PhD student Alison Stieven-Taylor named a Walkley award judge

Monash PhD student Alison Stieven-Taylor is one of the five judges in this year’s 2016 Nikon-Walkley Awards for Excellence in Photojournalism.

The Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism are Australia’s most prestigious journalism awards.

Finalists are selected by eminent journalists and photographers and overall winners judged by the Walkley Advisory Board. The winners will be announced at a gala event in Brisbane on December 2nd.

“It is an honour to be invited to judge the Nikon-Walkley Awards for Excellence in Photojournalism,” Alison said.

“I have written about photojournalism for the past decade and it is the focus of my PhD. There were so many amazing entries for this year’s awards demonstrating the incredible work that is being done by Australian photojournalists around the world.”

On 13th October the finalists for Nikon-Walkley Awards for Excellence in Photojournalism were announced along with the 2016 Nikon-Walkley Photo of the Year, which was won by Andrew Quilty for “The Man on The Operating Table”.

The image was shot by Quilty inside the Médecins Sans Frontières Kunduz Trauma Center in Afghanistan, following the October 3, 2015, attack by an American AC-130 gunship on the hospital in which 42 were killed, including MSF staff, patients and patient carers.

The arresting image was a clear standout for the judges.

You can see the finalists in this year’s photojournalism category here.

You can see Alison’s work on her blog Photojournalism Now.


Nardine’s documentary to air on ABC Radio National

Masters of Journalism/Sustainability graduate Nardine Groch is an environmental journalist, radio producer and wildlife photographer from Australia.

She has travelled to many wild places, from Svalbard to the Amazon, to work alongside scientists and photograph animals in their natural environment.

Nardine has worked as an animal presenter at Zoos Victoria for nine years and in 2010 produced a short film about lions through the Wildlife Film Academy in South Africa.

More recently, Nardine has worked as a researcher and features writer for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Last year she produced a radio documentary for ABC Radio National’s PocketDocs program as part of her Masters of Journalism/Sustainability called The Whale Aria, where she used her own classically trained soprano voice to compare whale and human song.

The Whale Aria goes to air on ABC Radio National on October 28.

Nardine Groch

Nardine Groch photographing wildlife on location.

“Nardine’s radio documentary is a great example of practice-based research where our students explore relevant research questions through the application of practice, in this case in the production of high-quality journalism” said Associate Professor Mia Lindgren, head of school of MFJ and supervisor of Nardine’s Masters project.

Nardine has qualifications in creative writing, zoology and environmental journalism and last year spent her final semester in Copenhagen where she gained media accreditation to attend the UNFCCC COP21 in Paris as a freelance journalist.

Her focus is to use the creative mediums of radio, TV and digital to engage audiences in compelling wildlife, environmental and conservation storytelling that will better explore the human relationship with the natural world.

Nardine is currently studying on the BBC Natural History Unit affiliated Masters of Wildlife Filmmaking at UWE in Bristol, where she is further developing her skills in storytelling, camera, sound, editing and field craft.


How the dictionary is totes taking up the vernacular

Kate Burridge, Monash University

There’s a new arrival on the dictionary scene – the much-anticipated second edition of the Australian National Dictionary, known fondly as AND.

As I recently wrote, these beautiful two volumes should certainly put to rest any fears people might have about the continued place of “tree-dictionaries” in an age of e-books and digital libraries.

These more than 16,000 Australianisms have generated lots of excitement – and not surprisingly. Words are the most observable part of any language and English-speakers seem fascinated by the ins and outs of expressions.

Look at the media attention when dictionaries announce the winner of their Word of the Year competition. There’s nowhere near the same excitement with other aspects of the language.

There were no breaking news stories when linguists announced developments affecting the conjunction “because” (for example, “I’ve been missing out on sleep because binge-watching Game of Thrones” or “I missed the ending because fell asleep”).

Dictionary editors are among the new celebrities, answering questions like: what is the longest word in the language? Is there a word to describe those who drink their own bathwater? How many words do speakers know? And, perhaps the thorniest question of all – when should new expressions enter the dictionary?

Vocabulary changes more than other aspects of language and lexicographers are constantly redrawing the exclusion boundary for marginal vocabulary items. “Yeah-no” has been around since the 1990s, but is only now appearing in dictionaries.

And while many original misspellings now have entries, such as “miniscule” (with its erroneous “i”) and even “nucular”, an entry for “accomodation” (with one “m”) seems a long way off.

It’s not easy for dictionary-makers. They are seen as the guardians of the language and when they take on board expressions like “yeah-no” and “nucular”, we hear howls about declining standards. Yet people will usually discard dictionaries if they don’t keep up-to-date.

Dictionary-making was more straightforward for early lexicographers, who sourced words almost exclusively from books. So, it was formal written language that typically made it into dictionaries.

Words were written on cards each time they were used and, when there was a substantial collection of cards, it could be established that a word was in general usage. So, they were largely respectable expressions, and anything that snuck under the radar would be well and truly branded (originally with symbols like asterisks or daggers, and later with more precise usage labels like “low”, “barbarous”, “vulgar”, as appeared in Samuel Johnson’s 1755 dictionary).

These days it’s all very different. Lexicographers consider an array of different language forms, including newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, menus, memos, TV and radio broadcasts and, of course, emails, chat-room discussions and blogs.

So it’s not surprising to find that the informal aspect has been significantly boosted in the new-look AND. Of course, this reflects the strong attachment to the vernacular in Australia, but it’s also in keeping with the marked shift towards informal ways of speaking and writing generally – even public language is becoming progressively more casual and everyday.

So dictionaries are now much faster to take up “slanguage”. In the Collins Official Scrabble Words, even “innit” (“isn’t it”), “grrl” (“feisty female”) and “thang” (“thing”) have the stamp of approval. Once it could take years and years for such colloquialisms to appear in print, perhaps then to be picked up by lexicographers and placed in some dictionary — or perhaps never.

So like many other dictionaries these days, AND shows an assortment of distinguished entries and boisterous slang. Additions from the world of economics and politics, for example, include sedate terms-of-art (“aspirational voter”, “economic rationalism”, “negative gearing”, “scrutineer”) as well as colloquialisms (“keep the bastards honest”, “Hawkespeak”, “hip-pocket nerve”, “wombat trail”).

And the current editorial team has continued the AND tradition and not tagged these entries with labels like “colloquial” or “slang” (though “-ist” language is occasionally labelled derogatory).

So don’t believe the concerned hype that accompanied the 2014 edition of Tony Thorne’s Dictionary of Contemporary Slang. It added only three new Australianisms (“tockley” for “penis”, “ort” for “buttocks” and “unit” for “bogan”), prompting a frenzy of headlines like:

The rise and fall of Australian slang.

I’m not sure how Thorne missed “selfie”, Australia’s contribution to the international lexicon – after all, it was the Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year in 2013.

Articles expressed the fear that the glory days of Australian slang were over. AND should help to quell such fears – “hornbag”, “budgie smugglers”, “grey nomad”, “chateau cardboard” are among the many treasures you will find there.

Some of these entries appear so scruffy that you might wonder at the wisdom of the editors including them at all (“snot block”, “ranga”, “reg grundies”, “ambo”, “rurosexual”, “seppo”, “trackie daks”, “spunk rat”, “goon of fortune” come to mind). Of course, slang is in the eye of the beholder – even Samuel Johnson included a few (unbranded) personal favourites, like “belly timber” for “food”.

But in this case, you can take comfort in the fact that these expressions will have been tracked and meticulously analysed. They aren’t newly minted coinages and wouldn’t be there unless they “had legs”.

It seems to me almost impossible for printed dictionaries to keep up with the changing nature of vocabulary these days. People just love creating words.

In fact, scientists have recently discovered that learning the meaning of new words can stimulate exactly those same pleasure circuits in our brain as sex, gambling, drugs and eating, the pleasure-associated region called the ventral striatum.

The surge of excitement when we encounter a new word is the recently coined “neologasm”. And that really says it all.

The Conversation

Kate Burridge, Professor of Linguistics, Monash University

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


Assoc Prof Nathalie Nguyen wins archivist Mander Jones Award

Associate Professor Nathalie Nguyen, Deputy Director of the National Centre for Australian Studies, recently won recognition in the Mander Jones Awards.

Her work, “Memory in the Aftermath of War: Australian Responses to the Vietnamese Refugee Crisis of 1975,” focuses on the experiences of Vietnamese refugees seeking asylum in Australia after the Vietnam War, and explores the intersection of official Australian records with her own family history. Her research uncovered archival evidence of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s actions in directly rejecting applications for asylum by Vietnamese refugees.

The work was judged the winner of category 2B: Best publication that uses, features or interprets Australian archives, written or edited by a person in their own right.

The Mander Jones Awards was introduced by the Australian Society of Archivists and recognises publications in the field of archives and recordkeeping.

