Bright futures: collaborative research opportunities through the Monash Arts Faculty

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

Research success by the Monash Arts Faculty

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

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

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

Research priorities with impact at Monash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Join in the Monash Arts Faculty collaborative research success

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

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

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Posh accents, discrimination and employment in Australia

Howard Manns, Monash University

UK researchers recently reviewed the hiring practices of 13 elite law, accountancy and financial companies, and found that applicants with posh accents were favoured over their working class counterparts.

So, does a similar process hold in the Australian context? Are your employment chances rooted and rooned by not having a posh accent?

Not in Australia. But the UK study serves as a caution of sorts, and it’s worth reviewing the dynamics of accent and employment in the UK, Australia and beyond.

How we judge accents

We don’t judge accents themselves, but rather the speakers of those accents and our perceptions of those speakers’ qualities. Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (1519-1556), reputedly spoke Spanish to God, French to men, Italian to women and German to horses.

We commonly judge accents and their speakers along dimensions of prestige and pleasantness.

To these ends, Brits with posh accents may be doubly advantaged. Many are born into these accents or acquire them at elite public schools. And, on the pleasantness spectrum, we tend to be drawn to accents most like our own.

Therefore, if you happen to be one of the estimated 3-5% of Brits who has a posh accent, and you’re reviewing the application of poor Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle, then, yes, for poor Eliza, a job will ardly hever ‘appen.

But accents index both positive and negative attributes to employers and potential customers, and posh accents have been fraying in the British sphere since the 1990s. Studies have shown while posh accents index “intelligence” and “success” they are also considered “less friendly” and “less trustworthy” than regionally marked or difficult-to-place accents.

This has led, among other things, to the emergence of what has been labelled Estuary English, a mix of a posh accent and certain Cockney features, such as glottal stops. Tony Blair and Princess Diana were well known speakers of Estuary English.

Linguist Emma Moore talks about Tony Blair and Estuary English in the following video:

Alongside this process, Scottish accents have emerged as having a certain value add in British society. For instance, a 2008 survey found Scottish accents to be the most reassuring and soothing in a crisis. And a 2012 survey found them to be hardworking and reliable in business.

‘Posh’ accents in Australian English

Australian English is judged variously and inconsistently throughout its history, both at home and abroad.

Winston Churchill called Australian English “the most brutal maltreatment that has ever been inflicted on the mother-tongue of the great English-speaking nations”.

Historian Joy Damousi notes American writer Mark Twain, for his part, was fond of the English spoken in Ballarat.

Twain was impressed with how Ballarat speakers rendered thank you to a simple Q and you’re welcome to km. Such shortenings he mused, give the tongue “a delicate whispery and vanishing cadence which charms the ear …”.

Within Australia, there has historically been a clear social distinction between Cultivated (British-oriented) and Broad or General, distinctly Australian ways of speaking.

This distinction can be traced to the early decades of the colony. In the early 19th century, GA Wilkes notes new arrivals from Britain garnered the label stirling after money with official standing.

Conversely, those born in the colony bore the label currency, a money with less standing and less value. By 1827, one British observer noted the currency could be identified by their Aussie pride, poor teeth and “nasal twang”.

The tide arguably turned in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when, as lexicographer Bruce Moore observes, Australians derided the migrant whinging poms, who the Australians believed were often openly and vocally disappointed by the new country.

Among other things, Moore links the word “pom” to the fondness of early 20th century Australian children for giving nicknames, and the subsequent playground rhyming of immigrant, jimmygrant and pomegranate for Brit children. The term whinging pom itself had emerged by 1962.

The late 20th century saw the decreasing relevance of British-oriented, cultivated ways of speaking. This can be linked to a number of factors, including increasing Australian nationalism and the establishment of an Australian Language Research Centre. The ABC first permitted distinctly Australian accents in its broadcasts in 1952.

The prime minister’s office maintained a cultivated feel until 1966 with RG Menzies, who, as Moore points out, described himself as “British to the bootstraps”:

But, by 1972, Gough Whitlam had given the prime minister’s office a distinctly Australian voice:

In contemporary Australia, linguist Felicity Cox observes that a cultivated accent might work against you. She writes, “many Australians feel that that Cultivated accent is not reflective of Australian values”.

“Vowel cancer” and crabs in the workplace

While posh accents are less relevant in Australia, the UK study does illustrate a critical point which is valid in Australia. Accent remains fair game when it comes to racism and classicism. Where it might be unacceptable, to pass comment on ways of dress or manner, ways of speaking tend to fly under the radar.

This process is well-studied within the US and the British spheres. For instance, Rosina Lippi-Green has famously argued that accents in Disney films draw on as well as reinforce minority stereotypes.

Lippi-Green notes that African American accents leading up to the 1990s are predominantly attached to animal rather than humanoid characters in these films. More so, the male minority characters in these films are generally unemployed, and seem to be concerned with nothing more than having fun and please themselves.

This is instructive for the Australian sphere, where speakers of any number of non-standard or broad accents might have the potential to be marginalised.

Writer Kathy Lette (with Gabrielle Carey) brilliantly documents the Australian vernacular the 1979 novel Puberty Blues. Yet, Lette has also been known to warn teens off such colloquial ways of speaking, calling them “vowel cancer”, and encouraging teens to practice “tongue fu”.

It can be dangerous and misleading to judge a job applicant along a single social dimension such as accent. Perhaps this is best illustrated in closing with the 19th century writer Price Warung’s yarn about an Echuca steamboat deckhand named Dictionary Ned. Warung’s stories often focus on the inequities of the convict system.

Ned loved words and carried a dictionary with him wherever he went. Over time, Ned came to memorise the entire dictionary. Yet, Ned found his Aussie pronunciation of these words constantly derided by College Bill, a man of position and the town drunkard.

In the yarn’s climax, Ned, realising his Aussie accent will never be accepted, shocks the town by shifting into French. From that point onward, College Bill is known in town as Ned labels him: “mo-va-soo-jay” (mauvais sujet “evil”). And more relevantly, the town folk come to realise that their myopic focus on Ned’s accent has led them to underestimate his wit and linguistic prowess.The Conversation

Howard Manns is Lecturer in Linguistics at Monash University.

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

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Herb Feith Memorial Lecture: Professor Adrian Vickers on Indonesian Art History

Professor Adrian Vickers (University of Sydney) will deliver the 2015 Herb Feith Memorial Lecture at Monash University on ‘The Problem with Indonesian Art History’.

Indonesian art history has an odd relationship with general history writing. Like mainstream history, narratives of art history serve nationalist purposes. Modernism in art is equated with nationalism in the official story of Indonesian art.

Like the major political narratives of history, however, the story of modern Indonesian art cannot adequately accommodate the events of 1965, and nor can it deal with the existence of parallel histories of regional art. An art history that begins with Bali provides alternative understandings of the modern, and the regional in Indonesia.

This alternative art history relocates Indonesian art in the global context, illuminates the roles of institutions in the production and commodification of art, and provides a new understanding of the contemporary in art.

Event details:

Date: 3 July 2015
Time: 6pm – 8.30pm
Venue: H116, Ground Floor, H Building, Monash University Caulfield campus

Register by 26 June 

Download the Seminar Flyer

About Professor Adrian Vickers

Professor Adrian Vickers holds a personal chair at the University of Sydney. His publications include Bali: A Paradise Created (1989, new edition 2013, previously translated into German, Dutch, Japanese and Indonesia); A History of Modern Indonesia (2004, new edition 2012, translated into Indonesian and Turkish);Balinese Art: Paintings and Drawing of Bali (2012), and, with Julia Martìnez, The Pearl Frontier: Labor Mobility across the Australian-Indonesian Maritime Zone, 1870-1970 (2015). He has held a series of Australian Research Council grants looking at Indonesian art, the Cold War, and labour and industry in Southeast Asia.

As part of an ARC Linkage Grant on the history of Balinese painting, he has prepared a virtual museum, continuing previous pioneering work in eResearch and teaching. He has been a Visiting Fellow at Magdalene College Cambridge and the Cambridge Joint Centre for History and Economics; Senior Visiting Fellow at the Asia Research Centre at the National University of Singapore; and a Visiting Fellow at the Royal Institute for Linguistics and Anthropology, Leiden. He has previously taught at the University of Wollongong and the University of New South Wales.

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Hear the conversations from ACFID University Network Conference

If you’re interested in poverty, inequality and the role of development in alleviating these issues, you might want to catch up on the recordings and online conversations that happened at the 5th ACFID University Network Conference, which Monash hosted earlier this month. 

