Monash Bioethics Centre plays key role in development of first international guidelines for public health surveillance ethics

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has just released the first comprehensive international guidelines for public health surveillance ethics.* 

Names and addresses of people with dread diseases were regularly reported in newspapers until the 1960s. Source: New York Times, July 22, 1916. Public Domain
Names and addresses of people with dread diseases were regularly reported in newspapers until the 1960s. Source: New York Times, July 22, 1916. Public Domain

Development of these guidelines was a project of the Global Network of WHO Collaborating Centres for Bioethics, which is currently chaired by Monash University Professor Michael Selgelid who is also Director of the Monash Bioethics Centre.

The goal of the guideline development project was to help policymakers and practitioners navigate ethical issues around public health surveillance. While surveillance, when conducted ethically, is the foundation for programs to promote health and wellbeing, it can raise ethical issues around privacy, autonomy and equity.

Monash hosted one of the three main meetings that were part of the guideline development process at the Monash Prato Centre in Italy in 2015.    Release of these guidelines has also been announced today in The Lancet Public Health.

Professor Selgelid explained how, in contrast to the long established guidelines and oversight mechanisms for research ethics, until now there have been no general guidelines or international standards for the ethical gathering and analysis of data for public health purposes.  Though research and surveillance are closely related, their ethical requirements are commonly considered to be very different:

‘While informed consent is considered crucial in research ethics, when data is gathered for public health purposes – in order to identify outbreaks or monitor the spread of infectious diseases for example – informed consent is not usually sought or considered to be necessary,’ Professor Selgelid said.

‘Because public health data gathering is critical for prevention, detection and control of disease, it is ethically important that surveillance takes place—but it is also important that sound guidelines are in place to protect individuals.’

The WHO’s document is comprised of 17 guidelines which outline the obligations of countries to collect, use, and share high quality data for legitimate public health purposes and the obligation of the global community to support countries lacking adequate resources to conduct surveillance activities.  They also outline obligations and rights of individuals:  while individuals should be expected to cooperate with surveillance activities, their private health information should be adequately secured, and individuals should be protected against stigmatisation or other possible harms from surveillance. 

Drone in clear sky. Robert Lynch. Source: CC0 Public Domain
Drone in clear sky. Robert Lynch. Source: CC0 Public Domain

Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, Assistant Director-General of WHO, notes that:

‘The goal of the guideline development project was to help policy-makers and practitioners navigate ethical issues presented by public health surveillance,’ and that ethically conducted surveillance: ‘can contribute to reducing inequalities;  pockets of suffering that are unfair, unjust and preventable cannot be addressed if they are not first made visible.’

Monash also contributed to development of WHO Guidance for Managing Ethical Issues in Infectious Disease Outbreaks, published in 2016.

Professor Michael Selgelid is Director of the Monash Bioethics Centre and the Master of Bioethics program at Monash University; Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Bioethics at Monash; and Chair of the Global Network of WHO Collaborating Centres for Bioethics.  He is also an Adjunct Professor in the School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine at Monash and a Monash-Warwick Honorary Professor in the Department of Politics & International Studies at the University of Warwick (UK).  Among numerous other engagements with WHO Michael served as an Advisor to the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee regarding Ebola, and he was Member of the IHR Emergency Committee on Zika.

*The WHO announcement and supporting materials can be found here.

Study at Monash


Vizard’s ‘Vigil’: part of his PhD research exploring performativity and theatre

Vigil, written by Steve Vizard, makes its Victorian debut at Arts Centre Melbourne from 4–8 July. Starring the acclaimed Christie Whelan Browne, Vigil confronts with a musical and theatrical one woman tour-de-force about a 30-something prodigal daughter who hijacks her family’s Christmas Eve wanting more than pinot gris and a loan – she wants answers.

Vigil also forms part of Vizard’s PhD area of research interest at Monash Arts exploring performativity and theatre, in this case taking the traditional theatre narrative and story arc and pushing it to its limits with a one person show. A particular area of Vizard’s research interest explores the extent to which musicals can embody the conflict between protagonist and antagonist in musical form when portrayed by only one performer.

Vizard has written the original script and lyrics for 12 original songs for Vigil, and the original score has been composed by acclaimed pianist, composer and arranger Joe Chindamo, who also accompanies with violin virtuoso Zoë Black, and the performance performed by Whelan Browne, delivering a dazzling and mesmerising journey of song and theatrical intimacy.

Steve Vizard is also an Advisory Board Member for Monash University’s Master of Communication and Media Studies.

Vigil, photo by Claudio Raschella
Vigil, photo by Claudio Raschella

Vigil quotes from the Adelaide Cabaret Festival:

“…a poignant cameo of regret and expectations unfulfilled” – The Australian

“Whelan Browne is spectacularly mercurial…Brilliant” – ★★★★1⁄2, Limelight Magazine

“Steve Vizard’s one woman musical is a sensitive and honest confessional, peeling away the façade and confronting the unuttered truths of a daughter’s private anguish” – Canberra Critics Circle

“a dynamic, moving, frequently funny and catchy melody-packed showcase for the multifarious talents of star Christie Whelan-Browne.” – The Advertiser

Starring Christie Whelan Browne
Written by Steve Vizard
Arts Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio
4 – 8 July, 2017
Bookings at 

Study at Monash


New $46M national research centre to explore Australia’s human and environmental history for our future

Narwala Garbarnang rock art site, 30,000 years old. Possibly the largest construction built by Australian first inhabitants.
Narwala Garbarnang rock art site, 30,000 years old. Possibly the largest construction built by Australian first inhabitants.

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH) has launched a seven-year, $45.7 million interdisciplinary research program to shed light on Australia’s iconic biodiversity and Indigenous heritage.

The first continental-scale project of its kind in the world, CABAH will pioneer a new understanding of the natural and human history of Australia, Papua New Guinea and eastern Indonesia from 130,000 years ago until European arrival.

Opening in mid-2017 CABAH will support around 40 new research positions and more than 50 new research students over the seven-year life of the Centre.

The Monash node of CABAH directed by Professor Lynette Russell, with Associate Professor Bruno David and Professor Ian McNiven, and based in the Faculty of Arts Indigenous Studies Centre, will play a major role in CABAH. The Centre will provide a unique opportunity for the researchers across the Faculty, and the University, to become in involved in its programs. Professor Russell noted,

We still do not have answers to some of the most fundamental questions about this continent or its people, such as the timing and routes of their dispersal around the continent, the timing and extent of major changes in climate and fire regimes, or how landscapes, plants and animals responded to the altered conditions.

Aboriginal people have lived in this land for millennia, we need to learn from that, and appreciate their sustainable and strategic way of living. Understanding previous climate change and the continents’ environmental history will help us adapt to future environmental challenges.

Excavation, photo by Professor Ian McNiven
Excavation, photo by Professor Ian McNiven

CABAH will link researchers from science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) disciplines – including earth and climate sciences, ecology and genetics – with scholars from humanities, arts and social sciences (HASS) disciplines such as archaeology and Indigenous and museum studies. It will bring the extraordinary environmental and human history of Australia to the public through a comprehensive program of education, outreach and science communication events for schools, museums, science festivals and a range of digital media. 

CABAH will contribute to Australia’s future through a training program to foster young researchers, with an emphasis on Indigenous participation and support for female researchers. Professor Russell noted:

This represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to train Indigenous scholars in a supportive and intellectually rigorous setting.

Excavation, photo by Professor Ian McNiven
Excavation, photo by Professor Ian McNiven

In helping future-proof Australia’s unique biodiversity and culture using improved understanding of its legacy, some of the questions this research project will include: What was a warm Australia like before humans? How did the first humans adapt to their new environment? What were the consequences of initial human expansion? How did Australia’s biota survive in an Ice Age landscape? What was the context to Australia’s demographic explosion?