Find out more:



Winner of asylum seeker bursary wants to make a contribution through human rights

Undergraduate student Ali Khan is reaching the end of his first year of study at Monash,
having been the recipient of an asylum seeker bursary awarded by the university. Associate Professor Leanne Weber bumped into Ali by chance at South East Community Links, where Ali is an active member of a youth leadership group, and took the opportunity to speak with him about his first year of criminology study and his hopes for the future.

Although he was a high-achieving college captain at his secondary school, Ali said Year 12 was the ‘hardest time’, because of uncertainty about his future. When he heard about scholarships being offered at Monash University, he says ‘it was a kind of miracle for me. I never thought someone would want to help students like us. Thank God I didn’t give up like lots of other students who have thought there was no future’. With the support of his school and a former caseworker, Ali applied for the Monash scholarship, which was offered for the first time in 2015. Despite the continuing uncertainty about his legal status, Ali says when he heard the news about his scholarship success, ‘it was the happiest day of my life because I was going to start a new life’.  

Ali’s time with Monash Arts student got off to a good start. On his first day on campus he found himself in the very room he had visited while receiving leadership training through his secondary school. He remembers having wondered at the time if he would ever be able to attend the university. Even so, Ali said the start of his first year was ‘tough’ because he didn’t know if he would be able to study at the expected level, having moved straight from English language school into Year 11 and 12, then on to university.

However, Ali soon discovered that if there is something you are passionate about, ‘no matter how difficult it is, it seems easy’. Ali is continuing to enjoy and soak up every day of university life: ‘All of this is still like a dream to me. A guy who has been in a detention centre sitting here with other students who were raised here, were more privileged than me. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve experienced. I never had this in my life, so I am very thirsty for it’.

This year, Ali has studied criminology, politics, international relations, and his absolute passion – human rights. He says that people who have experienced suffering should try, if they can, to ‘rise in society’ and aim to contribute, rather than just carrying on with their own lives.  After achieving promising grades, he is hoping to transfer into a double Law/Arts degree so he can pursue his dream of working in human rights. Ali says that his awareness of human rights has changed him, changed his identity, and given him a ‘reason to be here’.  He has also enjoyed his studies in criminology, describing the first semester introduction to theories of offending as ‘telling the story that is invisible for the common person’. Learning about criminal justice institutions this semester has also been an eye-opening experience, revealing how Australia deals with the problems it is facing and, according to Ali, particularly the problems experienced by indigenous people.


Duane Hamacher on ABC’s Lateline: how Aboriginal astronomy provides clues to ancient life

Dr Duane W. Hamacher from the Monash Indigenous Centre  has been working with Aboriginal elders at a secret location in Victoria to reconstruct their knowledge of the stars and planets. This ancient site could be the oldest astronomical observatory in the world, pre-dating Stonehenge and even the Great Pyramids of Giza.

Dr Hamacher spoke on ABC’s Lateline program about Dreamtime astronomy and the mysterious site that could be the world’s oldest observatory. 


Sponsor Checks To Stop Family Violence For CALD Women Missing the Mark

Marie Segrave, DECRA Fellow and researcher with the Border Crossing Observatory and Monash Gender and Family Violence program has written an opinion piece published by New Matilda that details concerns regarding the proposed changes to the Migration Act.

The opinion piece follows on from the submission Dr Segrave led, which brought together leading researchers at Monash with InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence to make a clear statement about the specific experience of risk for CALD women whose migration status is temporary.

This submission was written for the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee who reviewed the proposed legislation. On Monday 10th October, the Committee published it’s report which recommended that the legislation be implemented as written. In her opinion piece, Dr Segrave details the concerns about this approach to protecting women from intimate partner violence. 


UK experience of domestic violence disclosure schemes is a cautionary tale for Australia

Kate Fitz-Gibbon, Monash University and Sandra Walklate, University of Liverpool

The 2009 murder of Clare Wood by her ex-partner led to the introduction of a national domestic violence disclosure scheme (known as “Clare’s Law”) in England and Wales. The scheme aims to prevent the perpetration and escalation of violence between intimate partners through the sharing of information about prior histories of violence.

Scotland has since introduced a similar scheme. It is also being piloted and considered in at least two Australian state jurisdictions. Most recently, the South Australian government consulted on its introduction.

However, our new research casts doubt over the merits of these schemes. It provides a warning to Australian jurisdictions to take caution before following the UK’s lead.

What is a domestic violence disclosure scheme?

In England and Wales, Clare’s Law has two elements – the right to ask and the right to know.

Right-to-ask applications can be made by any person who applies to the police for information about whether another person has a history of domestic violence. In these cases, Home Office Guidance provides that three steps are followed:

  1. details about the applicant and request are taken by the police and checked within 24 hours of the initial request;

  2. a meeting with a police officer (within ten days), followed by a full risk assessment; and

  3. the police meet with multiple agencies to discuss and determine whether disclosure is “necessary, lawful and proportionate to help protect the potential victim from abuse”.

The right-to-know request follows a similar process and occurs where police proactively disclose information in order to protect a potential “high-risk” victim. Decisions to disclose are made by multiple agencies.

In each case, a request takes an estimated four weeks to process.

Data questions for the Australian context

Clare’s Law applies nationally across England and Wales. But Australia is not proposing a national scheme; only one state (New South Wales) has begun a pilot program. There is no national register of domestic violence-related offences and intervention order histories.

This may be tackled as the National Domestic Violence Order Scheme is rolled out nationally. But systems do not yet have the capacity to support national information-sharing on domestic violence histories.

This raises important challenges. For example, will it be possible for histories of domestic violence committed and resolved by law in another jurisdiction to be disclosed under the scheme? If not, how will accurate disclosures be made? And how will the potential risks of providing women with inaccurate information be mitigated?

Research from Queensland details the frequency with which both partners seek protection orders against each other. A right-to-ask request would return data on part of both parties involved, arguably masking who and what the problem might be.

Equally, people who use violence in self-defence against an abusive partner and who were cautioned, arrested or charged for such behaviour would also return a record under right to ask. Hence, this scheme may inadvertently disadvantage the very victims it is designed to protect.

Shifting the responsibility?

Clare’s Law was heralded as empowering potential victims to make informed relationship choices. However, requiring a person to request access to information and then act on it shifts responsibility onto the person to ensure their own safety. It asks them to vet their partners while also detracting responsibility from the potential perpetrator.

Built into this is an assumption that, armed with information about their partner’s history of violence, a person will want and be able to extricate themselves from that relationship.

Research has shown that people experiencing abuse in a relationship often do not want to leave that relationship, or may believe it is too dangerous to do so. Multiple risks arise from this:

  • that police will be less likely to intervene and assist post-disclosure where the applicant has remained in the relationship and police perceive they have not engaged in the risk-management strategies advised; and

  • that people who remain in the relationship and experience subsequent abuse may experience victim-blaming at various levels of the system.

These risks are likely to have particular consequences for people requiring support and protection at the time of relationship separation: a moment of high risk of abuse and lethal violence.

If Australian jurisdictions do move to implement this scheme, clear post-disclosure support protocols and responsibilities for frontline police and specialist services must be established. Without this, there is a real risk that women, armed with information about their partner’s history, may be placed at even greater risk of harm.

A question of resources

In England and Wales, a Home Office pilot assessment undertaken in 2013 found the average cost of processing a right-to-ask or right-to-know application was £690 and £810 respectively (approximately A$1,130 and A$1,325).

The introduction of a domestic violence disclosure scheme in Australia would require additional funding to support frontline policing and allow for the management of the administrative workload.

Funding would need to be recurrent to ensure other aspects of frontline policing (involving opportunity costs) are not diminished following the scheme’s introduction.

At a time when reporting of family violence across Australia has significantly increased and services are experiencing increase demand, it is questionable whether allocating resources to a disclosure scheme that arguably does not enhance safety, improve frontline responses or achieve prevention is a worthwhile investment.

The need for evidence

A domestic violence disclosure scheme does not in itself protect people from an abusive partnership. Nor does it provide a timely and risk-sensitive frontline response to persons who fear violence from an intimate partner.

By diverting police resources away from frontline case management and increasing the administrative burden, it instead runs the risk of further straining police responses to domestic violence.

The recent spread of schemes similar to Clare’s Law across Australia is concerning. At present there is a lack of evidence demonstrating its effectiveness in practice.

Australian state and territories governments should take caution and focus attention on evidence-informed practice and policy. At present a domestic violence disclosure scheme is neither.