Videos and audio recordings on the Plenary sessions, which included a keynote address Professor Martin Ravallion, Chair of Economics at Georgetown University and former Director of the World Bank’s research department. In his address, Professor Ravallion called on participants to focus their work on intersection and multiple forms of inequality, not just income inequality.

Another highlight was the Thursday afternoon Plenary session – during which conference attendees heard from Yen Vo, Zakia Baig, Fenton Lutunatabua ( and Ei Shwe Yi Win on lived experiences of inequality. 

Catch up on the conversation, see what students had to say at our Student Forum, watch the Plenary sessions or listen to the audio from the sessions on the ACFID University Network Conference website. 

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‘Monash Country Lines’ Yanyuwa animations to be broadcast on NITV

Those  interested in seeing the work of the Monash Country Lines project will soon have the chance, as animations from the project will be broadcast over June to August on National Indigenous Television (NITV).

The Monash Country Lines Archive (MCLA) is a collaborative Monash University project between the Monash Indigenous Centre (MIC), Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Information Technology with a team of Monash researchers, digital animators and post-graduate students.

The animations, which were created in collaboration with the Yanyuwa Families of Brooloola, are part of the project aim to create decolonised spaces where communities can record material, history and language. The Monash Country Lines Archive has been working with the Yanyuwa elders to animate a number of stories and songs from their country.

The broadcast details are:

  • The Sea Turtle and the Osprey is currently scheduled for 9:30pm on Tuesday  the 16th of June 2015, with encore broadcasts at 7:30pm on Sunday the 21st of June 2015 and 1pm on Monday the 22nd of June 2015

  • The Chicken Hawk & the Crow is currently scheduled for as part of  Backyard Shorts Series 2showcase for 9:30pm on Tuesday the 30th of June 2015, with an encore broadcast at 7:30pm on Sunday the 5th of June 2015.

  • Dreaming From Saltwater Country is currently scheduled for as part of Backyard Shorts Series 2 showcase for 9:30pm on Tuesday the 7th of July 2015, with an encore broadcast at 7:30pm on Sunday the 12th of July 2015.

  • Dugong Hunters is currently scheduled for as part of  Backyard Shorts Series 2 showcase for 9:30pm on Tuesday the 21st of July 2015, with encore broadcasts at 7:30pm on Sunday the 26th of July 2015 and 1pm on Monday the 27th of July 2015

  • The Brolga is currently scheduled for as part of Backyard Shorts Series 2 showcase for 9:30pm on Tuesday the 4th of August 2015, with encore broadcasts 7:30pm on Sunday the 9th of August 2015 and 1pm on Monday the 10th of August 2015

NOTE: Broadcast dates are subject to late changes without notice.

The animations are also available to be viewed on the Monash Country Lines Archive website. 

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Monash at the International Feminist Journal of Politics Conference in Brisbane

Gender, peace, women’s rights and international conflict  were all in the spotlight at the 2015 International Feminist Journal of Politics Conference held in Brisbane last week. 

The Conference, which was hosted by the University of Queensland and sponsored by QUT and Monash University, focused on a theme that related gender to peace and security, and included key note addresses from Hon Shannon Fentiman (Minister for Communities, Women and Youth, Minister for Child Safety, and Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Queensland Government) and Capt. Jennifer Wittwer, Director National Action Plan for Women, Peace and Security, Australian Defence Force.

Monash Social Sciences academics and PhD candidates presented their work as it related to the conference theme, including presentations from International Relations Professor Jacqui True, Lecturer in International Relations, Dr Swati Parashar, and lecturer and researcher in Anthropology, Dr Sara Niner. 

“The IFJP Conference in Brisbane was a perfect opportunity to be in conversation with other experts in the field on how our understanding of international peace and security are broadened by taking gendered inequalities seriously,” explained Maria Tanyag, a Phd Candidate from Politics and International Relations, who presented on her work on how global political and economic drivers affect reproductive freedom. 

Some of the participants from Monash Arts at the IFJP Conference in Brisbane.
Some of the participants from Monash Arts at the IFJP Conference in Brisbane.


“The interesting and important research projects we are doing at Monash were strongly represented in the conference presentations,” she added. 

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Larrikin carnival: an Australian style of cultural subversion

Tony Moore, Monash University

This article is part of a series, On Happiness, examining what it means and how it might be achieved in the 21st century.

The problem with contemporary ideas about happiness is their intolerance of discontent. Happiness has morphed into a personal responsibility to avoid negative, critical responses to the external conditions of our lives, lest we court depression, anxiety or disturb the tranquility and happiness of others. If we are unhappy, the problem lies with us, and not our job, family situation, neigbourhood or rulers.

In this individualised but mass-marketed therapeutic iteration, happiness is too often construed as a form of quiescence, of contentment, acceptance of social norms and conformity to the status quo.

I want to recast happiness as a form of carnival, a subversive, rambunctious style of happiness derived from trangressive art and “art of the self”, a comedic disruption to conformity that destabilises complacent authority, producing new ways of seeing and being.

In Australia from its beginnings, humour and irony have been small weapons in the armoury of the oppressed, the outcast, or those simply fed up with cultural uniformity.

This fightback begins with Aboriginal people, who have long used wry and ironic humour against authorities as a form of resistance to colonisation. Indeed Australia’s sense of humour may well owe more to its original inhabitants than to the undoubted anti-authoritarian mockery of the convicts – many of whom were also victims of dispossession in the Old World, seeking happiness in the New.

These early influences shape an Australian style of cultural subversion that, in my book Dancing with Empty Pockets (2012), I call the “larrikin carnivalesque”. It is where rabble-rousing lefties meet a style of libertarianism that can also be associated with right-leaning contrarians.

John Safran in 2008. AAP Image/Paul Harris
John Safran in 2008. AAP Image/Paul Harris

It has a long pedigree in the arts, stretching from groups of bohemian writers, journalists and cartoonists gathered around the early Bulletin in the late 19th century, to Kath and Kim, prankster John Safran, The Chaser, Chris Lilley and Housos in this century.

The term “carnivalesque” was coined by Soviet literary academic Mikhail Bakhtin to refer to a topsy-turvy spirit of riotous festivity, famously unleashed in the carnivals of Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries, in which the lower orders deployed misrule, play, humour and vulgarity to subvert authority – if only temporarily.

By crossing arbitrary borders and disrupting expectation carnival could stimulate new ways of thinking, and radically transform culture. This type of dissent has deep roots in Australia’s folk memory where it’s often referred to as our “larrikin streak”.

One of Australia’s great colonial satirists was journalist and writer Marcus Clarke. A celebrated wit, he drank, argued, and scandalised his way through Melbourne in the 1870s, setting up a string of bohemian clubs, outraging respectable society and trying to keep one step ahead of the creditors.

Scalpel in one hand and rapier in the other, young Marcus carved out a journalistic niche for himself as the “Peripatetic Philosopher”, a slightly bemused, cynical observer of the (mock) heroic goings on of Melbourne society, producing sketches that anticipate Humphries’ character monologues a century later.

Few were exempt from his barbs, including sharebrokers, “new chums”, “our boys”, the working man, politicians, squatters, art connoisseurs, journalists, sporting men, ladies and larrikins, all accompanied by their own peculiar slang or jargon.

Archibald’s Bulletin

At the Bulletin magazine, founded in 1880, a radical, democratic, grassroots Australian carnivalesque humour flourished.

Its early editor JF Archibald made a virtue of tapping the energies of bush and urban workers, the shearing sheds and city pubs, and from this interactive community emerged writers with a gift for the vernacular as diverse as Henry Lawson, CJ Dennis, Miles Franklin, Steele Rudd, Banjo Paterson, Joseph Furphy and Norman Lindsay.

The Bulletin drew on the language of the streets and the shearing sheds to mock those in authority, from the capitalist “fat man”, “squatters”, parsons, “wowsers” and magistrates to plutocrats, governors and the Crown.

Gina Riley (left) and Jane Turner attend the premiere of Kath & Kimderella, The Movie, in 2012. AAP Image/Paul Jeffers
Gina Riley (left) and Jane Turner attend the premiere of Kath & Kimderella, The Movie, in 2012. AAP Image/Paul Jeffers

A particular target was the “wowser”, slang for a pious, Christian proselytiser of either gender who was vigilant in policing others morals, skilled in the tut-tutting of others’ happiness.