CABAH is led by Distinguished Professor Richard ‘Bert’ Roberts of the University of Wollongong, along with Monash, the other universities are, James Cook University, the University of New South Wales, the Australian National University, the University of Adelaide, Flinders University of South Australia, and the University of Tasmania. In addition, there are a range of partners in Australia, including the Queensland Museum, the Australian Museum, the South Australian Museum and the State Library of New South Wales. Other partners include world leaders in public engagement, such as the Natural History Museum of Denmark and the Natural History Museum in London, and institutions in PNG, France and Indonesia.


In defence of serendipity: the Silicon Emperor is wearing no clothes

Serendipity is the process of finding something useful, valuable or just generally “good” without actually looking for it. Throughout the history of invention and discovery serendipity has functioned as a sort of Freudian unconscious, leading – or, perhaps better, tricking – the curious human mind onto unexpected novelty.

And yet, only recently have we started to become truly aware of the crucial role of serendipity in our attempts to creatively grasp toward the future.

Over the last few years, it has become an important – if not overused – reference for the creative industries and for our innovation-obsessed economy in general. This is remarkable as “serendipity” was conceived in mid-18th-century literary circles. Horace Walpole coined the term in 1754.

Walpole had come across the “silly fairy tale” Peregrinaggio di tre giovani figliuoli del re di Serendippo, an Italian translation of the Persian parable of the three princes of Serendip. During their travels, Walpole wrote, they “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of”.

Walpole’s definition of serendipity spread through the world of literates and bibliophiles. Scientists were always able to relate to the term. Louis Pasteur’s adage about chance favouring only prepared minds reflects serendipity’s significance for scientific discoveries and inventions.

Accident and sagacity

Today, serendipity is emerging as an important reference for those whose job it is to make our economies more innovative, our industries and cities more creative, and our future, well, better.

Yet unsurprisingly, in this world of TED, PechaKucha and awesome one-liners, serendipity is fast becoming a fad.

This is unfortunate as the notion offers more than meets the Google-glassed eye. Walpole defined the term as a convergence of accident and sagacity.

And this allows us to understand serendipity as a response to an age-old conundrum that the philosopher Plato baptised Meno’s paradox: the search for new knowledge is a sheer impossibility as one either knows what to look for, in which case the object of the search is not new, or one doesn’t know what to look for, which makes the search impossible.

Serendipity offers a possible solution by suggesting that the new always enters the world through the back door of the accident. For true novelty to emerge, anomalies, detours or confusions are required to occur.

However, it is equally important to notice these accidents and recognise their potential. This is where sagacity comes in. It represents the ability to turn the virtuality of the accident into the actuality of something new entering the world.

The capitalist dilemma

Unfortunately, our infrastructures of innovation are neither susceptible to accidents of the disruptively generative kind nor particularly hospitable to the kind of sagacity that would recognise disruptive potential – in the non-Californian sense of the term.

This may sound counterintuitive, given the omnipresent chatter about disruption and digital innovation, but look around: where are the mind-blowing innovations promised by the prophets of Silicon Valley and their local subsidiaries?

One of the great contemporary icons of product innovation is basically a digitally pimped wristwatch. Blake Patterson/flickr, CC BY

The new iPhone? Thank you for getting rid of the headphone jack. Flying cars? Nowhere to be seen. And what happened to supersonic air travel – ’50s technology that seems too advanced for the digital age?

If we look more closely at what passes as the great contemporary icons of product innovation, we might realise that these are a digitally pimped wristwatch and a car that takes away the experience of driving (remember: this is the experience economy).

Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensenrefers to this lack of real innovation as “the capitalist’s dilemma”: the economy is losing creative momentum thanks to its entrenchment in the matrices of finance. The risk-averse logic of finance, he argues, prevents companies from investing in exciting new ideas that could lead to new products and services.

Christensen’s argument links the innovative impotence of the economy to businesses’ increasing inability to serve society. Thanks to its thorough financialisation, the economic game has become radically hermetic.

The result is not just soaring social inequality, as bemoaned by Thomas Piketty. It also cuts off economic rationality from the diversity of non-economic inputs needed to move the economy forward.

The naked silicon emperor

It would be wrong to believe that Silicon Valley is an exception to such economically dysfunctional navel-gazing. When its venture capitalists are not busy funding the latest app for dog shit collection, they tend to focus on the so-called sharing economy. They are looking to invest in the “next Uber for X”.

The question is: how innovative are these platform business models in fact? They are certainly disruptive, but not exactly in the way that brilliantly innovative products or services are.

Look at the platform poster boys: Airbnb is disrupting the sustainability of urban living by driving up rents and real estate prices, while Uber and its offshoots happily introduce feudalist work conditions for their hyper-exploited pseudo-entrepreneurs.

And these companies can do these things because they can rely on massive funding that effectively takes them out of any market competition.

The goal of these financially overfed business-bullies is to create super-monopolies that capture entire markets to lock vendors and customers into their platforms – pseudo-markets that function according to their supreme (often algorithmic) rule.

These business models not only have disastrous effects on their societal “environment” but are also – because they absorb entire markets into the hermetic space of self-referential platforms – great inhibitors of serendipity and, indeed, innovation.

If this tendency towards platform capitalism goes unchecked, we will soon face a situation similar to that at the end of the Eastern Bloc. While the global party press (TED, Wired, O’Reilly Media) runs hot churning out the credo of the innovation economy, the hiatus between the image of the world according to the digital innovation gospel and the real economic (and social) stasis grows to comical proportions.

It is high time we called out the Silicon Emperor for being naked and did so in the name of innovation – that is, in defence of serendipity.

The author is the keynote speaker at the June 15 Smart City-Creative City symposium hosted by Monash University’s Culture Media Economy (CME) research unit in Melbourne.

The Australian launch of the author’s book, In Defence of Serendipity: For a Radical Politics of Innovation (Repeater Books, London 2016), will be hosted on Wednesday, June 14, at 4pm by CME. Register for the free public lecture and launch here.

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


Journalism Futures: New York Field School

Following a dramatic year in American politics, and the claims and counter-claims of ‘fake news’, the media is under scrutiny in the USA like never before.

In this unit, students will travel to the heart of the world’s media industry to observe how news organisations are managing to deal with the spate of challenges they are currently facing.

We will examine in particular how the creative responses to the funding of journalism are transforming news organisations. How are these companies responding to the pressures of changing consumption patterns, delivery platforms and business models?

The Wall Street Journal newsroom’s digital hub.

To take part, students must attend an intensive workshop at Monash University (Caulfield) to develop skills in research project design, methods and management.

Then, over eight days in December, students will travel to New York to learn first-hand how newsrooms are adapting to change.

To learn more about the New York Field School, please contact Dr Colleen Murrell, Julie Tullberg or or +61 3 9905 8743 (Clayton).

What is it like to be a media practitioner today? How are news values shifting to capture digital audiences, now and in the future?

And are the foundations of journalism in a liberal democracy – with notions of independence, objectivity and fairness – changing too?

Students will draw from scholarly and popular literature as well as their immersive experience to formulate research projects, adopting a case-study approach to their chosen topic.

Students interact with Wall Street Journal digital editors.

Applications for the New York Field School will be open in July, 2017.

To learn more about the New York Field School, please contact Dr Colleen Murrell, Julie Tullberg or or +61 3 9905 8743 (Clayton).


Strange bedfellows? The ideological migration of UKIP voters to Labour in the 2017 UK General Election

by David Jeffery and Keshia Jacotine

At 10pm on Thursday 8 June, British voters faced yet another political shock. Despite an overwhelming 21 percent lead (YouGov), the Conservatives failed to win enough seats to form a majority government.