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

The Conversation

Kate Fitz-Gibbon, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Monash University and Sandra Walklate, Eleanor Rathbone Chair of Sociology, University of Liverpool

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


What are creative spaces for? Symposium to explore state of the art

Symposium: “Creative Workspaces – State of the Art”

  • DATE: Wednesday 26th October
  • TIME: 12:00 – 5:00 pm
  • LOCATION: The Bishop’s Parlour, Abbottsford Convent, 1 St Heliers Street
  • RSVP:

This half-day session will ask what creative spaces are actually for? First stepping stone for ambitious start-ups or cheap space for impoverished artists? Motors of gentrification or islands made safe from it? Urban place-making or stimulating the creative economy?

This is the second of two symposia developed in conjunction with Collingwood Arts Precinct (CAP) – a significant new development in Melbourne’s creative space infrastructure and forming part of the wider Creative State strategic vision.

Framed by an on-going partnership between Monash University, Arup and CAP this symposium brings together international and Australian consultants and policy advisors, local government officers and academics. We explore the contemporary purpose of the creative workspace, and the specific contribution CAP might make to the state of the art.

Find out more

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Monash hosts first international conference on Aceh’s performing and visual arts

The Acehnese seudati dance for 8 singer-dancers featuring elaborate rhythmic body percussion including slapping of the thighs and breasts, hand clapping, shoulder tapping and foot stamping. Photo by ICCE co-convenor Ari Palawi.
The Acehnese seudati dance for 8 singer-dancers featuring elaborate rhythmic body percussion including slapping of the thighs and breasts, hand clapping, shoulder tapping and foot stamping. Photo by ICCE co-convenor Ari Palawi.

Most of us know Aceh as a region devastated by the Boxing Day earthquake and tsunami, but probably have heard little about Aceh’s rich cultural and artistic traditions.

Aceh has welcomed merchants and other travellers from all over the globe for centuries, and its unique position on the crossroads between east and west has resulted in its fascinating mix of cultural traits hailing from mainland Southeast Asia, Persia, India and the Middle East.

Last month Monash hosted an interdisciplinary conference “the Monash International Conference and Cultural Event (ICCE) of Aceh 2016” (26-28 September) and a series of Aceh-related events at the Caulfield and Clayton campuses.

The saman dance from Aceh's mountainous Gayo region featuring elaborate rhythmic body percussion including slapping of the thighs and breasts, hand clapping, and  shoulder tapping. Photo by ICCE co-convenor Ari Palawi.
The saman dance from Aceh’s mountainous Gayo region featuring elaborate rhythmic body percussion including slapping of the thighs and breasts, hand clapping, and shoulder tapping. Photo by ICCE co-convenor Ari Palawi.

Speaking about the significance of the conference, co-convenor and Monash ethnomusicologist Professor Margaret Kartomi said, “ICCE Aceh at Monash was the first international conference to highlight Aceh’s unique music, dance, visual and textile arts, as well as Aceh’s remarkable post-tsunami, post-conflict recovery since the devastation of 2004-2005.”

The conference theme was “Exploring Aceh’s Culture to Foster Sustainable Development”, and keynote speakers were from the disciplines of ethnomusicology, anthropology, history, politics and economics, and included: anthropologist  Professor John Bowen (Washington University), Aceh historian Prof Anthony Reid (ANU) and Acehnese textile expert Professor Barbara Leigh (University Technology Sydney). 

The rare guel dance from Aceh's mountainous Gayo region, based on the legend of the white elephant. Photo by  ICCE co-convenor Ari Palawi.
The rare guel dance from Aceh’s mountainous Gayo region, based on the legend of the white elephant. Photo by ICCE co-convenor Ari Palawi.

Other Aceh related events included “Transmemorabilia“, a solo exhibition by famous Acehnese painter Mahdi Abdullah; an exhibition of Keuneubah Aceh (Treasures of Aceh); an Acehnese Film Festival; and a well-attended public concert of music and dance by a visiting troupe from Monash’s sister university, Syiahkuala University in Aceh.

“The concert of brilliant musicians and dancers from Aceh exemplified some of the papers presented, as did the film festival, the Music Archive of Monash University/MAMU’s  exhibition of Acehnese musical and material arts, and Acehnese artist Mahdi Abdullah’s potent exhibition of beautiful realist and surrealist paintings,” said Professor Kartomi.

The events were funded by Monash Arts, the Indonesian Embassy and Consulate-General for Victoria, the Indonesian and Acehnese governments, and private donors.

Find out more



“Reading Coetzee’s Women” conference an outstanding success

There has been enormous international scholarly interest in J.M Coetzee’s writings in recent years. Since 2009, five major international conferences have been held and two literary biographies, 10 monographs and over 300 articles have been published about his work. Despite this, very little has been written about his female narrators and characters or about the women writers who have influenced him. 

In “Reading Coetzee’s Women”, a three-day conference held at Monash’s Prato Centre, preeminent and emerging scholars were asked to bring their attention to the topic of ‘Coetzee’s women’ as well as possible reasons for the lack of engagement with this theme. 

During the conference, Nobel Laureate 
J.M. Coetzee read from his newly-published novel, The Schooldays of Jesus, which was long-listed for the 2016 Man Booker Prize. The reading was introduced by the University of York’s Professor Derek Attridge and a formal welcome was given by Ms Isabella Swift, Second Secretary at the Australian Embassy in Rome.  

L-R: Dr Melinda Harvey (Monash), Prof JM Coetzee, Ms Isabella Swift (Australian Embassy in Rome) and Prof Sue Kossew (Monash). Photo taken by Prof Bill Shengqin Cai, Zhongna University of Economics and Law (ZUEL), China

Four keynote addresses were given by internationally-regarded Coetzee scholars. Professor Carrol Clarkson (University of Amsterdam) discussed the concept of “woman-izing” as a narrative device rather than a theme in Coetzee’s work; Professor David Attwell (University of York) offered a new reading of the ‘barbarian girl’ based on the novel Waiting for the Barbarians; Professor Derek Attridge (University of York) explored the limits of the sympathetic imagination in the work of male writers who think their way into female characters; and Professor Elleke Boehmer (University of Oxford) considered the creative encounters between male and female characters in Coetzee’s works as forms of visitation, especially in terms of inspiration by muses and angels. In addition, Professor Gail Jones, one of Australia’s leading novelists, presented a paper on the trope of female authorship in Coetzee’s work.  

95 attendees from 23 different countries attended, including from China, Turkey, Britain, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Poland, Cyprus, Canada, Belgium, Thailand, Spain, Macedonia, Portugal, Germany, Hong Kong, South Africa, India, and Sweden.

The conference was a fantastic opportunity to explore a rich but under-discussed area of Coetzee studies. Professor Sue Kossew says the sheer number of fascinating papers submitted demonstrated the importance of this area of study, and were part of what made the conference such a triumph. 

“The “Reading Coetzee’s Women” conference was an outstanding success.” 

The success of the conference inspired a number of the international participants to propose new collaborations with Monash University through the Prato Centre. 

The conference was convened by Professor Sue Kossew and Dr Melinda Harvey (from Literary Studies in the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics) with significant support from Professor Rae Frances (Dean of Faculty of Arts) and Professor Jakob Hohwy, (Associate Dean Research, Faculty of Arts). Melbourne graphic designer Rosetta Mills designed their promotional material. 


Monash brings together cultural and creative industries Masters programs in Prato

Professor Justin O'Connor (second from right) at the Monash Prato Centre with cultural and creative industries masters program directors from around the world.
Professor Justin O’Connor (second from right) at the Monash Prato Centre with cultural and creative industries masters program directors from around the world.

Monash Academic, Professor Justin O’Connor, recently returned from Monash’s Prato Campus where he led a meeting of cultural and creative industry masters programs from around the world.

The first network of its kind, and with over 20 participants from Australia, the UK, Poland, Italy, South Africa, China, The Netherlands and Turkey, this new initiative intends to facilitate international collaboration and exchange, as well as sharing experiences and best practice between continents.

Justin O’Connor is Program Director for the Monash Master of Cultural and Creative Industries.

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Sleepwalking to the future: why Australia needs a cultural policy

adelaide-fest-of-ideasMonash Academic, Professor Justin O’Connor will be giving a speech at the upcoming Adelaide Festival of Ideas entitled ‘Sleepwalking to the future: why Australia needs a cultural policy.’ 

Australia is surrounded by a world in transformation but is refusing to face up to it. Neo-liberalism is collapsing around us. Manufacturing and mining are in decline, with agriculture a minor sector.

Culture has, at federal level, been reduced to a rump of state-funded elite arts happy to see their poorer colleagues go under.

Justin will propose a way for culture to articulate a new sense of the change beyond ‘disruptive innovation’, and allow us to reimagine the future.

Justin will also be participating on the Value: Money:Culture panel also at the Festival.

Justin O’Connor is Program Director for the Monash Master of Cultural and Creative Industries.

