Assoc Prof Belinda Smaill launches her book Regarding Life


Dr Kirsten Stevens to launch Australian Film Festivals book


Margaret Simons joins Monash journalism


Catalyst funding for Book of Revelations’: performance research project responds to living with dementia

The Book of Revelations’ a research performance project by Dr Alison Richards, Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Theatre and Performance, has been awarded $20,500 from the Commonwealth Ministry for the Arts’ Catalyst Fund.

The project uses contemporary performance techniques, with an emphasis on visual, object and sound design, to mount a creative response to current research into the experiences of people living with dementia.

Written and performed by Alison Richards, directed by Nancy Black, with design by Paul Newcombe, composition/sound design by David Franzke, Christine McCombe and Faye Bendrups and presented by Black Hole Theatre with support from project partners Alzheimer’s Australia and Cultural Infusion Inc., ‘The Book of Revelations’ will have its premiere performance season at forty five downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane Melbourne, from July 17-30 2017.

For further information contact

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PewDiePie, new media stars and the court of public opinion

Steven Roberts, Monash University and Marcus Maloney, Monash University

PewDiePie is the username of the world’s most famous YouTube video blogger, 27-year-old Swede, Felix Kjellberg. PewDiePie’s vlogs, centred on his comedic video game commentaries, attract more than 53 million (mostly young) subscribers – more than any other YouTube channel. He was ranked by Forbes in December as the world’s highest paid YouTuber, with an income of US$15m in 2016.

But on January 11, a PewDiePie vlog showed two South Asian men holding up a placard proclaiming, “DEATH TO ALL JEWS”. The pair danced and laughed while on a separate screen, Kjellberg, who had reportedly paid the men to hold up the sign via the freelance employment site Fiverr, feigned disbelief. “I’m not anti-Semitic or whatever it’s called,” he said as he watched. “It was a funny meme, and I didn’t think it would work.”

After the Wall Street Journal reported on the video – a month later – there was an outcry on social media. Soon after, Disney and YouTube severed their business ties with PewDiePie. In a mea culpa last week, he suggested it had been a piece of ironic performance art aimed at demonstrating the kinds of absurd things you could pay people to do online. “I know I offended people and I admit that the joke went too far,” he said. He also distanced himself from hate speech and acknowledged that he was a rookie comedian.

Not intending to offend does not mean “jokes” are without consequences, but it’s important to draw this distinction: PewDiePie’s stunt was clearly a dubious attempt at provocative humour rather than a call to violence against a historically-persecuted cultural group.

Still, amid mounting criticism of PewDiePie, the “alt right” has now heralded him a martyr to free speech and praised him for covertly pushing “Hitlerist magic”. The Wall Street Journal also identified eight other videos claiming to contain “wacky” anti-Semitic rhetoric across PewDiePie’s enormous body of work. These examples, however, are far from cut and dry – one is merely his describing oppressive YouTube policies as being Nazi-like.

Then in Wired last week, Emma Grey Ellis expanded the indictment by citing instances of PewDiePie’s “playful” sexist and homophobic insults. Ellis argues that PewDiePie has “mastered” the art of concealing his bigotry behind the hazy distinctions in online discourse between sincerity and ironic humour. “He uses ‘gay’, ‘retard,’ and ‘autistic’ as playful insults,” she wrote. “He makes plenty of rape jokes. And he spews out all kinds of racist stuff, too.” But some nuance is needed amid this demonisation in the court of public opinion.

We have recently completed a study of YouTube gaming vloggers and their attitudes towards gender/sexuality. PewDiePie featured as one of three case studies. We selected the ten most popular videos from each vlogger in 2015-2016 and counted and analysed each instance of discussion about gender and sexuality. We chose the top ten videos for that year (out of a total of around 3,000 over PewDiePie’s career) as the most influential ones.

On questions of gender and sexuality, PewDiePie was the most inclusive. (The other two, VanossGaming and Sky Does Minecraft, were in no way particularly marginalising figures.) None expressed anything resembling racist views across the 30 videos studied. In terms of gender and sexuality, the overall picture was more complex, but not in PewDiePie’s case.

PewDiePie at the Inaugural Social Star Awards in Singapore, 2013. Stephen Morrison/EPA

Sexuality was certainly a focus of his humour – homosexuality, specifically – but the attitudes he expressed were of solidarity. To give an example, in one video he sampled a text-based “indie” game that simulates online chat between the user and an offensive 12-year-old boy. The game represented a wry interactive commentary on misogyny and homophobia online. PewDiePie used his typed retorts to highlight the anxieties that can often underpin homophobic statements.

In PewDiePie’s most popular videos we found no instances of sexism, nor of the feminising discourse men have traditionally used to dominate other men. The only gendered figure of fun in the videos of all three vloggers was the archetype of hypermasculinity exemplified by contact sporting heroes and action film stars. These vloggers seemed mainly interested in lampooning the tired expectations of their own heteromasculinity.

How do we square our picture with the media’s more recent take on PewDiePie? The answer is we probably can’t. The difficult truth here is that masculinities are in a state of transition, a phenomenon that is being increasingly identified in a range of contexts – such as in schools, sporting clubs and online.

This transition involves the emergence of distinctly inclusive attitudes in larger numbers of hetero boys and young men, along with freer modes of homosocial affection, and easy friendships between gay and straight males. However, these exist alongside traditional and marginalising forms of masculinity.

Of course online behaviour may elicit heightened forms of expression that one might later come to regret – especially for young people, who are often experimenting with identity at least into their late 20s.

And growing up online is a particular kind of context – the process is often recorded, and then judged by peers and older “moral superiors”. PewDiePie might be a privileged celebrity, but he’s also one of a crop of young “new amateurs” experiencing a form of fame as unprecedented as rock stardom was to Elvis or The Beatles.

We don’t want to diminish the impact of PewDiePie’s actions, and we absolutely don’t want to play apologists. And it is possible to be progressive in relation to gender or sexuality but still be racist or anti-Semitic. However, in the interests of social change, it’s better that we try to understand and educate, rather than simply and quickly demonise.The Conversation

Steven Roberts, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Monash University and Marcus Maloney, Teaching Associate in Sociology, Monash University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Literary Habitats congratulates “My Place, My Story” winning entries

Literary Habitats is a Monash/Warwick Alliance funded project led by Monash University Prof Sue Kossew and Dr Mridula Chakraborty that, on the Monash side of the project, aimed to explore the ways in which literary activities, broadly defined, circulate in the city of Melbourne, a UNESCO-designated City of Literature.

Melbourne is the only such City of Literature in Australia. As part of this project, we held a workshop for external stakeholders in December 2015 to explore the crossovers between local, national, international and digital literary spaces; and to demarcate networks and links between sectors and locales. Participants at this workshop included local council and State librarians, directors of community arts centres, director of the Melbourne City of Literature Office and directors of writers’ festivals. Two colleagues from Warwick University also participated. Part of the project’s aim was to include at least one community outreach activity, and the collaboration with Monash Council Libraries emerged from this stakeholders’ workshop.

As the Clayton area that includes both Monash Council Libraries (including Clayton Library) and Monash University is officially the most ethnically diverse suburb in Australia, the theme of belonging and story-telling as place-making naturally emerged, relevant as it is, too, to the notion of literary habitats. So the topic, “My Place, My Story”, became the theme for adult and youth (10-17 years) entries in our discussions of the competition with Monash Council Library staff, Pamela McGowan and Janet Salvatore.

A story-writing workshop, facilitated by a Monash academic, Dr Gabriel Garcia Ochoa, was held at Clayton Library in December 2016 and entries for the competition closed on 14th January 2017. There were 53 entries in all (22 in the Adult category and 31 in the aged 10-17 category) and in addition to the winners and runners-up in each category, there were two highly commended entries, one in each category. The judging panel was: Dr John Hawke (Monash), Dr Ali Alizadeh (Monash) and Mr Peter Head (Clayton Library). The judges found the standard high with all of them addressing the issue of place and identity in diverse and interesting ways.

Prof Sue Kossew, Literary Studies and Peter Head, Clayton Library
Prof Sue Kossew, Literary Studies and Peter Head, Clayton Library

Winners were announced and prizes presented by Prof. Sue Kossew and Mr Peter Head at the Clayton Street Festival, an annual community showcase for local arts and cultural groups and events, on Sunday 12th February.

Anisha Gupta, Youth category winner (10-17 years), said of her win that she was “ecstatic and surprised”. She says of her story:

“It was a contemporary and relevant topic in which I expressed my experiences as a migrant child torn between two worlds to carve an identity and a sense of belonging for myself. 

Anisha Gupta, youth winner with Peter Head, Clayton Library
Anisha Gupta, youth winner with Peter Head, Clayton Library

This was a very personal piece for me because it was the first time I had ever written these feelings down but I did it because I wanted all the other young people going through the same thing to know they were not alone. This is written to those who have already found their place in the world and to those who are still searching.”