As the count unfolded, the reality dawned that Theresa May did not receive the landslide that she had gambled on. Instead her party had to enter a confidence and supply arrangement with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). With Brexit negotiations kicking off on June 19, and rumours circulating that May is facing a mutiny from her own MPs, the ‘strong and stable’ government she promised now seems almost impossible.

One popular rough and ready way pundits and commentators used to estimate the eventual Tory vote share in a given constituency was to take the 2015 Conservative vote share, add the 2015 UKIP vote share, and voila – Conservative majority! But, in reality, this did not prove to be the case.

How did it all go wrong?

There are a number of complex factors at play, but perhaps one of the more surprising outcomes has been the movement of former UKIP voters across to the Labour Party (as shown in a graphic from the Financial Times, here).

So how is it that a party commonly perceived as right-wing leaked votes to a party which is portrayed as the most left wing Labour Party in a generation? The answer lies in the economic views of UKIP members. Work by Bale, Webb and Poletti shows that strong party supporters of UKIP locate their party at 7.28 on a 0-10 left-right spectrum, whilst Labour voters placed their own party at 3.44. This gap of 3.84 suggests the two parties would be uncomfortable bedfellows.

However, subjective rankings might not tell the whole story. Bale, Webb and Poletti’s ‘objective measure’ place Labour at 1.60, and UKIP at 2.62, on the left-right spectrum – a gap of just 1.02. Bale, Webb and Poletti explain this by arguing that on economic issues UKIP and Labour are not so different – UKIP’s voters “are very possibly ‘welfare chauvinists’ with a populist (as opposed to class-based) antipathy toward big business.”

This is supported by Wheatley, who plotted the ideological location of party supporters based on two scales – an economic left-right scale, and a social conservatism open-closed scale. Interestingly, whilst in both 2015 and 2017 the median UKIP voter was a 0.2 on the closed-open scale (more closed than open), they were 0.4 on the economic left-right scale (economically left of centre). The median Labour voter, however, was around 0.7 on the open-closed scale in both elections (more open than closed), but on economics moved slightly from about 0.25 in 2015 to 0.2 in 2017 (economically left-wing).

So, we see a situation whereby economically the median UKIP and Labour voters are not very far away at all, and there is considerable overlap in the area covered by both parties in Wheatley’s graphs on that axis – the real gap is on the closed-open axis.

One of the key issues in this election was, obviously, Brexit. With both Corbyn and McDonnell committing themselves to a form of Brexit which does not include freedom of movement, they were able to effectively satisfy a segment of UKIP voters. This neutralised the closed-open gap between the two parties on the big issue of the day, and allowed for UKIP voters who had ideologically similar economic views to Labour to move over – and in many cases move back – to Corbyn’s Labour.

The argument laid out above is not to suggest that Labour wooed more UKIP votes than the Conservatives did – this was patently not the case. Instead, it is to show how some UKIP voters could, ideologically, migrate to Corbyn’s Labour Party and – perhaps – have denied Theresa May the majority she was so sure of winning.

David Jeffery is a PhD Candidate at Queen Mary, University of London and Keshia Jacotine is an MPhil Candidate at Monash University

This article first appeared in Pop Politics Aus

Study at Monash


Celebrating student achievements at the Monash Arts Awards

This May the Monash Arts Awards celebrated the outstanding academic achievements of its students over two nights. Over 400 guests attended the undergraduate and postgraduate awards including students, their family and friends, and a number of our generous donors.


The first Awards Night in the month focused on Postgraduate Awardees opened with a welcome from the then Dean of Arts, Professor Rae Frances, and was hosted by Associate Professor Vicki Peel, Director of Graduate Programs. Awardees received their award from the Directors of each of the graduate programs. The evening also provided an opportunity for 2016 graduates to catch up with program directors and current students.

Best First Year student in Japanese Studies Alex Park, with Dr Jason Jones
Best First Year student in Japanese Studies Alex Park, with Dr Jason Jones

The second Awards night was MC’d by Dr Jason Jones, from Japanese Studies. Students received their award on stage from the new Dean of Arts Professor Sharon Pickering. 

The audience also heard from guest speaker, Arts graduate Catherine Cotterril, who is now a Consultant at KPMG. Catherine shared her thoughts as an Arts alumna, and how she has used her Arts degree every day of her life since graduating, including at every one of her posts with the Australian Defence Force from her work in Delhi to Afghanistan. 

Yii Ying, Man Ting and Yuanxi were the piano trio to receive Bernie's Music Land Award this year. (L-R): Yii Ying Tan, Bernie Capicchiano, Man Ting Wong, Yuanxi Zhuang & our new Dean of Arts Professor Sharon Pickering.
Yii Ying, Man Ting and Yuanxi were the piano trio to receive Bernie’s Music Land Award this year. (L-R): Yii Ying Tan, Bernie Capicchiano, Man Ting Wong, Yuanxi Zhuang & our new Dean of Arts Professor Sharon Pickering.

Monash Arts is proud to offer the Arts Awards, and recognise the hard work and brilliance of students across the faculty.

Long-time donor Bernie Capicchiano who has generously offered the Bernie’s Music Land Award every year since 1994, also gave his thoughts on why he decided to offer an Award saying, 

“At my College wind -up event, my music teacher told me if I had practiced I would have received an award for Year 10 Music… strange it was the first I had heard about such an award. Had I known … well…?”


(L-R) Bernie Capicchiano, Jenny Brown, Howard Brown, Dean of Arts Sharon Pickering, Catherine Cotteril, Michael Spivakovsky, Cheryl Spivakovsky.

We take this opportunity to recognise the contribution to these Awards from all the generous donors:

Ms Elise Baldwin (Cengage)
Mr Stewart Baron
Mr David and Ms Judith Bornstein
Mr Tony Betros (ANZCA)
Mr Howard and Mrs Jenny Brown
Mr Bernie Capicchiano (Bernie’s Music Land)
Mrs Joan Earle
Mr Warren Fineberg (Jewish Holocaust Centre)
Mr Jason and Mrs Tess Galante (Ferngully Lodge)
Mr Maurie Hasen
Mr Geoff Hiller
Her Honour Judge Pamela Jenkins
Mr Michael Kieran Harvey
Mr Peter Kolliner OAM and Mrs Barbara Kolliner
Mrs Irene Kronhill-Pletka
Mr Marko Misko (Ukrainian Studies Support Fund)
Mr Philip Peluso
Mr Gary Shulkes
Mr Michael and Mrs Cheryl Spivakovsky
Ms Julia Tahourdin
Mr Sym Wolski (Jacob Kronhill Prize)
Mr Reuben Zylberszpic (jJwish Holocaust Centre)

Study with us


Field work in the classroom at Monash University

Dance of Life, Monash University.

By Professor Justin O’Connor

The Master of Cultural and Creative Industries has just completed its innovative new unit Cultural Economy and Sustainable Development.

It is focused on how developing countries can use culture in a sustainable way and contribute to a wider sustainable approach.

Rather than take 50  students to different, often remote, destinations across the globe we try to bring them to Monash University.

We heard from Avril Joffe, a UNESCO international expert based at Wits University, Johannesburg, and fresh from advising the South African government on their new cultural policy.

She told us of the amazing cultural development in urban and rural Africa, as well as the challenges being faced there.

We heard from Helene George, who runs local consultancy Creative Economy, about her work with indigenous communities in the Red Centre and the Kimberly.

Finally, we had two cultural and environmental activists from Amazonian Brazil, Dan Baron Cohen and Mano Souza. They worked with very poor communities using performance, sculpture, music and art to develop a sense of identity and purpose and raise awareness of the ecological disaster resulting from the rapid industrialisation of the region.

They brought their workshop techniques to the students, from at least 10 different countries, in order to show how their non-verbal intercultural pedagogy is used in communities.

Dan and Mano run a project called Rivers of Creativity and students were asked to write reflective pieces on their relationship to water.