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Margaret Kartomi receives major award in Indonesia

Margaret Kartomi (right) in traditional Lampung-Indonesian costume with two Indonesian choreographer-awardees holding her cultural award at the ceremony in Jakarta Theatre
Margaret Kartomi (right) in traditional Lampung-Indonesian costume with two Indonesian choreographer-awardees holding her cultural award at the ceremony in the Jakarta Theatre

Monash Arts ethnomusicologist Professor Margaret Kartomi has received the 2016 Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture’s prestigious Penghargaan Kebudayaan (Cultural Awards – Foreign Individuals category), one of only three individuals to be so recognised.

The Ministry has been making cultural awards in different categories to its citizens annually since 2012. The new category of ‘Foreign Individuals’ (Perorangan Asing) was instituted in 2015, and the Ministry began awarding three such Penghargaan Kebudayaan each year, for people who have made great contributions to the promotion and/or conservation of Indonesian arts and culture despite having different nationalities.

Professor Kartomi received the award from the Indonesian Minister of Education and Culture, Muhadjir Effendy, at a well-attended public evening concert and ceremony held at the Jakarta Arts Centre on September 28th 2016. 

Margaret Kartomi receiving her gold award pin at the ceremony in Jakarta Theatre. Photo by Dr Karen Kartomi Thomas.
Margaret Kartomi receiving her gold award pin at the Jakarta Theatre ceremony. Photo by Dr Karen Kartomi Thomas.

The award reads: ‘The Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republic of Indonesia presents this Certificate to Margaret J Kartomi for her dedication and contributions as an expert ethnomusicologist and author of many academic books and articles on the traditional music of Indonesia as well as teaching and researching the music of Asia in Australia and for founding Monash University’s Sumatra Music Archive and the Music Archive of Monash University (MAMU).’

The head of the Ministry’s Cultural Diplomacy Section, Dr Nadjamuddin Ramly, had previously visited Professor Kartomi at the Music Archive of Monash University to interview her about her publications and achievements for a video that was shown as she received the award.

Professor Kartomi’s photo and the story of her contributions to Indonesian culture was also displayed on a poster in the foyer of the Jakarta Theatre.

Professor Kartomi said she was thrilled to receive this recognition from Indonesia where she, with her husband Hidris Kartomi and more recently her daughter Dr Karen Kartomi Thomas, have carried out so many field and recording trips and met so many wonderful artists, elders and cultural experts over the past 40 years.

“Indonesia is extraordinarily rich in in the beauty and diversity of its traditional music, dance, drama, bardic and martial,” she said.

Margaret Kartomi is Professor of Music at Monash University, and she has dedicated most of her life to researching music, especially the music-cultures of Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Maluku, Flores and the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia. Margaret is a pianist, composer, musicologist and ethnomusicologist who is still active supervising postgraduate students’ research on the music of Indonesia and beyond.

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See Margaret receiving the award below


New handbook links criminology and human rights

handbook-cover-copyMonash’s Border Crossing Observatory criminologists have made significant contributions to a groundbreaking publication linking criminology and human rights.

Co-edited by BOb co-Director, Leanne Weber (with Elaine Fishwick and Marinella Marmo) and featuring an original contribution from Monash’s Marie Segrave and Sharon Pickering, as well as Sanja Milivojevic, the Routledge International Handbook of Criminology and Human Rights brings together a diverse body of work from around the globe united by its critical application of human rights law and principles.

Along with lead author Sanja Milivojevic, Marie Segrave and Sharon Pickering highlight the practical limitations of human rights protections, in this case in relation to undocumented migrants. Their chapter “The limits of Migration-related Human Rights: Connecting Exploitation to Immobility” charts the continued vulnerability of undocumented migrants to human rights abuses and exploitation in their countries of origin, transit and destination.

The collection also includes chapter contributions from other Monash criminologists, Jude McCulloch on “Police, Crime and Human Rights” linking a record of police abuses within Anglo-American countries to a continuing history of colonialism and Claire Spivakovsky who applies a critical lens to the politics of human rights in her chapter “Human Rights and the Governance of Cognitive Impairment and Mental Illness”.

Here is how two leading criminologists have described the handbook’s contribution:

“The Handbook covers an extensive list of themes that view the significance of human rights for social justice, policing, punishment, justice systems, law and governance and the development of criminology itself. This ambitious Handbook is the first major attempt to bring human rights out of the fringe and to the fore of criminological debate. It is breathtaking in its scope.” Kerry Carrington, Head of School of Justice, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology, Australia

“Happily, criminologists and human rights scholars are increasingly talking to each other and this diverse and rich collection marks an important milestone in that development. The editors and contributors are to be warmly congratulated.”

Kieran McEvoy, Professor of Law and Transitional Justice, Queens University Belfast, Northern Ireland

It is hoped that the handbook will provide a unique resource for research and teaching and facilitate informed debate about the uses and abuses of human rights law and principles within criminal justice, and within the discipline.

Find out more:


Monash researchers contribute to South Australian domestic violence consultation

Members of the Monash Gender and Family Violence: New Frameworks in Prevention Research Focus Program have provided a submission to the South Australian Government’s consultation on domestic violence. As part of their ongoing commitment to improving responses to domestic violence in South Australia, the Government sought views on eight specific topics, including the state wide introduction of a domestic violence disclosure scheme.

The Monash Submission, authored by Dr Kate Fitz-Gibbon, Professor Sandra WalklateProfessor Jude McCulloch and Associate Professor JaneMaree Maher, specifically examines four key areas:

  • Domestic violence disclosure scheme
  • The Family Safety Framework
  • Comprehensive collection of data
  • Men’s behaviour change programs

Drawing on current and recently completed family violence research undertaken by the team, the submission makes 10 recommendations for improving responses to domestic violence in South Australia, including that the Government should not introduce a domestic violence disclosure scheme.

Beyond the specific recommendations, the submission recommended that any law reform, policy change or prevention initiatives in this area must be evidence based and informed by consultation with those working within the integrated family violence sector and expert advisors.

Click here to access a copy of the Monash Submission to the Government of Australia in response to the Domestic Violence Discussion Paper.

Find out more:


‘We must keep the lights on’: how a cyclone was used to attack renewables

David Holmes, Monash University

The mid-latitude cyclone with no name that hit South Australia last week, spawning two tornadoes and 80,000 electricity strikes, destroyed 22 massive transmission towers carrying electricity across the state.

The consequences of the superstorm could have been dire – both from the direct effects of the wind and floods but also for the life support systems that depend on electricity. 1.7 million residents lost power as winds reached 120km/hour.

Yet in the midst of South Australia being in a state of emergency, federal Coalition ministers launched what seemed to be a co-ordinated and, for many, outrageous campaign against renewable energy.

It was co-ordinated in that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg all spoke from the same script: that “energy security” is Australia’s number-one priority. Or, as Frydenberg also put it:

We must keep the lights on.

Turnbull spoke of the extremely “aggressive” renewable energy targets the states have put in, which ironically are helping the federal government meet its own targets as part of UN framework agreements. And this in an environment where both major parties have just agreed to cut A$500 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

Along with Turnbull, Frydenberg was able to concede that severe weather was the source of the blackout. But the cyclone became a mere footnote to a full-frontal assault against renewables, which was taken up by mainstream media around the country. It sometimes became a bigger story than the storm itself.

Frydenberg continued the crusade over the weekend. He declared:

We’ve got the states pursuing these ridiculously high and unrealistic state-based renewable energy targets.

Joyce’s appearances on radio put the panic over renewables well ahead of the storm’s potential dangers. He compared the one-day blackout to the dark ages and put it down to bad planning, of which wind power was seen to be public enemy number one.

Joyce pointedly refused to acknowledge the storm as the cause of the blackout, and instead regressed to his well-known anti-wind rhetoric:

Of course in the middle of a storm, there are certain areas where wind power works – it works when wind is at a milder style, it doesn’t work when there’s no wind and it doesn’t work when there’s excessive wind – and it obviously wasn’t working too well last night because they had a blackout.

For these ministers, putting out a message that renewables were to blame because, they argued, they could not deliver a stable power system to South Australia, was an urgent priority that could both kill any climate message while denigrating renewables.

In a way what they did was very clever. As I have argued elsewhere, extreme weather presents the best opportunity for communicating climate stories.

That is, people are looking for an explanation as to why catastrophic weather is affecting them, and pointing to the link with between extreme weather and climate change is very persuasive at these times. But the Coalition’s campaign hijacked such messaging by simply swapping climate change with renewables.

The anti-renewable campaign was also outrageous. It was an affront to those who were confronting the storm’s immediate dangers and discomfort. But far more outrageous than this was the hypocrisy of drawing a link between the outage and renewables, rather than to climate change. The latter connection has been so vehemently rebuked by the Coalition during past extreme weather events.