Jessica McDonald, the winner of the adult category, has said of her story:

“I have 2 children who are ethnically Scottish/Maori/English/Egyptian and one child one who is Congolese. They were each born in a different country: none of them in Australia. And yet all of them are Australian by nationality.  Where they “belong” is not a given that they can accept or reject. It is instead something they must choose and then forge: they have to build their own foundation.

Jessica McDonald, adult winner with Peter Head, Clayton Library
Jessica McDonald, adult winner with Peter Head, Clayton Library

I think often about how they will do this and how much of a challenge this will be. Maybe in the future Australia, being a melange will be an identity in itself. And that means my kids will be the vanguard (the lonely vanguard). Or maybe they won’t even care?

Writing the story was a chance to try to squash at least some of these questions into some kind of structure. Very unexpectedly winning the competition has given rise to quite a different benefit: the realisation that maybe not having an answer to all these questions has value in and of itself.”

Read the My Place, My Story” website for the winning stories and copies of the judges’ comments on each story.



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The rise of storytelling in journalism’s digital age


How far they’ll go: Moana shows the power of Polynesian celestial navigation

Duane W. Hamacher, Monash University and Carla Bento Guedes, UNSW

This article contains minor spoilers.

One of the greatest feats of human migration in history was the colonisation of the vast Pacific Ocean by Polynesian peoples. They achieved it thanks to their sophisticated knowledge of positional astronomy and celestial navigation.

The Disney film Moana has drawn attention to these accomplishments and helped inform a new generation about the complexity of Indigenous astronomy.

Polynesia forms a triangle across the Pacific, with Hawaii to the north, Rapa Nui (Easter Island) to the southeast, and Aotearoa (New Zealand) to the southwest, with Tahiti in the centre. But Polynesian voyaging extends beyond this triangle; there is strong evidence they reached the coast of South America and sub-Antarctic islands.

The Polynesian triangle with the areas of Melanesia and Micronesia. Opinion Global

Moana touches on Polynesian voyaging, showing the eponymous main character using traditional celestial techniques to navigate across the sea.

During production, Disney created the Oceanic Story Trust – a board of experts, including Polynesian locals and elders – to advise on cultural accuracy. The film accomplished this reasonably well, especially in respect to celestial navigation, despite the producers facing criticism for cultural appropriation and commodification.

Navigating by hand

To navigate the wide expanse of the Pacific, voyagers need to map the stars to determine their position from our perspective here on Earth. Navigator and Polynesian Voyaging Society president Nainoa Thompson explains:

If you can identify the stars as they rise and set, and if you have memorised where they rise and set, you can find your direction.

Since 1976, the famous Hokule’a voyages have demonstrated how Polynesians used traditional sea-craft and navigational techniques to cross the expanse of the Pacific, from Japan to Canada.

In 1976, the Hokelea sailed from Hawai’i to Tahiti using traditional navigational methods. Waʻa Kaulua – Our Canoes

So what are some of these navigational techniques?

The Southern Cross is visible throughout the southern hemisphere. Wikimedia, CC BY-SA

To calculate their position on Earth, voyagers memorised star maps and used the angle of stars above the horizon to determine latitude. For example, the top and bottom stars of the Southern Cross are separated by six degrees. When the distance between those stars is equal to the bottom star’s altitude above the horizon, your northerly latitude is 21º: that of Honolulu.

When the bright stars Sirius and Pollux set at exactly the same time, your latitude is 18º South: the latitude of Tahiti.

Voyagers measure the angles between stars and the horizon using their hands. The width of your pinkie finger at arm’s length is roughly one degree, or double the angular diameter of the Sun or Moon.

Hold your hand with the palm facing outward and thumb fully extended, touching the horizon. Each part of your hand is used to measure a particular altitude.

The hand method used by Nainoa Thompson to find the altitude of the Polaris. Journal of the Polynesian Society

In Hawai’i, the “North Star”, Polaris, is Hokupa’a, meaning “fixed star”. It lies close to the north celestial pole. The altitude of Hokupa’a indicates your northerly latitude.

In the film, we see Moana Waialiki using this technique to measure the altitude of a group of stars. Look closely and you can see that she’s measuring the stars in Orion’s Belt. The position of Moana’s hand indicates the star above her index finger has an altitude of 21º. Given that the movie takes place about 2,000 years ago near Samoa, the position of Orion indicates they are travelling exactly due East.

Moana measures altitude of Orion’s belt stars. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Later in the film, we see Moana navigating by following Maui’s fish hook. In the various Polynesian traditions, the hook was used to pull islands from the sea. It is represented by the constellation Scorpius, which rises at dusk in mid-May. This indicates southeasterly travel.

Looking at Scorpius – Maui’s Hook – in the same orientation as shown in the film. Stellarium

However, the positions of the stars are not fixed in time. Over the 3,500 years that Polynesians have been exploring the Pacific, the stars have gradually shifted due to precession of the equinoxes.

From the latitude of Samoa, the Southern Cross has lowered from 60º altitude in 1500 BCE to 41º today. Those navigating by the stars must gradually adjust their measurements as the positions of stars slowly shift over time.

In his book Hawaiki Rising, Sam Low tells how navigators would develop new techniques.

Aboriginal knowledge

In Australia, colonists knew little about Aboriginal celestial navigation, with some researchers claiming Aboriginal people did not use it at all. However, collaborations with elders shows that Aboriginal people use celestial navigation and developed star maps to link the sky with the land.

Euahlayi Aboriginal star map route from northern New South Wales to the Bunya Mountains in Queensland. Starry Night Education

Celestial navigation is an important component of Indigenous astronomy around the world. Try going out tonight and measuring the positions of the stars with your own hands. It’s actually quite fun!

The Conversation

Duane W. Hamacher, Senior ARC Discovery Early Career Research Fellow, Monash University and Carla Bento Guedes, Cultural Astronomy & Cultural Competence Researcher, UNSW

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Study at Monash Arts


Let’s talk about sex: inclusion in the classroom and beyond with Dr Kirsten McLean

Dr Kirsten McLean, photo by Kara Rasmanis
Dr Kirsten McLean, photo by Kara Rasmanis

Dr Kirsten McLean received a Vice Chancellor’s Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning in 2016 – one of the top awards from Monash University for teaching – for creating an inclusive environment for teaching Sexuality and Society.

Kirsten is also deputy chair of the Diverse Sexualities and Genders Advisory Group at Monash University who are working to provide a diversity-conscious curriculum and developed the recently published Inclusive Education Guidelines.

We caught up with Kirsten about her teaching, and about some of the concrete steps made towards greater social justice and inclusion for the wider community at Monash University.

Congratulations on receiving the Vice-Chancellor’s Award! Can you tell us a bit about your approach to teaching and how you create an inclusive environment for teaching sexuality?

I have this approach to teaching where I believe that you need to take people on a journey rather than tell people what they need to know.

I’m as passionate as anyone about human rights, and same sex couple rights, and marriage rights – I still remember when the Marriage Act was changed in 2004 and being devastated. But if I walked into a classroom and said: ‘this is what you have to believe, dear students” it wouldn’t work!

You need to take students on a journey where they can arrive at things at their own pace but also where, if they don’t believe in the same things as you, they don’t feel left out. That’s really important to me. Some students have never seen a woman in front of a classroom talk about sex  – I talk about sexuality and sex as part of the unit – and I don’t want them to be so horrified that they feel excluded.

You need to do things in a really safe way, and a really fun way. I have this thing that I do: there’s a great study on 20 thousand Australians, it’s a representative sample, about people’s lifestyle, sexuality and relationships. So I’ve used those statistic, and in the very first week I create a little quiz that I know students will probably get all wrong, because some of them have preconceived ideas and also because they’re not going to know the specific statistics. But I do it as a fun quiz because no one is getting marked: they get to write it down on a piece of paper or keep it in their head and they don’t have to reveal their answers to anybody else.

One of the questions I ask is, “what percentage of men have watched pornography in any format” and someone always yells out “100%!” It’s so classic because every year for the past five years someone has said that, and the class erupts in laughter. Then I put up the real stat, it’s something like 60% and they go, “NOOOO!”

And then we talk about why it might be that they think it’s 100% even though it’s actually 60. It brings in ideas that we have these assumptions about sexuality that are actually quite incorrect. The point is, if they didn’t get the answers wrong, that whole experiment would fail because there would be no fun, no laughter, and no relaxing into talking about sex and sexuality. It’s a way for students to understand from the very first week that it’s ok to make assumptions, that you can be wrong, and that you’re not a bad person if you make assumptions. We all make assumptions, and I also talk about my own assumptions about things, so it’s really about making it safe, making it positive and fun.

A few years ago we got in a guest speaker who was transgender who used the pronouns  ‘they’, ‘them’ and ‘theirs’ in relation to themselves. At that time, what was happening around pronouns was very new and I’d decided to get a guest speaker in because I was feeling uncomfortable about what I didn’t know, and I felt that it might be better if somebody who was living that life came to talk to us.

