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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The Journey from AIDS to HIV

Staffan Hildebrand offers insight into his extraordinary film.
Staffan Hildebrand offers insight into his extraordinary film.

The School of Media, Film and Journalism hosted a fascinating preview of Transmission: The Journey from AIDS to HIV on Wednesday, July 16 at Monash University’s MADA building at Caulfield.

Film director Staffan Hildebrand has collected film material, captured between 1986-2013, on HIV/AIDS. The film captures the difficulties during the 1980s and progresses to 2013, which highlights the improvements in HIV treatment and longevity.

Hildebrand answered questions after the preview, which highlighted the depth of work and its target audience for AIDS 2014.

Hildebrand has been filming the HIV/AIDS epidemic since 1986, and is the founder and producer of the Face of AIDS film archive housed at the prestigious Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

Associate Professor Mia Lingdren introduces film director Staffan Hildebrand.
Associate Professor Mia Lingdren introduces film director Staffan Hildebrand.

Transmission: The Journey from AIDS to HIV was commissioned for AIDS 2014, the meeting of the  International AIDS Society held in Melbourne, 21-25 July 2014.

This film is a centerpiece for the conference that will engage delegates, HIV/AIDS professionals and the general population by exploring how the Australian response  was coordinated across political and ideological boundaries and driven by the community but why today,  young people continue to be at risk of HIV.

It introduces us to many of the characters who have been influential over the three decades of the fight against HIV and AIDS.

It contains original never before seen historical footage from the Face of AIDS archive, along with new interviews from contrasting countries in the Asia Pacific region and how there is the real possibility of the virtual elimination of the transmission of HIV, and the hope that a cure or vaccine might yet be found.

Yet there are still a range of challenges that need to be overcome.

The Face of AIDS film project raises important questions about the role of documentary and life stories in medical research.

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Q&A: Flight MH17 and the spiralling conflict in Ukraine

The shooting down of flight MH17 has thrust the separatist conflict in Ukraine back into the international spotlight. The Ukrainian government and Russian-backed rebels have been locked in a military and propaganda battle since March, but the downing of a civilian aircraft could be a game-changer.

While the facts are still being established, both sides are scrambling to blame the other for an act that has drawn global condemnation.

Terrorism expert Professor Greg Barton from the School of Social Science gives us a sense of the situation in Ukraine and who the separatists are.

Who is the rebel group suspected of shooting down Flight MH17? What are they fighting for?

The Ukrainian government in Kiev describes groups such as the Donetsk People’s Republic as being “terror” groups and operations against them as “anti-terror operations”, but I think that’s unfortunate language. It doesn’t add clarity.

What we know about the Ukrainian situation is that there was a popular revolution that toppled the government in mid-February this year. It was followed by a response from the Russian side, who were angry about that, who initially covertly then much more overtly moved to take control of the Crimean peninsula, where there are major Russian naval and other military bases. That was met with outrage, understandably.

But it was also then met with a series of separatist movements across the eastern part of Ukraine near the Russian border. There was initially some suggestion that this was fomented by Russian intelligence agents, probably just to put pressure on the new government in Kiev.

In recent months, there have been signs that this has been getting out of control and become an embarrassment to the Russian government, particularly as the forces have taken control of Ukrainian military weapons including armoured personal carriers and tanks. Rebels have overrun military lines and shot down a number of aircraft using rocket-propelled grenades at airfields, and also shoulder-launched missiles to bring down a large transport aircraft helicopter and a Ukrainian fighter jet just last week.

What we know of what happened over the last 24 hours suggests that the Donetsk People’s Republic – a group which is allegedly pro-Russian but not under the control of Russia, it would appear – has encountered Ukrainian forces and either overrun their lines permanently or at least taken hold of equipment. It appears that they’ve taken hold of one of the missile systems we know the Ukrainian military uses, the Russian-made “Buk” system.

This Buk system can bring down aircraft at 40-50,000 feet. This airliner was at 33,000 feet, well outside the range of any shoulder-launched system, but was unfortunately within range of what we thought was a weapons system only in military hands. Many airlines had diverted flights from eastern Ukraine for fear of escalated risk. Malaysian Airlines evidently took the view that at that altitude it was still safe, as the separatists would be using shoulder-launched missiles that are only good up to 15,000 feet.