During the NSW bushfires in October 2013, Abbott government ministers declared that talking about climate change during a “natural”/unnatural disaster to be taboo. This was in response to Greens MP Adam Bandt, who had linked the fires to climate change.

At the time, Environment Minister Greg Hunt declared:

There has been a terrible tragedy in NSW and no-one anywhere should seek to politicise any human tragedy, let alone a bushfire of this scale.

Given how progressive Turnbull himself has been on climate change in the past, this co-ordinated attack on renewables only demonstrates how captive he is to the right wing of the party and to the fossil-fuel industry.

Turnbull’s declaration on the day after the blackout was to “end the ideology” of the states pursuing renewables too aggressively. Ironically, what all of the polls around climate change show in the last five years is that enthusiasm for renewables is consistently high across Australia.

Perhaps Turnbull believes that if something is popular it must be ideological by definition. This departs from the idea that ideology is actually a worldview in the service of power – for example, the corporate power of fossil-fuel companies, which stand to lose much by the aggressive pursuit of renewables.

But the Coalition campaign got a huge lift from the ABC in the form of an opinion piece by political editor Chris Uhlmann. He says:

Renewables are the future but, today, they present serious engineering problems. To deny that is to deny the science.

Those problems can be sorted in time, but rushing to a target to parade green credentials exposes the electricity network to a serious security risk and, in the long run, risks permanent reputational damage to the renewable energy cause.

Uhlmann took his piece to national TV with a PowerPoint presentation during the ABC’s evening bulletin the day after the blackout. He claimed that only coal and gas could provide continuous energy or “synchronous supply”, and that renewables fail to do this.

The story really made it look like renewables were to blame. Yet his story in no way reconciled his teacherly diagrams with a soundbite from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) in an earlier story – that:

Energy generation mix was not a factor in the power blackout.

Uhlmann’s story mentioned that the main interconnector with Victoria had failed, but then focused on renewables as a problem, while claiming the AEMO advised him that the causes of the blackout were yet to be identified. He failed to mention what he had in his online article, which was that AEMO also advised:

Initial investigations have identified the root cause of the event is likely to be the multiple loss of 275 kilovolt (kV) power lines during severe storm activity in the state.

Anyone who saw the images of the toppled and mangled transmission towers could easily figure out that if electricity has no way of being transmitted, it really does not matter where it comes from.

This is the point Labor politicians were trying to make. But they did not get a very good run, because the Coalition’s media blitz had been much more planned.

But neither did Labor politicians, including Bill Shorten, make the alternative link to climate change. South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill was a little more effective, saying:

This was a weather event, not a renewable energy event.

But he also did not go further.

Uhlmann’s report was preceded by a pre-cyclone story posted on the ABC website last week which claimed renewables had caused an astronomical spike in energy prices in South Australia on a July day when the wind was not blowing. But the headline belies the reality that a privatised system of energy supply enables the kind of price gouging that was seen on that day, especially as the interconnector with Victoria was also down.

The interconnectors across Australia are very important, as Australia actually has one of the largest continuous grids in the world. This means that as long as we manage the grid itself, with “better planning” we will be able to avoid blackouts.

The importance of managing grids, and “distributed energy” that may use home storage as well, is the key to continuity. Otherwise, it is very easy to see outages, as was the case in the US in 2003. Then, long before renewables were significant, a single tree branch touching an overloaded power line turned off the lights for 50 million people in the US and Canada.

Managing a reliable grid is important, but it never seems to have occurred to federal Coaltition politicians that “good planning” is to aggressively cut emissions – which is exactly what many states are trying to do. This reduces the amount of energy in the climate system that ends up as increased water vapour and flooding, increased storm intensity, and many other forms of extreme weather.

Shorten, like Turnbull, knows that recent polls are showing climate change is returning a high level of concern, and has missed an opportunity to link the storm to climate – something the Abbott government had always considered must be avoided at all costs.

Turnbull’s team has managed to divert attention away from climate and go one better than the Abbott government by attacking renewables all in one campaign. For the fossil-fuel industry and the Coalition’s climate deniers alike, this was one perfect storm.

The Conversation

David Holmes, Senior Lecturer, Communications and Media Studies, Monash University

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


The hard sell of stem cells: we need a better way to protect patients from harm

Claire Tanner, University of Melbourne; Alan Petersen, Monash University, and Megan Munsie, University of Melbourne

As ABC’s 7.30 revealed last night, Australia has a flourishing stem cell treatment market. During these procedures, cells are taken from a patient and re-administered to them.

These “therapies” are being sold to patients with a wide range of debilitating and chronic conditions with little or no evidence of benefit. It’s also unclear whether stem cells are even being used in these treatments, despite the advertising claims.

Due to a lack of effective regulations, there is little oversight of these procedures and the businesses that provide them.

Regulatory loopholes

Operating in a regulatory loophole, these clinics and businesses are not required to meet the usual stringent standards required for therapeutic use of cells and tissues in Australia.

In response to concerns about unscrupulous and potentially harmful practices, and after years of inaction, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is currently conducting a public consultation to gauge support for a change in how treatments involving the use of patient’s own cells and tissues are regulated.

Such a review is urgently needed. [A recent quantitative survey]( revealed a dramatic increase in the number of Australian clinics marketing and providing these therapies. Australia currently has one of the highest concentrations of clinics per capita.

In the absence of effective regulation, business is booming. But it’s exposing people to unnecessary procedures – just look at the aggressive sales techniques of self-claimed entrepreneurs and the possibility of harm.

Such businesses also run the risk of compromising legitimate efforts in Australia to translate promising stem cell-based research into effective and safe therapies.

Read more: Stem cell therapies are advancing, but will Australian patients be left behind?

Flawed investigation process

Investigations of medical misconduct or false or misleading advertising are treated on a case-by-case basis after the patient, their family member or medical practitioner make a complaint to the TGA, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission or the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

Policing unproven stem cell treatments and their marketing based on this individualised process is problematic for a number of reasons.

Most significantly, it assumes people have the resources, will and empowerment to pursue a complaints process. It also assumes consumers will know which authority to turn to.

People who seek and undergo unproven or experimental stem cell treatment do so for a range of debilitating, often chronic, health conditions. They do so in the hope of a better quality of life and for some relief from day-to-day suffering.

They often have more urgent priorities beyond pursuing a complaint after being treated poorly or not getting the outcome they had hoped for. This is especially the case when such treatment has involved feelings of extreme disappointment, embarrassment and disempowerment by an exploitative process.

The family whose experience featured in the 7.30 report, for instance, did not wish to formally pursue a complaint despite being subjected to misleading, unethical and exploitative practices. Having raised concerns with Stem Cells Australia, the peak body representing stem cell science in Australia, they wished to put the unfortunate experience behind them.

Psychological harm

Our research indicates that the positive relationship patients forge with their stem cell treatment provider makes it unlikely they will lodge a formal complaint.

In our recent study, people described experiences of harm and concern about their care yet did not act. In addition to the financial difficulties associated with undergoing treatment (procedures generally cost A$9,000), concerns included:

  • not being effectively anaesthetised during liposuction procedures to extract stem cells from fat

  • experiencing extreme pain and the treating doctor (a cosmetic surgeon) refusing to stop the procedure in spite of repeated requests

  • not consenting to what happened to their stem cells after procedures and then being invited to return for subsequent procedures at considerable cost

  • concern that stem cells were not administered correctly into sites of injury

  • being influenced to undertake procedures due to heavily reduced costs (A$4,000 reduced from A$10,000).

But patients remained grateful to their “stem cell doctor” despite these experiences. They were happy to have found someone who promised them treatment that could help and who was prepared to do something.

Following the tragic preventable death of Sheila Drysdale, who bled to death following a stem cell treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, the NSW Deputy Coroner ruled that Sheila died as a result of the poor performance of the doctor.

Yet the NSW Coroner’s Report stated Sheila’s husband bore the doctor “no ill-will”. As he explained to ABC’s Background Briefing, he still believed the treatment could have worked:

Had Sheila survived that night and not bled to death, we may have seen something very positive.

This story raises concerns ranging from ethical issues associated with lack of informed consent, to physical and psychological harm.

Diversion from mainstream medicine

These therapies may also cause harm by diverting people away from effective therapies.

A doctor in Western Australia recently described his serious concern about the harm inflicted on his patient who went off her medication for rheumatoid arthritis in order to undergo an unproven stem cell treatment.

As a result, she experienced a painful and sustained flare-up that may have caused permanent and avoidable damage to her joints. It is unlikely that indirect harms such as these are being reported to authorities.

A reliance on individual consumer complaints to a number of different agencies is an unsatisfactory approach to assessing and addressing harm associated with the exponentially growing Australian unregulated stem cell treatment industry. The TGA consultation closes on October 6. The TGA then needs to act swiftly to introduce meaningful regulatory reform.