Nothwithstanding a nasty strain of sexism and racism in its humour, the Bulletin was radical in its championing of causes such as republicanism, unions, the new Labor Party and female suffrage. But as Sylvia Lawson has argued in her contribution to the 1999 collection Journalism: print, politics and popular culture, it was in the magazine’s disruption of expectation — its mockery of authority, genre-blending, the interplay of short comic pars with cartoons — that the Bulletin was most subversive, helping to create a cultural naissance distinguished by its appeal to both salon and saloon.

Post-war larrikins

The postwar expansion of universities provided a stage for young bohemians such as Humphries, Germaine Greer, Clive James and Bob Ellis to hone the larrikin carnivalesque – literally in student revue, and also on campus newspapers such as Honi Soit and Tharunka, where Richard Neville, Martin Sharpe and Richard Walsh rehearsed a new wave of libertarian satire that went off-campus as Oz.

Germaine Greer in 2002. AAP Image/Dean Lewins
Germaine Greer in 2002. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

Neville’s Play Power, published in 1971, makes clear that his brand of counter-cultural satire was not just hostile to the right, but also to the left, for being too dismissive of the revolutionary possibilities of pop culture, humour and media.

I grew up in working-class Port Kembla in the 1970s, where we cheered on Bazza McKenzie, the gormless young Australian larrikin in London, comic-book brainchild of Barry Humphries, translated to feature film The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972) by director Bruce Beresford and producer Phillip Adams. Self-described as an ordinary “working man”, Bazza was one of us, a life-affirming foil against smug trendies, snivelling officials, puffing pollies in a film caricaturing the xenophobic of all classes.

The people behind the “ocker cycle” of plays, films, television – Stork, Don’s Party, Alvin Purple (1976), The Aunty Jack Show (1972) – were far from mere commercial showmen. They smuggled into them all sorts of critical insights and visceral pleasures from bohemian subcultures like the Sydney Push and the Melbourne Drift of the 1950s, and the experimental avant-garde projects at which they laboured in the 1960s.

Self-satire was epitomised in the 1974 sequel Barry McKenzie Holds His Own, famously climaxing in a cameo by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, where he regally Dames Bazza’s Aunty Edna Everage. The scene recalls a colourful period where the larrikin carnivalesque moved to the centre of our political culture, an era where leaders laughed along with us at our foibles, engendering a healthy national happiness. Not for nothing did Whitlam once observe “the fun is where I am”.

Larrikins in the age of bureaucrats

Today we live in an age where bureaucrats are drafted as politicians, where managerialism, focus groups and gaffe-spotting take the place of wit, passion and ideas. But perhaps because of this political tedium, the larrikin carnivalesque has thrived.

The Anglo-Celts lost their monopoly on larrikinism in the 1990s as “wog humour” emerged from the suburbs with another popular movie where the naïve but vulgar innocent triumphs in Nick Giannopoulos’ Wog Boy (2000). Kath and Kim have confirmed Edna’s secret that women indeed rule the childlike men of the suburbs, and they now do so not by shushing male pleasures but by out-ockering them.

Chris Lilley. AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts
Chris Lilley. AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts

Paul Fenech’s Pizza franchise (2000-2005) and its latest iteration Housos (2011), demonstrates how hip-hopping homeboys of Middle-Eastern appearance have the power to offend and shock. Through the long haul of the Howard, Rudd, Gillard and now Abbott years it has been the Chaser team who channel the subversive elements of the larrikin carnivalesque – anarchic anti-authoritarianism, pranks, the parody of other media, and flirtation with obscenity and offences against good taste.

Humphries’ gift for dark, ironic social observations has passed to Chris Lilley, whose We Can Be Heroes (2005), Angry Boys (2011) and Ja’mie, Private School Girl (2013) dared to puncture the myth of Australian goodness. Lilley leapt into the hypocrisy of race relations in Australia: from cruel schoolyard taunts, to the struggling Tongan boys, confined to the gum nut cottage and forced to appreciate their culture through the creepy “Polynesian Pathways” — offensive to those who believe such programs promote civic happiness, but an important truth about regulation of ethnics in this country.

Today’s guerrilla satire is driven by the new technologies of digital cameras and internet distribution via Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, but the big difference is that the interactivity of these mediums allow a participation by consumers not seen in this country since the hey days of the Bulletin.

Meanwhile a somnolent bureaucracy built of metrics, key performance indicators and compliance that enlists a coercive homogenising notion of “wellbeing” is smothering dissent in so many of our great public and commercial institutions, even in those creative spaces such as universities and the media where troublemakers traditionally pushed back for the freedom to experiment, take risks and have fun.

But out in the “burbs”, online and in the back-blogs, funny young people are busy self-curating extreme carnival to smuggle a sense of what former Prime Minister Paul Keating called “vaudeville” into our otherwise utilitarian politics.

This article is based on an essay in the collection On Happiness: New Ideas for the Twenty-First Century (UWA Publishing, June 2015).

On Happiness: New Ideas for the Twenty-First Century will launch this evening at Dymocks, George Street, Sydney. Details here.The Conversation

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

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Australia’s declining investment in quality university teaching

Margaret Gardner, President and Vice-Chancellor, Monash University

Teaching is at the core of what Australian universities do, yet it receives nowhere near the attention it should, and is in danger of receiving even less.

In part this neglect can be traced back to university ranking systems that focus predominantly on research. In part it’s a product of increasingly inadequate funding.

In Australia quality teaching is served by a program called Promotion of Excellence in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (PELTHE), administered through the Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT).

Funding for learning and teaching has suffered cuts in most federal budgets over the last seven to eight years. In the 2015 federal budget the Office for Learning and Teaching had its funding cut by over 36%, or A$16.1m, for the period 2016 to 2019.

This cut is likely to severely constrain our ability to answer challenging questions commonly faced by university lecturers. For example: how do we help students with different levels of preparation to learn chemistry in large first year classes? How do we teach students to understand what they don’t know, and help them improve?

Responses to these questions were developed through the Office for Learning and Teaching and made available for all higher education institutions in 2015. It’s uncertain how much of this work will continue.

A culture of excellence in education

A comparatively small investment by the federal government in grants, fellowships and awards through the Office for Learning and Teaching and its predecessor bodies, has led to national innovations in the quality of learning and teaching across higher education.

There is now a significant alumni of national teaching award winners and national teaching fellows. This has benefited students, universities and communities immensely, but unfortunately there are few ways of seeing this success because there are no international rankings devoted to learning and teaching.

Instead, we measure the success of Australian universities increasingly through international rankings that, while important, largely reflect research excellence.

Student retention and success in Australia compares well with similar countries. A recent article in The Australian argued the review of learning and teaching for the British Higher Education Academy suggests that the Australian OLT and predecessors has

produc[ed] and disseminat[ed] a vast body of knowledge and good practice throughout the higher education sector […] with achievements increasingly […] seen as exemplars for other countries.

How excellence is promoted

The competitive peer-review system for learning and teaching excellence is as rigorous as that which distributes competitive research funding.

Each year between 750 and 900 applications are received from across the higher education system for grants, fellowships and awards.

Around one quarter were successful in 2014 – although success rates vary from a low of 12% for grants (similar to the success rates for research grants from the Australian Research Council) to 46% for awards which are given to the best teachers in a field of study and tend to attract a small number of applications from any particular institution.

Funding received by institutions for teaching and learning innovation and excellence is spread across a broad range of institutions. By my calculations the top 10 universities received 46% of total funds awarded.

This is a much lower concentration than seen in research grant funding distributions, where the top eight universities receive around 70% of competitive funding between them.

Evaluating impact

The evaluation processes say much about how impact is valued. Grants are evaluated on the creativity and innovation of their plans.

How will this add to what we understand about and how we undertake effective learning and teaching? What does this mean for the quality of learning and teaching in a specific discipline? How will it address an issue such as academic integrity, building particular graduate capabilities, or increasing retention of students?

Teaching awards go to the best teachers nationally in particular disciplines, such as science or law or nursing, and to the best teaching teams, whether they are delivering improvements to the first year experience or improving learning outcomes from laboratory work.

The applications require evidence of student evaluations over time, how teaching and learning has improved over a number of years, and of how the innovations and excellence in teaching have influenced others beyond their own classroom or institution.

Fellowships are about how a particular academic will lead a program to have a direct impact on improving the quality of learning and teaching in their institution or across institutions.