The speaker asked us to mark out what we thought we looked like on a gender continuum: both our own self-identity and what we think others believe we are. This person took us through what it’s like to feel like you don’t fit the pronouns, and really explained the difficulty for them and why they would like others to use ‘they’, ‘them’ and ‘theirs’, even though it’s generally seen to be grammatically incorrect.

We had questions afterwards and everyone was incredibly respectful. We debriefed the following week and I shared my own graph just to say that this had blown me away, and that before this speaker came in I hadn’t thought about it properly myself. It was really quite powerful, I had students coming to see me in the following weeks saying that it was amazing.

We also have a lot of students who reveal stuff in the classroom, so we have a very strong policy of ‘what goes on in the classroom stays in the classroom’. So we make sure that we explain that this is a really safe and closed environment, so if visitors come students need to get permission from me. It means that we can respect the space as something where people can be themselves. Students have come out, they’ve talked about their relationships, some have even spoken quite openly about working in the sex industry. And it’s worked really well because they know I’ve made a policy that it is a safe and closed environment.

It’s also respecting that people may want to talk, but also that some people may not want to talk. I have another principle that I never, ever, call on students to talk. Ever. It just goes completely against everything I believe in teaching. Mainly because I was a very shy student when I was an undergraduate (hard to believe?) and I hated it when teachers went, “Kirsten?”, because I would think, “argh now I’m on the spot, I can’t stand it!” So my students can sit in my class and not say a word for 12 weeks, if that’s what they want. It doesn’t mean that you have five dominant people because I still manage it so that you don’t have dominant people. I’ll keep an eye open for people if they want to say something. In that space you need to be really, really safe.

One of my favourite international students was a guy from Hong Kong, an exchange student, who told me: ‘This is just fascinating, we never talked about this in Hong Kong, we don’t talk about it in high school or university, and I cannot wait to go home and tell everybody about it!” He’d come to me after every class and ask questions. He wasn’t ready to ask those questions in class but he would stay with me for 15 minutes after class, every class, to ask questions and learn more. So students find their own ways to learn more.

You obviously love teaching. What are some of your top reasons why?

I love those interactions with students where you can see a development. I get students sometimes that I see in first year and then I might teach them a couple of times in undergrad. And you can see their development not only in terms of their thinking about social justice issues but just as human beings. I’ve seen some students go on and do some really amazing things. But also just the ones who’ll come and see you and say, urgh I need a bit of help with this essay, and they’ll tell you a bit of what’s going on in their life – I love those interactions.

And in terms of teaching sexuality what is so rewarding for me is watching the development of their passion for social justice and human rights. Someone will stand up in class and say, “This is so unfair!”, or “I don’t understand why we vilify women who work in the sex industry and the men get off scot free”, or “why is it that women can’t be openly sexual but men can?”. They get really agitated about the injustices, and watching that is quite incredible. And it doesn’t matter whether they’re standing up in class and saying it, or sitting down and talking to their peers, you can see the passion. Even the quiet students when you get them to do a bit of paired work or group work, they’re getting quite worked up and you think: you’re going to take that and go places, you’re going to be fiery, and you’re going to contribute to society, and that’s quite wonderful.

Pug in San Diego Pride Parade, 2013
Pug in San Diego Pride Parade, 2013

You’re also contributing to inclusion and human rights for the wider university community and the wider teaching community, can you tell us a bit about that?

I’m really passionate about LGBTI inclusion at university. It’s one of the things that’s really important to me. I’m the deputy chair of a group at Monash called the ‘Diverse Sexualities and Genders Advisory Group’ which was formed in 2015 as an offshoot of the Monash Ally Network. The advisory group is made up of academic staff, professional staff, postgraduate representatives and undergraduate students. It is the most marvellous committee to work on because the students are involved.

One of things we’re about to do is to have some of the bathrooms in the university converted so they are gender neutral. Another of our big achievements is the ‘Inclusive Teaching Guidelines’. The working group that developed these came out of a discussion about the fact that the students were quite passionate about this – students were saying it was great that Monash had an advisory group, but one of the biggest spaces that they were experiencing things in was in the classroom. So we developed these guidelines for the classroom that include things like: what do you do about gendered pronouns? It’s about a five or six page document, including things like if you’re going to put slides up, don’t always show heterosexual couples.

Most of us in the working group were in the social sciences so we were also trying to think, what would you do in other fields? In accounting maybe if you had an exam questions that said, “Mary and Steve are buying a house”, don’t always include Mary and Steve, maybe just slip in there a couple of men and couple of women. Many students won’t notice, but the ones who will notice will feel really included. So it was about incidental inclusive teaching as well as about being more upfront.

I’m really interested in social inclusion and how you make someone feel less alone in a university. If I have time this year, I hope to do some research asking students what they would like to see in terms of inclusivity. There are several universities interested in this so I think it’s something that we can take a bit wider, talk to staff from different faculties and find out what the challenges are, because for some this may mean reworking all of their slides, which is a lot of work. And the whole idea of those teaching guidelines was to make it easier for people, so they had something that they could work off, but I think it needs to be expanded into a set of resources or discipline-specific ideas. The whole idea of this new project is to get perspectives outside of the social sciences. It builds on what I’ve been working on for quite a few years but puts it in a more formal space.

For example, what does it mean in a Science classroom? For me, sexuality, culture, disability is relevant in everything I teach, but if you’re a physicist, how does LGBTI stuff work in that space? How can a teacher in Science make their classroom feel more inclusive? So we can add to the guidelines by writing a resource kit for them. We can write research from it, but we can also say, this is what young people would like. Because I was talking to someone from Science, and she was saying that if there was a sign in the lab that said, ‘don’t assume everyone is heterosexual’, or ‘don’t assume everyone’s a he or a she’, that it would be just enough to create some awareness that would make life safer for her in the lab.

It does actually make a huge difference to people. And that’s what it’s about. […] We want people to feel like they’re being supported so they can actually achieve, they can succeed and not be burdened

Love each other, San Diego Pride Parade, 2013
Love each other, San Diego Pride Parade, 2013

It does actually make a huge difference to people, and that’s what it’s about. We want the student experience to be really welcoming, and they want to feel part of a community. The Monash community is brilliant, it’s a brilliant space where people are actually really kind to each other and look after each other, especially when they really need it. They support people, and we want people to feel like they’re being supported so they can actually achieve, so they can succeed and not be burdened by managing stresses about their gender, or sexuality or disability on top of everything else they’ve got to do.



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WA state election: Liberals’ deal with One Nation may come back to bite them

Narelle Miragliotta, Monash University

Elections are colourful affairs, and the March 11 state election in Western Australia is no exception. What is bringing particular clamour to this election is the resurgence of One Nation.

Pauline Hanson’s party has certainly made its presence felt. The party is contesting 35 of the state’s 59 Legislative Assembly seats, and fielding 17 candidates across the six upper house regions. According to the polls, it is also the third-largest party in electoral terms. The most recent Newspoll has One Nation’s primary vote at 13%, well ahead of the Nationals (5%) and the Greens (9%).

It is little wonder, then, that the Liberals finally ended speculation by announcing a preference deal with One Nation. The Liberals will direct preferences to One Nation upper house candidates in regional seats. In exchange, One Nation will direct lower house preferences to Liberal candidates ahead of Labor candidates.

While the Liberals’ preference deal with One Nation is the first of its kind since John Howard took the decision as prime minister to place One Nation last on the Liberal how-to-vote card at the 2001 federal election, it is not likely to be the last. Over the past six months or so, the Liberals’ anti-One Nation resolve has been fraying.

In spite of catastrophising in some quarters, the preference deal is important for the Liberal-led government’s chances of re-election. The party’s first preference vote is at 30% and its two party preferred vote is 46%. ABC election analyst Antony Green estimates that “a swing of between 2.2% and 10% against the Liberals would produce a minority government”. In the face of a resurgent Labor Party, such a swing is possible.

The Liberals’ partners in government, the WA Nationals, are the most grievously affected by this deal. Some commentators estimate it could cost them their five upper house seats.

But the Nationals can hardly be surprised by the Liberals’ decision. Although the relationship between the two parties is often civilised, it also has a long history of strife.

In recent years, tensions between the parties were re-ignited when, prior to the 2008 WA election, the Nationals declared they would not be seeking a coalition but a partnership with the Liberals.

The Nationals leveraged the fact that neither major party had attained a parliamentary majority to negotiate a deal that provided for 25% of all state royalty payments to be set aside for re-investment into a royalties for the regions program. While the Nationals eventually agreed to support the Liberals, there was no doubt that the Nationals were seriously entertaining the prospects of doing a parliamentary deal with Labor.

A more traditional coalition arrangement was resumed following the 2013 state election, but the relationship between the two parties showed signs of strain by August 2016. The return of Brendan Grylls – the architect of the 2008 parliamentary agreement – to the Nationals’ leadership, and the unpopularity of the Barnett government, marked the return of a more assertive Nationals party.

Under Grylls’ leadership, the Nationals have been less than willing to commit to a new alliance with the Liberals. Grylls has indicated that support for any minority government would be contingent on the Liberals agreeing to support an increase in the lease rental fee on BHP and Rio Tinto from 25c to $5 a tonne on Pilbara iron ore production. The Liberals oppose this.

