ sexuality.

Playing as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival’sInternational Panorama, this German film is about a sensation-seeking young woman, Helen Memel (Carla Juri), who relishes sex, germs and body fluids. Describing herself as a “living pussy hygiene experiment”, Helen resolves to live as filthy a life as possible. Her favoured exploits include wiping her bare backside on public toilet seats and swapping tampons with her best friend Corinna (Marlen Kruse), a girl who was ostracised at school after she performed a scatological sex act on her boyfriend.

Watching Wetlands is an unquestionably visceral experience and is not for the easily repulsed. The exposition is a veritable hazing ritual for audiences: in the first 15 minutes, Helen wades through toilet sewerage, discusses the consistency of her cervical mucous and picks at the haemorrhoids that have her plagued her since childhood.

The gross-outs taper off slightly (but certainly not entirely) once the story begins in earnest. One morning before school, Helen accidentally nicks her anus while shaving her nether regions and is hospitalised for rectal surgery. While there, she decides to “parent-trap” her divorced mother and father, hoping to trick them into visiting the hospital at the same time and subsequently to rekindle their relationship.

For all its taboo-breaking content, Wetlands is underpinned by a heartfelt sincerity and sweetness — the girl who thinks nothing of contaminated toilet seats is actually a softie who cannot accept her parents’ separation.

Women’s transgressive desire is certainly not a new theme upon which to base a narrative. Earlier texts like Catherine Breillat’s film Romance (1999), Lena Dunham’s TV series Girls (2012 – ) and Caitlin Moran’s novel How To Build a Girl (2014) make a point of being candid about the indecorous dimensions of women’s sexuality.

What makes Wetlands idiosyncratic is the way it marries this impulse to the concerns of the teen film genre. Wnendt’s film addresses a common adolescent concern: the feeling of being invisible to one’s parents. The solution it proposes is a hyper-engagement with one’s own body.

A series of flashbacks inform us that Helen’s mother and father constantly ignored their daughter as a child, recoiling whenever she initiated any form of intimacy with them. In one of these scenes, eight-year-old Helen attempts to inflate a pink flotation device — realising she cannot do it herself, she asks her father to blow it up for her. She gauchely declares that the exchange of saliva involved in the act is like a kiss, something that leaves her dad nonplussed. This scene repeats itself in the diegetic present when Helen’s father inflates a haemorrhoid pillow.

These scenes give the impression that Helen was left alone as a child to peel her scabs and pick her nose. In the absence of her parents’ recognition, she continued this behaviour into her adolescent life as a means of asserting her own being. Instead of talking with one’s peers (the proposed solution to adolescent loneliness in films like The Breakfast Club (John Hughes, 1985) or forming a surrogate family with other teens - Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955); Skins(2007-13) – the ratification of selfhood in Wetlands occurs through a relishing of body fluids.

The unbroken taboo

For all this, however, Wetlands does not capture the feeling of adolescence very well.

Although the film bears the hallmarks of a YA sensibility — adults are buffoons, teens are the repositories of wisdom — Helen is about 18 years old and is therefore legally an adult. She checks herself into hospital without needing her parents’ consent, and she makes the very mature decision to move in with her boyfriend at the film’s conclusion.

Actress Carla Juri was 27 at the time of filming. Although she delivers a lively performance as Helen, her casting is central to the problem. For all her preoccupation with bodily functions, Helen possesses none of the acne-riddled, braces-clad ungainliness that makes adolescence such an excruciatingly physical experience.

Put bluntly, Juri is simply too beautiful and graceful to be a convincing teen. Given the importance of visual spectacle to the film, this inconsistency is difficult to ignore. One gets the feeling that the only taboo Wetlands cannot break is that of putting an awkward or “unattractive” female body in the starring role.

For all its colourful grotesquery, Wetlands misses a key point of both teen fiction and much of the work on women’s corporeality. You don’t need to act gross. According to the norms of society, your very personhood is gross.

Such an idea is captured with verve and humour in films like Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1976) andGinger Snaps (John Fawcett, 2000). Self-possessed and trying too hard, Helen just seems like she’s faking it.

Janice Loreck works in the School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University.

This article has appeared on The Conversation.

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The truth about meat and three veg

Food memory can be a shifty beast, often determined by our own experiences in adult life and what we remember from childhood. Michael Mackenzie and Cathy Pryor (hosts of the ABC’s First Bite show),  ask whether Australian cuisine was really all bland meat and soft boiled vegies until the post-war migration of the 1950s.


Andrew Junor, a Monash University academic, believes Australian cuisine prior to the 1950s wasn’t limited to meat and three veg.  He is working on a thesis calledBackward, British and Bland? in which he argues our food choices before WWII were  more diverse, regional and even multicultural  than subsequent generations have given credit for.

Junor, who is undertaking his PhD at Monash University, has been researching the past 70 years of our food identity and has uncovered some surprising results. He says despite popular perceptions, Australian food in the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s was not simply restricted to meat and three veg and Australians showed enormous creativity and ingenuity with the limited ingredients of the time.

Although the White Australia policy created the semblance of an Anglo monoculture, Chinese restaurants were a feature of many small towns, a result of Chinese migration during the gold rushes of the previous century. A wave of Italian migration in the 1920s had already exposed some Australians to Mediterranean cuisine well before the post-war years and pockets of ethnic food, such as Kings Cross in Sydney and Carlton in Melbourne, existed in many Australian cities.

Although these restaurants and delis were mostly frequented by the ethnic minorities they catered for, they were also visited by the bohemian set—writers and artists who yearned for a different experience. In fact the term ‘delicatessen wife’ became common parlance in the 1920s and ‘30s, a stock joke to denigrate a woman who popped into the deli to pick up a pre-made meal instead of making a ‘proper’ meal at home over her hot stove.

Even within the majority Anglo-Australian population, Junor says there is clear evidence that food during this period was more diverse than many might think.

‘In the early ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s [people] really did express a lot of creativity and ingenuity with the material they had,’ he says.

‘In the interwar period, I found a lot of material that suggested that Australians of British and Irish descent saw food in ethnic terms. They were looking at dishes like Yorkshire pudding, curd tarts or Cornish pasties.’

‘There was a lot of discussion in the women’s pages: “I am really after an authentic recipe for this particular regional British dish”, or “I am from Yorkshire so, here I will give you a good tip”.’

‘Much like the post-Second World War migration stories where migrants tried to get authentic ingredients into Australia … all Australians had that ethnic adaption story in common I think.’

As well as drawing on the discussions that ensued in the women’s pages of newspapers and magazines of the time, Junor has also delved into our official government history and responses to food.

During the Depression years, the Australian government, like others around the world, was prompted to think of nutrition as a matter of national health. A nutritional inquiry was established in 1936 that tried to ascertain what Australians were eating and how it could be improved.

Food companies such as Kraft also jumped on board, creating commercials that implored people not to boil the nutrients out of their vegetables or add soda to their peas to keep them green. Steaming vegetables was the best way to preserve their nutrients and vitamins, and off cuts such as vegetable peel and carrot ends could be tossed into stock to increase its goodness and flavour.

‘There was a real sense that Australians had to move beyond their colonial past,’ Junor says.

‘Housewives were being implored to raise the standard of their cookery, whether it was to try more Mediterranean dishes, learn how to cook risotto or being told that you can make do with cheaper ingredients and zuzsh it up—you don’t need the best cuts of meat.’

Information about our food during this period also came from unexpected sources including the diaries written by prisoners of war during WWII. In an environment where deprivation of liberty also meant deprivation of food, it was meals from home that featured prominently in their yearning for freedom.

‘I found there was a lot of affection for regional seafood dishes, for steak, for that sort of thing, but there is also a lot of local desserts, sweets, regional tropical fruits,’ Junor says.

‘Melbourne has the best beer, Cairns has the best beer. In Melbourne there is this little cafe that does American style pies whereas up in NSW we have the best Chinese restaurants in Parramatta.’

‘It is interesting because there is a great regional diversity, and there is a lot of parochial pride.’

This article first appeared on ABC’s First Bite series. The show can be downloaded there also.

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Is studying the past a key to peace?

Indonesia’s new president could learn some sobering lessons from three of the country’s most recent conflicts, according to a leading terrorist and Indonesia expert.

Sidney Jones, director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, will present Lessons Learned from Indonesia’s Conflicts: Aceh, Poso and Papua, at the annual Herb Feith Memorial Lecture.

Ms Jones will put under the microscope three government agreements. First, a peace agreement in Aceh that stopped an insurgency but led to the region being under the control of former rebels, who proved themselves bad political leaders. Then an agreement in Poso that stopped Christian-Muslim fighting but left an extremist network in place, which continues to operate today. Finally a new policy unit that was set up for Papua, but failed by concentrating only on economic development and neglecting steps toward dialogue with Jakarta.

She will examine the reasons for these outcomes and propose options that may prove more successful for the new government.

Ms Jones, an expert on security in South-East Asia, particularly Islamic terrorist movements in Indonesia, believes that the conflicts in Aceh, Poso and Papua together offer a historical perspective that will provide Indonesia’s incoming president with crucial lessons for the country’s leadership.

The Herb Feith Memorial lecture is held annually in memory of Australia’s finest scholar of Indonesia, the late Herb Feith (1930-2001), who taught politics at Monash University from 1962 to 1990.