To win such a fellowship the program must show what change will happen and how. A key part of these learning and teaching fellowships is ensuring that innovations in learning and teaching are disseminated across many institutions, courses and classes. They must have an impact.

It is time we talked more about what excellent teaching in higher education means for students. Dedicated national investment in learning and teaching in higher education will be just A$28m over the next four years – this is much less federal funding available than at any time over the previous decade.

Quality and innovation in learning and teaching should grow along with increased student numbers and advances in technology. Instead it is diminishing.

Promotion of Excellence in Teaching and Learning Funding by institution Author Provided, Author provided
Promotion of Excellence in Teaching and Learning Funding by institution Author Provided, Author provided

This article first appeared on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Design Competition: Monash – WhyDev Development mentoring program

Calling all creative thinkers! Put your design skills to the test and win $200!

Monash Arts and WhyDev need your help to design a name, logo and style guide for a new online mentoring program we’re working on for students in their final year of the Master of International Development Practice.

With your help, we’ll get the word out on this unique opportunity that links students with mentors and professionals currently working in the international development field. We want to create an online platform that gives students the chance to learn more about the practical side of the theories, policies and organisations that they’re coming across in the classroom. 

The online mentoring program, which will be run with the Monash Arts’ School of Social Sciences and WhyDev, is designed to create a space for students of the Master of International Development Practice program to link up with mentors. The aim is to ultimately enrich their study experience and help them kick-start their career, as well as learn from development professionals outside the classroom.

Your task is to design a unique Name, Logo and Style Guide for the online mentoring program.

  • The name should be short, sharp and catchy
  • The Logo should be eye-catching, simple and interesting

What’s in it for you?

  • The winner will receive $200 cash
  • Your design will be the brand for the online mentoring platform, and will appear in all promo material relating to the program
  • Your name will appear within the online mentoring platform itself
  • Add to your portfolio/CV as an example of your design success


The competition is open to all current Monash University students, from any discipline.

You can enter the competition as an individual or as a team.


Please email your entry to Dr. Samanthi Gunawardana ( by 5pm, Tuesday 30th June, 2015.

Files: Please note, Name and Style Guide should be attached as a Word document. Logo designs should be attached as an .ai file (Adobe Illustrator).

For more information:

Please contact:

Study with Monash:



New Directions in Screen Studies conference organised by Monash post-grad students

Under Construction and New Directions Teams.
Under Construction and New Directions Teams.

A group of Monash Film and Screen Studies postgraduates have been especially busy over the past few months organising a national conferencem which has been held this week at Caulfield Campus.

Developed out of the monthly Under Construction seminar series, New Directions in Screen Studies is a two-day conference for postgraduates and early career researchers (ECRs) in Screen Studies.

The conference is a forum for new researchers to showcase their work before their peers and develop professional links across campuses around the country and beyond.

Its academic focus is emerging concerns, debates and methodologies in the field of screen studies, but it also hopes to capture the multiple ways in which the historical, the contemporary and the future are inter-related domains of knowledge.

Keynote speakers include Dr Ramon Lobato, Professor Angela Ndalianis, Professor George Kouvaros and filmmaker John Hughes.

Here’s what the organisers have to say about it:

What is Under Construction?

Matteo Dutto: Under Construction is a seminar series run by postgraduates in the School of Media, Film and Journalism for postgraduates.

We meet on the first Monday of every month during semester to share ideas in a laid-back setting in which we can get to know each other and each other’s work.

Presenters can share and test-run their conference papers, milestone presentations, journal articles, or just some of the ideas from their research.

What made you want to get involved with this group/project?

Michael Kho Lim: When I started my PhD program, I was quite overwhelmed with everything and seemed to be lost. I also didn’t know anyone else from the program besides my classmates in my coursework.

I wanted to meet some of the seniors so I would know how it went for them, how was the experience, etc. Then an announcement came the UC would be “revived”.

I attended some sessions and thought of joining the organising committee because I think it’s a good way to interact with other PhD students and help the new ones start off more prepared.

I also thought that it would add excitement to my PhD life as it could be quite a solitary journey. I have been quite used to organising events back home, so I thought of helping out as well.

Dan Edwards: I can’t speak for the others, but I was drawn to the idea of a seminar series, and later a conference, because I felt, along with several other postgrads I spoke to, that there was a distinct lack of community amongst the MFJ PhD students at Monash.

The only time many of us saw each other was at end of year drinks, so we saw the seminars partly as a way of fostering a social community.

Secondly, it seemed important to provide postgrads with a forum for presenting and testing their work before their peers in a non-pressured environment.

Otherwise, for many people presenting their work meant stepping straight into a conference set up, where you are often presenting before a more senior (and sometimes much more critical) cohort.

How did the conference develop out of the seminar series?

Matteo Dutto: It all came quite naturally after we had run the series for about a year.

We thought it would be a good idea to open up the format and organise a conference focusing on the work of postgraduates and early career researchers in Screen Studies and provide a national forum to discuss their research and establish connections with their peers.

How did you decide on “new directions” as a theme?

Belinda Glyn: When we were deciding what kind of conference we wanted to have, we realised there was no conference in Australia just for postgrads and early career researchers.

This seemed like a huge oversight, because this group are the researchers of the future who have lots of interesting things to say but might, due to lack of experience and published work, find it hard to get into the more established film studies conferences.

New directions seemed like an appropriate way to describe the work of upcoming film scholars – the new directions in the field of film studies.

What challenges did you overcome during the organising process?

Shweta Kishore: It has been a great learning experience. We have worked well as a team with a common objective.

The challenges have been minor logistical issues but nothing major so far. We were quite fortunate that as we had run a seminar series, it helped to establish our credentials when we approached the School of Media, Film and Journalism as well as MIGR with the proposal for a conference.

And, finally, which panel are you most looking forward to and why?

Sofia Rios: The panel I am looking forward to the most is “Outsiders, liars and bad men: takes on contemporary television”.

I am a huge advocate for television studies, as I find that film studies usually steals the limelight.

Matteo Dutto: I wish I could see all panels, but we had so many high-level submissions that we had to have three streams.

If I had to pick three I would go with the panel on FILM FESTIVALS AND PUBLICS, the one on NON-PROFESSIONAL STORYTELLING and with DESTABILISING CRITICAL THEORY.

I am also looking forward to the screening of John Hughes’ 1995 film What I Have Written as parts of it were shot at the Monash Clayton campus.

The conference reception is also going to be great fun.

Shweta Kishore: All the panels feature excellent papers and presenters.

Personally I am looking forward to the Screen Sound and Music panel because sound is such an important element of films but is often subordinated to the visual mise en scene in film studies.

I am also looking forward to our film screening and the keynote speakers as well as connecting with the presenters at the reception.

Dan Edwards: I think they’ll all be great, but personally I’m particularly looking forward to the “Moments of Stasis” panel on day one, because I love films that play on the tension between motion and stillness, and encourage a viewing attitude that is above all attendant to minute shifts in tone.

I’m also really looking forward to all of our keynotes, who are a very eclectic group of scholars with very different approaches and interests.


If you are interested in receiving more information about the Under Construction Seminar, please email so you can be added to their mailing list.

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Herb Thomas Memorial Trust award for Monash Arts student

Dani Rothwell has won the Herb Thomas Memorial Trust award as the most outstanding journalism student in the Bachelor of Professional Communication degree at Monash University.

From left: Herb Thomas Memorial Trust chairman Roger Hall, Monash University’s Dani Rothwell, Star News Group editor Garry Howe, RMIT’s Sian Johnson and Lauren McKinnon.
From left: Herb Thomas Memorial Trust chairman Roger Hall, Monash University’s Dani Rothwell, Star News Group editor Garry Howe, RMIT’s Sian Johnson and Lauren McKinnon.

Dani, who was presented with her award at a function in Pakenham on May 5, has been awarded with prize money to help pursue her career within the industry.

Dr Paul Atkinson represented Monash University’s School of Media, Film and Journalism at the awards night.

“Members of the interview panel lauded Dani’s involvement with local community groups and her commitment to highlighting the challenges faced by young people in the region,” Dr Atkinson said.

“The award is managed by the Berwick, Pakenham and Narre Warren Rotary clubs and is presented in honour of Herb Thomas, a respected journalist and newspaper proprietor of the Pakenham Gazette.”

Dani said she believed the ability to create lasting change within a community relied on being able to effectively communicate.

“Like many others, I share the desire to create change and leave the world a better place,” she said.

“As clichéd as it is, over my years of community involvement, I have found a key difference between people who achieve their desire and those who do not.”