Consequences of the deal for the Liberals

The preference agreement carries some risk for the Liberals.

It is not entirely clear whether One Nation preferences will flow in a manner consistent with the party’s how-to-vote card. In part this is a question of whether One Nation has the infrastructure to deliver on the agreement.

A successful how-to-vote card strategy requires a party presence at polling booths on election day. The major parties struggle to cover all of their polling booths, so One Nation is likely to struggle too.

There is also a question mark over whether One Nation supporters will actually follow the party’s how-to-vote card recommendations, even if given one.

If the party’s voter base is anything like some of One Nation’s candidates, there is no reason to think that the preference deal will be widely supported. Already one of the party’s highest-profile candidates, Margaret Dodds, has rejected the deal on the basis of policy differences with the Liberals and concerns about the lack of consultation over the agreement.

Even if a significant proportion of One Nation preferences help to secure the Liberals’ return to government, the deal will cost the Liberals when the incoming upper house members take their seats in May.

While lower house preference deals are difficult for parties to impose on their supporters, there is greater certainty on preference flows for the upper house. Proportional representation, combined with above-the-line voting, makes it highly likely that most of the Liberal surplus preferences will find their way to One Nation’s upper house candidates.

This greatly increases One Nation’s prospects of holding the balance of power in the Legislative Council. Should this happen, the Liberals’ plans to partially privatise the state’s electricity utility in order to pay down soaring debt will not be realised. One Nation is staunchly opposed to the privatisation.

So while the Liberals’ decision is “pragmatic and sensible” in the short term, it might seriously compromise the party’s legislative agenda should it be returned to office.

The Conversation

Narelle Miragliotta, Senior Lecturer in Australian Politics, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Real-world experience useful at Monash from Morsal Bashir, journalism alumna


Bernardi should have resigned his Senate seat: here’s why

Narelle Miragliotta, Monash University

Senator Cory Bernardi’s decision to quit the Liberal Party comes as no surprise to most political observers. For quite some time, and certainly since Malcolm Turnbull’s elevation to the Liberal leadership, Bernardi’s resignation from the party was always a distinct possibility.

However, his decision to quit the party without resigning from the Senate has sparked (the inevitable) condemnation from his former party colleagues. While he might well be feeling “reluctant and relieved”, many Coalition MPs are savage about this decision.

The perils of ratting out the party

Parties have little mercy for those in their ranks who quit the party but continue to occupy their seat in parliament. Such persons are often decried as “deserters” or “rats”.

In this case, the displeasure with Bernardi runs even deeper. From the Liberal Party’s perspective, it believed it had gone to some lengths to accommodate some of the senator’s policy concerns. Yet the efforts to appease Bernardi ultimately proved insufficient to prevent him from tendering his resignation only seven months after the federal election that granted him a six-year Senate term.

On a more practical level, Bernardi’s resignation makes an already complex Senate even more so for the Turnbull government. Once the vacancies triggered by Rod Culleton and Bob Day are filled, Bernardi will be among a 21-strong cross bench. The Turnbull government’s numbers have been reduced to 29 senators, 10 votes short of the 39 it needs to transact most business in the chamber.

High-profile, senior Liberal Party ministers, such as George Brandis and Christopher Pyne, have argued that Bernardi should resign as senator to give rise to a casual vacancy. This would enable the party to select a replacement senator.

The problem for the Liberals is that Bernardi does not believe he is under any particular obligation to do this. For Bernardi, the decision to resign from the Liberal Party is a matter of principle, and therefore justified and imperative.

In constitutional terms, Bernardi is not obliged to quit the Senate just because he has resigned from the Liberal Party. The party can do little to force his hand, except to hope that he might eventually fall foul of the Constitution’s various eligibility requirements to serve in the federal parliament. This would be unlikely.

Should Bernardi resign on ethical grounds?

While there is no constitutional basis for Bernardi to resign from the chamber, there is a compelling ethical case for him to do so.

Before I outline my reasons, I must clarify the scope of my claim. First, the argument is not directed exclusively at Bernardi. This is an argument that should apply to any senator who quits his or her party, short of reasons of their party imploding, or being fired by the party.

Secondly, this argument is not one that I would extend to members of the House of Representatives who resign from their party. It is particular only to party defections when the member was elected in a seat through proportional representation.

My argument is essentially tied to two particular features of the Senate electoral system: the statewide basis of that system and group ticket voting. In combination, these elements greatly heighten the importance of the party label to the electoral success of major party candidates.

The statewide basis of the electoral system creates a geographical obstacle for all but a rarefied group of candidates to build a sufficiently strong personal mandate to secure a Senate quota. For this reason most independent candidates choose to contest lower house electorates rather than nominate for the Senate, where campaigning is conducted over a much wider, often more diverse electoral terrain.

Group ticket voting has further elevated the importance of the party label to the election of Senate candidates. Known colloquially as “above the line” voting, it allows parties to predetermine their preferred order of election of their candidates. While voters are permitted to vote for any candidate in any order that they wish, most do not. Only a very small proportion of voters cast their vote within the party list.

The combination of these features of the Senate electoral system means that most major party senators would struggle to make a convincing case that they were elected on the basis of personal appeal and support.

If we use Bernardi as the case in point, of the 345,767 votes cast for the South Australian Liberals at the 2016 election, he attracted just 2,043 of the first preference vote. Bernardi’s re-election had almost nothing to do with his personal vote and almost everything to do with the Liberal Party label and the favourable number two Senate spot that South Australian party officials awarded him on the party’s ticket.

Established parties can legitimately claim, therefore, that the single most decisive factor that accounts for the election of their senators is the power of the party label. For this reason, senators who quit their party under the current rules should feel compelled on ethical grounds to resign their vacancy, so that the democratic will of the party’s supporters is fulfilled.AustrThe Conversation

Narelle Miragliotta, Senior Lecturer in Australian Politics, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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The detective work behind the Budj Bim eel traps World Heritage bid

Ian J. McNiven, Monash University

Last month, Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull visited the Gunditjmara community of southwest Victoria to announce that the federal government had included the Budj Bim cultural landscape on its World Heritage Tentative List. It was, he said,

the first area [in Australia] exclusively listed for its Aboriginal culture and heritage and it is absolutely an appropriate recognition of its significance and its values.

So what warrants the area’s inclusion on UNESCO’s esteemed World Heritage list? At its core, this is a story about the Gunditjmara and their continuing relationship with the Budj Bim cultural landscape. It is also a story about how the Gunditjmara have successfully fought to overturn European misunderstandings of the complexity and sophistication of their culture and history.

This story of misunderstandings begins with an 1841 expedition to southwest Victoria by the Chief Protector of Aborigines, George Augustus Robinson.

On 9th July 1841, to the north of Gunditjmara country at a swamp near Mt William, Robinson reported

an immense piece of ground trenched and banked, resembling the work of civilized man but which on inspection I found to be the work of the Aboriginal natives, purposefully constructed for catching eels.

GA Robinson. Tasmanian State Library/wikimedia commons

Robinson estimated that the system of channels measured “some thousands of yards” (2 km) in length and covered an area of “at least 15 acres” (6 hectares).

His findings were not what early settlers of the colony wanted to hear. Colonial settlement was about removing nomadic savages, not tillers of the land. The evidence was either ignored as an inconvenient truth or dismissed as evidence of “irrigation” by a superior race of cultivators living in Australia prior to the coming of the Aborigines.

It took another 135 years for more appreciative European eyes to examine the scale and complexity of western Victoria’s Aboriginal fishery.

Investigations in the 1970s

In the 1970s, Dr Peter Coutts of the Victoria Archaeological Survey carried out site surveys at Lake Condah (Tae Rak), the centerpiece of the Budj Bim cultural landscape. Lake Condah is very different to the marshy plains near Mt William. It is a rugged lava flow terrain of basalt rises, swampy depressions, and waterways formed as a result of the eruption of Mt Eccles (Budj Bim) at least 30,000 years ago.

Coutts and his team found what local Gunditjmara people had long known about – extensive Aboriginal fish trapping systems comprising hundreds of metres of excavated channels and dozens of basalt block dam walls constructed over innumerable generations before European contact. Coutts estimated that the volume of basalt blocks moved measured in “the many hundreds of tonnes”.

A 200 metre long fish trap channel mapped by Peter Coutts’s team at Lake Condah. Victoria Archaeological Survey

Determining how the Budj Bim traps operated was made difficult after European alteration of Lake Condah’s water flows through installation of drainage channels in the 1880s and 1950s. Luckily, heavy winter rains in 1977 revealed how some Aboriginal-made channels fed water and eels into natural depressions that Coutts termed “holding ponds”. In addition, numerous C-shaped basalt block structures, averaging around 3-4 metres across, and representing house foundations – possibly clustered into villages – were recorded in the same area as the fish traps.