Sadly that was a miscalculation. It would seem it would have to have been pro-Russian separatists rather than Russian or Ukrainian forces themselves, as it was someone who had enough expertise to target an overflying aircraft and launch, but perhaps not enough expertise to realise that they had targeted a civilian aircraft rather than what they thought was a Ukrainian transport aircraft.

If it is found to be this separatist group that shot down the aircraft, where does it leave them now in terms trying to advance their agenda?

I think it’s safe to assume that it has left them in a perilous position. It’s hard to imagine they would have thought that deliberately targeting a commercial airliner was a good idea. They still bear the criticism of being prepared to target an aircraft in any case that was unidentified and bring it down.

I think this will precipitate a response from the Russian government, possibly via Vladimir Putin’s reasonably sound relationship with German chancellor Angela Merkel. There may be a move to bring NATO and Russia together to send in peacekeeping forces and a series of negotiations to end the conflicts in eastern Ukraine because it’s not in Russia’s interest, it’s not in Kiev’s interest, and it’s not in the interest of wider Europe.

A NATO response will also in some way involve American partnership. Up until now, the conflict in eastern Ukraine has been put in the “too-hard basket”. No-one has wanted to send in troops on the ground. This may be the perfect pretext for sending in a peacekeeping force that is possibly comprised of NATO and Russian soldiers.

It’s important to track language here. The Ukrainian government speaks about launching anti-terror operations, and Russia sometimes describes what the Ukranian forces from Kiev are doing as being terror operations. This loose use of the word terror helps no-one. There is such a thing as terrorism, but this is something else that’s happening here.

However morally culpable pro-Russian separatists around Donetsk are for what happened, it doesn’t help to describe their actions as acts of terror. It’s rather the horrible escalating cost of an insurgency out of control, and if there’s any good to come from it, it’s precipitating the need to move in and negotiate and send in peacekeepers since it’s clear it’s beyond the capacity of Ukrainian forces alone to do this.

We do need to pay attention to language because these things get resolved both through military power in the form of peacekeepers but also through negotiation. And that requires bringing at least two parties to the table if not more.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation.

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Ukrainian rebels gain firepower but may have blown their cause

by Ben Rich

The downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine represents considerable escalation of the military capabilities of the insurgency based around the “Donetsk People’s Republic”.

Although this group has previously brought down a number of military fixed-wing androtary-wing aircraft, these have been achieved through the use of short-range, low-altitude, shoulder-launched missiles, commonly known as MANPADS (man-portable air defence systems).

Where previous targets have been hit at only a few hundred metres above the ground, MH17 was cruising at around 10,000 metres, leaving it far out of the range of the IGLA MANPADS used previously by the rebels. Instead, a number of sources are pointing to the 2K12 family, a Soviet-Russian platform known in NATO circles as the SA-6.

Whereas the IGLA was designed to defend infantry units from close air attacks by helicopters and low-flying attack craft, the 2K12 was made to provide a lethal, high-altitude umbrella over tens of kilometres. To achieve its great range it relies on radar detection to guide its half-tonne projectiles. Operators often can fire at targets beyond visual range.

The 2K12 is immense compared to its MANPAD cousins. Early models consist of an armoured chassis mounting four missiles operating alongside a separate targeting radar vehicle. Later variants combined the two.

Although it is not the most advanced of platforms, the 2K12 still retains a fearsome reputation. In May 2013, Israeli warplanes carried out targeted strikes on a Syrian convoy believed to be carrying a modernised variant of the system. The mere prospect of moving such hardware into southern Syria or Lebanon clearly caused Israeli policymakers great consternation.

Currently, the 2K12 languishes in the stockpiles of both Ukraine and the Russian Federation. This makes it difficult for onlookers to discern the origins of such systems if they have fallen into rebel hands. But while MANPADS have been part of the rebellion for months, the MH17 incident represents the first recorded use of this type of hardware in the Ukraine conflict.

This at a time when evidence is mounting of direct Russian material support for the faltering separatist cause through the provision of heavy combat vehicles and other arms. For the Russian government, this may represent a major political faux pas in the strategy of plausible deniability it often employs in conflicts on its border.