Dani said change started with identifying a problem and creating a great solution.

“For me, the problem within my local community was that young people were killing themselves. Young people were left alone, and had nowhere to turn,” she said.

“I understand that these are generalisations and that many other factors were at play, but the bottom-line is that young people were dying unnecessarily.

“As a passionate believer in the power of young people as change agents, this left me heartbroken. After a period of grief and negativity, I embraced this as an identified problem that needed a long lasting solution. This is when I realised the power of investigative communication.”

Dani, who is president of the Monash Union of Berwick Students,  hopes to be a national political reporter in the future.

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Monash Journalism students named Walkley scholarship finalists

Monash University journalism students Hannah Scholte and Kate Wong Hoy have been named finalists for the 2015 Jacoby-Walkley Scholarship.

Hannah Scholte
Hannah Scholte is a finalist for the 2015 Jacoby-Walkley Scholarship.

Hannah and Kate will compete for the prestigious award against five other finalists, including Annalise Bolt (University of New South Wales), Sam Cucchiara (RMIT University), Christina Guo (University of Sydney), Lucy Hinton (RMIT University) and Naeun Kim (Macquarie University).

This scholarship was established with the generous support of journalist and producer Anita Jacoby, to honour the memory of her father Phillip Jacoby– a pioneer in the Australian electronics and broadcast technology industry.

Hannah is  excited to be in the running to win a career-changing scholarship program.

“I don’t think I could dream up a program more appealing to me at this point in my career, so I’m very pleased to be chosen as a finalist and incredibly excited about the prospect of being successful in taking it,” Hannah said.

“I’m passionate about pursuing video journalism, so gaining experience in the media workplaces involved and completing a short course at the same time would be an invaluable opportunity.”

Kate Wong Hoy
Monash University’s Kate Wong Hoy is a 2015 Jacoby-Walkley Scholarship finalist.

Katie said she was very grateful and honoured to have been selected as a finalist for the Jacoby-Walkley Scholarship.“One of the videos I submitted was a current affairs story that I filmed on my Mum’s stroke recovery story and it is a piece I am very proud of.“It is an incredible opportunity and I am thrilled to have reached this stage,” she said.

“It is amazing that it has now been recognised by industry professionals. I have dreamed about being a television journalist for years and I am so excited to be one step closer to realising that dream.”

Final-year journalism students and recent graduates, with a passion for investigative or long-form television reporting, were encouraged to apply for the 12-week paid internship.

The winner will spend eight weeks at the Nine Network, four weeks at The Walkley Foundation and complete at least one TV production course through the open program at AFTRS.

They will also be mentored by senior journalist members of The Walkley Advisory Board and work with and learn from some of Australia’s leading journalists and producers.

The scholarship is open to students 26 years and under enrolled in journalism or communication studies at an Australian university.

The winner will be announced at the Walkley mid-year Celebration in Sydney on July 29, 2015.

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New book on the pursuit of happiness

What is happiness, and how does the pursuit of happiness shape our lives? This is the question a new book featuring a chapter by Monash’s Dr Tony Moore, hopes to answer. 

On Happiness book CoverThe book, On happiness: New Ideas for the 21st Century, will feature a chapter by Dr Moore entitled, ‘Stop laughing – this is Serious': The ‘Larrikin Carnivalesque’ in Australia. His chapter is related to his project Fringe to Famous, which involved a case study on Australia comedy from the 1980s to the present.

The book explores happiness in its many forms and formulations through an eclectic collection of sixteen essays, each examining a different aspect of happiness, our understanding of the feeling in the West, and strategies advised to obtain it. 

Dr Moore said his essay presents a style of happiness that is subversive, raucous, and “derived from transgressive art and ‘art of the self’”.

“My contribution to this book is to critique the idea of happiness as quiescence, contentment, acceptance of social norms and conformity to the status quo. In contrast I look at happiness as liberation, as comedic disruption to conformity that destabilises complacent authority, producing new ways of seeing and being,” Dr Moore said.

Without disposing of the concept altogether, On Happiness rediscovers the latent aspects of this pervasive (and elusive) phenomenon and how it has become a cultural obsession. Ultimately, it concludes that our current notions of happiness may in fact be the very cause of our discontent.

The new book, edited by Camilla Nelson, Deborah Pike and Georgina Ledvinka, will be launched later this month in Sydney. 

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ACFID University Network Conference tackles development’s tough questions

As the UNDP noted at the end of 2013, ‘The world is more unequal today than at any point since World War II’. Inequality is also discussed as so severe, that the 85 richest people in the world own the same as half of the world’s populations – 3.5 billion people. The 5th Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) University Network Conference was hosted by the Faculty of Arts and ACFID. It brought together academics and practitioners to examine these very issues, under the conference theme of ‘Evidence and Practice in an Age of Inequality’. 

The conference, which was held on the 4th and 5th of June at Caulfield Campus, was preceded by a Student Forum, organised and run primarily by students in the Master of International Development Practice course in partnership with WhyDev. ‘Disrupting Development’, the title of the student forum, gave students from around Australia, as well as further abroad, the opportunity to discuss poverty, inequality, development and students’ role in addressing these global issues. 

The conference itself created spaces for regional voices to come together and discuss issues relating to development initiatives, international aid, and the important of diverse narratives relating to the lived experience of development and inequality that come from our region. Dr Samanthi Gunawardana, the conference Co-convenor reflected that the conference was an opportunity to engage with the local and international development sector including NGOs and government, and seek out opportunities for collaboration. She noted that “…there were some very strong themes that emerged from the conference that cuts across education, research, and practice. They included the importance of acknowledging the multiple intersecting forms of inequality, the importance of self-reflexivity and recognising power within the sector, and the utmost importance of including complete narratives and stories of inequality, courage and resistance from those most affected.”

The keynote speaker for the conference was Professor Martin Ravallion, Chair of Economics at Georgetown University and former Director of the World Bank’s research department. In his address, Professor Ravallion called on participants to focus their work on intersection and multiple forms of inequality, not just income inequality. He argued that on the surface, facts, figures and measurable form the development sector can show that poverty is decreasing, but that looking at the gap between groups of people would show a different picture.  Professor Ravallion also wrote an op-ed based on his keynote address which was published in The Conversation. 

Over the two days, more than 40 papers and 90 speakers presented new research on a range of issues, including: inequality and health; gender, disability, class and inequality; the private sector and economic inequality; and the importance of governance and security in combating inequality. One panel was organised by the Oxfam-Monash Partnership and included presentations from Monash Academics as well as head of research for Oxfam Great Britain, Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva.

Further information on the conference, Evidence and Practice in an Age of Inequality, can be found at, using the #EvidencePractice hashtag on Twitter or by looking through the Storify collection on the Conference

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Monash Arts celebrates student achievements at Awards events

Monash Arts recently held awards events recognising the achievements of the Faculty’s undergraduate and graduate students.

Undergraduate Awards

On the afternoon Wednesday 20th of May at the Alexander Theatre, Clayton campus around 200 guests including students and their family and friends as well as a number of our generous donors attended the Undergraduate Awards Ceremony. Dr Jason Jones MC-ed the event, announcing the names of 85 of the Faculty’s outstanding students who received awards recognising their academic achievements.  Associate Professor Susanna Scarparo, Acting Dean and Associate Dean (Education), presented the awards

Associate Professor Susanna Scarparo addressing attendees at the Undergraduate Awards Evening
Associate Professor Susanna Scarparo addressing attendees at the Undergraduate Awards Ceremony

Awardees also heard from guest speaker, graduate Lachlan Preston. Lachlan completed his Bachelor of Arts (Global) in 2012, followed with a BA (Honours) in Latin American Studies in 2013.

Lachlan epitomises the globally engaged student through both his studies and mobility while at Monash.  He spoke of his experiences  – having travelled to Mexico on Study Abroad and to Brazil to conduct research towards his Honours project – and his studies at Clayton, where his interest in social justice and community based organisations was manifest in his Honours thesis that looked at community transformations in the slum areas of Rio de Janeiro. 

The audience was entertained before and after the Ceremony with music provided by Ziggy and Miles Johnston performing as a classical guitar duo.

Postgraduate Awards

Awardees onstage at the Postgraduate Awards Night
Awardees onstage at the Postgraduate Awards Night

The Postgraduate Awards were held on Thursday 4th June, at the ANZ Pavilion in the Arts Centre Melbourne.