This was part of the workshop and in order to send messages of solidarity to the community in the Amazon, on their International day of Solidarity June 5th.

They also did a public lecture at The Malthouse, in association with the Centre for Theatre and Performance

The event made the local newspaper, for those who can read Portuguese.

Study at Monash


O’Connor attends UNESCO’s ‘Ahead of the Curve’

Professor Justin O’Connor was one of 20 international experts invited to a seminar “Ahead of the Curve” in Berlin.

In May 2017 Monash’s Professor Justin O’Connor was one of 20 international experts invited to a seminar “Ahead of the Curve” in Berlin organised by UNESCO and the Robert Bosch Foundation.

Professor O’Connor and the experts discussed the future of the 2005 Convention on Diversity of Cultural Expressions, in the wake of the faltering of globalisation and other agendas (human rights, populist right and so on).

The resulting manifesto went forward to the meeting of signatory governments in Paris in June.

A small group of us (academics and practitioners from India, Turkey, Brazil, South Africa, UK and Australia) have been commissioned to write a short report on the state of the Convention and its future.

Study at Monash


Creative city, smart city … whose city is it?

In 2007 US creative cities “guru” Richard Florida was flown to Noosa to tell the local city council how they, too, could become a creative city.

Noosa was one of a long line of cities across the globe queuing up to pay big bucks to the US-based academic-entrepreneur. “Being creative” had become an almost universal aspiration. Who would not want to be a creative city?

And so Creative [insert name of city here] signs sprang up in the most unlikely places, along with stock shots of creative young things hunched over laptops in cafes.

Ten years later, different gurus are being flown around and the signs have been replaced by Smart [insert name of city here]. The stock shots are much the same, but now the young things are being innovative, disruptive and above all “smart”. That’s the trouble with fast policy: here today, gone tomorrow.

Below the surface more tectonic shifts can be felt. In its first outing in the mid-1990s the “creative city”, associated with thinkers such as Charles Landry, was an energising vision of a new role for cultural creativity in our cities.

Now expanded in democratic fashion beyond the world of “high art” to embrace popular, everyday creativity, culture would be a key resource for the 21st-century city.

Culture could re-activate the decayed industrial zones of the inner city, breathing new life into the dead infrastructures of factories and power stations, dockyards and tram depots, schools, barracks and banks. Culture could renew stale urban identities, catalyse new aspirations and stamp a different global brand on long-dormant cities.

And with the creative industries – culture plus all things design and digital – all that was needed were some creative people and a bit of entrepreneurial flair. Then we would have one of the industries of the future.

Creativity broke cities away from the old bureaucratic top-down planning silos of the industrial city and let them approach the future holistically. Culture would be what cities do best, earning a living and enjoying it at the same time.

By the time Florida had left Noosa the discontent was growing. Big investments in photogenic CBD developments seemed more intended for the creative class than local citizens, generating massive real estate profits while the suburbs languished unloved.

Creative industries turned out not to be so inclusive after all. They failed to soak up all those unemployed dirty industry workers and were reliant on educated workers willing to work their way up on low pay and high debt.

The turn of the smart city

Since the global financial crisis the energising vision has been around social justice, citizenship and the right to the city, with a return of community and activist-focused arts activities. Creatives are now less Californian start-ups and more counter-cultural “post-capitalists”.

Enter the Smart City, creativity without all those messy cultural bits. The tech start-ups were just as cool, the fab labs and hacker spaces just as disruptive, but now slotted onto a very different agenda.

This too promised a re-invention of the city, not now a cultural re-imagining but a complete re-tooling of the social and governmental infrastructure of the city. Courtesy of some very big global tech companies, a new digital infrastructure could be rolled out, applying sensors, data-capture devices and large-scale computing power to urban life.

Smart cities are data cities, promising efficient management of transport and utilities, security, and customised commerce. If the early Creative City embraced the messiness of city life, viewing it not as chaos but creative fecundity, the Smart City give us a clean utopian picture of the perfectly transparent city.

It’s messy on the surface, but with a big data back-room providing bespoke information for almost any aspect of urban living your care to ask for. What’s not to like?

A corporate taming of creativity

That the brains of the Smart City – as envisioned by its corporate promoters – are increasingly embedded in its walls rather than its inhabitants reveals much about the trajectory of the digital economy so closely tied to Florida’s conception of the Creative City and its industries.

Internet scholar Jonathan Zittrain has described the rise of “app” culture as a betrayal of the creative potential unleashed by the mainstreaming of the internet. If the open internet was messy and chaotic, Zittrain argues that it was correspondingly “generative”, promoting experimentation and creativity.

The app increasingly represents the corporate-driven pacification of the internet. AAP

By contrast, the “app” represents the pacification and domestication of the internet: its transformation from a productive medium to an infrastructure for consumption and marketing. Apps sort our music and photos for us, tell us where to eat, how to get there, and what to watch afterwards. The price of the newfound convenience that renders smart phones so addictive is a shift in the balance of control away from the end user.

For Zittrain, the “applified” world is, “one of sterile appliances tethered to a network of control” – which is not a bad description of the corporate blueprint for the Smart City.

As urbanist Adam Greenfield has observed, the corporate world has taken the lead in both envisioning and promoting its version of the “informated” city. It looks suspiciously like the commercial internet projected out into physical space.

The promise is one of efficiency, convenience and security: smart streets that adjust traffic flow in real time, walls that change images to suit our tastes (which have become indistinguishable from market preferences), even floors that cushion us when we fall.

For all the talk of disruption, the paradoxical promise of the smart city is one of data-driven efficiency and predictability. The promotional materials feature the same smart young things, freed up from the impositions of daily life (traffic, shopping, routine decision-making, even driving), to do … what?

Whose city is it?

There are surely possibilities here, but the version of smart city as automated city looks inhuman. It promises to serve people by rendering them increasingly efficient, perhaps to the point of their own redundancy.

To subject the future of the city to the corporate imaginary is to concede too much to the galloping privatisation of our cultural and informational infrastructure.

What if the right to the city were also a right to participate in shaping its information infrastructures and their implementation? Can we envision an alternative to centralised corporate control of the city’s data? And how might public priorities be redefined in ways that distinguish them from the private imperatives of the ruling tech giants?

These are the guiding questions for our June 15 symposium in Melbourne, which explores the possibility of another kind of urban culture beyond the tightly controlled formats of the Smart City/Creative City.


This piece was first published on The Conversation.


Martyr and Conviction Politics

Two major projects, Martyr and Conviction Politics, will shed new light on the activism by thousands of political prisoners and ordinary convicts sent to Australia in the 18th and 19th century. The projects examine how these middle and working class political activists shaped rights for freedom of speech, universal suffrage and the reform of the electoral system workers’ rights in the UK, Australia and the USA.

Thomas Muir by David Martin, 1790, National Portrait Gallery of Scotland
Thomas Muir by David Martin, 1790, National Portrait Gallery of Scotland

Martyr is a new documentary underway that draws on a range of original sources and archives – letters, pamphlets, court and parliamentary transcripts, journalism, poetry and songs – to extend research on Scottish hero Thomas Muir in Associate Professor Tony Moore’s book, Death or Liberty: Rebels & Radicals transported to Australia 1788-1868. Muir was the first political prisoner transported to Australia in 1794, for the ‘sedition’ of advocating in public speeches the democratisation of the British constitution and distributing Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man. Associate Professor Moore, a producer and researcher on the documentary film, is currently in the UK where he is working on the Martyr Treatment with co-producers Roar Film (Australia), MacTV (Scotland) and Tile Films (Ireland). Their Martyr  workshop is taking place at the world-leading international documentary festival, Sheffield Doc/Fest (9-14 June).