But history suggests that this is a massive bungle, rather than a direct terror attack directed against civilians. As Hanlon’s razor tells us, never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. Instances of civilian airliners being down by military and paramilitary forces have typically resulted from misidentification on the attackers’ part.

In 1988, an American missile cruiser, the USS Vincennes, shot down Iranian Air flight 655, killing all 290 on board. Similarly, in 1983, Soviet interceptors downed a Korean airliner, killing 269. In both instances the airliners were identified erroneously as possible enemy aircraft.

In both instances, the resulting political fallout proved highly damaging to the offenders involved, showing elements of their respective militaries to be trigger-happy and incompetent.

Such an error may very well be at the heart of the MH17 tragedy, although it is too early to definitively conclude about the motivations. What seems more readily apparent is that the incident – if credibly linked to the separatists – will serve only to further weaken their claims to legitimacy, even among sympathisers.

Although the military capabilities of eastern Ukrainian rebels may have just improved, the prospect of an independent “Novorossiya” has seemingly just become even more remote.

Ben Rich is working on a PhD at the Global Terrorism Research Centre, Monash University.  His research currently focuses on structural drivers for radicalization in the Arabian Peninsula.

This article first appeared on The Conversation.

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Harder to Bring to Heel Than Putin Expected

by Marko Pavlyshyn

The destruction of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over Eastern Ukraine and the death of almost 300 passengers and crew once again brings to the forefront of international attention an ongoing military conflict between separatists abetted by the Russian Federation, and Ukrainian government forces.

The most plausible explanation of what happened this morning is that the airliner was shot down by a surface-to-air missile intended for a Ukrainian military plane. Immediately after the Malaysian airlines jet came down, the separatist military leader Igor Girkin (who goes by the pseudonym Strelkov) blogged about of the downing of what he thought was an AN26 aircraft. “We warned them not to fly in our skies,” he said. It then became clear that the plane that had come down near Torez was Malaysian flight MH17.

After the occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in February, a succession of disturbances in Eastern and Southern Ukraine was initiated by groups calling for secession from Ukraine or accession to Russia. Many were fomented by activists from Russia, the so-called “Putin tourists,” as well as covert operatives of the Russian Federation. At the eastern edge of Ukraine, separatist groups proclaimed the two regions of Donetsk and Luhansk to be independent “people’s republics” and held referenda on 11 May to bolster their claim.

While separatist agitation across the rest of the country subsided or was effectively countered by pro-Kyiv activists, in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk and their surrounds the separatists seized control of key institutions and established control over territory. The Ukrainian government commenced a military response to these actions, referring to it as an anti-terrorist operation.

The separatists have been aided in their military efforts by volunteer fighters from the Russian Federation, many of them veterans of armed conflicts in Chechnya, as well as by a steady flow of military hardware, including tanks, crossing the border from Russia. As Amnesty International reported a week ago, their tactics have included the kidnapping and torture of individuals suspected of pro-Kyiv sentiments. They have embedded fighters among the civilian population, making the task of the Ukrainian military highly complex. Nonetheless, Ukrainian forces have made gradual advances in recent weeks, reducing by half the territory that the separatists had controlled at the height of their power.

The origin of the war in eastern Ukraine can be traced to 21 November 2013, when protesters gathered on Independence Square in Kyiv to protest against the then government’s decision not to proceed with preparations for the signing of an association agreement with the European Union. When special police used extreme violence in an attempt to disperse the protesters, demonstrations involving hundreds of thousands of people took place. They were directed against the president, Victor Yanukovych, and what his regime had come to represent: corruption, abuse of human rights, and the arbitrary and excessive use of state power.

The protests remained peaceful until the regime attempted to impose draconian new laws outlawing almost all forms of protest. In the violence that followed, more than one hundred protesters were shot dead, many by sniper fire. Ultimately, after an unsuccessful mediation attempt by foreign ministers of EU countries, the Yanukovych regime fell and Yanukovych himself left the country.