The Conversation

Claire Tanner, Postdoctoral research fellow, University of Melbourne; Alan Petersen, Professor of Sociology in the School of Social Sciences, Monash University, and Megan Munsie, Head of Education, Ethics, Law & Community Awareness Unit, Stem Cells Australia, University of Melbourne

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


Religion and the US election: does faith matter anymore?

Tim Verhoeven, Monash University

It is often remarked that Americans will elect almost anyone except an atheist. Only one of the 535 members of the current Congress professes to be religiously unaffiliated.

Polls consistently show Americans want their political leaders to be religious. This applies even to the purportedly secularist Democratic Party. Though the figure has been declining, no less than 53% of Democrat supporters still say it is important for their candidate to have strong religious beliefs.

This should be yet another advantage for Hillary Clinton. Of all the qualities she brings to the election race, one of the least-remarked-upon is her religiosity. A lifelong Methodist, she is by all accounts a committed and sincere churchgoer.

The contrast with Donald Trump is stark. He might call himself a Presbyterian, but few can recall seeing Trump in the pews. The twice-divorced casino magnate regularly muddles his scriptural citations. And at one church in Iowa, he almost put money in the communion plate.

Yet here, as elsewhere, the race has defied conventional wisdom. Evangelicals are flocking to the Republican. Meanwhile, the so-called “nones” – those who identify as atheists, agnostic or nothing in particular – are siding with the Democrat.

Religion in the Clinton campaign

Clinton’s failure to win over religious voters has not been for lack of trying. At key moments through her career she has spoken openly of her faith. In a 2014 interview, she named the Bible as the biggest influence on her thinking.

At other times Clinton has described the role of theologians such as Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich in driving her commitment to social justice. Unlike Trump, she knows scripture well enough to impress religiously minded voters at campaign stops. Put simply, she is fluent in religion in a way that her opponent is not.

Furthermore, her campaign has reflected this commitment, even if in a muted tone. Religion was everywhere at the Democratic Convention. The Democratic Faith Council held panels on religion and politics while Catholic nuns drew attention to the problem of social injustice.

Using religiously inflected language, a Protestant minister called on delegates to:

… shock this nation with the power of love.

Vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine spoke at length about his Roman Catholic faith and his missionary work in Central America.

Clinton herself summed up her credo with a Methodist motto:

Do all the good we can, in all the ways we can, for all the people we can.

In the midst of all this God-talk, it was revealed that the Democrat National Committee had been using religion in a more negative way. Hacked emails showed that committee members tried to discredit Bernie Sanders during the primary campaign by drawing attention to his supposed atheism.

Trump and the religious right

In the heady post-convention days, the Democrats dared to dream of peeling off elements of the religious right from their opponents. This dream is now clearly over.

With only a few exceptions, leaders of the religious right have endorsed Trump. One survey from mid-August shows Trump beating Clinton by a margin of 63-17 amongst white religious conservatives.

This has occurred despite the fact that hardly any voters see Trump as particularly religious. During the primary season, only 5% of Republican voters described Trump as “very religious”, compared to 47% for Ben Carson. There is little evidence that Trump’s belated attempt at Jesus-speak since then has shifted their opinion.

Explaining this evangelical embrace of Trump might be one of the larger puzzles of this campaign. One solution is that evangelicals have morphed into values voters instead of faith voters. Conservative Christians will now turn out for any candidate offering a return to a past America where discipline and order reigned, and where white lives mattered most.

It helps that Trump has promised the religious right much of what it wants. Under a President Trump, bakers will never be forced to sell wedding cakes to gay couples.

Even more than the plight of pious cake-makers, the religious right has been fretting about an obscure clause in the federal tax code, Section 501 c(3). Passed in 1954 at the urging of Senator Lyndon Johnson, the clause bans tax-exempt organisations such as churches from overtly supporting candidates for political office. Become too partisan, and you start paying tax.

Trump has promised to rescind this troubling restraint on religious freedom.

Though few can recall seeing Donald Trump in the pews, the religious right is rallying behind Trump. Carlo Allegri/Reuters, CC BY-NC

The times they are a-changin’

In the end, the fact that so much of the religious vote will go to the obviously less religious candidate says a lot about this race.

For much of the right, dislike of Clinton outweighs everything else. At the same time, very few appear to believe her when she talks about her faith.

The religious vote is typical in another way as well. Just as growing racial diversity has helped the Democrats, a steady decline in religiosity amongst young Americans might be having the same effect.

The latest survey shows the number of young Americans who are religiously unaffiliated is on the rise. Only 27% of young millennials (born 1990-1996) attend a weekly religious service compared to 51% of the so-called “silent generation” (born 1928-45).

Clinton has tried to win over the faith community. But if the trend towards a less religious America continues, future Democrat candidates may not even need to bother.

The Conversation

Tim Verhoeven, Senior Lecturer in Modern History, Monash University

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


Turnbull will not succeed as prime minister unless he unites his party

Nick Economou
, Monash University

When he displaced Tony Abbott as Liberal Party leader, Malcolm Turnbull ascended to what has traditionally been thought of as a position of some power within the party.

The Liberal Party is something of a top-down organisation in which the parliamentary leader forms the ministry and defines the party’s policy agenda. The party organisation exists not to give direction on policy, but to support the leader with resources to run election campaigns.

The partyroom is expected to get behind the leader to show unity and eschew ideology in order to maximise the party’s appeal to a pragmatic “middle Australia”.

As author Katharine West so succinctly put it, the Liberal Party was about “power without ideology”. Ideology, factions and organisations telling the parliamentary wing what to do were meant to be the burdens of the Labor Party.

So, the prerogatives of leadership were assumed to be available to Turnbull when he became leader. There was an expectation in some quarters of a shift in government policy away from some of the things that defined the approach of Abbott, his more socially conservative predecessor. This clearly has not happened.

Rather, there is an impression that the Coalition lacks direction on policy and is under siege from a group of ultra-conservatives who are fixated on matters like blocking marriage equality and unwinding racial vilification laws.

To add to his woes, the free-market economic hardliners who toy with ideas such as raising the GST rate and cutting government expenditure have also been hyperactive, driven partly by frustration with Turnbull’s dithering on economic policy.

The most charitable assessment right now would be that Turnbull appears to be struggling as prime minister. His inability to exercise the sort of influence that leadership is supposed to grant under Liberal Party rules is part of his problem.

One explanation for this might be that the old Liberal traditions no longer apply because the party itself has changed. The middle-of-the-road party West described has transformed into something more ideological. This may in turn reflect the nexus between the party members, who have significant powers over preselection, and the MPs they preselect.

In the safe seats in state and federal politics, and in the Senate tickets, the Liberal organisation is increasingly preselecting people of firm ideas espousing values-based politics. This might be about the need for conservative social values or free market economics.

Turnbull won his preselection for Wentworth in 2004 on the back of a good old-fashioned branch-stack. This involved marshalling friends and associates to displace sitting Liberal member Peter King – much to the annoyance of the NSW Liberal organisation at the time.

That preselection was a throwback to the old days before the dominance of rigidly disciplined political parties. Back then, a notable local could gather supporters from the local parish to elect him, after which he might participate in the leadership politics of the parliament.

It even resonated with the type of candidate that was common during the Menzies era – male, a success in business or community affairs, critical of unions, holding moderately liberal or conservative outlooks, but also pragmatic.

These days Liberal preselections are a battlefield in which branch-member ideologues or members of various factions (“moderates”, “conservatives”, “uglies”, “Krogerites”, “Costelloites” and so on) slug it out. The partyroom reflects the success or failures of the contest.

With his old-school preselection, his association with causes such as republicanism, and his moderate, modern and cosmopolitan views, Turnbull is something of an odd-man-out in the contemporary Liberal Party. That he should end up being its parliamentary leader not once but twice is testament to his ambition and tenacity.

To grab the leadership is an achievement. But to be able to consolidate and survive (let alone actually do anything) is something else again.

Insights on how to do it can be gained from successful past Liberal leaders Robert Menzies, Malcolm Fraser and John Howard. They all had internal critics, enemies and rivals, and all had firm views on some issues. But they were good at keeping the parliamentary wing unified and disciplined, sometimes with clever strategies.

Howard, for example, was adept at utilising conscience voting to deal with morality issues that had the potential to divide his partyroom.

Howard, as a social conservative himself, was also very good at absorbing the occasional defeat on some of these conservative causes. That’s because he had a more urgent aspiration: to keep his party united (mindful, no doubt, of the mayhem caused by people like Andrew Peacock and Joh Bjelke-Petersen during those bleak years in opposition between 1983 and 1996).

Menzies, Fraser and Howard were also adept at winning elections. Interestingly, Abbott’s electoral success didn’t save his leadership, because opinion polls have become a major test of leadership viability. This is hardly surprising, for wanting to win elections is the thing that binds moderates, social conservatives and everyone else in the party room.