Commissioned bust of Thomas Muir by celebrated Scottish artist Alexander Stoddart. On permanent exhibition at Bishopbriggs library. Replica made for the Museum of Australian Democracy.
Commissioned bust of Thomas Muir by celebrated Scottish artist Alexander Stoddart. On permanent exhibition at Bishopbriggs library. Replica made for the Museum of Australian Democracy.

Coincidentally, as Scotland gears up for their second referendum for independence, which has been requested by the Scottish Chief Minister as a consequence of Brexit, a fresh appreciation is mounting, commemorating Muir as the ‘father of Scottish democracy’, for principled martyrdom 250 years ago.

A prodigy who commenced university studies at age 12, Muir graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Law and practiced at the Scottish Bar. A charismatic reform advocate inspired by both the American and French Revolutions, he was known to draw crowds with his gift of oratory, and reach many more through his engagement with the new media of the day, especially pamphleteering.

Sentenced to 14 years transportation in 1793, Muir was the first of five Scottish Martyrs, whose example inspired the democratic reform movement in Britain in the next century, and ensured the seeds of radical liberalism were planted early in the new colony of NSW. At his trial, Muir claimed loyalty to parliament in his fight for the rights of Britons, asserting his crime was: ‘having dared to be … a strenuous and active advocate for an equal presentation of the People–in the House of the people. It is a good cause–it shall ultimately prevail–it shall finally triumph.

Thomas Muir, The Scottish fighter for the rights of the poor and the oppressed Thomas Muir (1765-1799)
Thomas Muir, The Scottish fighter for the rights of the poor and the oppressed Thomas Muir (1765-1799)

His defence of media freedom still resonates today, as does his excitement at the impact of new media networks to liberate politics, asking the jury whether suppression of literature was even possible in an age where ‘the works of Mr Burke and Thomas Paine, flew with a rapidity to every corner of the land, hitherto unexampled in the history of political science.’

Complimentary to Martyr is the digital humanities ARC Linkage project in development, Conviction Politics, which maps coded digitised data sets from the convict records and colonial newspapers to investigate the emergence of collective resistance to exploitation of the 160,000 ordinary convicts and their connections with the 3,600 political prisoners brought to Australia in 1788-1868. The project will communicate the convict contribution to political and social democratic rights through a transmedia hub visualising the data findings, linking annotated archives, collections and featuring 100 smart-phone accessible micro-documentaries revealing the stories of these individuals and movements that advanced workers and citizens’ rights in their homelands and colonial Australia.

Courtesy Roar Film
Courtesy Roar Film

Led by the School of Media, Film & Journalism’s Associate Professor Moore, Conviction Politics is a collaboration between history, media studies and digital scholars drawn from the Faculty of Arts and IT and Monash University, and the University of Tasmania, Australian Catholic University and Griffith University. Major industry partners for Conviction Politics are Roar Film (Australia), trade unions, and the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka, that will be curating a travelling digital exhibition.

‘Why do men who have bullets and silver, fear those who want no more than ballots and bread?’

Whilst in the UK, Associate Professor Tony Moore will also meet with potential partners for Conviction Politics, including the UK Trades Union Congress, the People’s History Museum Manchester, the Gwent Archive Wales, and the Bentham project, University College London.

Conviction Politics brings together Australian and international partners to reveal those who took a stand against exploitation, colonisation and political oppression in the old world and enforced labour on stolen Aboriginal land in Australia, and fought for many of the rights we take for granted today.


Study at Monash


Christiane Barro & alum Danny Tran shortlisted for Walkley Award


SOPHIS’ annual lecture with Prof Julian Savulescu

‘What’s the cause of climate change?
Standard answer: carbon emissions.
What’s the cause of terror?
Standard answer: religious fundamentalism’

Professor Julian Savulescu argues that the greatest problems humanity now face are not the result of external threat, but are the result of human choice – but human moral limitations.

On Wednesday 17 May, Monash’s School of Philosophical, Historical & International Studies (SOPHIS) hosted its second annual lecture presented by Professor Julian Savulescu, a Monash alumnus and one of the world’s leading experts in medical and practical ethics.

Professor Savulescu spoke about solutions for violence, global poverty and climate change through human moral bioenhancement. The night received a full house audience, captivated by the controversial concepts, with many raising interesting questions at the end. What does the dominant construct of liberal neutrality mean for our future? How are values tracked? What values are we committed to?

The full video of the evening: 


Professor Julian Savulescu has held the Uehiro Chair in Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford since 2002. He holds degrees in medicine, neuroscience and bioethics. He is Director of the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics, one of three strategic centres in biomedical ethics in the UK funded by the Wellcome Trust. In 2014, he was awarded a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator award to work on Responsibility and Health Care. He is also Director of the Institute for Science and Ethics within the Oxford Martin School at the University of

Oxford, where he examines the ethical implications of technology affecting the mind, as well as leading an interdisciplinary programme on collective responsibility for infectious disease. In 2017, he will establish the interdisciplinary Wellcome Centre for Ethics, Innovation, Globalisation and Medicine with co-Directors in Public Health, Psychiatry and History. 

He is Editor of Journal of Medical Ethics and founding editor of Journal of Practical Ethics. He is the Sir Louis Matheson Distinguished Visiting Professor at Monash University and Honorary Professorial Fellow at FloreyNeuroscience Institutes. He received an honorary doctorate from University of Bucharest in 2014.



First Australians lived through the Ice Age: what must we learn for our future?

The rotation of the Earth beneath the night sky produces star trails in this 75 minute time exposure, while passing car headlights illuminate the foreground, Nanya Station, NSW, Australia
The rotation of the Earth beneath the night sky produces star trails in this 75 minute time exposure, while passing car headlights illuminate the foreground, Nanya Station, NSW, Australia

For over 60,000 years Aboriginal Australians lived and thrived in the Australian landscape. They had sophisticated and complex social systems with languages and religions that were unrecognisable to 19th century Europeans. Today, more of the ingenuity and wisdom in Aboriginal Australian’s practices and knowledge systems is being uncovered – revealing significant potential solutions for our imminent global challenges.

To this end, Head of Monash Indigenous Studies Centre Professor Lynette Russell, Professor Ian McNiven and Associate Professor John Bradley have just launched a new interdisciplinary project that explores Australia’s heritage from the deep past through to today. It will include comparative insights from the United States, Europe, Canada and New Zealand.

This project dovetails with a seven-year multi-university interdisciplinary research programme created by the ARC Centre of Excellence of Australian Biodiversity and Heritage.

We spoke with Professor Lynette Russell about what kind of evidence the Indigenous Science Project is discovering and examining, and how this can inform ways to face some of the world’s biggest issues such as global warming, climate change and how to live sustainably.


Dr Sharman Stone new patron of Monash University’s Gender, Peace and Security Centre

The international profile of Monash University’s Gender, Peace and Security (GPS) Centre is set for a further boost following the appointment of inaugural Patron, Australia’s advocate for Women and Girls, Dr Sharman Stone today (Monday 29 May).

A Monash Alumnus, Dr Stone is currently Australia’s third Ambassador for Women and Girls and holds a distinguished 20 year career in the Australian Parliament. Her role as Monash GPS Patron complements her Ambassadorial role, where Dr Stone will continue to progress major issues that affect women and girls, such as child marriages, human trafficking and poverty. Dr Stone will share Monash GPS’ significant research in this field at major global forums, including the United Nations and Pacific Islands Forum.

Dean of Arts Professor Sharon Pickering with new patron for Monash GPS Dr Sharman Stone, and Director of GPS Professor Jacqui True
Dean of Arts Professor Sharon Pickering with new patron for Monash GPS Dr Sharman Stone, and Director of GPS Professor Jacqui True

On her new appointment, Dr Stone said,

“We’re not achieving in our region in the Asia Pacific, anything near an equal opportunity scenario for women or children in any country, so therefore the Gender, Peace and Security Centre at Monash is so important in the research it does. And if we can advance the cause for how to achieve gender equity, then peace and security must follow.”