In 2004, a foundation was launched to honour Dr Feith’s role in the development of Monash as a major centre for the study of Indonesia and to continue the work to which he devoted his life.

This free event is open to the public, however registration is essential.

The Herb Feith Memorial Lecture will be held on Wednesday 20 August, Room 116, Building H, Monash University Caulfield campus, 900 Dandenong Road, Caulfield East (map) starting at6pm.

For information on the foundation, visit the Herb Feith Foundation website.

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Reinterpreting ‘Italian’ for the 21st century

In an era when millions of people living in countries other than Italy identify themselves as Italian – it is the fifth most claimed ancestry in Australia – the question of what that actually means becomes a complex one.

In research that will take him to Italy, England and Australia, Mr Goffredo Polizzi, one of the first students to receive a covetedMonash Warwick Joint PhDscholarship, is examining how Italians form their identities in light of changing cultural influences.

Goffredo is examining how gender, race, sexuality and class contribute to Italian identity formation. He said his research could result in a new understanding of identities and more inclusive forms of citizenship for Italians in their home country and abroad.

“The field of Italian studies is undergoing profound changes as the notion of what it means to be Italian and Italian culture is questioned,” Goffredo said.

“I’m examining various literary and cinematic pieces to determine how Italians now perceive ‘Italianness’ and how Italian emigrants identify with their heritage from afar.”

Goffredo applied for the Monash Warwick Joint PhD because he believed it offered an excellent opportunity to develop his research skills under the guidance of two universities with highly regarded translation and Italian studies departments.

“Both Monash and Warwick universities are at the forefront of the critical effort being made to understand Italian cultural changes,” he said.

“Although I am only eight months into my PhD, I feel optimistic about my research because my supervisors have provided exceptional support and insight,” Goffredo said.

Associate Professor Rita Wilson from the Monash School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics, and Associate Professor Loredana Polezzi from the Warwick Department of Italian are supervising Goffredo’s research.

“Goffredo’s research is making a valuable contribution to understanding not only how, historically, emigration has shaped Italian culture but also how contemporary immigration is impacting on current notions of cultural identity and citizenship,” Professor Wilson said.

Goffredo is currently gathering data in Italy before returning to the University of Warwick later this year. He will spend 2015 at Monash and then return to Warwick to complete his PhD in late 2016.

Introduced at the end of 2013, the Monash Warwick Joint PhD is a three-year program in which students spend at least one year at each university.

The Alliance is growing its PhD cohort to support its increasing research efforts, particularly in the areas of sustainable chemistry, nanomedicine, advanced imaging and materials, and understanding cultures.

Supervisors from Monash and Warwick in any of the Alliance’s key research areas are encouraged to identify and support potential Monash Warwick Joint PhD candidates. The next Monash Warwick Joint PhD application round closes 31 October 2014 (for Monash students). More information about the Joint PhD and how to apply can be found on the Monash Warwick Alliance website.

The Monash Warwick Alliance is an innovative approach to higher education that is accelerating the exchange of people, ideas and information between Monash and Warwick Universities.

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A blues song to break the silence: Black Panther Woman at MIFF

by Matteo Dutto

I sing this song. I sing it for my sisters. 
For I feel the backbone of our struggle in this country,
Trying to keep it together.
Koori Woman – Marlene Cummins

Rachel Perkins’ latest documentary, Black Panther Woman, brings to the screen the life of Australia’s foremost Indigenous female blues singer: Marlene Cummins. Like any good blues song this is a confronting and powerful story. Black Panther Woman recounts Marlene’s experience in the first and only Australian Black Panthers chapter, the abuses she suffered from men within the Indigenous community and her need to break a 40-year silence.

When we first meet Marlene, she is about to leave for a trip to New York to attend an international gathering of Black Panthers, hosted by Kathleen Cleaver, who is now a law professor at Yale. Marlene joined the Brisbane chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1972 – after falling in love with their leader, Dennis Walker.

For a year, and with just ten members, the Australian Black Panthers were at the forefront of the Aboriginal civil and land rights movement. As we learn from Cummins, Indigenous women were the backbone of the struggle – and sometimes paid a price for the cause.

Breaking the code of silence

Throughout the documentary, Cummins asserts that she has no interest in “starting a witch-hunt” and that her story is her own. Even so, Black Panther Woman offers more than a tale of one woman’s survival. Perkins’ documentary turns a critical eye on the experience of Indigenous women in the Aboriginal civil rights movement as a whole.

It asks important questions about the “code of silence” that protected the cause from media attacks. In doing so, it also denounces the white political agenda that enforced it and still holds whole Indigenous communities responsible for the actions of individuals. As Cummins says in an interview:

The voice of the archives

The complex interactions between Cummins’ personal history and the wider experience of Indigenous women in the movement is reflected in Perkins’ documentary. Black Panther Woman plays out as an observational narrative: the story takes centre stage. By interweaving interviews with archival footage from the protests of the 1970s and stills from Cummins’ personal life, Perkins provides another layer of interpretation to the events.

As in her 2007 series First Australians, the inclusion of archival materials asks the viewer to connect with the story at an emotional level. As Cummins talks about her life in the Black Panthers we are presented with personal footage from what looks like a spontaneous theatre performance.

We see a young Cummins on a day out with Dennis Walker and the rest of the Brisbane chapter members. Cummins jokes about feeling like an “Aboriginal woman superhero” at the time. We are offered a rare and precious look into what being a member of the Black Panthers must have felt like for a young Aboriginal woman.

Footage from Alessandro Cavadini’s 1972 documentary about black activism in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Ningla A-Na, is drawn into the documentary alongside Cummins’ photos. In this way Perkins provides a larger political stage for a personal history.

A blues song to start a dialogue

Black Panther Woman is also the result of a long friendship between Perkins and Cummins.

As such, it’s a documentary where the distance between director and subject is reduced to dialogue. As Cummins reflects on the violence suffered by Indigenous women, she pauses for a second and asks Perkins, “Is that what you want to hear?” Perkins replies, “I want to know why you want to tell this story.”

It’s just a brief moment, but one that speaks to the need to name the abuse and to start a conversation about the “code of silence”. Black Panther Woman breaks 40 years of silence and asks for dialogue – and it does so with the strength and grace of one of Marlene Cummins’ blues songs.

Matteo Dutto is a PhD candidate in the School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University.

This article has appeared on The Conversation.

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Seminar on the City: Place and Belonging in the City by John Tomaney

The next Seminar on the City hosted by Faculty of Arts at Monash University will be brought to us by Professor John Tomaney (of University College London, and adjunct at Monash), on “Place and Belonging in the City”.

Date/Location: Thursday 28 August 2014 at 4pm

Location: Room E561, Menzies building, Clayton campus.

This lecture will examine the nature of local belonging. It will highlight how local belonging continues to matter to most people; that it can have individual and collective dimensions; that the notion of a binary opposition between a cosmopolitan outlook and local attachments is unhelpful, but that scales at which we belong may be multiple and changing. It will explore the class dimensions of belonging, the way belonging is linked to local and regional identity and the role of history in the formation of local attachments. It will pay particular attention to the complex way we belong in cities.

John Tomaney is Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at University College London. Previously he was Henry Daysh Professor of Regional Development and Director of the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies at Newcastle University (UK). He holds visiting positions at Monash, UNSW and is a Fellow of the Regional Australia Institute.

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Transcending testimony: an interview with filmmaker Deepa Dhanraj

by Shweta Kishore

Deepa Dhanraj is a filmmaker and feminist whose extensive filmography spans issues of gender, labour, education and women’s position in Indian society. In 1980, she founded the Bangalore-based filmmaking collective Yugantar, an organisation that produced films about women’s labour and domestic conditions in Southern India. With searing imagery, Dhanraj’s highly influential 1991 film, Something Like a War, presented the gender and class violence of the population-control policy of the Indian government.

Dhanraj is a guest at the Melbourne International Film Festival this year. She presented her recent film Invoking Justice (ITVS, 2011) as part of the India in Flux: Living Resistance strand of contemporary documentary cinema and was a panellist on the Talking Pictures panel, Currents of Dissent: Documentary Resistance in India, with Anand Patwardhan and Meenakshi Shedde in conversation with me. 

In this interview, I talk with Dhanraj about the historic relationship between activism and documentary film and the ways in which she addresses contemporary industrial as well as aesthetic shifts in this cinema.

Deepa, you were closely associated with the Indian women’s movement during the 1970s and the 1980s. How did your involvement with this movement lead you towards documentary cinema?

I became a documentary filmmaker because of my association with the women’s movement.

When we started our collective Yugantar in 1980, the intention was to make films on various struggles, agitations and issues that were being raised by the women’s movement at that time, particularly the shifts in consciousness, politics and the kind of contributions that both the activists and the academy were making in public discourse.

A lot of theory was being generated and one of the things we asked as a collective was: how do you communicate this back to the audiences and particularly women audiences so that there is a continuous loop? How do you tell these stories and talk about this politics at all levels from the grassroots to the academy?

Personally, the intention of the collective was to document the struggles and then return these stories to the constituency, which could be women’s groups of all classes and as many institutions as we could tap into – trade unions, universities, high schools and film clubs.