Despite bad weather and traffic, awardees made their way to the awards night to celebrate their achievements. The evening was opened with a welcome from Dean of Arts, Professor Rae Frances, and was MC-ed by Dr Vicki Peel, Director of Graduate Programs.

Directors of each of the graduate programs presented awards and had the opportunity to talk about the graduate courses in which they are involved .  The evening also provided an opportunity for 2014 graduates to catch up with program directors and current students.

The night was an opportunity to celebrate awards made possible by generous sponsors, including Howard and Jenny Brown, who were there to present the Howard Brown Prize for the Master of Environmental Management and Sustainability.

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Oxfam-Monash Partnership breaks down inequality at ACFID Conference

Monash University recently hosted the 5th ACFID University Network Conference: Evidence and Practice in an Age of Inequality. The conference brought together academics and practitioners from diverse disciplinary backgrounds to discuss the contemporary challenges of inequality in the context of research, policy and practice.

The Oxfam-Monash Partnership coordinated a panel discussion as part of the conference on ‘Breaking down inequality: Achieving fairness through research policy and practice’. The panel explored new measures of inequality and was chaired by Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva, head of Research for Oxfam Great Britain.

The panel discussed inequality, research agendas, and how measuring inequality can affect policy approaches and development agendas more broadly. This session included a number of presentations, including two by Monash Arts academics; Professor Jacqui True and Dr Samanthi Gunawardana, who is course coordinator for the Master of International Development Practice. 

The Oxfam Monash Partnership aims to improve development practice and its outcomes for communities. More specifically, the Partnership aims to bring together the differing yet complementary resources of the NGO and academic sectors, and combine these resources to achieve greater development impact than would otherwise be possible. 

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Monash hosts national forum on domestic violence and interpreting

Monash’s Translation and Interpreting Studies Program will run a forum on domestic violence and interpreting. The forum, to be held on the 24th-25th of September 2015, will address domestic violence and the provision of interpreting services for victims of domestic violence and their families.

The Forum brings together researchers in Translation and Interpreting Studies, Gender Violence, Criminology, Social Work, Psychiatry, a practising counsellor specialising in working with victims of domestic violence, a Melbourne Magistrate, representatives from In Touch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence and the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria, a researcher/interpreter and practising interpreters.

The program addresses a topic area which has been prioritised by the Victorian State Government as one of high importance, as evidenced by the recent appointment of Australia’s first ever Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence as a member of the Cabinet of the Victorian Government. Further, in December 2014, the Victorian State Government announced Australia’s first Royal Commission into Family Violence. The Victorian Police have also appointed the first ever Assistant Commissioner into Family Violence.

This forum will feature a variety of different perspectives and is intended for practising professional interpreters, professionals employed in the languages services industry, researchers and policy-makers in language services and domestic violence, and for organisations providing services to the victims of domestic violence and their families.

Forum Program:

Day 1 – Thursday 24 September 2015

Keynote speaker:

Prof. Maribel del Pozo Triviño (Faculty of Philology and Translation, University of Vigo, Spain)

  • Domestic violence and interpreting: international perspectives
  • Presentation of the recently completed ‘Speak Out for Support’ project and its research findings
  • Presentation of recently published ‘Specialised training for interpreters working with gender violence victims/survivors’.

Further speakers:

Prof. JaneMaree Maher (Director, Centre for Women’s Studies & Gender Research, Monash University)

  • Understanding domestic violence against women: the Australian story

Prof. Jude McCulloch (Criminology, School of Social Sciences, Monash University)

  • From ‘just a domestic’ to criminal assault in the home: The history of family violence, law and justice and the continuing need for change

Magistrate Anne Goldsbrough (Specialist Family Violence Magistrate, Law Reform Commissioner for the ALRC Family Violence and Family Law Inquiry 2010, holder of the Multicultural and Diversity Portfolio for the Magistrate’s Court, member of the National Judicial Council for Cultural Diversity Leader)

  • Family Violence in Context – Interpreters in our Court Proceedings.

Day 2 – Friday 25 September 2015

Keynote speaker:

Prof. Jayashri Kulkarni (Practising Psychiatrist. Director of the Monash Alfred Psychiatric Research Centre)

  • Mental health aspects for victims of family violence

Further speakers:

Dr Deborah Western (Dept. of Social Work, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University)

  • Working on a structural level to prevent gender-based violence: Observations from a state-based, integrated and joined up approach’.

Ms Olga Garcia-Caro (Practising Interpreter & PhD student at RMIT University)

  • Experiences of CALD women, service providers and community interpreters in domestic violence service settings in Australia: A need for specialisation?

Ms Maya Avdibegovic (CEO, In Touch – Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence)

  • Perspectives from services providers for victims of domestic violence and their families

Ms Sarina Phan (Senior Practising Vietnamese-English Interpreter and Translator)

  • Perspectives of an interpreter working with victims of domestic violence, their families and service providers.


Venue for the Domestic Violence & Interpreting Forum is:

Monash University Law Chambers
555 Lonsdale St, Melbourne.

Attendance at the forum is free, but registration at this forum is required. Please contact Dr Jim Hlavac by Friday 11 September to register your attendance on either or both days:

Attendance at each day of the Domestic Violence & Interpreting Forum will attract 40 PD points for practising interpreters towards revalidation in ‘T & I Skills Development’ and/or ‘Complementary Skills Development’.

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Has consumer capitalism hit a Powerwall?

by David Holmes

The enormous amount of press that Tesla received last month over the announcement of its battery storage system – thePowerwall – cannot be put down to just clever marketing. There are so many reasons why it has grabbed everyone’s attention, including mine, but for reasons other than the hype that has surrounded it.

For many, the Powerwall and other battery storage systems are a utopian symbol of salvation that can wrest control of energy production and distribution from the monopoly providers into the hands of the individual.

When these systems are paired with solar panels, the single-family household is finally made complete with the promise of autonomy that commodity capitalism has been able to deliver for generations. Only this time, the individual can autonomously power these commodities – be they electric cars or toasters – independently of the state and the multi-national energy provider.

In so doing, the Powerwall has scaled the wall that separated these consumer commodities from the consumer being able to power them. It has brought possessive individualism dramatically closer to the automation of everyday life.

The take-home message here is the triumph of consumer capitalism itself. It makes the Powerwall one of the most intriguing commodities of all because it stands at the crossroads of a contradiction.

Let me explain.

For the decades corresponding to the “great acceleration” in greenhouse gases, and therefore the warming that we are committing ourselves to, such emissions have all but been driven by consumerism – the need for each single-family household to duplicate every conceivable kind of fossil-fuel-powered consumer good, from the very first television and vacuum cleaner, and inefficient car, to the automated home of today. This requires ten times or more power outlets that it did at the start of the great acceleration.

So given this increase in energy consumption – which is driving consumer lifestyles as much as it is climate change – it is fitting that a candidate for redressing the latter is yet another privately purchased consumer commodity. Or is it?

Since the second world war, developed nations have realised the two greatest contradictions of capitalism – its productive and destructive power. On the productive side are the amazing comforts that are afforded to the private home – comforts our forebears would have paid very dearly for.

On the destructive side, the list is long. It includes the reckless exploitation of wage-labour in developing nations, and the destruction of the environment. The greatest casualty – the one reality that “changes everything” – is changes to the earth’s climate.

The appeal of late capitalism’s productive capacity, and that of socialist societies who have replicated it, has concealed the dystopian climate condition that it abstractly produces.

In his book Heat, George Monbiot summed up this situation:

Ours are the most fortunate generations that have ever lived. Ours are the most fortunate generations that ever will. We inhabit the brief historical interlude between ecological constraint and ecological catastrophe.
Can the privatisation of energy production and storage within the household unit reverse this situation or prolong the interlude that Monbiot has soberingly pointed to?

In One Dimensional Man, at the dawn of the great acceleration, critical theorist Herbert Marcuse advanced a new theory of capitalist ideology. Ideology was not a matter of alienated false consciousness, nor was it a simply the domination of ruling class ideas, through control of media for example. Rather, for Marcuse, capitalism sold itself to people by its very success. He called this the rational character of (capitalism’s) irrationality:

Its productivity and efficiency, its capacity to increase and spread comforts … the extent to which this civilisation transforms the object world into an extension of man’s mind and body makes the very notion of alienation questionable. The people recognise themselves in their commodities; they find their soul in their automobile, hi-fi set, split-level home, kitchen equipment.