Coutts hypothesised that the fishing facilities were up to 3500 years old, based on radiocarbon dating of habitation sites in the region such as earthen mounds and shell middens. Reconstruction of ancient water levels in Lake Condah by pollen expert Leslie Head revealed that while some traps could have operated 8000 years ago, most traps corresponded to water levels of the past 2000 years.

Working at the same time as Coutts was Harry Lourandos, a PhD researcher from the University of Sydney. Lourandos examined Robinson’s journals in detail and investigated a huge Aboriginal fish trap at Toolondo, 110 km north of Lake Condah.

Here again was further evidence of Aboriginal people digging an earthen channel (some 3 km long) to move eels into a swamp to dramatically increase their range and availability. Lourandos’ excavations revealed that it was up to 2.5 m wide and over one metre deep. A “lump” of redwood buried within infill sediments at the base of the channel was radiocarbon dated to 200 years, indicating a minimum date for last use of the site. An original construction date for the channel has yet to be determined.

Aware of Coutts’ Lake Condah holding ponds, Lourandos had the intellectual foresight to call the Toolondo and Mt William facilities for what they were – eel “farms” associated with eel traps.

3D computer maps

In the 1990s and 2000s, Heather Builth, a PhD researcher from Flinders University, worked closely with the Gunditjmara to create sophisticated 3D computer maps of channels and basalt block dam walls and fish traps along Darlot Creek (Killara) at the southern end of the Budj Bim cultural landscape.

Builth computer modelled water levels and revealed that these stone features were constructed across the lava flow to form a complex system of artificial ponds to hold flood waters and eels at different stages of growth.

These holding ponds allowed eels to grow in a restricted and protected area and be available to the Gunditjmara for much of the year. Critically, increasing the availability of the eels centred on improving eel survival given that the eels breed in the Coral Sea. Builth described this complex network of ponds as “aquaculture”.

The funnel shaped start of Muldoons trap system, Lake Condah. Photo by Ian McNiven

The most recent insights into the Budj Bim fishing facilities concern their antiquity. Over the past decade, myself and students from Monash University, in collaboration with the Gunditjmara, have excavated Muldoons trap system at Lake Condah, which had been partly buried over the years by flood sediments.

Radiocarbon dating of tiny charcoal fragments within these sediments produced surprising results. One channel was built at least 6600 years ago, while a dam wall was added 500 years ago. 

Not only had we discovered the world’s oldest known stone walled fish trap, but also the longest used fish trap in the world.

3D computer modelling by Tom Richards as part of this PhD research at Monash indicated that the Muldoons dam was used to pond water and fish. This pond provides the earliest available date for Gunditjmara aquaculture.

Not simply hunter gatherers

These large-scale fishing facilities and associated aquaculture ponds rupture traditional representations of Aboriginal people as simply hunter gatherers.

Lake Condah with its rugged basalt lava flow features in the Budj Bim cultural landscape. AAP

Rather than living passively off whatever nature provided, the Gunditjmara actively and deliberately manipulated local water flows and ecologies to engineer a landscape focused on increasing the availability and reliability of eels.

Manipulation of the landscape involved stone structures (such as traps and channels) dating back at least 6600 years with eel aquaculture facilities (ponds and dam walls) pre-dating contact with Europeans by many hundreds (and possibly thousands) of years.

As Lourandos pointed out more than three decades ago, and Bruce Pascoe reveals in his recent award-winning book Dark Emu, differences between hunter gatherers and cultivators, and foragers and farmers, are far more complex and blurred than we once thought.

The Budj Bim cultural landscape provides an outstanding example on a world stage of the scale, complexity, and antiquity of a well preserved Aboriginal fishery that continues into the present. And it is an exceptional example of Aboriginal environmental manipulation and management that blurs the distinction between foragers and farmers. Over the next year or so, a formal World Heritage nomination will be prepared by the Victorian government spearheaded by the Gunditjmara for submission to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee.

Denis Rose. Photo by Ian McNiven

The evaluation of the nomination by the committee will be thorough. It will compare Budj Bim to similar types of places around the world. The case is strong but it will be a number of years before the committee makes a final decision.

Budj Bim is a living cultural landscape and a strong focus for Gunditjmara heritage, identity, and spiritual well-being. It is now time for this remarkable heritage to be shared with the world. As senior Gunditjmara elder and longtime Budj Bim World Heritage listing advocate Denis Rose has said:

It’s one of those secrets that are a bit too well kept, I suppose. But we are involved in tourism and we do want to get people out on country a bit more and have access to properties to get a better understanding of Gunditjmara culture.

So what will you see if you go there? Hundreds of Gunditjmara stone-walled fishing facilities and stone house foundations are located along the 30 km length of the area. However in many cases, these low-lying sites are on private land and are hard to see through the long grass that covers much of the lava flow.

To experience these sites firsthand, visit the Tyrendarra Indigenous Protected Area for a self-guided tour. Or for a Gunditjmara guided tour of the area and access to the large and clearly defined fishing facilities at Lake Condah, contact Budj Bim Tours. (And if smoked eels take your fancy, the Gunditjmara have plans to augment their eel fishery to commercial levels.)

Australia has come a long way since GA Robinson’s recordings of Aboriginal social and technological complexity were sidelined.

The Conversation

Ian J. McNiven, Professor of Indigenous Archaeology, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Joyous, comic and grim: the best new Indigenous playwrights

Maryrose Casey, Monash University

“Yellamundie” is a Darug word for storyteller, and the name of a biennial play development festival for Indigenous Australian writers run in Sydney since 2013.

The Yellamundie Festival, an initiative of Moogahlin Performing Arts and this year part of the Sydney Festival, brings new, emerging and established Indigenous writers together with Indigenous actors, directors and dramaturgs (and the occasional eminent white dramaturg) to develop raw treatments, partial drafts and yarns into more substantial scripts.

Chosen from a national call, the submissions have to be in the early stages of writing and have not had workshopping or public readings previously. The six plays chosen in 2017 from a wide pool included work by new writers exploring the medium of theatre for the first time as well as new work from more experienced theatre practitioners.

The workshop process is over two weeks and culminates in a public reading of the script by a cast of professional Indigenous actors.

Directors and actors who were part of the workshop process read out the scripts before audiences of around 40 people in intimate performance spaces in Carriageworks. The dramaturgs sat in the audience. There was a fabulous supportive energy in the room.

One of the outstanding new playwrights revealed in readings was Henrietta Baird, an experienced dancer with a love of yarning. Her script is a one-woman show called The Weekend, in which the solo performer plays multiple women. It was performed by Angelina Penrith, with Eve Grace Mullaley as dramaturg and Liza-Mare Syron as director.

A beautifully told and sharply comic narrative, it tells of a woman dancer who returns to her career after having children. While on tour, she gets a frantic phone call from one of her sons saying their father went out four days ago, has not returned and they have no food. The play humorously depicts her return home and search for her husband as she discovers layers of his betrayal of her trust.

Most of the scripts read at the festival told personal stories. © Jamie Williams courtesy of Sydney Festival

The search takes place in Redfern, where she encounters other Aboriginal women and is confronted by her husband’s drug and prostitute-fuelled hidden life. Serious consequences are always on the verge of happening, such as when she naively carries another woman’s drug stash while they evade the police, but she escapes unscathed and a little wiser about herself. For Baird, the workshopping process was a way to move from verbatim yarning to playwriting.

Another joyous script presented was Bollywood Dreaming by Andrea Fernandez with Kyle Morrison as director and Liza-Mare Syron as dramaturg. As the title suggests, this story – about an Aboriginal man with Indian heritage who weds an Indian woman – is full of music and dance as well as charming humour. Fernandez handles the dialogue and the plot about the family banana farm and its economic challenges with a light touch. The cast, including Colin Kinchella, John Blair and Jorja Gillis, revelled in delivering a truly Bollywood-style show.

The other two scripts written by women, Coconut Woman by Maryanne Sam and A Little Piece of Ash by Megan Wilding, deal with different types of loss and grief. Sam’s script engages with the challenges of people who are part of the Torres Strait Islander diaspora going home and meeting strangers who are their family.

With the assistance of Andrea James as dramaturg, Kyle Morrison as director, and a fine sense of storytelling, Sam brings together people from very different backgrounds, revealing the tensions and challenges of finding mutual respect. Wilding, in a warm, sometimes humorous and sometimes poignant script, follows the journey of a young woman trying to deal with her mother’s death. Louise Corpus read the part of the dead mother with cheeky irony and gentle compassion.

The remaining two plays were Forty Nine Days a Week by Ken Canning and Some Secrets Should be Kept Secret by Glenn Shea. Canning’s piece is a grim text dealing with violence and racism in prisons and the brutality experienced by many Indigenous inmates. Nearly 30 years after the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody, the need for prison reform is even more critical as the numbers of the dead increase with every passing year. Canning’s text is disturbingly topical.

Glenn Shea’s play is in the style of Australian gothic, with a strong sense of Aboriginal epistemologies. It is part of a set of four plays, each in a different style, that track points in the life of an Aboriginal man.