Coming to the documentary medium from activism, how did you conceptualise the documentary form? What could the documentary film accomplish in the social collective?

We did not come to a ready-made understanding of documentary practice; we were creating a process as we worked. When we started this collective, our intention was to be collaborative and to stand with the women, not only to transmit their story.

With Something Like a War, we spoke about issues that were important to many women’s groups. I am often surprised at how much of my work is used for teaching in universities – but, at that time, it wasn’t our intention. With Something Like a War, we wanted to stop the government of India’s coercive targeting of poor women to achieve state sterilisation targets.

But we also wanted to address the structural consensual belief that the poor were responsible for their poverty because of excessive breeding. So in the film we also talked about why poor women made the reproductive choices that they did – they were not foolish, but various social factors influenced their decisions.

So we not only had to address the state agenda but also this political consensus that made it acceptable to have a eugenics notion about the poor. The films produced with this political understanding acted as a medium between the activists and the academy and brought these issues into a space for discussion. So I see documentary films as building a bridge between these two worlds.

Documentary cinema appears to have moved into many directions and filmmakers approach the form from several positions; as artists, storytellers or poets. How does activism or political interrogation reconcile with these shifts?

During the 1980s and 1990s there was a stated political objective with which people approached documentary, which has now gradually shifted into the domain of the individual.

Of course, being India, a lot of social context inherently emerges in any story, but the question is: what do you do with this context? How are you recasting it in a way that there are insights not just at the level of testimony but how do we create a framework to understand social formations?

I think if you are making a film about the social collective you are also making a public intervention, politically you are making an intervention and you choose cinema to do it. When you are doing that, why is there a diffidence or hesitation to articulate a political position? To me it raises questions about aesthetics and politics; does the style of filmmaking determine your politics? Or does the way of looking determine your politics and style, which, of course, could be poetic.

Some of the issues that face documentary filmmakers in India have historically related to distribution and audiences, but contemporary India is an image-and-media-saturated environment. Is this also a challenge?

The issue of resources always remains. It is very impressive that so many people are still working given the desperate lack of resources. But the good news is that there are more exhibition forums and mini-festivals where people watch films.

The challenge for a filmmaker like myself is how to deal with a very complex reality. It is not only at the stage of formal or creative planning but requires creating processes where people are comfortable with being filmed and feel that it is worth their participation. Cable television and 24-hour news and current affairs have created a situation where people are very media aware and understand how they might be represented or misrepresented.

They are also filming themselves – so the relationship to image has changed and the potential film participants have a different level of visual literacy and consciousness of representation. In this setting, the challenge is to create a process that takes this into account and remains accountable to the people one is filming.

This article first appeared on The Conversation.

Shweta Kishore is a PhD candidate at Monash’s School of Media, Film and Journalism.

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Jodorowsky’s Dune: an acid trip without the acid at MIFF 2014

by Janice Loreck

One of the big attractions at theMelbourne International Film Festival this year is Frank Pavich’s documentaryJodorowsky’s Dune (2013). The film retells the story of cult Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s failed attempt to adapt Frank Herbert’s science-fiction novel Dune – as well as explaining what became of the project afterwards.

Director of acid western El Topo(1970) and avant-garde tale The Holy Mountain (1973), Jodorowsky acquired the rights to adapt Dune in 1974. Through the sheer power of his personal charisma, he assembled an impressive team to work on the film.

Mick Jagger, Orson Welles and Salvador Dali were cast in key roles. Pink Floyd agreed to provide the soundtrack. A team of “up and coming” young creatives – including illustrators Chris Foss andJean “Mœbius” Giraud, artist HR Giger, and special effects supervisor Dan O’Bannon — were hired to produce conceptual art. Their efforts resulted in a phonebook-sized collection of images, reverently referred to in Pavich’s documentary as “the Dune book”.

In keeping with the sensibilities of his earlier work, Jodorowsky saw Dune as a chance to bring 1970s avant-garde ideas to mainstream audiences. Herbert’s original novel concerns a noble family who regain political power by controlling the sole supply of a vital resource — the “spice” — that induces second sight, prescience and ancestral memory in humans who consume it. Although he hadn’t actually read the book, Jodorowsky felt an affinity with these themes of psychic awakening; they meshed well with the Surrealistic sensibilities of his earlier work.

By adapting Dune, Jodorowsky’s ambition was no less than to utilise the full expressive power of cinema to induce transcendent experiences in the audience’s own minds: an acid trip without the acid.

Predictably, Jodorowsky’s vision didn’t impress the moneymen in Hollywood. They deemed Dune unmarketable. When asked about the film’s total run-time, Jodorowsky told producers that it would come in at around 12 to 20 hours. This left the pre-production team to expend their talents elsewhere: Giger, Mœbius and O’Bannon famously went on to make Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979), clearly drawing upon the ideas they developed while working on the Dune project.

Jodorowsky’s Dune is an entertaining story about a group of talented people who tried, and failed, to push Hollywood cinema towards more avant-garde themes. It is perhaps ironic, then, that Pavich’s film is a rather conventional affair. The film consists mostly of talking heads and exhibits little of the aesthetic ambition of its subject matter. Its story of the failed Dune project conforms to a predictable narrative arc of rising action, climax and dénouement.

In short, except for a few occasions where the artworks by Foss, Giger and Mœbius achieve cut-through by the sheer force of their beauty, there are no transcendent experiences to be had while watching Jodorowsky’s Dune. Perhaps Pavich took the lesson of the failed Dune project too greatly to heart.

Any lack of creative daring in the documentary is happily ameliorated by its star, Alejandro Jodorowsky himself. He is clearly a man who can spin a ripping yarn, and it doesn’t take long to see why Pavich just lets him talk.

Jodorowsky’s retelling captures the giddy feeling of embarking on a big creative project. When Jodorowsky recounts how he convinced Orson Welles to perform the role of bad-guy Baron Harkonnen, it indeed seems that Dune was fated to succeed. (Jodorowsky did so by offering to hire Welles’ favourite Parisian chef to cook meals on set every night.)

It is quite appropriate that these anecdotes should take precedence in the documentary. Jodorowsky’s innate storytelling capacity is clearly what got people interested in the first place.

Pavich’s film concludes by arguing that Jodorowsky’s project did in fact change cinema because it influenced half-a-dozen other movies. While it is easy to agree that the concept art for Dune inspired films like Alien and Masters of the Universe (Gary Goddard, 1987), the stronger point of Jodorowsky’s Dune is, I think, that unrealised ideas have their own beauty. The Dune project was never a film, but it was a set of gleaming pictures and ideas dreamed up in the minds of its creators.

The point is not merely that inspiration can arise from failure. It is that the pitch can be as poetic as the movie.

Janice Loreck works in the School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University.

This article has appeared on The Conversation.

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Monash Researcher Selected as a World Social Science Fellow

Dr Briony Rogers, a research in Sociology at Monash, has just been selected by the International Social Science Council to be one of 20 ‘World Social Science Fellows’ in the area of sustainable urbanisation. This is a very competitive program of distinction.

Dr Rogers is one of twenty early career researchers in the social sciences selected from around the world to be put through a mentoring program involving training and facilitation of future world social science leaders to collaborate in setting future research agendas and preparing collaborative research proposals for international research funding agencies. Given the importance of sustainable environments and liveable places, this is wonderful news for both Briony and the School (of Social Sciences) and Faculty contribution to vital debates about climate, sustainability and social change.

This award is recognition of Briony’s outstanding scholarly achievements to date, as recognised by an independent international social scientific body.

The World Social Science Fellows programme seeks to foster a new generation of globally-networked research leaders who will collaborate in addressing global problems with particular relevance for low and middle income countries.

Fellows from a diverse range of disciplines participate in seminars to discuss and design interdisciplinary perspectives on priority topics. Fellows take the lead for most of the work and discussions at seminars; working with international leading specialists, policy makers, practitioners, activists, and other relevant stakeholders to enrich the reflections.

The Fellows programme is supported by the Swedish International Development Agency and the Government of Sweden. Individual seminars are implemented in collaboration with partner organisations.

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New Colombo Plan Scholarships – Explore Indonesia this Summer!

watercastleThe Faculty of Arts is excited to announce that it has been awarded 30 scholarships for its students to undertake short term studies in Indonesia.

The scholarships are valued at $3000 each for travel on an approved program by 31st July 2015. Students will also be eligible for additional Monash Abroad bursaries and complimentary travel insurance.

See the list of exciting programs that will allow you to discover Indonesia below. Each program has different requirements and closing dates to apply for the scholarship. Students not eligible for scholarships are most welcome to join the programs.

1. Australia and Asia – ATS2394 / ATS3394 (12 credit points)

- 10 scholarships

Australia and Asia is an innovative, study-tour based unit that takes students out of the classroom and into the field to explore the reality of cross-cultural relations for themselves. Classes begin on campus in late November 2014 before heading to Indonesia for 10 days in early December. We will explore Java and Bali and hear from academics and experts in Australian-Asian relations of the past, present and future. Students will also have the opportunity to explore specialist sites of international contact and meet professionals in diplomacy, trade and tourism. An optional intensive-language component is available for those who wish to develop skills in Bahasa Indonesia.