So now we get to the essence of Turnbull’s leadership problem, of which the agitation of the Cory Bernardis in the partyroom is only a minor part. If Turnbull had any authority as leader when he took over from Abbott, it dissipated completely at the 2016 election. Any leader who loses 13 lower house seats and allows the populist right to consolidate in the Senate – after promising to get rid them – is not in a great political position.

In truth, Turnbull is not going to be able to do anything more than grimly hang on and hope that either the opinion polls don’t go down further or the memory of Labor’s leadership woes stops his colleagues from putting him to the sword.

Turnbull is an odd moderate in a party with many liberal economic and socially conservative hardliners. That he nearly lost an election and helped revive the political career of Pauline Hanson will severely test his ambition and tenacity.

Nick Economou, Senior Lecturer, School of Political and Social Inquiry, Monash University

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

Study at Monash


One in two favour Muslim immigration ban? Beware the survey panel given an all-or-nothing choice

Andrew Markus, Monash University

An Essential Report poll finding that 49% of Australians want to ban Muslim immigration received extensive media coverage last week. In addition to general reporting, Essential’s executive director, Peter Lewis, wrote in The Guardian:

The result floored me.

Less surprised was commentator Ray Hadley in The Daily Telegraph:

The left-leaning café latte sippers were left scratching their heads this week when an Essential poll revealed …

Senior journalists, including from Fairfax Media, and politicians took the findings at face value. Labor’s deputy leader, Tanya Plibersek, saw the survey as proof that:

We’re not doing a good enough job as national leaders to bring harmony and cohesion to our community.

Among the few to question the result was new Labor MP Anne Aly. She asked whether public opinion was really so adverse.

A second questioner was One Nation senator Pauline Hanson, who said the poll understated the degree of opposition:

I believe it’s a lot higher than that. Because people … have been in fear to answer the question … because they don’t know who’s taking the call.

Surveying methodology

Some aspects of the Essential findings are worthy of critical scrutiny. One relates to methodology.

There are two main approaches to surveying. One is a sampling of the population based on randomly generated telephone numbers. The other utilises an online panel of respondents who complete surveys out of interest and for reward.

Contrary to Hanson’s claims, no-one was “taking the call” in the Essential survey: it utilised an online panel.

Surveys employing online panels are much cheaper and quicker to run. They have a proven record on a number of issues, notably predicting election outcomes, as over a period of years they develop weighting formulas for their panel calibrated against election results. But there are no formulas of the same level of precision when surveys deal with social issues.

An extensive review of online survey methodologies found that:

Computer administration yields more reports of socially undesirable attitudes and behaviours than oral interviewing, but no evidence that directly demonstrates that the computer reports are more accurate.

Major organisations seeking the highest level of reliability continue to employ random population sampling, despite the cost involved.

To test the impact of different methodologies, in 2014 the Scanlon Foundation administered the same questionnaire to both a random sample of the population and an online panel. It found 44% of Australia-born online panel respondents whose parents were born in Australia indicated they held “very negative” or “negative” views toward Muslims. The same demographic in the random sample had a much lower percentage (28%).

There is a second issue, just as important, with the Essential finding.

Surveys do not simply identify a rock-solid public opinion; they explore, with the potential to distort through questions asked. Essential chose not to present respondents with a range of options on Muslim immigration. Rather, it was a yes/no choice:

Would you support or oppose a ban on Muslim immigration to Australia?

The product was easy-to-understand copy for the media, but arguably also a gross simplification. Public opinion on social issues defies binary categorisation. It is more accurately understood in terms of a continuum, with a middle ground on some issues in excess of half the population.

For example, with regard to asylum seekers, nine polls between 2001 and 2010 using various methodologies asked respondents if they favoured or opposed the turning back of boats. The average for these surveys was 67% in favour of turnbacks.

But, in 2010, the Scanlon Foundation survey tested opinion on this topic by offering four policy options, ranging from eligibility for permanent settlement to turning back of boats. In this context, a minority of just 27% supported turnbacks.

Minorities and Australian opinion

Survey findings are typically considered in isolation in the media, with no understanding of context, of what is within the expected and what is beyond it.

The Essential survey of attitudes to Muslims is hardly the first in the field. Several random population samples since 2010 have found that when respondents are asked for attitudes to minorities, by far the highest level of negative opinion is towards Muslims.

In a 2013 VicHealth survey, 22% of respondents indicated they were negative towards Muslims. This number was 22%-26% in six Scanlon Foundation surveys between 2010 and 2015.

A random population sample by Roy Morgan Research in October 2015 asked respondents if they “support or oppose Muslim immigration”. It found a minority, 36%, opposed; 55% in support. Of Greens-voting respondents in the Morgan poll, just 1% indicated they were opposed. This is a marked contrast with the Essential finding of 35%.

A last issue concerns broad context. If the Essential finding is a sound reflection of Australian opinion, is it beyond the realm of previous findings? We cannot be certain, because past surveys rarely raised the zero option – the banning of a specific group – without establishing the range of opinion.

Between 1984 and 1988, however, when there was considerable public discussion of Asian immigration, ten surveys asked if the number of Asian immigrants was too high. On average the surveys found 58% were of that opinion, with a peak of 77% obtained by Newspoll in 1988.

And, in 1996 – at the time of Hanson’s first maiden speech in the federal parliament – an AGB McNair telephone poll found 53% of respondents agreed that Asian immigration “should be reduced”.The Conversation

Andrew Markus is the Pratt Foundation Research Chair of Jewish Civilisation at Monash University.

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


Mojo Awards a stunning success at Bobby McGee’s

Monash University’s journalism department celebrated the outstanding work of students at the inaugural Mojo Awards at Bobby McGee’s in Melbourne’s CBD on Friday, September 23.

Jack Painter, Suzan Delibasic and Matt Johnson at the Mojo Awards.
Jack Painter, Suzan Delibasic and Matt Johnson at the Mojo Awards.

Veteran journalists Lawrence Money and Andrew Rule offered sound advice for the students, who were treated some rare anecdotes from Melbourne’s gun journalists.

Today Show’s Melbourne bureau chief and former Monash student Fenella Wagener shared her insights about the TV production industry.

Photo gallery of the Mojo Awards

Mojo executive editor Bill Birnbauer said all the award winners and finalists worked extremely hard and conscientiously to produce journalism of high quality, often devoting hours of their time to the task.

“Mojo and its platforms are the sum of the students’ efforts and reflect their dedication, teamwork, creativity and enthusiasm,” Mr Birnbauer said.

“The students not only produced great stories but displayed some media savvy in creating new digital platforms for the content.

“I heartily congratulate all the winners and finalists and encourage more journalism students to become involved. I’m sure some of those who entered these awards, will be seen in future winning some of journalism’s highest honours.”

 Mojo staff editor Corinna Hente and Mr Birnbauer have guided students to produce high-quality work, which has led them to publishing outstanding work for industry, either in paid positions or internships.

Photo gallery of the Mojo Awards

Mojo winners and finalists

Best TV segment
Nominations Ashleigh Paholek
Winner Sally Hayles
Nominations Joshua Kaye
Nominations Joel Murugiah
Nominations Will Zwar
Best podcast segment
Winner Charles Taylor & William Arnott
Nominations Matt Johnson & Matt Hooy  
Nominations Stephanie Chen, William Arnott & Harrison Johnstone  
Most popular story (views)
Nominations Matilda Boseley
Nominations Nadia Dimattina
Nominations Jamal Haddou
Nominations                                         Yiqiang Shang
Winner Christiane Barro
Best editor (content and editing)
Nominations Corinna Lagerberg
Nominations Christiane Barro
Winner Matt Johnson
Nominations Caroline Tung
Best producer
Nominations Will Zwar
Nominations Alex  Hatzikostas
Winner Ashleigh Paholek
Nominations Nicholas Li
Best photo
Nominations Lucy Holmes
Winner Matt Stebbings
Nominations Matt Johnson
Best photo essay
Nominations Steven Barnes
Nominations Diana Hodgetts
Winner Stephanie Chen
Nominations Jamal Ben Haddou
Nominations Matt Johnson
Best sports report
Nominations Matt Balmer
Winner Matt Johnson
Best review
Nominations Diana Hodgetts
Nominations Suzan Delibasic
Winner William Arnott
Nominations Corinna Lagerberg
Nominations Emily Burkhardt
Readers’ choice (Facebook)
Nominations Jamal Ben Haddou
Nominations Christiane Barro
Nominations Travis  Jones
Nominations Stephanie Chen
Nominations JoJo Shang
Nominations Georgie Owen
Nominations mojoTV #1
Winner Suzan Delibasic
Best news story
Nominations Rhianna Busler
Nominations Will Zwar
Nominations Jamal Ben Haddou
Winner Suzan Delibasic
Best feature story
Nominations Ashleigh Paholek
Winner Luke Dundon
Nominations Kirsti Weisz
Nominations Sally Hayles
Nominations Matilda Boseley
Best story published in media
Winner Angus Smith
Winner Tess Ikonomou
Nominations Corinna Lagerberg
Nominations Kate Mani
Nominations Alex Meibusch
Special Achievement
Jamal Haddou  
Most valuable contributor
Nominations Christiane Barro
Nominations Matt Balmer
Winner Corinna Lagerberg
Nominations Jamal Ben Haddou
Nominations Will Zwar
Nominations Matt Johnson


The Memory Code: how oral cultures memorise so much information

Duane W. Hamacher
, Monash University

Ancient Celtic bards were famous for the sheer quantity of information they could memorise. This included thousands of songs, stories, chants and poems that could take hours to recite in full.