Dean of Arts, Professor Sharon Pickering said, “The Faculty of Arts is thrilled that Ambassador Dr Sharman Stone will be the foundation Patron of the Monash Gender, Peace and Security Centre. She will be able to assist with the core mission of Monash GPS to bring a research-informed gender perspective to foreign policy and international security in Australia as well as in the Asia-Pacific region and in global fora.”

Director of GPS, Professor Jacqui True was likewise delighted that Dr Stone has agreed to serve as the foundation patron for the Centre.

“Dr Stone’s appointment will significantly enhance the centre’s impact by translating its research into real-world outcomes for women and girls.

Australia is just one of three countries in the world to have a Global Ambassador for Women & Girls to promote gender equality and transformation regionally and internationally, with Monash GPS research focused in many of the countries Dr Sharman Stone visits in her ambassadorial role.”

Monash GPS in the School of Social Sciences Monash University’s Faculty of Arts consists of a group of policy and community engaged scholars whose research is focused in the field of gender, peace and security and aligned with the UN Security Council’s Women, Peace and Security Agenda. The Centre is a member of the new Global Consortium of Women/Gender, Peace and Security research centres alongside three international centres at the Peace Research Institute Oslo, London School of Economics and Georgetown University. Monash GPS conducts research to inform scholarly debate, policy development and implementation, public understanding about the gendered politics of armed conflict and the search for peace. Monash GPS partners with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on a number of research projects including:




Further information at Monash GPS.


Study at Monash


Going back to school for cross-platform skills


Journalism alum Alysia Thomas-Sam now Chief-of-Staff at Nine News


Top media editors explain why journalism is important


“Legacies of resistance we need to act upon”: PhD candidate Matteo Dutto

PhD candidate Matteo Dutto
PhD candidate Matteo Dutto

Sometimes dubbed the ‘black Ned Kelly’, Jandamarra of the Bunuba nation is an iconic figure in the history of Australian Indigenous armed resistance to colonial invasion, and while Indigenous Australians have always shared stories of both Jandamarra’s resistance and of other key Indigenous people, such as Yagan of the Whadjuk Noongar and Pemulwuy of the Bidjigal people, the wider Australian public remains largely unaware of this history and these stories.

Monash PhD candidate, Matteo Dutto, is currently researching the retellings of these stories, which take on various forms including oral accounts, theatre, film and children’s books. His research encourages greater responsibility and recognition for the diverse ways to think about the legacies of these stories, and about the connections between past and present acts of resistance.

Why did you choose to look, in particular, at these three figures?

There are so many stories of armed resistance, and even though there’s much work about these leading figures, they are not really part of Australia’s national history. I chose these three historical leaders because there is a corpus of stories produced by Indigenous cultural producers about them.

The idea was not to look at them only through a historical perspective, but also through an Indigenous approach, so doing that meant engaging with Indigenous retellings of these stories and the way in which they exist across a wide variety of media. There is of course the oral tradition but perhaps most interestingly for us and Indigenous people, is that there is quite a lot of work being done by Indigenous filmmakers, playwrights and writers to retell these stories to the wider public from their own perspectives. These include documentary films, historical novels, and theatre plays.

So for Pemulwuy we have oral stories, documentaries, theatre plays and the same goes for Jandamarra and Yagan. They are each quite different in terms of stories. They show different facets of resistance, different ways resistance was performed in Australia, the different approaches to retelling the stories because, of course, the Bidjigal, Bunuba and Whadjuk Noongar people and cultures are each so different.

That’s the main area of the thesis and the objective was to develop a decolonising framework for us, as non-Indigenous people, to properly acknowledge and understand what an Indigenous perspective on history is and the dynamic interrelationship between these stories of resistance and reclamations of sovereignty in the present. I did this by weaving methods of textual and historical analysis with original interviews with Indigenous cultural producers to analyse a wide range of retellings of the lives and legacies of Pemulwuy, Jandamarra and Yagan from the past forty years.

Is this why you use the word “legacies” as an ongoing concept rather than “stories” which infer something past?

Yes, these are stories that speak not just to the past, they speak to the present and they speak to the future, most importantly. These stories are in the present, for things like negotiation of treaties, land rights, and the reclamation of sovereignty against the ongoing colonisation in Australia.

These are not just stories of resistance, these are acts of resistance in the present – by retelling a story of resistance you are enacting resistance in the present. And of course you can do that in a variety of ways so the idea of having more stories was also to reflect how you can resist colonisation and aim towards decolonisation in different ways. There are works that try and pursue a more reconciliatory approach and build towards reconciliation and constitutional recognition, and other works that emerge from a different political background and focus instead on reclamations of sovereignty and on the demand for treaties. They share many of the same aims but they enact resistance in different ways.

This is why I, in the end, propose to think about these three stories [about Yagan, Jandamarra and Pemulwuy] not just as stories of resistance but as legacies of resistance.

Engaging with them through the works of Indigenous cultural producers and cultural activists allows us to understand how Indigenous historical knowledges operate across different media and epistemologies, embodying radical alterities through their presentation of the relations between past and present, between myth and history and between Indigenous countries and the settler colonial state. These are not just stories we need to learn about, but legacies we need to act upon.

Where did this idea come from?

You could say the main starting point was something that Tony Birch, an Indigenous academic and writer, wrote during the early 2000s during the ‘history wars’ when the very notion of Indigenous history and the legitimacy of Indigenous historiographies was being called into question by the Howard government. Reflecting on this political discussion, Tony Birch pointed at the fact that what was missing were Indigenous voices and perspectives because what he saw were non-Indigenous revisionist historians against non-Indigenous conservative historians. The idea was, let’s start from what Birch said, and what can we, non-Indigenous people learn, not from ‘official histories’ but from Indigenous histories?

I always thought it was interesting that there’s many ways of doing history but there is still a resistance, particularly in Australia, to histories that are done through other mediums and are not considered by many as ‘proper’ forms of history. I think there is still a reluctance even within western historiography to accept that these other forms, for example documentary, can do history just as well as historians can, so that history is not just confined to the university but done through many other disciplines. That’s why I incorporate a transdisciplinary approach.

I think what’s also striking is that there is still a linear modernist view of history that has framed Indigenous people as confined to a distant past – depicting Indigenous cultures as not contemporary. This approach was pivotal during the early years of colonisation and still being used today by the settler colonial state, to deny we live in the same day and age and that there can be different ways of being modern and being contemporary.

When we think of how history can be done across media, we think of transmedia, cross-media, convergence, but for many Indigenous cultures across Australia, knowledge was always transmitted across media: song, storytelling, performance. It was always told across media so it doesn’t have to be conceptualised as ‘traditional’ or ‘contemporary’ – they work together. How we perceive and conceptualise history can trick us into thinking in certain paradigms.

These works I’m looking at break away from these paradigms and force us to consider different ways of doing history, and to understand these stories of resistance we need to change the way we think about history itself. It’s not just about knowing, but learning from these stories and reflecting on how and why they were told and at what time.

As someone from Italy, I’m curious, what stirred you to learn about these legacies in Australia?

I first came to Australia in 2009 when I was doing a Master of Comparative Literature and Post-Colonial Studies at the University of Bologna focusing on Australian literature, and that’s when I came across the Ned Kelly stories. I’d always been interested in resistance stories so I thought that would be an interesting topic and I managed to get a scholarship from the University of Bologna to spend three months here doing research, and so of course I came to Melbourne. At the time, I was focusing on the literary reincarnations of Ned Kelly and how his legend was built through various media, starting from the very first songs that were being written and sang while he was alive, up until books like The True History of the Kelly Gang [by Peter Carey] and a number of films.