Dates: 17 November- 10 December

Cost: Approximately $1200 per student will cover internal travel, accommodation, entry to all sites and an opening and closing dinner. Students will be expected to arrange their own airfares (Melbourne-Jakarta; Yogyakarta-Bali), cover their meals, and any personal costs.

Majors: Students from any major can take this as an elective. It also counts towards some majors, see handbook for details.

Additional information: Application process and more details

Contact: For scholarship application process contact Dr Agnieszka Sobocinska or Arts-Outbound Students

2. Arts Indonesian in-country language (12 credit points)

- 10 scholarships

Flexible Language Immersion Program based at Gadjah Mada University or specialist internships/field studies organised through Australian Consortium for In-Country Indonesian Studies (ACICIS). Either one semester or intensively during Monash non-teaching period.

Dates: Summer A, Summer B or Semester 1, 2015

Cost: $3120 tuition fee only (students will be enrolled in Murdoch university as cross institutional students).

Majors: Indonesian studies

Additional Information: ACICIS website

Contact: For application process – Mr Robin Chacko

If you are not able to be away for that long you could choose to do the Arts International Internship program (below) and can have it counted towards your Indonesian studies major.

3. Arts International Internship ATS3130 (12 credit points)

- 10 scholarships

Group Internship Study Tour to Indonesia. The program will be a 4 week study tour with the first week spent on language and cultural studies that will include visits to prominent sites across Indonesia. The following three weeks students will be placed either individually or in groups in organisations on a project related to their major. The majority of the placements would be in Bali with some in Jakarta and Yogyakarta. The program will include local university visits, tourist site visits, networking events, dinners and other weekend activities.

Dates: mid-January to mid-February

Cost: $2,500 approx – includes program fees, visa support, accommodation, some meals, group tours, prepaid sim card, 24/7 support.

Majors: Students from most majors can take this as an elective.

Additional information: Application process and more

Contact: For scholarship application process contact Mr Robin Chacko

Scholarship eligibility criteria:

  • an Australian citizen. Applicants with dual citizenship are eligible, but must use the scholarship in a third destination.
  • enrolled at Monash University at the time of application and throughout their study.
  • between 18 and 28 years of age at the commencement of their study program; and
  • undertaking a Bachelor’s degree level program (at least second year) onshore at an Australia university campus at the commencement of the program.

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Abbott’s haste to tackle home-grown terrorists carries grave risks

by Andrew Zammit

The threat posed by Australians in extremist groups in Syria and Iraq is being used to justify dramatic changes to national security legislation. The threat is very much real, but that does not make all the proposed new laws necessary or justified.

Attorney-General George Brandis recently described the terrorist threat resulting from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq as “the government’s number-one national security priority”. When politicians describe something as a major national security threat, it’s best to not uncritically trust their claims, but to look for what public evidence either confirms or disproves it.

In this case, there is plenty of public evidence showing that it’s a serious threat.

Many Australians have joined the conflicts in Iraq and Syria and at least 12 appear to have died, two in suicide bombings. They have joined some of the most extreme groups in the region, namely the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and the former al-Qaeda affiliate the Islamic State. Some of these fighters have appeared on social media bragging about war crimes and threatening Australians. Evidence has also emerged of active recruitment efforts within Australia, connections to earlier terror plots, and that some Australians have leadership roles within the extremist groups.

These types of conflicts pose dangers that are not geographically confined. Al-Qaeda itself was formed from groups of Saudis and Egyptians fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Several Indonesians who fought in Afghanistan during the 1980s would go on to play leading roles in the formation of Jemaah Islamiyah and were behind attacks such as the Bali bombings.

Many of the 9/11 hijackers initially went to Afghanistan to get training to fight in Chechnya, but al-Qaeda redirected them towards attacking America. In the UK, many terrorist plots began with people travelling to Pakistan with the intention of fighting in Kashmir and Afghanistan, but got persuaded to come back to Britain and plan bombings. Some Australians who trained with jihadist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan returned and attempted to kill people here.

The Syrian conflict is already posing a similar threat in Europe, with at least six alleged violent plots involving Syria returnees. The most well-known incident occurred in May, when a gunman murdered four people near the Jewish Museum of Belgium. Shortly after, a 29-year-old Frenchman named Mehdi Nemmouche was caught. He was allegedly carrying guns, ammunition, and a video claiming responsibility for the attack, and had fought in Syria with IS.

Given the track record over the past 30 years, the fears that Australian jihadists in Syria and Iraq could pose a threat at home are well-founded.

However, that does not mean every measure put forward to tackle the threat is justified.

Certainly there is a need for law reform, which has been made clear by five separate inquiries over the past three years: one by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, one by the Council of Australian Government’s review of counter-terrorism legislation, and three by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor.

These inquiries found major shortcomings in Australia’s national security legislation. Some of the laws were out of date given changes in technology, some of them infringed on liberties without a clear national security benefit, and some were poorly worded and impractical. The inquiries recommended many changes, several of which directly addressed the issue of Australians joining jihadist groups overseas.

These included: allowing the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to confiscate passports without having to go through the Foreign Minister for up to seven days, but without reducing the suspects’ appeal rights; making it easier for the Australian Secret Intelligence Service to spy on suspected Australian terrorists overseas on ASIO’s behalf; allowing prosecutions in Australia to use evidence gathered in foreign countries without the permission of the foreign government; and placing restrictions on convicted terrorists who continue to prove dangerous once their sentences are finished, using systems similar to sex offender registries.

However, successive federal governments, both Labor and Liberal, failed to act on these recommendations. This was until the issue appeared to reach crisis point in June this year, when IS seized the Iraqi city of Mosul and the first videos and photos of its Australian fighters spread throughout the media. Now the Abbott government is attempting to pass extensive new legislation in a very short time period.

Many of the government’s proposed reforms are long-overdue measures that come directly from the inquiries, but also proposed are some very questionable changes that did not come from the inquiries.

These include new restrictions on speech and the prospect of mass data retention. One of the most concerning proposals could require any Australian returning from Syria and Iraq to prove they were not involved in terrorism.

This reversal of the burden of proof departs from Australia’s legal traditions and is unlikely to address the terrorist threat effectively. If state counter-measures to the threat are heavy-handed rather than carefully calibrated, they risk harming innocent people and delegitimising necessary counter-terrorism efforts.

This could well happen if new laws are passed without the proper processes of deliberation. Many of the current problems with Australia’s national security legislation resulted precisely from new laws being rushed through Parliament after 9/11.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security’s report explicitly warned of this risk, and advised that drafts of new legislation should be subject to intense parliamentary and public scrutiny. Instead, the Committee was given only two weeks to gather public submissions on the first batch of new legislation and little time to hold public hearings.

The threat Australia faces from its citizens being involved with extremist groups in Syria and Iraq is real, but the seriousness of the threat is what makes it so important to get the laws right.

Unfortunately, it’s looking doubtful that the proposed reforms will leave Australia with the most effective and appropriate laws to address the threat.

Andrew Zammit is a researcher in the Global Terrorism Research Centre in the School of Social Sciences in the Faculty of Arts at Monash University.

This article has appeared in The Age.

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Internship Opportunity: Jewish Museum – Andy Warhol Exhibition

About the Museum

The Jewish Museum of Australia was established in 1982 and for thirteen years was located in the synagogue of the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation, South Yarra. In that time, the Jewish Museum presented over forty wide-ranging exhibitions, several of which travelled nationally. The Museum attracted significant communal support and won several prestigious industry awards. In 1992 the Jewish Museum of Australia purchased a building in Alma Road, St Kilda opposite one of Melbourne’s most beautiful synagogues, the St Kilda Hebrew Congregation, and close to Temple Beth Israel.

The Jewish Museum of Australia has a collection that is mainly comprised of donated items by the local community. Each piece in the collection has a history and story to go with it.


Project: Marketing and Communications

Interns will work closely with the Marketing and Communications Manager to gain experience in writing and research, online publishing, social media and PR and communications.

Tasks include:

  • Uploading content (text and images) to JMA newsletter templates and formatting via Mailchimp
  • Proofing and sub-editing both the JMA website and newsletters prior to publishing
  • Researching inspiring and relevant images, videos, links and news stories to be featured on JMA social media channels
  • Researching relevant media, events, opportunities and competitions
  • Updating and maintaining database

The internship will be focused on our upcoming Warhol exhibition – Andy Warhol’s Jewish Geniuses, which will run from 20 November 2014 to 24 May 2015.

Duration: 2 days a week (September to November) – 1st intake (2 places)

2 days a week (Novmber to May) – 2nd intake (2places)


1. The students should meet the eligibility criteria to enrol in ATS3129 Arts Internship unit (completed 96 CP and have a distinction average)

2. Undergraduate students from the following Area of Study:

Application process:

Please submit an updated resume along with a cover letter outlining how the project fits in with your major by Sunday, 17th August 2014 to

Shortlisted candidates shall be invited for an interview.

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4 Stars for ‘The Monash Sessions’ with Vince Jones

A great review of The Monash Sessions with Vince Jones in The Australian last week:

“A JAZZ singer’s longevity can be like a bottle of fine wine, improving with age. For more than 30 years Vince Jones has toured Australia, issued a string of recordings and watched a parade of the nation’s best musicians pass through his band as a staging post for their brilliant careers. His voice may be a little raspy thanks to years of nightclub singing, but Jones has still got his zing.