As well as the six readings of new Aboriginal work, the event included two international First Nation plays, Maria Gets a New Life by Cliff Cardinale from Turtle Island in Canada and Bless the Child by Hone Kouka from Aotearoa/New Zealand. There were also forums, humorous debates and the opportunity for Indigenous practitioners to network.

Most of the scripts read at the festival tell personal stories. Through the development process they move beyond the individual, or as Baird says, beyond a verbatim yarn, to another level of writing that uses art to reveal layers and resonances beyond the personal.

I look forward to seeing the next stage for these works. The playwrights will now attempt to find further development through theatre companies. I hope they will.

These are all Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander stories and in many ways specific to that experience, but they are not about issues that can be relegated under the heading of Aboriginal problems. Stories dealing with grief, violence, poverty or struggling to deal with family conflicts and tragedies have something important to say to everyone.

The Conversation

Maryrose Casey, Associate professor, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Understanding Filipino film distribution: a PhD journey with Monash-Warwick PhD candidate Michael Kho Lim

Michael Kho Lim is a recipient of the Monash Graduate Scholarship and the Faculty of Arts International Postgraduate Research Scholarship (FAIPRS) for his joint Monash/ Warwick University PhD research into film distribution in the Philippines. In 2016, he was shortlisted for the Victorian Government’s Education Award for International Student of the Year (research).

We spoke with Michael to gain his insights into getting to and through a PhD, and how his research will impact the Filipino film industry.


You’re now completing a PhD on film distribution, but how did you get into the film industry in the first place?

Winning moment when Pepot Artista (Pepot Superstar) was declared best picture during the 2005 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival
Winning moment when Pepot Artista (Pepot Superstar) was declared best picture during the 2005 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival

I was teaching and completing a Masters in applied media studies at De La Salle University in the Philippines when my supervisor received a grant from the Cinemalaya Foundation. Ten aspiring filmmakers with no prior film-directing experience were selected and given seed funding to produce the film that would eventually compete in the very first Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival.

My supervisor is a renowned screenwriter and documentary maker and has always dreamt of directing his very first feature-length film. His name is Clobualdo del Mundo Jr. – we fondly call him Sir Doy. It was my first venture into film production, I was lucky that he trusted me and gave me that chance  to become his producer. We took a leap of faith, and eventually our hard work paid off when our film Pepot Artista [watch the trailer] was declared best picture. Set in the 70s, the film tells the story of the kid Pepot who dreams of becoming a movie star. That was 2005 when I first set my hands on filmmaking; and I’ve loved it since then.


That was just over 10 years ago, then how did you arrive at the point of deciding to do a PhD?

After finishing my Masters, I taught in China for six months. When I returned to Manila, I continued teaching at my alma mater in 2008. However, something inside me was yearning for a new challenge; and I thought maybe this is the time to work in the industry. I became the Deputy Director of the Animation Council of the Philippines towards the end of 2008 before eventually assuming the Executive Director position in 2009. It’s the trade association for the industry that’s comprised of animation studios, schools, and vendors. It aims to promote and develop original Filipino content in animation. It is a non-profit organisation that has a very small team.

Make-up artist working on the prosthetics of lead actor Sid Lucero for the film Paglipad Ng Anghel (Flight of an Angel), 2011
Make-up artist working on the prosthetics of lead actor Sid Lucero for the film Paglipad Ng Anghel (Flight of an Angel), 2011. Interview with director Sir Doy

I was there for almost six years, and perhaps over time, I got a bit burnt out. This triggered me to consider the idea that has been lingering in my mind—doing a PhD. What was keeping me from pursuing this at first was the perception that you’d only teach after receiving a PhD, which I was happy to do anyway but I’d also want to contribute to the industry.

Then I thought of Sir Doy again—he holds a PhD but he’s still very active in the film industry. So I thought, what’s stopping me from working in the academia and the industry at the same time? It would in fact be beneficial to both sectors—I practice what I teach, while my industry experience informs my teaching. Then one day, I had a business meeting at the Australian Embassy and saw a banner that said, “Study in Australia.” And I thought, it’s calling me! Everything seemed to fall into place.

At that time, the Philippines was using the term “creative industries”, which I have always been a part of. So it was just natural that, if I’d do a PhD, it would be about something that I am very familiar with. I then googled: “creative industry,” “PhD,” and “Australia.” QUT came out on top due to its specific creative industry offering, along with Melbourne University and Monash University. Studying abroad was something new to me, so I was feeling my way through the process. I started sending cold enquiry emails and whoever replied positively was how I got the ball rolling. I chanced upon Dr Xin Gu who was with Melbourne University at the time but couldn’t take me in anymore so she recommended Professor Justin O’Connor, who then moved from QUT to Monash University.


Wow! What great serendipity. But that’s just the start – finding a supervisor, and you have more than one?

Yes, I started with two but I’m ending up with three. I have two supervisors from Monash: Professor Justin O’Connor and Associate Professor Therese Davis, and one from Warwick: Associate Professor Jonathan Vickery. It was after I started the regular Monash PhD program that I came across the joint PhD opportunity. So after my PhD candidature was confirmed, I asked Justin if I could apply for the joint program. After some discussion, he agreed and I went through with the process. Apparently, Justin has an existing partnership with Warwick’s Centre for Cultural Policy Studies and is working with Jonathan. Introductions were made, and it ended up being pretty easy for me to shift to the joint PhD. Everything just seems to be aligned, as I also have a cultural policy element in my research.

As an international student, you just want to expose yourself to all these new perspectives. I thought this would be a very enriching experience. I received the joint PhD offer right before going back to Manila to do fieldwork in December 2014. By the time I returned to Melbourne in June 2015, I did my mid-candidature review, transitioned to the joint PhD, and started my Warwick residency in September.


That all sounds quite smooth and fast. Going back a bit, after finding a supervisor, how did you come to your research proposal?

I had originally proposed research into the animation industry but changed it to the film industry when I arrived at Monash. I thought that if I were to do intensive study or research for three years, it has to be something close to my heart.

Besides, there is really very little literature in the business side of filmmaking, particularly film distribution in the Philippines. I discovered that I would be the first person to research on this and I would be able to make a mark.


PhD candidates often say the journey getting to confirmation is the hardest – the part where you have to articulate and buttress your proposal into a feasible research project to be assessed by the confirmation panel. How did you go?

It was seven years since I had been in academia, so in doing a PhD I needed like a jumpstart. It was quite a challenge to come back. I had to work really hard. I asked Justin if I could sit in any of his Masters classes so I could refresh my prior knowledge and update myself as well. This was on top of doing the PhD coursework Monash had introduced at the time.

I was attending Justin’s classes to make sure I hadn’t forgotten what I learned in my Masters but also to learn more about the cultural/creative industries and the cultural/creative economy. Everything was a blur at first, and those two concepts were the same up to that point. So the classes really helped with guiding how I could define my PhD. And without me realising it, I was already doing my confirmation 5½ months into the program.


Prior though, whilst you weren’t in academia, you worked in the industry for 7 years. How did that affect your PhD?

Production meeting for Pepot Artista, 2005
Production meeting for Pepot Artista, 2005

People often ask me, or say that my [PhD] progress is really fast; and I think it’s because I’ve worked in the industry for so long that I have enough knowledge, experience, and insights to assist me in my analysis and make it easier to integrate everything.


And to know what impact your research could have for the industry?

Yeah, having worked in the independent film sector—distribution has always been a problem. The usual question is, “Oh, you’ve produced a new film, where can I see it?” And you just don’t know how to respond. It’s not showing in the cinemas; it’s not available on DVD, so how to give an answer?

Having worked in the independent film sector—distribution has always been a problem. The usual question is, “Oh, you’ve produced a new film, where can I see it?” And you just don’t know how to respond.

Michael Kho Lim
Michael Kho Lim

Distribution is not very easy to understand, as it is often left to the business people—these distribution companies. Everyone else does not seem to know how it “really” works. So what I’m trying to do is understand distribution from the humanities perspective, from the point of view of the producer, director or the production side of things, and not just seeing distribution as the business part of filmmaking, so that directors and producers who read my work will understand film distribution outside of the numbers.


To break that down a bit, does distribution include entering the film in film festivals, competitions…?

Yes, film festivals, DVDs, campus tours, online distribution platforms—they’re all considered as non-theatrical distribution. But what everyone is after—whether you’re producing independently or in the mainstream—is theatrical distribution because that’s how you will get a return on investment. The problem is that indies don’t have access to this, as theatrical distribution is generally controlled by the mainstream—the big studios. Not to pre-empt the results of my research, but I still think that theatrical distribution will dominate. It works as a system, and you just don’t overthrow a system overnight. So theatrical release will still be a key element in film distribution.


Perhaps your research will shed light for indies on how to secure a theatrical release? Does the non-theatrical distribution help in achieving it?

My research is not really about finding a solution on how to secure a theatrical release; rather, it is about understanding the dynamics of the film distribution system and how this affects the industry players. In the Philippines for example, no matter how popular the film is or how many international awards it has received, it doesn’t automatically mean that it will have a theatrical run nationwide. Even if it does, there is no guarantee that people will flock to the cinemas.