Almost immediately, before the Western-orientated interim government in Kyiv had had time to organise its structures, intervention by Russian military servicemen without insignia began, followed by the full occupation of Crimea, a referendum held to create the appearance of popular legitimacy for the annexation of Crimea by Russia, and the annexation itself. In parallel, there were outbursts of separatist activities in several major cities in the east and south of the country, but they gained serious traction only in Donetsk and Luhansk.

The confrontation in eastern Ukraine is a struggle between a separatist region and a government striving to restore the territorial unity of Ukraine. But it is also a conflict over whether the Russian Federation has the power to bring about a situation where Ukraine becomes part of a Russian sphere of influence covering the former Soviet space. The destabilisation of Ukraine and the frustration of Ukraine’s efforts to orientate itself toward Europe and the West has been an important part of the Russian Federation’s strategy over the last six months. Another part of the strategy has been the disinformation campaign concerning the new government in Kyiv that has been relentlessly pursued in the Russian media both for domestic consumption and abroad.

The election in a single round and by a solid majority of Petro Poroshenko as Ukraine’s president and the progress made by the Ukrainian anti-terrorist military operation in the east suggest that Ukraine has been more successful in countering the Russian Federation objective of reasserting dominant influence over Ukraine than Putin’s strategists may have expected.

Professor Marko Pavlyshyn is the Director of the Mykola Zerov Centre for Ukrainian Studies at Monash University.

A version of the article appeared in the Herald Sun.

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The B20, job creation and the importance of being human

by Veronica Sheen

The B20 business leaders meeting this week in advance of November’s G20 summit play an important role in advising on what to do about those intractable global issues of economic growth and job creation.

The B20 especially focuses onthe recipe for “doing business”: improving financial systems and access to business credit, promoting investment in infrastructure, and reducing trade barriers. One of the four stated priorities for the B20 is considering “human capital” in the formula of what’s needed for job creation and growth.

The position of the 2013 B20 following its deliberations in Russia last year was that vocational training and university education must be consistently aligned with labour market needs and practical requirements.

It also advocated a high level of business sector involvement in educational policy, curricula development and delivery. It says that education must be more highly focused on basic literacy and numeracy as well as the STEM competencies – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

For its 2014 deliberations in Australia, the B20’s specific human capital interests cover long-term and youth unemployment, jobless growth and the impact of automation and robotics.

So how does Australia square up on this agenda on “human capital” in current policy directions? And is its recipe one we would want to follow in any case?

Business role in education and training

Skilling up young people to step seamlessly from education to work is certainly a desirable goal. The formula advocated by the B20 is heavily oriented towards present workforce needs and strong involvement of business, echoing the 2010 joint G20/International Labour Organisation (ILO) paperA Skilled Workforce for Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth.

However the same paper further on also says:

Experience from various countries provides important lessons on the limits of skills forecasting: crucially, that it is better to focus on providing adaptable core, transversal skills, and especially on building the capacity to learn, than on planning training to meet detailed forecasts of technical skill requirements, because these may change before curricula can adjust.

Where is the jobs growth?

The table below shows half of Australia’s workforce is in health care and social assistance, education and training, wholesale trade, retail trade, construction and manufacturing. There has been little change in this over the last 30 years.

While manufacturing has declined, more employment is found in health care and social assistance and education and training. While employment in the professional, scientific and technical industry grouping has doubled, it remains a relatively small area of employment.

And, for all the buzz about employment in information technology, media and telecommunications, it remains a tiny sphere of employment and has not grown in the last 30 years. We might also note that in 2014 around 10 per cent of the workforce is in industries designated as administration and 7 per cent in accommodation and food services.

What will the Australia B20 make of these facts? As the recently released Welfare Review report points out, 90 per cent of Australian employment is in the services sector and in the next five years, half the jobs growth will be in health care and social assistance, retail trade and construction. Aged and disability care will be particularly strong growth areas with the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and of course, the result of population ageing.

The focus on STEM competencies in the formula for human capital development is strongly linked to economic growth aspirations resulting from their innovation potential. But the extent to which the education and training system can prioritise these skill sets is questionable.

And can the Australian science and technology industry sectors sustain a flood of new candidates for jobs? With government policy reducing expenditures and workforces in key institutions such as the CSIRO, and in research funding, such jobs will be much harder to find.