His latest release, the fourth in the Monash Sessions series, is Jones at his best. Recorded at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club in Melbourne last October while he was artist-in-residence at the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, this Jones performance is enhanced by the fine line-up, including the sensational Sam Keevers on piano.

Keevers and Rob Burke co-produced the recording, and the Monash University Vocal Ensemble adds to the lush sound. Pianists Matt McMahon and Paul Grabowsky score thankyou credits, chiefly because of their co-writing, with Jones, of some of his signature tunes that he delivers with that catchy, high minor-note hook capable of making listeners swoon.

Three of his best on this recording — Jettison, Budgie and Rainbow Cake — come from his 1987 album It All Ends Up in Tears, when Jones was probably at his peak, and playing with such jazz luminaries-to-be as Grabowsky, Barney McAll, Doug de Vries and Tony Floyd. Jones lets rip on Wonderworld, adding a Gina Rinehart lyric to give his social commentary extra bite — and to draw a laugh from his audience. 4 stars.”

Read the review on the Australian site.

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Gold Coast Games will struggle to stay relevant – here’s why

by Tom Heenan

Goodbye Glasgow and hello Gold Coast. The Commonwealth Games will return Down Under in 2018 and already there are bold projections: Gold Coast Games Federation chair Nigel Chamierexpects the creation of 30,000 jobs and a A$2 billion windfall.

Over the next few years marketers will spruik the branding and the tourism opportunities. But the reality is these mega-events cost more than they earn, and the Gold Coast Games will prove no exception.

The federal government has already allocated a one-off grant of A$156 million to assist in infrastructure development, but warned further funding must be met by the Queensland government. Already the latter has committed to underwrite A$1.1 billion for Games’ infrastructure projects.

The Gold Coast defeated Sri Lanka’s Hambantota in securing the hosting rights. That they were the only two bidders indicates the Games’ diminishing importance and market. The Games’ image was tarnished by the 2010 Delhi fiasco, which ran 250 per cent over budget.

Glasgow will also exceed budget projections. On current estimated costs of ?563 million, the Games are already £200 million over their initial budget forecast.

It’s unlikely the Gold Coast will get value for money, as its Games will face more significant challenges than Glasgow’s.

No names, no Games

The sporting landscape has changed and the cycle of Olympic Games and world championships has lessened the Commonwealth Games’ importance. While in the 1950s the sporting world was amateur and the Games were second to the Olympics, now top athletes are highly paid professionals competing in lucrative meets. They prefer to bypass events that don’t pay, or may damage their brands.

Furthermore, the Games compete for space in a cluttered sports market, diminishing their relevance in major sporting nations. Athletics, swimming and cycling are the Games’ major selling-points to television networks and sponsors. Attracting high-profile performers in these sports is essential to the Gold Coast Games’ success and marketability.

Name swimmers will be there because most are Australian, but the real problem will be luring track stars. Track and field is the major attraction for broadcasters and marketers, but as Glasgow revealed the Games no longer have the international standing to lure name stars.

Though 800m Olympic champion David Rudisha ran in Glasgow, the world record marathoner,Wilson Kipsang, and Olympic and world champion, Stephen Kiprotich, did not. Nor did the Kenyan and 2013 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) female marathoner of the year,Edna Kiplagat. They preferred to compete on the lucrative world marathon running circuit and the US$8 million IAAF Diamond League.

The leading Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake also wasn’t there, despite competing in a Hampden Park meet before the Games. Much was made of Usain Bolt’s appearance in the Jamaican relay team, yet he bypassed the individual sprints. For an athlete who commands appearance fees in excess of US$250,000 per meet, victory at the Games offered few tangible benefits, while defeat would have damaged the Bolt brand.

His much-awaited run in the relay merely reflected the tokenistic approach to the Games of the world’s best athletes.

Furthermore, the Gold Coast Games may be hit by Australia’s age-old tyranny of distance. Major drawcards may decide the Gold Coast is too far away and bypass the Games for the Diamond League or the European road cycling season.

Waiting for ratings

As the major drawcards prefer more lucrative events, the Games’ marketability to prospective broadcasters and advertisers lessens.

The Ten Network acquired the Glasgow Games’ rights for A$30 million six years ago. Though ratings during the Games were solid, no Australian free-to-air network has as yet expressed interest in the 2018 rights. This suggests television networks are weighing up if the Games offer value for money in an increasingly cluttered sports media marketplace.

Scheduled for early April, the 2018 Games will compete for media space with the start of the NRL and AFL seasons and the culmination of the A-League, EPL and Champions League.

Though the Games will leave the Gold Coast out of pocket, they will offer Australians an opportunity to revisit our commitment to the Commonwealth. Tradition dictates Australians will still compete. We are a conservative and sentimental sporting nation – we love Lords, Wimbledon and Twickenham too much.

But perhaps it’s time to rethink our sporting loyalties. We are economically and strategically dependent on Asia and maybe sport should follow suit. We joined the Asian Football Confederation in 2006.

After 2018 it’s time to do it in the pool, on the track and at the velodrome and sign on for the Asian Games. They have a bigger market and are more relevant to where we sit in the world.

Dr Tom Heenan lectures in sports studies at National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University.

This article has appeared in The Conversation.

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Clarification of religion in schools signifies greater societal shift

by Gary Bouma

Once again, some religious groups are crying foul and accusing the government of violating their freedom of religion. Victoria’s Education Minister hasclarified the policy on Special Religious Instruction for the state’s schools and all hell has broken forth.

What was clarified?

As is often the case, reactions to policy reflect fears rather than facts. The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s recently published policy defines Special Religious Instruction as:

instruction provided by churches and other religious groups and based on distinctive religious tenets and beliefs.

It does not refer to teaching about religions in the school curriculum – where trained teachers may, and are increasingly encouraged to, include information about world religions in what they teach.

The policy carefully regulates who may offer Special Religious Instruction, under what conditions, using what materials accredited by which organisations. This policy clarification addresses many of the issues that have been recently raised about Special Religious Instruction.

It ensures that Special Religious Instruction is an “opt-in” offering. It makes it clear that the school does not certify or warrant what is taught. It ensures that those not opting in have a suitable alternative.

The policy ends with three paragraphs regulating “Religious activities outside Special Religious Instruction”. This appears to be the source of the objections. What is proscribed are religious activities in the school that are “led, conducted by or at the instruction of staff or parents/visitors/volunteers”.

The policy does not proscribe religious activities initiated by students, religious acts conducted by students that are part of their faith requirements, nor does it proscribe religious symbols or dress. The students’ freedom of religion is intact.

Teachers do not have the freedom to use their authority as teachers to promote their religion, or irreligion. That would be an abuse of position.

The policy does not ban student prayer, Bible reading, Koran recitation, or Buddhist meditation, or Sikhs from dressing according to the requirements of their beliefs.

The provisions proscribe outside organisations coming onto campus to recruit, promote, proselytise or conduct religious activities. Presumably the same would apply to political or other groups. Schools are very careful about who is allowed into the school at any time. In that sense this provision is not anti-religious any more than preventing a political party from recruiting.

Why did the policy need clarifying?

Victorian state schools should be “secular” and Victoria interprets secular to be religiously neutral, not anti-religious. If teaching about religions in the curriculum were to be demonstrated to be unbalanced and negative, religious groups might have a basis for complaint.

Until recently the provision of Special Religious Instruction in schools was not carefully managed and the occurrence of excesses has prompted this policy clarification. Excesses included students who were not Christian being forced to take Christian Special Religious Instruction as no alternative was offered for those opting out; the distribution of material that was in conflict with school inclusion policy; and instances of proselytisation.

Religious diversity increasing

The clarified policy is responding not only to the heartfelt protests of some parents who did not want their children exposed to Special Religious Instruction as currently conducted, but also to Victoria’s changing religious demography.

Both nationally and locally, Australia became both more and less religious in the last census. The numbers and percentage saying that they had “no religion” increased (to 22.3 per cent). There was also a 17.3% decrease in the percentage not responding to the “religion” question, meaning that more people either identified with a religion or stated “no religion”.

This religious/not religious divide is sharper at the school age and among young parents. Some are very keen about their religion and others are quite firm in their non-religion. In the 5-24 age group, 26.8 per cent are Catholic, 26.2 per cent have no religion, 1.2 per cent are Hindu, 3.0 per cent Muslim, 2.4 per cent Buddhist, 3.8 per cent Uniting and 13.3 per cent Anglican. Religious diversity is the wave of the future.

The old days when most Australians were British Protestants (63 per cent in 1947) have passed. Catholics are now the largest religious group, but they are likely to be outnumbered by the non-religious in the next census. The presupposition that the classroom is nominally Christian no longer holds, nor does the assumption that religion is unimportant to students.

While it will be difficult for some religious groups to realise that they are now minority groups, it would be very un-Australian for the newly dominant group to deny rights to them. I would remind religious groups in Victoria that they lobbied to prevent the introduction of a secular human ethics course as a Special Religious Instruction option. Such a course was introduced in New South Wales.