The Philippines has a long history of colonisation such that colonial mentality is somewhat embedded in our system. No matter how good a Filipino film is, it is generally considered inferior to foreign films, specifically Hollywood. Then again, it’s very difficult to predict what the audience will like because even a Hollywood film can flop at the box office.

One of the case studies I have cited in my PhD is the film Heneral Luna (General Luna) [watch the trailer]. It is considered a game changer because it was independently produced and yet, it was commercially successful. By independent I mean that the producers were new players in the industry. They put lots of money into the film, similar to that of a mainstream budget. It was a big risk for them. They spent around 80 million pesos, and it only grossed around 1 million in the first week. No one thought they’d be able to recoup their investment but to everyone’s surprise, the film ran for nine weeks and grossed 250 million. It was indeed a phenomenon.


Interesting, so in analysing the film distribution system and what affects the industry players, what about policies?

The Philippines state will have to be part of it when we speak of cultural policy. Right now, we have a newly appointed Chair in the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) who is looking into some policy reforms. The new chair Liza Diño actually comes from the industry as an actor and has appeared in a number of indie films, so she knows the struggles and challenges of being an independent player. She’s not looking at the industry as an outsider; instead she’s someone  from the ‘inside’ who crossed over to the government and now looking in at our industry. So we are optimistic and looking forward to the changes that she’ll put forward.

Diño also mentioned that the FDCP’s policy-making function has not really been activated, so this is where she will start. She shared some of her plans about lobbying for an antitrust law and film quota, just like what other countries have, as well as asking owners of multiplexes to allot some of their screens to show exclusively Filipino (indie) films. The Council has created many good programs before but with a priority of focusing on cultural policy now, we are hoping that things will be better for the industry.


Fantastic ideas. Lastly, I’m wondering if you might share with us some of your insights into Pinoy film culture with what your top Filipino films are?

Michael Kho Lim with Sir Doy
Michael Kho Lim with Sir Doy

That’s a very difficult question!

I’ve always admired the works of Mike de Leon, and he has always worked with my mentor Sir Doy. There are two films I really like:

Batch ’81, which is about fraternity, and Kakabakaba ka ba? [watch the trailer]. It’s a musical comedy on drug trafficking. Critics often describe de Leon as a director ahead of his time because even before Sister Act, there was Kakabakaba ka ba?—which could also be said of my mentor Sir Doy, who wrote both films. So they’re really my inspiration.

Who knows, maybe one day I’d also be writing and directing my own film.

All photos courtesy Michael Kho Lim.

Study at Monash


“I was hooked”: a conversation with Monash Arts alumna Grace Orange

Arts/Science graduate Grace Orange interned with Indonesian NGO Yayasan Usaha Mulia as part of her Monash Arts degree, travelling to remote villages in West Java, delivering a report that triggered the implementation of crucial health treatments for the hundreds of people who live there.

Grace Orange
Grace Orange

Grace’s report demonstrated the health, educational and community development benefits of integrating intestinal parasite treatment to existing projects by Yayasan Usaha Mulia. So far the resulting treatment implementation has reached around 250 children in Cipanas, West Java, with potential for whole community treatment and extension of the project to Central Kalimantan when funding is available.

We spoke with Grace about her internship, the start of her journey at Monash and where she is now:

So, why did you choose to study a Bachelor of Arts and Science at Monash?

Monash has a reputation for both academic excellence and a friendly atmosphere, and the option of a double degree allowed me to combine my interests in science and the humanities. Through this combination I hoped to develop the skills for analysing and understanding complex global problems in achieving social justice outcomes.

Sunset from a high rise in Jakarta.
Sunset from a high rise in Jakarta

What was your major in the Arts?

Urban, Regional and International Development [now taught through Human Geography] — I chose my first subject “Natural Hazards and Human Vulnerability” based on environmental interests, but was moved by the injustices of climate change impact. I’d always been told to follow my passions, although back then I didn’t really understand what that meant and found it difficult to pin it down to a profession.

What I learned from those early units was that the inequitable state of the world upset me, and I needed to learn more in order to contribute toward positive change. Through my science major in Physiology, I studied various diseases that disproportionately affect people who are disadvantaged in some way, and it was in combination with my Arts units that I began to understand inequitable patterns in health. These areas of study are critical to improving social, political, economic and environmental conditions for current and future generations, both in Australia and abroad.

How did you come across the internship opportunity with Monash Arts?

In my second year of my Arts/Science degree, I scoped out the possibility of doing an internship with a government department, and in the process met Robin Chacko, the Professional Placements Manager at Monash Arts. He explained the steps involved and encouraged me to apply for the project I was interested in.

Following my application I was invited to an interview, but wasn’t offered the position, as they required someone with working knowledge of a specific computer program. I was disappointed in myself, thinking I wasn’t good enough or suitable for this kind of opportunity, so I spent time volunteering instead. It wasn’t until two years later that I happened to bump into Robin again, and he again encouraged me to explore the opportunities on offer through the new Arts internship unit.

On the Arts online website I found internships that for me were far more ambitious as many were long-term international placements, and one in particular stood out. I worked up the courage to apply for the role in communications and fundraising at a human services organisation in Jakarta called Yayasan Usaha Mulia (YUM) — the Foundation for Noble Work — and was successful. Subsequently, Monash offered me a New Colombo Plan scholarship, making my dream internship even more accessible and at the same time boosting my confidence.

Weekend trip to Sukaumi, West Java, for white water rafting with the international internships crew
Weekend trip to Sukaumi, West Java, for white water rafting with the international internships crew

What is Yayasan Usaha Mulia (YUM)?

With a head office in Jakarta, YUM have run health, education and community development projects for the rural villages of Cipanas, West Java, and Bukit Batu, Central Kalimantan, for the last 40 years. The former is where I chose to focus my project.

Administration of polio vaccine for kids in Cipanas
Administration of polio vaccine for kids in Cipanas

One of YUM’s main initiatives is running an organic farm on site, which the organisation uses to teach beneficiaries how to grow vegetables for their families and businesses. YUM is also home to one of the top preschools in Java and high schoolers there have access to a vocational training centre, while people of all ages benefit in the hundreds from free monthly health checks. This is also YUM’s method for administering important treatments and vaccines, such as drops to prevent polio.

International groups are invited to learn about the organisation by participating in the EduTourism program, where they attend workshops, explore the local landscape and amenities, and help meet the needs of the organisation.

What was the internship like?

The internship was more than a full time role in an international organisation — I was immersed in a completely foreign culture bustling with life and a chaos that actually has some kind of order once you get used to it. I stepped off the plane into the tropical climate of Jogjakarta, where I completed a two-week language and culture course and met my student buddy, Dede. The window in my room opened to a balcony where geckos gathered at night, and from which you could see the mosque across the road where a call to prayer is sung five times a day. The people in Jogja more than exceeded their reputation for friendliness, and were excited to share their culture with me.

Mifta enjoying the food from Erna's cooking class for local women
Mifta enjoying the food from Erna’s cooking class for local women
Group of street performers during Jakarta's Car Free Day
Group of street performers during Jakarta’s Car Free Day

Likewise, when I arrived at YUM in Jakarta, I was welcomed by a team of enterprising and altruistic people who helped me understand what they did and my part in it. They were easy to work with, conversed with me every day over lunch at the kitchen table (with my supervisor helping to translate), helped me book my daily ojek (scooter style taxi service) for the commute home through the macet (traffic jam) and went out of their way to show me both of the remote villages in which they work. A number of times, they drove me the 5+ hours through the lush, rural landscape of West Java to YUM in Cipanas, and I also had the privilege of flying to Bukit Batu in Central Kalimantan.

A YUM beneficiary coming in for a check up
A YUM beneficiary coming in for a check up
Kids at the award-winning preschool in Cipanas
Kids at the award-winning preschool in Cipanas

Outside of the regular 9-5, I lived in a high-rise student apartment building overlooking the megalopolis, along with other Australian students I was connected with via International Internships, who organised networking events and weekend trips for us to attend together. We’d navigate the uneven footpaths through which massive trees had burst, past tangled masses of power lines and street vendors who keep calm and bakar sate no matter what, to have nasi goreng or cap cay at our favourite local restaurants. For our laundry needs, we frequented a shop that also offered hairdressing and tattoo services. Despite wild differences between this new environment and my home in Melbourne, the culture shock I’d been warned about never eventuated, and I can’t wait to go back.

My farewell lunch at Burgreens, Jakarta, with the YUM team
My farewell lunch at Burgreens, Jakarta, with the YUM team
Always macet. This “10 minute” ojek drive took two hours!
Always macet. This “10 minute” ojek drive took two hours!

How did your report for YUM come about?

Mother and baby at YUM for the polio vaccine
Mother and baby at YUM for the polio vaccine

I was given the scope to research just about anything I liked as long as it was relevant to my Arts major, and for me it helped to be in the country while I thought of a question. The initial idea came to me during a conversation with someone back home, who warned me about hookworm.