The 2010 G20/ILO competencies in analytical skills involving creativity, problem-solving, communication, teamwork and entrepreneurship will be especially important in the evolving Australian labour market. These would also seem to be the skills that would help young people create their own enterprises, another core interest of the B20.

Youth unemployment – no quick fix

There is an air of crisis in the international community about youth unemployment in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. The G20/B20 concerns are echoed by the World Economic Forum,the European Commissionthe OECDthe IMF, and the ILO.

B20 and the IMF make much of the skills mismatch between young people and the job market, assuming the education system is failing to keep up with the new skills needed.

But this is not really supported when considering the composition of the workforce in Australia and the growth in the service sector, particularly in health care.

Other factors that have nothing to do with new types of jobs tend to be overlooked. For instance, unemployment amongst youth is high because there are simply not enough jobs for all who want them, with new entrants competing with experienced contenders.

As economist Jeff Borland has consistently pointed out, the best remedy for youth unemployment is jobs growth. It is also worth noting the current high levels of youth unemployment - around 12-13 per cent - mirror those from the late 1970s. Youth unemployment rates were at the lowest in Australia prior to the GFC but have reverted to what they were across the 1980s and 1990s.

Also impacting on accessibility to jobs for young people is how these jobs are organised and performed. New technologies such as robotics and automation are compressing and reconfiguring jobs, rather than creating new ones.

This transformation, rather than a skill mismatch, may represent the greater challenge facing young people.

The reality is that there may be no “quick fixes” for youth unemployment, apart from sustained jobs growth.

What society should be doing for them is providing them with every possible support, including income support, to allow them to find sustainable work consistent with their education and training. The government’s new suite of welfare policies targeting people under 30 is a retrograde step in helping them adjust to the contemporary world of work.

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

This article has appeared on The Conversation.

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Reinventing philosophy as a way of life

L-R: Professor Keith Ansell-Pearson (Warwick), Dr Aurelia Armstrong (University of Queensland) and Dr Michael Ure (Monash).
L-R: Professor Keith Ansell-Pearson (Warwick), Dr Aurelia Armstrong (University of Queensland) and Dr Michael Ure (Monash).

Could philosophy once again become a practical art of living rather than just an abstract set of theories?

This question was explored during a two-day workshop held last week at which leading philosophy academics and graduate students from Monash University, the University of Warwick and other Australian and international universities discussed reinventing philosophy as a new way of life.

From a current-day view, the speakers examined the classical idea of philosophy being an art of living, including the view that philosophy could cure human suffering with philosophers seen as akin to physicians or doctors.

Guest speaker at the workshop was Professor Keith Ansell-Pearson, who holds a Personal Chair in Philosophy at the University of Warwick and is the author and editor of numerous books on philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche, Henri Bergson and Gilles Deleuze.

Professor Ansell-Pearson has collaborated with Dr Michael Ure from the Monash School of Social Sciences for six years and in 2010 they received seed funding from the Monash Warwick Allianceto support their research. Together they also supervise Monash Warwick Joint PhD student Thomas Ryan.

Dr Ure, who organised the workshop, said the event and Professor Ansell-Pearson’s keynote lecture provided key insights and helped develop research.

“With over 100 participants during the two days, we engaged with the latest local and international scholarship in our field and started building a research network to take this project further,” Dr Ure said.

“Professor Ansell-Pearson and I also finalised our plans for a major book series and international conference that will bring together Monash and Warwick scholars and graduate students.

“This event has clearly enhanced the Monash-Warwick research and graduate network that has coalesced around this philosophy project.”

The workshop was the first in a series supported by a three-year Australian Research Council Discovery Grant, the Monash Warwick Alliance and Monash University’s Research Unit in European Philosophy.

The next workshop will be held at Monash University’s Prato Centre in July 2015, in conjunction with a Monash Warwick student-led initiative being organised by Thomas Ryan and one of Professor Ansell-Pearson’s PhD candidates, Matthew Dennis.

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

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As crisis grips Iraq, could a Kurdish state be in the offing?

by William Gourlay

Without the bloodshed anddestruction associated with the Islamic state jihadis, one of Iraq’s constituent pieces is moving quietly towards establishing itself as a free-standing political entity.Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), has asked the Kurdish parliament in Erbil to prepare for an independence referendum.