In this context clarifying the Special Religious Instruction policy is just as important as introducing teaching about religions by qualified teachers into the curriculum. The Department of Education has shown great care, the ability to listen to a wide range of concerns and to respect the intent of the legal provision of the opportunity for Special Religious Instruction while ensuring that it is not used to bring other programs into the schoolyard.

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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Predestination: time is of the essence at MIFF 2014

by Andréa Jean Baker

And so, the 63rd Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) is here. The opening gala featured the Australian premiere of Predestination, a thriller from Australian filmmaker twinsMichael and Peter Spierig.

The brothers are known for the horror and science-fiction film debut Undead in 2003; they rose to fame with their second filmDaybreakers (2010), which starred Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe, and won Australian Film Institute Award for Best Visual Effects.

Predestination is based on the science-fiction short story All You Zombies by Robert A. Heinlein – it’s not about zombies, but rather the life of a nameless time-travelling US government Temporal Agent played by Ethan Hawke.

On his final assignment he must pursue a criminal, the Fizzle bomber, a terrorist from 1970s New York who has eluded him over time, despite the agent’s ability to jump backwards and forwards across the years.

We first meet Hawke, hidden beneath a trenchcoat and fedora, trying to disarm an explosive by the bomber. The device explodes in Hawke’s face – which necessitates intense reconstruction surgery. It is the first of many transformations.

Shot in the Docklands Studios in Melbourne and on location throughout the city, the film co-stars Adelaide actor Sarah Snook, who gives a standout performance as a cynical and tough-talking character – both male and female at different junctures.

Thematically, the film is about self-identity, humanity, emotional power and blurring lines between past, present and future.

Snook and Taylor attended the MIFF screening last night. Hawke sent an email – read aloud from the gala stage – praising the directors, in which he wrote: “Maybe in the future when time travel is real, I can sneak out of New York City and be with you here tonight”.

Predestination premiered in March at the South by South festival in Texas and is one of three crime-thriller Australian films to premiere at MIFF this year.

The others are Felony, directed by Melbourne filmmaker Matthew Saville, written by and starringJoel Edgerton, and Cut Snake, directed by Tony Ayres, who won acclaim for his work directing the TV adaptation of The Slap.

More that 341 films will screen at MIFF, including 168 Australian premieres and 28 world premieres.

Dr Andréa Jean Baker is a music historian and journalism academic from the School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University.

This article has appeared on The Conversation.

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Ten things you should know about Indonesia’s new president

by Greg Barton

1. Joko Widodo, or ‘Jokowi’ as he is popularly known, has been elected in one of the most remarkable exercises in democracy in modern times. In the world’s largest archipelagic nation more voters cast their vote on a single day than any other nation at any time in history. India, the world’s largest democracy, took five weeks to elect a parliament. The USA, has more eligible voters but only around 57 per cent turned out to vote at the last election.  In Indonesia, on July 9, more than 70 per cent of the nations 194 million eligible voters (from a total population of 255 million) visited one of Indonesia’s nearly half a million polling stations and exercised their right to directly elect a new president.  In April even more turned out to elect members of the national legislature and two other tiers of lawmakers. Whilst Joko Widodo’s opponent Prabowo Subianto, shattered by his defeat and refusing to accept the result, alleged massive fraud, all the evidence suggests that this month’s elections were remarkably clean and fair.

2. When Jokowi is officially sworn in on October 20 he will take the helm of what the World Bank recently announced was the world’s 10th largest economy (in purchasing power parity terms), just behind the UK and France but ahead of Italy, Spain, Canada and South Korea. The Australian economy, in comparison, the 19th largest on this list, is less than half the size of Indonesia’s economy.

3. As the global economy faces strong headwinds Indonesia’s new president will face enormous challenges. For all its strength, the Indonesian economy lacks small and medium-sized enterprises. 97 per cent of all people employed work in the micro-enterprise sector. Nevertheless, as a successful furniture manufacturer Jokowi knows a thing or two about SMEs and is already saying many of the right things about economic reform, including removing the bureaucratic obstacles to foreign and local investment.

4. At 53 years of age Jokowi is a relatively young man with no connections with the Jakarta-based elite that has ruled Indonesia for almost 70 years. Coming from the small Central Java city of Solo, where he was twice elected mayor on the basis of his ambitious reform programs, before overcoming great odds to become governor of Jakarta in 2012, Jokowi is a complete outsider.  In stark contrast to Prabowo, former son-in-law of Suharto, he has no big-money connections, links to aristocracy or personal wealth. The man who grew up in a flimsy rented hut on the banks of a river in Solo, where he helped collect scrap wood for his timber-merchant father after school, is criticized for being too skinny, looking too ordinary and wearing cheap shoes.

5. Despite his unremarkable appearance and modest provincial style Jokowi is actually very comfortable speaking English and working internationally, having done both during his career as a small businessman and then mayor. His accent may be distinctly Javanese but his outlook is global.

6.  He owes the party that nominated him, Megawati’s PDI-P, nothing. She and her ambitious daughter Puan, along with the party leadership, served him badly in the campaign and his victory on the back of an unlikely, grass-roots powered, one-man campaign, gives him a strong personal mandate. He will of course put together a cabinet in a coalition built around PDIP but it is likely to also include figures drawn from former president Suharto’s Golkar and president Yudhoyono’s Democrat Party, despite neither party supporting his electoral campaign.

7. He is clearly intent on putting together the best cabinet Indonesia has ever seen, based on merit and technocratic prowess rather than political backing. Jokowi has gone as far as putting the names of prospective ministers up for online feedback asking the Indonesian public to guide his decision-making in an e-poll.

8. Recognising the scale of the challenges facing Indonesia he has declared that his administration will focus not just on cutting red-tape and overcoming bureaucratic inertia but also on developing the neglected eastern provinces, building up Indonesia’s fisheries and maritime resources and investing in much-needed large-scale infrastructure, including ports and roads.

9. He is backing up his campaign slogan of a ‘mental revolution’ by setting out the details of his plans to overhaul Indonesian education and training sectors in order to bring about a step transformation in the way Indonesians think and work.

10. He is a metal head. Jokowi is a fan of thrash metal groups such as Lamb of God, Megadeth and Metallica. For many this might not seem very significant but it tells us one very important thing: as is the case with the nation that he will shortly lead there is much more to Jokowi than meets the eye. His surprising taste in music is not for everyone but it reveals that he is a remarkably deep and complex figure, very Indonesian but also very much a part of the modern, globalized world – a young leader for a youthful nation. Jokowi is a progressive thinker and a bold leader with a strong sense of integrity and the courage of his convictions. This is good for Indonesia, and by extension it is most certainly good for Australia.

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

This version of this article has appeared in the Herald Sun.

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Moving for work: not the panacea the government seeks

by Sally Weller

As a policy response to unemployment and structural change, incentives for workers to relocate in search of work have been pushing higher up the policyagenda.

This has been the trend since the World Bank’s 2009 World Development Report, “Reshaping Economic Geography”, which abandoned the longstanding idea that governments should attract firms to sites where labour is abundant, and instead proposed that workers move to sites of job creation.

Worker mobility, spurred by the market forces of labour supply and labour demand, was celebrated as a means to unleash growth by enabling specialisation to flourish.

It follows that when job seekers find themselves living in areas with high unemployment, they are increasingly encouraged to move to places with more job opportunities. Labour mobility reduces labour market frictions and increases the quality of job matches. It also gives workers a wider pool of possible employment options.

The government’s Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job program, announced earlier this month, embodies this logic. It offers assistance of A$6000 to eligible jobseekers who move to a regional area to take up a job and A$3000 for those moving to a metropolitan area. An additional $3000 is available to support the relocation of families.

To qualify, the new position must require more than 90 minutes travel; if the position is in a different capital city the destination city must have a lower unemployment rate. The funds can be used flexibly – for rental bonds, rental payments, removal costs and travel costs – but penalties apply if the job ends prematurely without an accepted explanation. To be eligible, a jobseeker must be registered with a Job Services Australia provider, have been in receipt of income support for at least 12 months, and be subject to activity test requirements. This programme replaces the under-subscribed 2013 Move 2 Work program.

Good in theory…

There are both practical and theoretical reasons to be wary of relocation as labour market strategy. Practically speaking, relocation is not an option for most job seekers.

The most important issue is the interaction of labour markets and housing markets. In places offering a range of skilled jobs, housing prices and rents are higher than they are in places with fewer jobs and less demand for housing. In places that are shedding jobs (Geelong, for example), house prices will be falling, so job-losers who sell to relocate are likely to absorb capital losses. Renters will face higher rents and difficulty finding suitable accommodation.

Consequently, jobseekers facing a move to a place with higher housing costs often discover they are better off – both financially and socially – by staying put and working in a less skilled and less well-paid job. This was the experience of former textiles workers in Camperdown and Warnambool in the early 1990s, former energy workers in the Latrobe Valley in the 1990s, and former Ansett Airlines workers in Sunbury in 2002.

There are other complications. Job vacancies have different spatial reaches depending on the skill demands – a rocket scientist might operate in a global labour market, a sales manager in a national market, a teacher in an urban market and an office cleaner in a local market. This means, contrary to the new policy, that job opportunities might be plentiful in an occupationally specific labour market, even if that town has a higher overall unemployment rate.