Whilst doing that, I got in touch with Professor Adam Shoemaker, a key Australian scholar of post-colonial and Indigenous literature who was working at Monash University at the time, and then I got to know Mary Rose Casey, a performance scholar still here in the Monash Indigenous Studies Centre. That was around the time I came across the Jandamarra story.

I didn’t have much time to explore that in my master’s thesis but I conducted some research and wrote a bit about Jandamarra. I then ended up working in Italy for another four years before I decided to continue this research and applied for a scholarship from Monash to do this PhD.

You could say that I targeted Monash as I’d been here before and had a good experience, even though it was just for a couple of weeks. I knew how good a university it was and thought I could do more here so it was my first and only application for a scholarship.

How fortuitous to meet Mary Rose Casey. How then did you find your supervisors?

When I first applied for the scholarship I knew Professor Shoemaker wasn’t working at Monash anymore, so I didn’t have any contacts at the university. I just sent a blind application to see if anyone was interested and soon after I received an email back from Associate Professor Therese Davis saying that she loved the project and that she’d be happy to be my supervisor.

After that I met with her and Associate Professor Belinda Smail at the Monash Prato Centre, as they were organising a small conference there. It was great, we spent a couple of days together so I got a chance to meet my supervisors before I came to Australia. It took a couple of extra months for the scholarship to be approved, then that was it.

And now you’ve submitted your thesis. Can you share a bit about what you’ve found?

Perhaps one of the most interesting stories among the three is the story of Jandamarra. These stories were either actively erased after the death of these freedom fighters, or assimilated into the colonial narrative to maintain the myth of terra nullius, and the myth that Indigenous people did not resist or fight back. You either had to erase these characters by not speaking about them even though they are in the archives, or you turn them into outlaws and bandits.

Jandamarra became a bandit in a book written about him by Ion Idriess in the 1950s, ‘Outlaws of the Leopolds’, where he made Jandamarra the villain who kills settlers with the settlers and police force as the heroes of the narrative. The Bunuba people, the keepers of his story, for years tried to repair this history and retell it through Bunuba stories and voices. In 1984 they created a cultural enterprise, Bunuba Cultural Enterprises, with the objective to tell the story to the wider public. The original idea was to turn it into a feature film, then it became a play through a collaboration with Steve Hawke, a non-Indigenous playwright who spent about 25 years of his life in Fitzroy Crossing. A most interesting aspect is that the play is performed in four languages [English, Bunuba, Kriol and Pidgin]. It then also became an opera that was performed in Sydney three years ago. 

‘Jandamarra: Sing for the Country’ made its world premiere with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House, 2014.

So what we can learn from this approach is that it was driven from the community and can be cross-cultural, and take different forms. You also get an idea of how important language is to convey certain aspects of history. The most important point is that it comes from the community and the ownership of the story remains with the community even when the story is opened up to a much wider audience, as when Indigenous director Mitch Torres retold it in her 2011 documentary Jandamarra’s War.

How did this compare to the other legacies?

Well, on the other end you’ve got Pemulwuy, whose story was first brought to a wider public by Indigenous academic Eric Willmott in 1987 when he was working for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). His approach was very much engaging with the historical archive and looking for what was missing in the official accounts rather than with the keepers of the story. These stories may have been erased from official histories, but if you look at the diaries of settlers and journals of the governors, there are mentions of these figures because they were, at the end of the day, fighting a war. So his approach was looking at the “white” archive and filling in the gaps, whereas with Jandamarra, as it was still alive as an oral history, things were driven by the Bunuba people then research from elsewhere was considered.

Willmott’s research into Pemulwuy was actually first aired as a documentary in 1985, as a teaser to his book while he was still completing the novel. The advantage of considering these different retellings as a corpus is that it allows us to reflect on how they move across time and across media. They might emerge at different times, but they are inextricably connected to each other and this also changes the way in which we often think about history as a single narrative. Pemulwuy emerged to a wider audience in the late 1980s and there’s a reason for that. His story was recovered right before the celebration of the bicentenary because it was being used by Indigenous activists to protest against the omission of Indigenous perspectives from the ‘celebrations’.

The Pemulwuy story is still maintained by the Eora nation or Darug people in Sydney. They were involved in Rachel Perkins’ 2008 documentary series First Australians by having Darug elders retell the story on their own terms, and the same was done in 2010 by Indigenous filmmaker Grant Lee Saunders. Looking at these different works one can see how Pemulwuy is portrayed in different ways by each cultural producer, with changes that reflect the way in which Indigenous activism and politics have changed over the past 30 years.

What about for the retelling of Yagan?

For Yagan, there was an oral history CD released just a few years ago as told by the Whadjuk Noongar people. Again a community-driven project, and it’s interesting how these stories are still being told and how crucial they are. We also have his story playing a pivotal role in Jack Davis’ 1972 play Kullark, in Sally Riley’s short film Confessions of a Headhunter and in a more recent documentary by Kelrick Martin called Yagan.

Through this story and his various retellings by Indigenous cultural producers we can also see how these stories of resistance continue to have an impact in the present. After Pemulwuy, Jandamarra and Yagan were killed, their heads were cut off and shipped to England to be exhibited in museums and that was a common practice that the British colonisers did across the world. The retelling of these stories is a way to advocate for the return of their remains, as well as for sovereignty and land rights. Having their remains returned to country is crucial in many ways for their spirit to be laid to rest and for their legacy to be taken up by a new generation.  Yagan’s head was recovered in 1997 and buried with a traditional Noongar ceremony in 2010, but for Pemulwuy and Jandamarra, there is still an ongoing campaign for the repatriation of their remains and these retellings play an active part in these fights.

This fight is still going on. These stories bring to light questions that need to be discussed with the communities: how do you commemorate these stories? Would Pemulwuy be happy to have a statue built of him by the state he fought against? How can we move forward?

So is this what your research ultimately hopes to achieve – a way to move forward?

The idea was to develop a decolonising framework that could account for the mobility, continuity and heterogeneity of Indigenous multimodal approaches to history-making. This was done not only with objective of facilitating the recognition of Indigenous cultural productions as valid forms of doing history, but to stress how learning from the lives of historical figures like Pemulwuy, Jandamarra and Yagan requires a non-Indigenous public to engage with their incarnations across different media and across different times to truly understand what their legacies entail in the present, and how they are shaped by Indigenous cultural activists. We don’t just need to sit down and listen; we need to sit down, listen and engage and act upon them. There is a need to move forward.

It’s something that could be taken up with many other stories too. It’d be interesting to see other people engaging with the stories of Tunnerminnerwait and Maulboyheenner, Musquito, Dundalli and Windradyne [(each from different Indigenous countries)], or the role of Indigenous women in the resistance for example. In the story of Jandamarra the role of Jandamarra’s mother and wife were crucial in the fight, so that’s another direction of research.

I think it has practical implications for policy as well, for example the way the curriculum is taught – how are these stories taught and for what purpose? Do you just use textbooks or do you use film and art? I think it’s crucial to recognise the importance of not just ‘teaching’ Indigenous histories, but of doing so using also Indigenous ways of doing it, involving communities, as well as cultural producers and cultural activists to stress how these stories are still alive.

I suppose this might also have an impact for the new migrants coming to Australia as in: how much, as migrants to this country, do we know about the many Indigenous sovereign nations? As much as we might be considered minority groups and different from ‘white Australia’, we are still part of a settler colonial state, we still benefit from the genocide that occurred, so we are very much part of the system. We have a responsibility to engage more with these stories, to know them and to learn from them.

It’s not good enough to say, ‘why didn’t anybody tell us?’ We should be actively looking for this information and these stories are out there so it’s a question of: why don’t we act upon them? Why aren’t we in a position to see how important they are?

Even for new migrants to engage more actively to learn about the place you live in, not just the white history of the place. And it’s so much more satisfying, I feel privileged to have lived in a place for four years where we have the longest continuing culture in the world. There is so much to be learnt from it, if we only engaged a bit more.