I had no prior knowledge, but following some preliminary research, I realised that intestinal parasites were an endemic problem disproportionately affecting the disadvantaged in ways I’d never considered. From that moment, I was hooked … get it? … and my background in Arts and Science finally came together in a real world, practical problem, leading to an exciting, simple solution.

Infection with hookworm can cause anaemia, particularly for more vulnerable groups such as children and women of childbearing age, affecting cognitive development and by extension economic potential. YUM’s health projects focussed on improving the iron status of these same groups through supplementation and diet modification, but did not include treatment for hookworm.

Me with Cipanas high school students keen to sign up for the vocational training program
Me with Cipanas high school students keen to sign up for the vocational training program

The report focussed on the improved results YUM and similar organisations might expect to see from their existing health and education projects if they eliminated an underlying cause of anaemia. My report received academic praise, and YUM began treatment for 250 children last July, with the aim of extending the project to Central Kalimantan when funding is available. I am currently excited about the possibility of establishing a fundraising enterprise to seek grants for continued treatment in Cipanas, and expansion to additional rural communities.

(For more detail, Grace’s report is accessible through her LinkedIn profile).

Looking back, are there ways that the internship really impacted your life?

The internship involved a lot of “firsts” for me — it was my first time travelling alone, first visit to Indonesia, first full time job and first independent research project of that length and detail. I discovered a lot about myself as a person as well as my academic capacity.

The research project in particular was a big hurdle for me; I spent a lot of time struggling to decide a methodological approach and articulate ideas even superficially. My ideas for the report were initially too ambitious; I thought I needed comprehensive quantitative data on which I could perform statistical analyses for my results to have any value, but found that my resources were limited to the qualitative assessment of handwritten documents extending only one year back.

I had to streamline my broad scope, thinking at the time that this would decrease the quality of my report and this at first challenged my confidence. I realised that keeping it simple was actually a far stronger approach, though I had written a number of drafts by then! I was happy with the work once it was finally submitted, but couldn’t have anticipated the reward I felt seeing the marks I received, and when I found out that YUM were initiating treatment.

Me and Bronwyn (another Monash student atop the active volcano, Mount Merapi, Jogjakarta
Me and Bronwyn (another Monash student atop the active volcano, Mount Merapi, Jogjakarta

“It was through the process of doing something initially so intimidating that I found the confidence to apply the skills I learned at university […]

This knowledge has already benefitted me in the job application process and professional workplace”

It was through the process of doing something initially so intimidating that I found the confidence to apply the skills I learned at university in a professional manner and actively develop a growth mindset. I now know how important it is to embrace inexperience as an opportunity to learn and explore the connections between seemingly separate interests. This knowledge has already benefitted me in the job application process and professional workplace; once again I’m immersing myself in something completely new, with the knowledge that I can only grow with experience.

That’s brilliant. A growth mindset and the edge to get your job! For future students, what advice would you give them?

Make the most of every opportunity you have to travel, gain new experiences and engage with real world problems — however small — that are waiting for someone to take the lead and improve them.

A frangipani found walking through a tropical storm, Jakarta
A frangipani found walking through a tropical storm, Jakarta

The reward of taking those first steps is more valuable than you realise for your personal and professional development, and can make all the difference to the lives of others.

Treat inexperience as a platform from which you can grow; you will very likely stumble, but use your resources to build resilience and pick yourself straight back up.

Similarly, reach out to and extend your network, for example talk to past students who have paved paths similar to the one you want to follow, and keep your favourite lecturers and other staff in the loop with your milestones. You’ll be surprised what an enthusiastic resource they’ll continue to be!

Where to now?

After returning to Melbourne, I applied for a graduate program at the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in the hope of working as an analyst in international development, and was selected for their Order of Merit list as no suitable positions were available in Melbourne. Hearing this news, I made the decision to enhance my Monash Arts degree with research credentials by completing Honours in Human Geography, with the aim of studying the health implications and spatial distribution of gender-based violence in Melbourne. The ABS almost immediately after surprised me with a graduate position in their Melbourne office, so I made the decision to defer this exciting research to 2018 in the hope that the two will feed powerfully into one another.

Images: courtesy Grace Orange

Internships at Monash Arts

Doing an internship during your undergraduate degree is a great way to develop practical experience in your field while building new contacts and networks. An internship can be taken either for academic credit or as ‘not for credit’ if you prefer.

Study with Monash


Anderson, Young to discuss Australian press photography

Shooting the Picture is the story of Australian press photography from 1888 to today — the power of the medium, seismic changes in the newspaper industry and photographers who were often more colourful than their subjects.

Melbourne researchers Sally Young and Fay Anderson pose the question: will changes in technology spell the end of traditional press photography? With Andrew Meares, Chief Photographer, Fairfax Media.

In association with Melbourne University Press …

Thursday 2 February, 2017, at 5.30p
National Library of Australia
Parkes Place, Parkes ACT 2600
Theatre, $15 (includes book signing and refreshments)
Bookings essential
Book here or 02 6262 1111

Associate Professor Fay Anderson.

Associate Professor Fay Anderson lectures in the School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University. 

She has published widely on media history, war journalism, genocide, photography and violence. Fay Anderson and Richard Trembath’s book Witnesses to War: The History of Australian Conflict Reporting was published by MUP in 2011.

Associate Professor Sally Young is a reader in political science and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow for 2014-17. 

She has published extensively in the areas of Australian politics, Australian media, political communication and journalism studies and writes a monthly column for Fairfax Media.


Anthony hunts the big stories in Victorian politics


More police won’t necessarily lead to better outcomes on family violence – here’s what we need

Marie Segrave, Monash University; Dean Wilson, University of Sussex, and Kate Fitz-Gibbon, Monash University

The Victorian government is recruiting more frontline police as part of a broader drive to tackle crime in the state. Among the new recruits will be 415 officers specially trained to deal with family violence.

The efforts to change attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate family violence will take generations to show results. So, police will remain critical in the effort to tackling family violence in all its forms.

Our recent study with Victoria Police shows more than just a commitment to extra police and training is needed to improve outcomes for victim-survivors of family violence. It requires listening to frontline police to recognise how we can make steps toward better results for victim-survivors and ongoing job satisfaction for police.

Four ways to improve police responses

Our report makes four key findings for reform of police responses to family violence.

First, policing methods have to vary across a state or region. Communities are diverse and their needs are specific. Police must be responsive to this.

This means that policing family violence in inner-city areas is vastly different from regional areas. This includes the relationship between police and family members, and the likelihood of individual police having repeated contact with the same family. There are other pressures too, such as like time, crime rates and resources.

Second, police learn a lot on the job from other officers, rather than in the academy. Our research found police would make reference to ideas learned in the academy but considered their “real” training occurred once they were working.

With this in mind, family violence training must not just be targeted to new recruits, but across all levels of police. Training should also be specific, rather than generic online training modules that police complete when they find the time.

Third, police are under significant pressure – and this can undermine good intentions. In nearly every interview with police across Victoria the lack of resources was a consistent concern.

It was also clear that many frontline officers were well aware of the increasing pressure to ensure victim notification processes were followed. This is to enable victim/witnesses to be kept up to date. But this was often a source of frustration, given the challenges of maintaining this communication while managing shift work and a heavy case load.

It is critical that we understand the pressures on police. This is the starting point for recognising that in responding to situations of family violence, some police can simply become exhausted and frustrated with a situation they may view as resolvable through criminal justice interventions and separation.

This is not to excuse this attitude, but to recognise the context within which it may arise – rather than simply lecturing police to rid themselves of it.

Finally, policing intimate partner violence specifically and family violence more broadly would benefit from a significant investment in family violence units, with dedicated officers in every station.

The community is increasingly asking Victoria Police to work very differently in response to family violence. It requires an investment of time, an understanding and awareness of context (the cycle of violence, power relations, culturally diverse contexts), and close interaction with a variety of community organisations. This is in stark contrast to the other largely reactive tasks of general duties police.

Police across Victoria made it clear that family violence was considered to be “different” from the primary investigative mandate of their work.

Dedicated and trained officers who deal with cases of family violence – following them through the criminal justice process and ensuring connection with community agencies – are required if police responses are to be meaningfully improved.

A time for brave reform

This is a moment for Victoria to lead, not with piecemeal changes, but a strategic and significant reshaping of Victoria Police to recognise that family violence must be responded to with specific expertise.

This goes beyond a few specially trained officers in some major stations to a team of officers in every station.

Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence recommended all family violence cases be dealt with within a specialist court setting. The same is needed for policing responses.

There have been significant shifts in community recognition of and concern about family violence. The royal commission’s recommendations offer a map for moving forward. But only significant, brave reform will lead to a complete shift in practice to enable policing family violence to be a significant, dedicated and celebrated specialisation within Victoria Police.

The National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line – 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

The Conversation

Marie Segrave, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Monash University; Dean Wilson, Professor of Criminology, University of Sussex, and Kate Fitz-Gibbon, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.