The idea of a referendum was proposed after the Kurds and Sunnis walked out of a parliamentary session intended to foster a national unity government last week when Shi’ites refused to replace Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Barzani may not be seriously intending to go it alone. He may instead be using the threat of a referendum as a bargaining chip in ongoing negotiations with the Iraqi government. However, the idea of Kurdish independence is certainly gaining traction.

History of the Kurds

Currently, the KRG enjoys virtual autonomy under Iraq’s transitional constitution of 2005. However, many Kurds see independence as a sovereign right and as necessary to redress another long-standing wrong.

“Kurdistan”, a homeland for the Kurds, was mooted by the Allied Powers in the Treaty of Sèvres, signed by a chastened Ottoman Empire in 1920. But that treaty was never ratified, and a homeland was never forthcoming. Instead, the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 left Kurdish-occupied land divided by borders and its population at the mercy of the nation-building projects of Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria.

Given the seemingly imminent fragmentation of Iraq, the Kurdish region’s relative stability and the fact that Kirkuk, the purported “Kurdish Jerusalem”, is now under Kurdish control, there appears to be an unprecedented opportunity for the Kurds to seek full independence. There are certainly many voices advocating such a move. Kurdish public opinion is abuzz at the prospect.

The Kurds are, for many, sentimental favourites in the Middle East on account of the dud hand they were dealt by colonial mapmakers and subsequent traumas visited upon them, not least thedepredations of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Sentiment alone, however, will not ensure the survival of a fledgling political entity. Regional dynamics and conditions on the ground also need to be taken into account when considering the long-term viability of a Kurdish state.

Welcome in a tough neighbourhood?

Regional players have long opposed a Kurdish state. Turkey has arguably been the most forthright opponent of an independent Kurdistan, fearing that a free-standing Kurdish state would incite Turkey’s own restive Kurdish minority.

These fears about the intentions of Turkey’s Kurdish constituents feed a conviction among many Turks that any political advance for the Kurds is to the detriment of Turks.

Times have changed, however. Turkey, having established extensive business interests in the Kurdish region, now stands as the most steadfast supporter of the KRG. Barzani recently said he is confident that Turkey wouldn’t attempt to stymie a Kurdish move towards independence.

The cosy Turkey-KRG relationship works to the benefit of both parties. Turkey’s ambitious program of re-engagement in the region, touted as guaranteeing “zero problems with neighbours”, has backfired given the unforeseen outcomes of the Arab Spring. Having lost clout in Sisi-led Egypt and amid the chaos of Syria, the Turkish government now looks on the Kurds as its staunchest allies in a troubled region.

Israel, for its part, is broadly welcoming of an independent Kurdistan. Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman has remarked that a Kurdish state is a “foregone conclusion”. Like Turkey, Israel sees the Kurds as a moderate (non-Arab) presence amongst belligerent neighbours.

What impact Israeli sanctioning of Kurdistan will have on Arab perceptions remains to be seen. In the past, military training of Kurdish units by Israel inspired conspiracy theories that Israel was manipulating the Kurds to foment disorder in the region.

Iran, on the other hand, has warned that it would not support a Kurdish move towards independence. Iran is determined to maintain its support for the Maliki government and a unified Iraq.

What next?

It is unclear what position the US would take if the Kurds went it alone. For now the US is clinging to the idea that a unified Iraq can be maintained. The US has refused to supply weaponry to the Kurds as a means of forestalling moves towards independence and is concerned that Turkey’ssupport for the Kurds is further entrenching divides within Iraq.

But the divisions within Iraq appear entirely unbridgeable. Among other disagreements, the Iraqi government is refusing to pay oil royalties due to the Kurds. This highlights what is perhaps the greatest current impediment to the Kurds striking out on their own: aside from oil reserves, the KRG can boast of little economic or industrial capacity. The Kurdish economy ticks along mainly due to the largesse of the Turkish government, which hopes to reap gains from future Kurdish oil production.

So while the sun may be shining on the Kurds, some observers are warning them not to get carried away with themselves.

A Kurdish proverb reads:

… when there are too many roosters, the village wakes up late.