Today we are pretty spoiled. Practically the whole of human knowledge is conveniently available at our fingertips. Why worry about memorising something when we can simply Google it?

The answer seems pretty evident when we go into a panic after losing our smartphones!

Long before the ancient Celts, Aboriginal Australians were recording vast scores of knowledge to memory and passing it to successive generations.

Aboriginal people demonstrate that their oral traditions are not only highly detailed and complex, but they can survive – accurately – for thousands, even tens of thousands, of years.

Yet I struggle to remember what I did last Tuesday. So how did they do it?

Researcher Lynne Kelly was drawn to this question while investigating Aboriginal knowledge about animals for her PhD.

It was evident to Kelly that Aboriginal people catalogued huge scores of information about animals – including species types, physical features, behaviour, links to food and plants – and wondered how they do it.

A memorable thing

Aboriginal elders explained to her how they encode knowledge in song, dance, story and place. This led to a theory that may revolutionise archaeology.

It has long been known that the human brain has evolved to associate memory with place, referred to as the method of loci. This means that we associate memory with a location. How often do memories come flooding back to us when we visit our childhood haunt?

Loci (Latin for “place”), can refer to landscape features, ceremonial sites, abstract designs – anything with distinct features where information can be linked to memory.

Stonehenge evolved from a simpler structure to the complex megalith we see today over the course of thousands of years. Was it an evolving memory space? Duane Hamacher, Author provided


Kelly developed this into a framework that may explain the purpose of famous sites such as Stonehenge, the Nasca lines and the Moai of Easter Island.

The meanings of these sites have been a topic of controversy for decades. What Kelly proposes in her new book The Memory Code is that sites such as Stonehenge and the Nasca lines are actually memory spaces.

Knowledge is power

In oral cultures, knowledge is power. It is imperative that the most important knowledge be maintained and preserved by a few select custodians who have proven their worth.

In Indigenous cultures, elders who have passed the highest levels of initiation hold the deepest levels of knowledge.

This is reflected in ceremonial sites where knowledge is passed down. Aboriginal initiation sites include a secret area where the most sacred knowledge is discussed.

We also see this at Stonehenge, where the perimeter of standing stones shields the centre of the ring, where the most important aspects knowledge are passed on through ceremony.

These sites include features that are unique in shape and form. At Uluru, the Anangu elders associate every crevice, bump, and notch around the perimeter of the mountain with knowledge that is stored to memory.

Uluru close up reveals a very textured environment. Shutterstock/Peter Zurek

Star maps and memory

But loci is not only linked to places you can touch or visit. Indigenous people also use the stars as memory spaces.

For example, groups of stars can represent features on the landscape. Aboriginal Law Man Ghillar Michael Anderson explains how the Euahlayi people were able to travel long distances for trade and ceremony.

The Euahlayi would memorise star maps at night and learn the songs that talk about their relationship to the land. Each star was associated with a landscape feature, such as a waterhole.

Later in the year, they would sing the song as they travelled across country by day. These songline routes became the foundation of some of our highway networks that criss-cross the country.

Rather than navigating by the stars, the stars themselves serve as a memory space.

Landscape features and songlines represented by stars in the Milky Way also correspond to modern highways. Robert Fuller and Google Maps, Author provided


In The Memory Code, Kelly provides new insights into how oral societies are able to store vast quantities of knowledge to memory without it degrading over time.

It may explain how Aboriginal memories of land that existed before it was flooded by rising sea levels during the last Ice Age survived in oral tradition for more than 7,000 years.

To test it herself, Kelly used the technique to memorise all of the world’s countries in order of population by linking them with features around her neighbourhood, including buildings and gardens – making up her own stories for each one. And she can now recite them flawlessly.

You might be surprised how easy it is to do yourself.

The Conversation

Duane W. Hamacher, Senior ARC Discovery Early Career Research Fellow, Monash University

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

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Monash students from SDSN Youth on creating social change


SDSN Youth is one of the leading global networks in sustainable development. Launched in 2015 by Siamak Sam Loni and fellow students from Monash University, in collaboration with the Monash Sustainability Institute, SDSN Youth works to empower young people around the world to create sustainable development solutions.

This week, Monash University students Michelle Huang, Melissa Peppin and John Farrugia, along with recent Monash University graduate and Global Coordinator of SDSN Youth, Siamak Sam Loni, attended the United Nations General Assembly and the International Conference on Sustainable Development in New York with SDSN Youth. 

SDSN Youth at UNHQ

John Farrugia is studying towards a Master of International Relations. Michelle Huang and Melissa Peppin are studying towards a Master of International Development. Both are Project Leaders of the SDSN Youth Communications team. 

From New York, John explained how he got involved as a Project Leader for Networks with SDSN Youth. As with many opportunities, his came in the form of an internship. 

“I commenced a two-month internship that was advertised by MSI, and was taken on as a project officer. Since then, I have become a project leader, working remotely with a culturally and geographically diverse team,” he says. 

With team members who live as far away as Argentina, Nigeria and France, John says his education at Monash University has helped him understand the importance of thinking globally. 

“The ethos and vision of Monash University has strongly assisted me in my role at SDSN Youth, as it recognises the importance of global connections and diversity,” he says. 

“Both my undergraduate and postgraduate studies have enabled me to understand and appreciate the political, economic and social implications of international forums and networks,” – John Farrugia, Master of International Relations student and Project Leader for Networks with SDSN Youth.  

For John, the highlight of his week in New York was attending the United Nations General Assembly for the Solutions Summit. The high-level event welcomed 10 newly-formed startups dedicated to creating innovative solutions to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. John says this kind of advanced, big-picture thinking was inspiring. 

From this event and the entire week, something that has resonated with me is the use of technology and creative methods of mobilising people around the world, especially in the global south, to achieve social change. It was also inspiring to see how interdisciplinary groups are working to achieve the SDGs,” he says. 

He might be wrapping up his time in New York, but this won’t be the last we’ll hear from John or SDSN Youth. He’s heading to Italy next month to help organise the Vatican Youth Symposium. 

“For the next month, in my capacity with SDSN Youth, I will be dedicating my time to organising the Vatican Youth Symposium in Vatican City, the National Youth Summit in Melbourne and working on a new sustainable cities initiative known as Local Pathways.” 

Follow SDSN Youth on Facebook and Twitter.  


Find out more:


Monash students from SDSN Youth at United Nations General Assembly


SDSN Youth is one of the leading global networks in sustainable development. Launched in 2015 by Siamak Sam Loni and fellow students from Monash University, in collaboration with the Monash Sustainability InstituteSDSN Youth works to empower young people around the world to create sustainable development solutions.

Since 2015, SDSN Youth has expanded to include branches in Turkey, Germany, Brazil, and North America.

This week, Monash University students Michelle Huang, Melissa Peppin and John Farrugia, along with recent Monash University graduate and Global Coordinator of SDSN Youth, Siamak Sam Loni, are attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York with SDSN Youth. 

John Farrugia is studying towards a Master of International Relations. Michelle Huang and Melissa Peppin are studying towards a Master of International Development

What is SDSN Youth?

SDSN Youth is the global youth chapter of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. SDSN Youth helps the SDSN achieve its aims by educating young people about sustainable development.

“The Sustainable Development Goals are ideal for engaging young people… 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,” – Siamak Sam Loni, Global Coordinator for SDSN Youth. 

SDSN Youth at the International Conference of Sustainable Development 


What do you imagine the world to look like in 2030?

It’s been a year since the 17 Sustainable Development Goals were adopted, and young people around the world are already striving towards this new sustainable development agenda.

SDSN Youth has partnered with Columbia University Coalition for Sustainable Development to present ‘Reimagining the World in 2030‘ on the opening night of the  ICSDThis event will feature young leaders and change-makers, showcasing tangible actions we can all take to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. SDSN Youth aims for the event to demonstrate the role of creativity and imagination in transforming our world.

Follow their journey on Facebook and Twitter