And so too the Powerwall. As an entrepreneurial capitalist more in touch with commodity fetishism than the average consumer, Tesla founder Elon Musk knew the importance of the Powerwall’s image. When you think of a battery, you don’t think of “style” and aesthetics, but a lot of thought has gone into the packaging of this lithium-ion technology. They offer a colour range of bright, shapely torsos carrying a futuristic crest. They are mounted onto the side of private dwellings as though they were a shield protecting the occupant from more than just climate change.

What they promise to protect the consumer from is electricity prices. Some middle-class consumers will buy them to lower their carbon footprint, but the greatest take-up will be from those getting hurt by rising electricity prices.

In Australia, studies have shown that the greatest adopters of solar power technology are households from low-income suburbs.

Why? Because such households want to be free from the mercy of the multi-national providers, but also a sense that they have private means of control over their electricity consumption. This is the same logic which drives the success of the motor car over public transport in highly urbanised societies.

But paradoxically, the real reason that electricity prices have gone up is not because people are moving to solar. It is because that, in most developed countries around the world, what used to be a public utility, owned by the state, was itself privatised. Remember, a renewable-fed electricity grid is actually a giant battery, with its storage capacity being regulated by a social principle of supply and demand over daily cycles of use. The battery is at its peak during the day, when people are using it and when its supply is at its peak.

There are four sectors of power infrastructure that once used to be owned by governments: generation, transmission (large networks), retailers and distribution (smaller networks). The commercial versions of these utilities most threatened by grid-connected private storage and generation, are the first three, and they would be well-advised to flow their capital into storage and renewables themselves.

This would leave governments only needing to buy back the smaller distribution networks –rather than privatising them further – and provide every consumer with a collective battery that is charged by renewable energy from rooftops and windfarms.

As stand-alone systems it is unlikely that battery storage systems will succeed without offering an arbitrage opportunity. Arbitrage in this context is the ability to export power that is surplus to the needs of a household or businesses at any given time.

In this case, a battery storage system would actually become a distributed storage system that can supply power when renewables are not producing power directly. This would mean that what looks like a continuation of the social insularity that commodity capitalism produces is capable of collective social benefit.

Also, a grid-connected battery storage system would not require every home to have renewable-fed storage. But the more households that have storage within a given power network, the greater the fall in the collective price of electricity. 

Dr David Holmes works in the School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University.

This article has appeared in The Conversation

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Monash student elected to head new global youth network

Monash students Sam Loni (far right) and Michelle Huang (third from left) with SDSN Youth colleagues from Italy, Turkey, US, UK, Brazil and Germany at the launch event in Paris (photo: Sustainable Development Solutions Network)
Monash students Sam Loni (far right) and Michelle Huang (third from left) with SDSN Youth colleagues from Italy, Turkey, US, UK, Brazil and Germany at the launch event in Paris (photo: Sustainable Development Solutions Network)

Monash Arts student Siamak Sam Loni has been named Global Coordinator of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Youth at the launch of the group in Paris last week.  

SDSN is a global network of universities and other organisations that collectively are mobilising scientific and technical expertise in support of sustainable development. Monash University, through the Monash Sustainability Institute (MSI), hosts the SDSN regional network for Australia/Pacific.

SDSN Youth was kick-started by Sam and fellow Monash University students, Melissa Peppin (Head of SDSN Youth Communications), Michelle Huang and others in collaboration with MSI as an SDSN Australia/Pacific initiative. It was launched in May 2014 at a two-day youth forum with over 100 participants on Sustainable Development and the Urban Opportunity.

This success led Sam and fellow Monash student Gemma Muir to New York in September 2014 to convince the SDSN Leadership Council to expand the group globally. But, Sam said, convincing the Council – which includes former Presidents and Prime Ministers and other world leaders – was no easy task.

“Many of the members thought we just wanted a greater voice. We explained that the main objective is that young people can introduce new ways of living through behavioural and generational change. So you have a whole new generation of people who can live better with the planet, who can prioritise sustainable living and are more likely to adapt to new models than the older generation.”

Having finally obtained the Leadership Council’s blessing, Sam and his colleagues have since worked with young people around the world to design a global SDSN Youth program and to start branches in the Mediterranean, Turkey, Germany, Brazil, the Amazon, Caribbean, and North America.

SDSN Youth will empower youth globally to create sustainable development solutions, and be engaged in the implementation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

“The Sustainable Development Goals are ideal for engaging young people,” Sam said. “They don’t just look at some band-aid solution. They look at our entire world from our economics, our politics, our governance – it looks at a whole range of issues. That’s what attracted me to the process.”

As SDSN Youth’s first Global Coordinator, Sam shared the stage at the Paris launch with such luminaries as Tarja Halonen, Former President of Finland; Jeffrey Sachs, Director of SDSN; and Laurence Tubiana, Special Representative for the 2015 Paris Climate Conference and French Ambassador for Climate Change.

In contemplating the exciting and challenging work ahead of getting SDSN Youth off the ground, Sam said that coming from Monash has given him the best possible opportunity and head-start. “It has been great because of the institutional support Monash has given. Without that and the support of different mentors that have come mostly from Monash, this wouldn’t have been possible.”

“Our aim is to empower the younger generation to transform their own lives and the lives of those around them.”

This post was first published on the Monash Sustainability Institute website.

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Students disrupt development at student-led forum

Last week, Monash co-hosted a Student-led forum, lead primarily by Master of International Development Practice students, which focussed on development and the role of students in addressing global issues. 

Students from Australia and abroad were invited to the one-day event, which preceded the ACFID Conference held at Monash during the same week, to partake in activities, discussions and workshops designed to provide a space for students to discuss openly their views on issues relating to development, inequality and poverty.

The day closed with a keynote address from Professor Martin Ravallion of GeorgeTown University, and Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva, head of Research at Oxfam great Britian. The forum also involved co-organisers WhyDev, Engineers Without Borders and Monash SEED. 

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Linking People: timely book on Australian-Indonesian relationship

Linking People CoverThe Australia–Indonesia bilateral relationship has faced significant ruptures in recent times as a result of a string of high profile incidents related to border control, spying and trade restrictions. However this volatile relationship is at odds with the two countries stated aims for a strong neighbourly partnership.

Linking People; Connections and encounters between Australians and Indonesians by  Antje Missbach, alongside co-editor Jemmy Purdey (Deakin),  examines the state of this bilateral relationship.

“Given current developments in the Australia Indonesia relationship, this book makes a timely contribution to the ongoing discussion about connections between the two countries. We hope it will inform this wider debate in both Indonesia and Australia,” Dr Missbach said. 

Linking People brings together specialists from a range of disciplines to examine the breadth and sophistication of people-to-people links between these two countries.

The contributors look behind the headlines and hot button issues to better understand the multitude of connections. These include language studies, education, bilateral mobility, crime links, marriage migration, diasporic interactions, as well as collaboration in the arts, trade, and the law.

The book asks in what ways are these people-to-people links significant and how have they changed over time? As Indonesia progresses further towards rapid modernisation, it can also be assumed that the previous dynamic within the relationship will give way to new interpretations.

This book highlights those interactions between Indonesians and Australians that take place outside of the formal bilateral relationship and can potentially contribute to shaping a more stable, vigorous and balanced bilateral relationship.

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MAI-Australasian Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy (ASACP) 2015 Conference

Monash Asia Institute and Monash University  have the pleasure of hosting the Australasian Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy  (ASACP) 2015 Conference


Is it possible that by engaging Western and Eastern philosophy, we can reach a new understanding of the nature of reality, mind, and human action? This conference explores these and other questions and presents a vibrant dialogue that has been championed in Australia since 1958 between distinguished philosophers in Asian, comparative and Anglo-analytic traditions.

10 July -12 July, 2015


Monash University
Caulfield Campus

Room H8.06/05 Building H, Level 8

KEYNOTE Speakers

Prof. Graham Priest on The Net of Indra

Commentary by Prof. Alan Hájek

Prof. Arindam Chakrabarti on God/No One Knows:Objective Existence Claims and Refutations of Idealism,

Commentary by Prof. Graham Oppy

Prof. John Makeham on Xiong Shili’s Understanding of the Relationship between the Ontological and the Phenomenal

Commentary by Prof. Frank Jackson

Max Charlesworth Memorial Lecture

 Prof. Morny Joy on From Theories of Action to Activism: Investigating Continuities in the Work of Paul Ricoeur, Hannah Arendt, and Indian Women Thinkers/Activists

There will also be a range of papers from national and international academics and postgraduate students on a range of topics to do with Mind, Action and Cultivation.