For now, it appears that Kurdish roosters are unified and the village is well and truly awake. The KRG is proving stable and is acting as a safe haven for persecuted minorities in Iraq, but the road to statehood is a long one. While Iraq may be crumbling, the hour may not yet be here when the Kurds can confidently step out and create their own sovereign homeland.

William Gourlay is a PhD candidate in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University.

This article has appeared in The Conversation.

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Gift to develop the 21st century musician

A gift from Australian barrister, human rights advocate, and author Mr Julian Burnside AO QC has established the Chamber Music Australia Chair of Composition at Monash University’s Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music.

The Chamber Music Australia Chair of Composition will encourage talented young composers within the school, and develop new Australian music as well as Australian performance.

A distinguished Monash alumnus, Mr Burnside (BEc 1972, LLB 1973) is widely respected for his passionate involvement in the arts, education and the community. He is Chair of Chamber Music Australia, and Chair of Fortyfive Downstairs, a not for profit arts and performance venue in Melbourne. He has a deep appreciation of music – particularly classical music – and sees it as vital to articulating our culture.

“It is important that we support music composition; it’s an art form that plays a significant role in shaping our identity as a community,” Mr Burnside said.

“I believe Monash has one of the most progressive and lively music programs in the country. I am proud to support this new position which will provide the community with access to a wider range of Australian composition and give students the opportunity to work with a world class composer.”

Head of the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, Associate Professor Robert Burke said the gift would strengthen the School’s focus on new Australian composition and performance, and put the University in a unique position among music schools in Australia.

“Our vision is to develop the complete 21st century musician by encouraging students to investigate music through both traditional and new technologies as well as in a range of styles, periods and genres,” Associate Professor Burke said.

“Through The Chamber Music Australia Chair of Composition we will do more than just support individual students in their careers, we will fulfill our aim to support and promote Australian composition and performance.”

Internationally renowned orchestral composer and Monash University Vice-Chancellor’s Professorial Fellow, Professor Mary Finsterer has been announced as the Chair. Professor Finsterer has worked in the music industry for more than 30 years, winning many international awards during that time.

“Her experience in music and composition is diverse, ranging from concert music to scores for narrative feature film,” Associate Professor Burke said.

“We are delighted that through Mr Burnside’s support, our talented young composers will work with Mary to develop new and vibrant Australian music and performance.”

Professor Finsterer said it was an honour to be the recipient of the prestigious position.

“The Chamber Music Australia Chair of Composition gives status and kudos to the role that Australian Classical music plays in defining our cultural identity,” Professor Finsterer said.

“The generous gift that Mr Burnside has given to the University provides me with the opportunity to work both in a teaching capacity and in creative research. Through this I am able to contribute to the vibrant community at Monash and the rich cultural legacy we have in Australia both on a national and international level.”

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Express Yourself: why do World Cup stars matter?

by Andy Ruddock

It’s been a terrible World Cup. Germany and Argentina in the final. Again. Mario Balotelli on an early plane back to Italy. James Rodriguez sent home in tears. Neymar almost paralysed. Meanwhile, everyone’s favourite panto villain, Luis Suarez,secures his dream move to Barcelona. This year, nice guys finished last.

All of this raises familiar questions about footballers as role models. Suarez’s infamous transgression provoked predictable concerns about the effects of media on children.Kinder teachers discussed the difficulties of enforcing ‘no biting’ policies when kids can see miscreants getting away with it on screen.

They do have grounds to worry. Albert Bandura, architect of the controversial “Bobo Doll” studies, argued that unpunished screen violence can be a powerful source of social learning.

But there’s much more at stake here than behaviours. Social scientists pretty much agree that there’s a long journey between screen and real anti-social behaviour. Even Bandura concluded that replication required complex patterns of interpretation, motivation and opportunity, which hadnothing to do with media and everything to do with society.

Others have argued that violent television characters – and that is partly what Luis Suarez has become – affect how we think about the world. Succinctly, men who get away with violence time and again in popular culture encourage the view that we live in a ‘mean world’. The main ‘effect’ of these stories is that they erode trust.

We think that, other than our friends and family, the world is a mercenary place full of people who will do anything to get over. And right now, before the final, that seems to be Brazil’s main lesson.