But in less skilled and less well paid occupations employers tend to recruit locally, a practice that makes practical sense. Even for higher skilled jobs, many firms now often recruit for multiple casual and part-time positions, offering reliable full-time work only to the best recruits. It would make no sense to relocate a family for a job that is not guaranteed to last, especially when an unsuccessful match risks draconian penalties.

The social impediments to relocation are no less important: people in relationships may be reluctant to move if the other partner does not wish to leave a career position; those with teenage children are unlikely to wish to be blamed for disrupting their children’s school performance; and those with young children, who rely on others to cope with the everyday emergencies of traffic jams and cancelled trains, are unlikely to risk losing their support networks.

Benefiting the advantaged?

All this means that encouraging relocation is another way of saying that policy will give preference to those who are able to relocate without difficulty – a cohort of younger, skilled and unattached jobseekers; people who are less likely to meet the new program’s eligibility conditions but are more likely to relocate on their own initiative.

The theoretical concerns about relocation policies warrant careful debate. Increasing worker mobility does not increase the total number of jobs in the national economy. What it is likely to do instead is sharpen recruitment, allocating jobs to the most qualified candidates in a larger applicant pool. But this might end up eroding the flexibility of the labour market as employers respond by demanding more exact skill set portfolios.

What relocation-led employment policies do not consider is the long-term implications of encouraging an exodus of skilled workers from lagging regions into already-crowded centres.

Dr Sally Weller is a Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the School of Geography and Environmental Science at Monash University.

This article has appeared on The Conversation.

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Who owns the myths and legends of the Great War centenary?

By Ben Wellings and Shanti Sumartojo

When prime minister Tony Abbottdeclared at Villers-Bretonneux that “no place on earth has been more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than these fields in France”, Australian attention focused again on the battlefields of Europe as a source of national inspiration.

Abbott pledged that Villers-Bretonneux would host an interactive museum, the centrepiece of the Australian Remembrance Trail stretching from Ypres in Belgium to Peronne in France, by 2018 as part of an estimated A$140 million in government funding allocated to the Anzac centenary.

This investment shows the importance the Australian government attaches to making the Great War accessible and comprehensible, linking Australians to people and places on the other side of the world.

So, as we approach the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, who or what is shaping the way we remember it?

The wave of events, reports, films, exhibits, books, television programs, research projects and many other contemporary forms of First World War commemoration is well underway. Significant anniversaries proliferate at this time of year, such as June 28, the date that Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, and August 4, when German troops invaded Belgium, and Britain (and therefore the Empire) declared war.

These dates are not just important for historians. As the surge in commemorative activity shows, the First World War is very much a contemporary phenomenon – one that pulls in dozens of countries.

In a recently released book we co-edited, contributors discussed the politics shaping First World War commemorations in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, France, Germany and Belgium in order to better understand Australia’s commemorations in a comparative framework.

The first point to note is that these commemorations are global in nature. Similar pressures to create new narratives linking globalised states and national citizens generated demands for commemorative activity across the developed world in the past 30 years. Australia is no exception. The Great War commemorations take place at what might be the zenith of the current “memory boom”.

A second finding is that despite common global themes (and maybe because of them), national and local circumstances loom large in the form and content of Great War commemorations.

Such activities are not organised in a political vacuum. They are performed with the crucial support – or at least the inevitable intrusion of – the state. Official organisation of commemorative ceremonies, government funding for memorials and education programs and the language our political leaders use all shape our remembrance of the Great War.

This means that the themes and tones of commemorations must resonate at a personal as well as national level, and be politically useful in order to continue to enjoy official support.

A related point is that the use of “memorial diplomacy” is increasing as part of this trend and as a deliberate activity of government. Abbott’s attendance at D-Day remembrance ceremonies in June, along with leaders from the UK, France, Britain and Germany (among others), is a recent example. Such co-operative, multinational activity affects the tenor of domestic commemoration, but will also be an important stage for bilateral and multilateral relationships up to 2018.

As we know, remembering and forgetting are two sides of the same coin. But something else has become apparent in the run-up to the centenary: it has become extremely difficult – if not impossible – to remember the First World War without remembering the Second World War. This has been particularly the case in Germany but is no less true in Belgium. It is also difficult to imagine the Great War in Ireland, north and south, without memories of “The Troubles” intruding.

This blending of histories has its origins in specific national memories. In Germany, it occurs because the crimes of the Holocaust have permanently coloured German views of the entire 20th century. It exists in Belgium because accusations of Flemish collaboration with the Nazis are used to delegitimise Flemish nationalism. In Northern Ireland, there are direct organisational linksbetween the nationalist and loyalist paramilitaries operative until the peace of 2007 and the civil wars fought in Ireland from 1916.

Finally, despite recent historical research stressing the transnational nature of the First World War, contemporary commemorative politics remain national despite, and also because of, its global scope. This is a very basic point but one that needs stating. The politics of nationalism has a profound impact on the shape of Great War commemoration.

In some places, nationalist politics may prevent a deep connection with state narratives, as happens in Flanders in relation to the rest of Belgium. In other multinational states, such as the United Kingdom, the politics of nationalism and multiculturalism produce state narratives that seek to include an almost impossibly wide national and international group of communities.

In France and Australia, where more unitary national narratives exist, commemoration provides an opportunity for governments to endorse values they hold dear.

Although widely blamed for the outbreak of war and for playing a large part in sustaining the conflict once hostilities began, nationalism still plays an important part in the way that the First World War is remembered today. No matter how great the toll, it is clear that the “nation” was not on the casualty list.

So, who owns the national myth as it relates to the Great War? The answer in Australia and Europe is that there are many players with vested interests – from individuals to organisations to governments. But some are more equal than others in shaping the way we remember the First World War, and even in a global era the self-weakened state still plays a dominant role in how and what we commemorate.

The example of the Australian Remembrance Trail reminds us that even when governments seek to do less and ask citizens to do more “lifting”, a compelling national narrative is not something they can do without.

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

Shanti Sumartojo is a Research Fellow in the School of Architecture and Design at RMIT University.

This Article has appeared in The Conversation.

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Ten job seekers per vacancy: a reality check on welfare overhaul

by Veronica Sheen

It turns out that the policies for under 30s in the federal budget in May were a precursor to a much wider set of changes affecting unemployed people across the board. These are just now coming to light. While people aged 30 and over won’t have to face a potential six-month wait to receive payments, nevertheless the Newstart unemployment payment is to become a much more conditional payment, with a considerably tougher set of eligibility requirements.

As a reminder, the full payment for a single person for Newstart Allowance is $255.25 a week. The rate of payment has been widely criticised as inadequate by many groups including the OECD andthe Business Council of Australia, which makes the point that its low level is actually a barrier to effective job searches and employment.

Nevertheless, the government is proposing to make sure recipients “earn” every cent of this payment through an expanded “work for the dole” program for recipients up to the age of 49. People aged 50-60 will be required to undertake an “approved activity” under “mutual obligation”. Another new obligation is that people receiving Newstart will have to apply for around 10 jobs a week or 40 a month, roughly double the current requirement.

In fairness, the government is also saying that it will improve the employment services system to help people in their work search endeavours. This has been a theme for as long as I can remember in government efforts to increase employment services outcomes since the mid-1980s. But, however “effective and efficient” the service provider can be made, receiving a Newstart Allowance will be a singularly tough gig for anyone unfortunate enough to lose a job, or to be looking for a job after finishing a stint in education and training.

Greater “work for the dole” and work search requirements also have far-reaching implications for employers and organisations who host “work for the dole” programs.

More applications does not make more jobs

The overall unemployment rate is now 6 oer cent, and 13.5 per cent for 15-24 year olds. In May there were 146,000 job vacancies with 720,000 people unemployed. Another 920,000 were underemployed and wanting more hours of work. Underemployment is a very important labour market indicator as, under the terms of internationally agreed labour statistics collection, an individual is counted as employed if working one hour a week for pay or profit.

Altogether, these figures mean 1.64 million people who have no work or not enough work are potentially competing for available job vacancies.

While the labour force underutilisation rate of 13.5 per cent suggests that there are around 10 potential job applicants for each vacancy, we need to consider that some sectors of employment will have very large pools of applicants. This applies especially to those jobs with broader skills requirements.

This is the core reality of the Australian job market. The intensification of job search requirements means people receiving Newstart will be coerced into applying for many jobs that they have verylittle chance of obtaining.

No one suggests that they shouldn’t be doing what they can to find a job, but futile applications for jobs serve no purpose but to tick the boxes to receive a payment. It is an immense strain on the unemployed person – as if being unemployed and living on Newstart isn’t hard enough.

The government might also consider the burden it imposes on employers and employment service providers. Many employers will be inundated with unsuitable applicants. We might speculate that they will be less inclined to advertise positions attracting hundreds of applicants, perhaps opting for more informal means of recruitment.

At the same time, employment service providers will be tasked with pushing unemployed people into inappropriate job search efforts.

A further consideration is how “work for the dole” is to be expanded. Having worked in a number of NGOs, I am well aware that it is no simple task to take on a “volunteer” in terms of supervision and support; even more so someone who is mandated to do unpaid work so that they have some income to live on. It is an invidious and very unpleasant scenario for the type of organisations that the government wishes to impose on for “work for the dole” places.

And as economist Jeff Borland has pointed out in The Conversation, the outcomes of “work for the dole” program are very weak and largely a waste of time.