Full time, waged: AUD 200

Students, unwaged: AUD 75

Per day: AUD 50 (Friday)

Per day: AUD 90 (Saturday)

Per day: AUD 90 (Sunday)

For more information please visit:

To Register: ASACP Registration


Sharing knowledge for a just world: Prof Koichi Iwabuchi joins International Panel on Social Progress

Professor Koichi Iwabuchi
Professor Koichi Iwabuchi has recently been appointed to the International Panel on Social Progress

Monash Arts Professor Koichi Iwabuchi has recently been appointed to the International Panel on Social Progress. The panel is a collection of social sciences experts, headed by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, and seeks to tackle global social challenges.

Professor Iwabuchi  says “In the current situation, one of imperative issues for academics is how to make our critical knowledge socially available and widely shared among diverse social actors, for the creation of a just world, and the regeneration of a hope for the future.”

The panel will produce a report in 2017, compiled by the appointed panel of multidisciplinary authors, that will address important issues facing the world relating to social change and progress. The report aims to fill a gap in knowledge and research and is aimed at policy makers, politicians and civil society actors. 

Issues covered in the report will include the changing nature of international relations and financial institutions, conflict, technology and its effects of society, capital and labour, as well as rising inequality. 

“This project would be a very important occasion to implement our public mission in an innovative and collaborative way. Working together with other researchers of the world, I would like to make the best of my hitherto research on culture, media and cross-border dialogue, especially, in East and Southeast Asian contexts,” he added. 

Professor Iwabuchi is the Director of the Monash Asia Institute. He recently published a book entitled Resilient Borders and Cultural Diversity: Internationalism, Brand Nationalism and Multiculturalism in Japan, published by Lexington Books. 

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Monash students bring The Handmaid’s Tale to life

Imogen Walsh as Offred. Photo by Sarah Wallace
Imogen Walsh as Offred. Photo by Sarah Wallace

A theatrical production of Margaret Atwood’s award winning novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, will premiere in Australia for the first time at Monash University this month.

Adapted by the Monash Uni Student Theatre (MUST) (MSA), tickets are on sale now. Performances will take place on weekday and Saturday evenings, as well as Saturday matinee performances at the University’s Clayton campus, from 28 May – 6 June.

All of the cast and crew are students, and with 30 cast members and 20 crew – all Monash faculties are represented.

Published in 1985, the dystopian novel has previously been adapted for film, radio, opera and stage. Set in the near future, in what was once the United States of America, a dictatorship quickly takes control after the assassination of the President.

Under the pretext of restoring order, the new regime re-organises society into social classes, and quickly strips away women’s rights. Presented through the eyes of a female character called Offred, who describes her new life as a handmaid, the gripping story is a vivid portrayal of how life changes irrevocably.

Yvonne Virsik, Director of the Monash adaption, said the decision to adapt Margaret Atwood’s book for the stage was unanimous amongst MUST.

“Margaret Atwood’s novel is compelling and raw, and this production intimately observes a society with frightening parallels to our own society. Through Offred we see the evil that can be done by denying individuals the freedom over their identity and even their life,” Yvonne said.

“The Handmaid’s Tale offers incredible dynamic material for the stage and I would urge anyone, whether they have read the book or not, to come along and see the play. This production will showcase the talents of Melbourne’s future theatre generation,” she said.

The Handmaid’s Tale debuts at the MUST Space, Campus Centre, 21 Chancellor’s Walk, Monash University, Clayton on 28 May.

Performances took place last week on Thursday 28 May – Saturday 30 May and are happening this week: Tuesday 2 June – Saturday 6 June at 7.30pm. Matinees on Saturday 30 May and Saturday 6 June at 2pm.

To book tickets visit the MUST website, or in person at the MSA Reception at Campus Centre, Clayton.

Tickets cost $14 MSA cardholders, $16 concessions, $20 full price.

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Jenan Taylor awarded the Guy Morrison Prize

Jenan Taylor has won the Guy Morrison Prize for Literary Journalism.
Jenan Taylor has won the Guy Morrison Prize for Literary Journalism.

Monash University Journalism student, Jenan Taylor, has earned national recognition for her unique pauper story, winning the Guy Morrison Prize for Literary Journalism.

Jenan,  who is studying a Master of Journalism, was presented with her prize at the Sydney Writers’ Festival on May 22, which coincided with UTS’s anthology launch.

Her award-winning story, A Quiet Farewell, was published in The Weekend Australian Magazine.

Jenan’s prize follows her recent success as the Melbourne Press Club’s 2014 Student Journalist of the Year, awarded for the same investigative story.

Applications for UTS’s Guy Morrison Prize are invited from Australian undergraduate or postgraduate students who are studying either journalism, communication or writing.

Jenan is thrilled to win the prize for her investigation into what happens when a pauper dies.

“My story on the pauper funeral of a single mother was an attempt to highlight what we take for granted in contemporary Australia isn’t necessarily within everyone’s reach, not even after we die,” Jenan said.

“It’s difficult journalism that keeps throwing up, among other challenges, its own range of moral and ethical questions, the more I practice it.

“However, I’m absolutely elated to have to won this award and feel particularly encouraged to keep pursuing this kind of journalism.”

Judge Chris Feik described Jenan’s article as a “wonderful piece of reporting”.

“It does what the best journalism does: it tells us things we didn’t know,” Mr Feik wrote.

“It explains what happens when a pauper dies. We witness in vivid close-up the embalming of an anonymous woman who ‘could not afford to die’.

“Throughout the piece, the writer addresses the deceased subject. ‘Am I ready to touch your skin,’ Jenan asks, and decides: ‘I am’. Such a device could easily seem forced, but is handled skilfully here.” 

Jenan said it was too easy in this age of 24-hour news to lose sight of the complexities and nuances behind the headlines.

“For me literary journalism is about revealing these insights and even throwing a spotlight on lives which we would normally never think twice about, which is why I’ve always been attracted to it,” she said.

Jenan said Monash journalism staff Associate Professor Philip Chubb and Dr Monica Jackson were encouraging as she researched her story, and thanked them for their support.

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Journalism Alumnae Finalists in the Young Walkleys

Monash University journalism alumnae Alana Mitchelson and Naomi Selvaratnam have been named finalists in the Young Walkley Awards to be held in Sydney on July 29.

Alana Mitchelson is a Walkley finalist in the Student Journalist of the Year Award.
Alana Mitchelson is a Walkley finalist in the Student Journalist of the Year Award.

Alana, who will soon formally graduate from her Monash journalism degree, is one of three Walkley finalists in the Student Journalist of the Year Award. 

Her Walkley entry includes three stories Family of WWI veteran Jim Kerr finally reunited with his treasure trove of Anzac memoriesGrowing demand for employment support for adults with autism, and Knitting fake breasts to provide support.

Other finalists in the student category include Derrick Krusche from The University of Melbourne and  Sai Mi Jeong, from the University of Technology Sydney.

The student finalists, who produced “distinctive and original journalism”, are regarded as the best emerging talent of the new generation of journalists.

Alana, who will soon commence her prize-winning Pulliam Journalism Fellowship at the Indy Star in Indianapolis said it was an “incredible honour” to receive a nomination for a Walkley award.

“Each of the writing samples I provided within my application were stories that I will always hold close to me and it is so rewarding to be recognised for my work,” Alana said.

Naomi Selvaratnam is a finalist in the Young Walkleys in the radio/audio journalism category.
Naomi Selvaratnam is a finalist in the Young Walkleys in the radio/audio journalism category.

“I hope that through my nomination, these pieces may continue to raise awareness for supporting women who have had a mastectomy and adults with autism struggling to secure long-term employment.Naomi Selvaratnam,  an SBS World News TV journalist, is a Walkley finalist in the radio/audio journalism category. She is recognised for her entry Blackmailed: Sexual assault victims held to ransom with footage of their rape.

Naomi, who graduated from Monash in 2012, was a finalist in the same Walkley category last year.

“It’s an honour to be a finalist, and to be recognised by journalists whose work I greatly admire,” Naomi said.

“I hope that this nomination will draw attention to the issue of sexual violence in Australia, especially for migrant and refugee communities, who face particular vulnerabilities to this form of abuse.”

The winner of each category will qualify for the Walkley Young Australian Journalist of the Year and will undertake work experience with CNN, Twitter and Huffington Post in the United States.

The winners will be announced at the Walkley Mid-Year Awards in Sydney on July 29.

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