Broadcaster, Waleed Aly, receives PhD from Monash University


Malthouse opportunities and new Australian musicals at Monash

Head of Theatre & Performance Associate Professor Jane Montgomery-Griffiths
Head of Theatre & Performance Associate Professor Jane Montgomery-Griffiths

The Monash Centre for Theatre and Performance (CTP) has great opportunities for students to further their professional practice, with both its ongoing Malthouse Theatre partnership (including internships, the commissioning of new works for student performance, and lively public lectures); and with a new major donation from Pratt Foundation to foster new Australian musical theatre.

Head of CTP, Associate Professor Jane Montgomery-Griffith, explains that these initiatives are very much central to the CTP’s culture and vision, where the Centre sees itself as part of ‘an ecosystem of theatre’, with benefits for both students and the wider community alike.

What does the Monash-Malthouse partnership offer students and the public?

It’s a terrific partnership; it’s really very mutually beneficial. I particularly like it too that Malthouse is a very innovative theatre company, it’s young, it’s hungry and does exciting work and that’s how we see ourselves at CTP as well – so it’s a perfect engagement.

The Arts Faculty is the major sponsor of Malthouse Theatre each year, and in return our students receive an unrivalled level of internships. We have interns in marketing, PR, theatre administration, directing, lighting, sound design – pretty much every area. It’s an amazing experience for the students because, of course, they are sitting in the rehearsal room with some of the best practitioners in the country, watching these amazing works. In fact, I’ve just had a meeting with someone who’s in the middle of their internship and it’s really a life-changing experience.

Also, through the additional support of MAPA, every year for the past three years we commission playwrights to create a new play for our 3rd year students which is performed at The Malthouse. In our first year we had multi-award-winning playwrights Daniel Keene and Angus Cerini, with three young emerging playwrights. Last year we commissioned Patricia Cornelius and Susie Dee: Patricia is without doubt Australia’s most awarded theatre writer and the work she does is contentious, dangerous, political and exciting; and Susie Dee recently swept up the Green Room Awards this year for her direction. Again, an extraordinary experience for our students working with practitioners of that calibre.

This coming year we’ve commissioned an emerging playwright, Morgan Rose, who is really one of the best emerging playwrights in the country. And I think that’s important too, that we are helping people in their careers who are in the industry, and we’re also validating a form of theatre which isn’t that fashionable because new writing doesn’t get a voice very often. So it’s a way of giving back to the industry as well as engaging our students.

We also believe very strongly in public engagement so we have a series of free public talks called Monash Meets Malthouse where four times a year, to coincide with certain productions, we bring together a panel of Monash academics and people from the industry or broader community for open, fun and informative conversations about the work.

So, really making that link between the entertainment industry, the cultural arts and academic research – coming together and making our research accessible, so we can convey it in a really clear and non-intimidating way and make a stronger conversation.

What’s the next ‘Monash Meets Malthouse’ about?

The talk will explore when is it acceptable for actors and artists to criticise critics. It’ll coincide with the production Wild Bore that will feature Britain’s, America’s and Australia’s foremost queer cabaret artists and provocateurs coming together with a great deal of explicit nudity and scurrilousness, I’m sure. 

CTP received a significant donation from the Pratt Foundation last year – can you tell us what that will go towards?

Yes, it was completely out of the blue for us and an amazing opportunity. Jeanne Pratt donated one million dollars to Monash University to foster new Australian musical theatre. With this funding we’ve changed the model because the Pratt Foundation want to see new musical theatre in the new Alexander Theatre when the huge revitalisation is complete.

Their donation has allowed us to commission a new work. We’ve employed two artists-in-residence so far to write a new piece and they mentor the students. We’ve also doubled the amount of teaching so this year the students are not just learning about the history of musical theatre but writing their own. We’ve got Verity Hunt-Ballard who is probably Australia’s most awarded musical theatre star and she’s teaching them how to act in musicals right now. It is just amazing that someone of her calibre is coming in to teach.

There’s also a sense of excitement in the industry – there’s a lot of people in musical theatre who are now looking at us thinking, this is something very different, this is actually a chance for us to have a testing ground for our work and to be nurtured. The great thing about the artist-in-residency is that it gives people time. They’ve got a year to write their own work, a year where they’ve got their own office where they can be looked after, and then at the end of it their work goes into full production. It’s huge.

What advice do you have for prospective students?

I think the biggest thing for any prospective students or parents out there to understand is how important this is as a discipline. It’s really easy for people to think that theatre and performance are ‘cappuccino degrees’.

About 20 years ago I think someone here or in the UK was talking about scrapping these degrees, that they were for the ‘arty farty elite’. What a load of nonsense! The skills that you learn through this discipline, whether incisive critical analysis, or empathetic engagement, are extraordinary.

And one of the things I love about this year’s intake is that there’s a first year acting course elective open to anyone in the university, and we have really culturally diverse students – it’s wonderful, we even have one young man who teaches a warm up in Hindi. I love that.

We have students from other cultures who have joined simply to feel more comfortable in their own skin. And that’s what it does to you –

the understanding of the soul that happens in acting is, I think, one of the most important lessons you can have.

I think it’s important that parents never think that universities should be vocational because life is much more than a vocational degree. It’s about growing and learning first.

I would say about 25% of my acting intake are actually scientists or business students who might have wanted to take this course so they could do presentations better, but they found something very rich in it.

There needs to be bit more validation in what the arts can do for the community and that it’s not an exercise in elite promotion it’s actually something that is vital for human health, I think.



How does a play further human health and affect our communities? What is the potential of a contemporary Greek tragedy in theatre today? Listen to our interview with Assoc Prof Jane Montgomery-Griffiths on her research into ‘Wit’, the Pulitzer prize-winning play. Presented last year, her performance as the lead role of the brilliant professor dying of cancer in ‘Wit’ saw her win the 2017 Outstanding Performer Greenroom Award. Audiences’ reactions established the need to explore the phenomenon of the play’s effect and its potential for furthering our empathy and human health.


Study at Monash


Stephanie Brookes launches groundbreaking book


PhD candidate Alison Stieven-Taylor invited to moderate debate in Sydney


Public lecture: Paul Strangio reflects on Federal Parliament’s Melbourne years

Free Public Lecture: Something Borrowed: 1901 -1927, the Federal Years at Victoria’s Parliament House.

Friday May 19, 6pm, Queen’s Hall, Parliament House of Victoria.

Associate Professor Paul Strangio

In 1901 Australia’s newly formed Commonwealth Parliament started life not in the Canberra, which was yet to be built, but  in Melbourne, the nation’s first capital. Monash’s Professor Paul Strangio will present a free public lecture on the Federal Parliament’s Melbourne years (1901-1927). 

Professor Strangio will reflect on the significance of those parliamentary sittings in Melbourne over a quarter of a century ago, and how they impacted the shape of federal and state politics in that formative nation-building era.

Paul Strangio is an associate professor of politics in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University, as well as an author and editor of many books on Australian and Victorian political history. His latest major project (with Paul ‘t Hart and James Walter) is a two-volume history of the Australian prime ministership: Settling the Office: The Australian Prime Ministership from Federation to Reconstruction (2016) and The Pivot of Power: Australian Prime Ministers and Political Leadership 1949-2016 (forthcoming in 2017).

Professor Strangio’s lecture is part of an exhibition ‘Something Borrowed’ which tells the story of those pioneering 26 years on Spring Street. On show from 15 to 19 May 2017 in Queen’s Hall at Parliament House, the ‘Something Borrowed’ exhibition will explore some of the forgotten and unknown stories of the Federal Parliament’s formative years. Download the exhibition brochure

Entry the Public Lecture is free, but spaces are limited. 
Visit to reserve your seat.

Study at Monash