The question then must be asked: what is the government trying to achieve? Certainly, the outcome of its new policies for under 30s and the imminent policies for anyone on Newstart will be more stigmatisation for being unemployed, and more deterrence to making claims for payments.

Perhaps, there are some other motives related to long-term reduction in minimum wages, with more people prepared to work under the counter just to survive, as suggested in a thoughtful article by Fiona Scott-Norman in The Big Issue (July 4-17).

The final word on being unemployed

It’s worth recalling that it is very hard now being unemployed and in receipt of Newstart. I will let a woman in her early 50s who I interviewed for my doctoral research have the final word:

On Newstart there is constant pressure. Most of my time [is] taken up with job searching. In this time (three years) I have applied for over 600 jobs with a rate of one interview for every ten jobs I applied for. And out of these, resulted in two jobs … but only lasted the extent of probation. I found myself underperforming due to depression and lack of confidence.

By the way, she had a university degree and had worked many years in the public sector.

Dr Veronica Sheen is a Research Associate in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University.

This article has appeared on The Conversation.

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Monash Staff Media Commentary roundup: MH17 and the War in Eastern Ukraine

Melbourne's Ukrainian community mourns the victims of the MH17 disaster
Melbourne’s Ukrainian community mourns the victims of the MH17 disaster

Since early 2014, several events at Monash University and at other universities with the involvement of Monash staff and visitors to Monash have sought to clarify the situation in Ukraine on the eve of, and after, the fall of the Yanukovych regime.

The downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on 18 July focussed unprecedented international attention on Ukraine. Professor Marko Pavlyshyn, director of the Mykola Zerov Centre for Ukrainian Studies, and other Monash academics have responded to multiple media inquiries about the contexts of this disaster.

The links below bring together some of this material.

19 February 2014: Monash European and EU Centre, Mykola Zerov Centre for Ukrainian Studies, Round Table, “What Future for Ukraine?” The roundtable was broadcast on ABC Radio National’s “Big Ideas” program

3 March 2014: ABC Radio National, Late Night Live, “Is Ukraine on the Brink of Disaster?” interview with Anne Applebaum, columnist with the Washington Post, and Marko Pavlyshyn

5 March 2014: Bloomberg TV, Professor Marko Pavlyshyn, interview.

13 March 2014: Australian Institute of International Affairs, Victorian Branch, Seminar by Marko Pavlyshyn and Walter Zaryckyj, Executive Director, Center for US-Ukrainian Relations, “Whither Ukraine? The Next Bosnia? Russian Puppet? Or will Ukraine Embrace the EU?

14 March 2014: EU Centre at RMIT, Seminar: “Crisis In and About Ukraine,” speaker:  Walter Zaryckyj; respondents: Stefan Auer, Jean Monnet Chair in EU Interdisciplinary Studies at La Trobe University and Associate Professor in European Studies at Hong Kong University;  Robert Horvath, Australian Research Council Future Fellow at La Trobe University

17 March 2014: CNBC, Marko Pavlyshyn, interview.

7 April 2014: Monash European and EU Centre; the Mykola Zerov Centre for Ukrainian Studies, Monash University and the History Program, Arts Faculty, Monash University, Public Lecture: Norman Davies, “Ukraine: Between the EU and Russia.”

29 April 2014: Bloomberg TV, Marko Pavlyshyn, interview.

19 July 2014, Radio 3AW, Melbourne, Marko Pavlyshyn, interview.

20 July 2014: ABC Radio National Sunday Extra, “Will the MH17 disaster be a game changer in the Ukraine crisis?” Leslie Rowe, Australian Ambassador to the Russian Federation 2002-2005, and Marko Pavlyshyn, interviewed by Damien Carrick

Monash scholars print commentary on MH17: Marko Pavlyshyn, Ben Rich, Ben Wellings

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Beating the Poms: Why the Comm Games Matter?

by Tom Heenan

They’re on again. This week the Commonwealth Games begin in Glasgow and many downunder will tune in to what’s seen as one of sports’ big yawns.

They’re the friendly games, but let’s face it Australians have never played sport to make friends. It’s about winning. If you’re a winner – especially in a high profile sport – you’ll get funding and sponsorships.

The Commonwealth Games is a good place to kick off a big buck career. The competition is not that hot and Australia has an outstanding record. Since the games’ inception in 1930 Australia have topped the medal tally on twelve occasions. Since 1990 we’ve not been beaten and if our form holds we’ll do the same in Glasgow.

Of course, we’ve got a vested interested in these games. Many hope Glasgow will reinvigorate the games after the disasters of Delhi. They’re heading to the Gold Coast in 2018, and the last thing Queenslanders need is a sporting mega-event on the slide.

Let’s face it, these grandiose events are on the nose, especially the likes of the Commonwealth Games, which have lost much of their lustre. The Manchester and Delhi games ran way over budget, and Glasgow’s heading the same way. Already the games’ cost is £200 million in excess of its original 2007 estimate.

For just under two weeks Australians will celebrate our sporting excellence against a pretty ordinary bunch. We’ll fudge the figures to substantiate our place as one the globe’s premier sporting nations. We won’t be competing against Britain but the four home countries and an increasingly underfunded Canadian team.

Furthermore, high profilers like Jamaican sprinter, Yohan Blake, have decided to pass, though he will run in the Diamond League meet at Glasgow’s Hampden Park just prior to the games. Despite lobbying from organisers Blake’s countryman, Usain Bolt, will by-pass the blue-ribbon sprints for the relay. Bolt’s never competed at the games. There’s more chance of him playing 20/20 in Australia next summer than lining up in the hundred.

These games are losing relevance quickly. In those sports which are awash with money, high profile performers will increasingly give preference to their bank balances over a gold medal. As Australian Commonwealth Games Association CEO Perry Crosswhite explained, organisers are not in a position to commence paying athletes.

We’ll still do well. Our swimmers will triumph, while our netballers and hockey players will steal the show. Other than Sally Pearson we’ll go missing on the track again if the events of last week are any indication.

The little known middle distance runner Alex Rowe equalled Ralph Doubell’s 800 metres record. It’s stood since 1968. If there’s a ‘stat’ which suggests a history of chronic under-achievement on the track it’s this one. Rowe’s feat must be acknowledged, but it raises the question of what value do we get for taxpayer money from elite sporting institutes.

There may be calls from Australian sports heavyweights to consider jettisoning the Commonwealth after 2018 for the Asian Games. We’d compete against sports new global superpower, China, and the ever-competitive Japanese and South Koreans. At the London Olympics China finished second behind the US in the medal tally, while the South Koreans came in fifth. The Japanese were just pipped for a place in the top ten by us.

The Asian Games would be a greater test of Australia’s sporting prowess and more in line with our strategic and economic interests. Our politicians and business leaders have touted frequently about our place in the Asian century. They’ve constantly reminded us that the Chinese market kept us afloat during the global financial crisis. It won’t be long before we hitch more of our sporting wagon to the region.

Australia has already attempted to gain access to the Asian Games. With over 10,000 competitors in 39 sports, they’re almost double the size of the Commonwealth Games. In 2010 China’s chef de mission at the Asian Games welcomed Australia’s inclusion, suggesting it would raise the region’s sporting standards. However, the president of the Asian Olympic Council, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah said the move would gut the Oceania Olympic Committee of which Australia is the major player.

There is a precedent, however. Australia left Oceania in 2006 and joined the Asian Football Confederation. For those who framed the new era of Australian football, such as Frank Lowy and David Crawford, the move was about market access not traditional loyalties. The same considerations will eventually sway the Asian Olympic Council.

Australia’s inclusion in the Asian Games would boost opportunities for increased sponsorship and broadcasting rights at a time when questions are being raised about the viability of sports mega-events.

This will not mean the end of the Commonwealth Games. Australians are economic opportunists when it comes to Asia. They are traditionalists where the Commonwealth and ‘mother country’ are concerned

With Kate, William and Harry we’ve rediscovered the royals. There’s almost a begrudging acceptance of Charles and Camilla and the Queen is still our head of state. We cling to old conservative myths like Gallipoli, though we have nationalised it. Hopefully the centenary of the Great War will bring back the word ‘imperial’ and we can view the conflict for what it was – a war in defence of Empire – not for what we want it to be – national self-aggrandisement.

Despite boasts of multiculturalism, we are more British than we like to think. Unlike India and South Africa we are not a republic and if the recent poll is any indication we never will be one.

This reflected in our sporting culture. The southern states may have an indigenous football code, but it has been propagated partly through a public school system that cherished the British Empire, muscular Christianity and the games tradition. Melburnians may call AFL a religion and the MCG a sacred site, but our sportsmen and women cherish Lords, Twickenham and Wimbledon. One of the defining moments in recent Australian sport was when the Queen met Black Caviar at Royal Ascot. It defined where our sporting loyalties lay.

So too do the Commonwealth Games. We’ll head to Asia because the money’s good, but we’ll stay in Commonwealth because it’s our home and we are a conservative nation. And we’ll continue to define our sporting greatness against the Poms.


Because our nationalism is defined by who we’re not, rather than by who we are.

Dr Tom Heenan lectures in sports studies at National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University.

This article has appeared in The New Daily.

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