But hang on. It’s been a great tournament, hasn’t it? Tim Cahill gave a masterclass on superstar dignity. Belgium flipped a much-needed bird to European fascism. The group stages were full of the sense that anything could happen in a truly global game. The only real disappointment has been that no referee tried to belittle a haughty defender by spraying him in the face with squirty cream.

All of which reminds us that the role model question is really about how we use football players as resources to imagine what we would like the world to be like.

The most erudite explanation of this process comes from literary scholar Grant Farred. In his bookLong Distance Love, Farred explains how his journey toward Ivy League success started with his passions for Liverpool Football Club and John Barnes.

As a boy in apartheid-era South Africa, football was an international media language that helped him articulate his experiences with global political struggles. And Barnes was a vital ingredient in this intellectual project.

By the 1980s, Farred’s love of Liverpool FC was chafing against his political identity. A generation of black players flourished in English football, but none had established themselves at the famous Merseyside club. Was this an expression of institutional racism? Did this leave Farred walking alone?

Barnes success at Liverpool in the late 1980s reconciled this personal/political conflict. So much so that the literature professor wrote a book about it.

He even travelled to Liverpool to talk about the project. There, one gloomy Wednesday afternoon, I sat with a dozen or so other people listening to Farred speak. It was just like any other seminar until the door opened and in walked … John Barnes.

There could scarcely have been a more authentic endorsement of the argument that popular culture matters. Barnes fully accepted that his career was implicated in racial politics. He didn’t think he was just a player. He did think that he counted for more than his ability to dribble past the entire Brazilian team and score in the Maracana stadium that will host tonight’s final.

But Barnes also warned that the ‘role model’ tag could never sit easily on any player’s head. Poignantly, he explained how, week-in week-out, the only way he could serve it was simply to play.

What Barnes was really saying is that fans need to work too. The encounter with Farred was, in the end, a recognition that football stars are raw materials for social conversations. If they end up saying important things, it’s up to audiences to help articulate the message. “Long Distance Love” is an extraordinary example of an ordinary process that we all engage in; projecting ideas and hopes onto players.

So it doesn’t really matter what happens tonight. What does count is how we interpret and learn from what we have seen. And that doesn’t depend on Suarez, Neymar or Messi. It depends on you. So what sort of role model will you be?

Dr Andy Ruddock is a senior lecturer for the School of Media, Film and Journalism in the Faculty of Arts at Monash University.

This article has appeared on The Conversation.

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Internship Opportunity: Melbourne Festival

Melbourne Festival is one of Australia’s flagship international arts festivals and one of the major multi‐arts festivals of the world, in terms of quality of work, innovation of vision,  and scale and breadth of program. Each Festival brings an unparalleled feast of dance, theatre, music, visual arts, multimedia and outdoor events from renowned and upcoming Australian and International companies and artists to Melbourne. Melbourne Festival runs for 17 days each October.

Areas of Specialisation
Interns are asked to provide preferences in which area of the organisation they would like to be placed. Options for Semester Two include:

  • Publicity
  • Programming

1. Publicity Placement

Reports to: Publicity Manager and Head of Marketing and Development

Position Description
The Publicity Intern works closely with the Publicity Team and the wider Marketing & Ticketing Team to deliver publicity campaign for the Festival.

Skills Development Opportunities
The role will give you invaluable experience being part of a busy arts and music festival publicity team and great knowledge and understanding of the current media landscape. The following tasks will give you important transferable skills:

  • Collating, logging and distribution of Festival coverage regularly leading up to and throughout Festival
  • Assisting with media calls and other Festival events
  • Assisting with the maintenance of the Festival’s publicity photo library and media centre
  • Assisting with the creation and maintenance of various media distribution and invitation lists
  • Assisting with the maintenance of the publicity schedule
  • Other publicity duties as required

2. Programming Placement

Reports to: Head of Programming

Position Description
The Programming Intern works closely with the Programming Team to deliver the 2014 Festival. They will provide administrative support to the Programming department and Creative Director and help deliver the Local Artists Card program and assist in managing communication channels between the Programming Department, Festival staff and artists.

Skill Development Opportunities:
The role will give you invaluable experience and understanding in the area of Festival programming and delivery.

  • Database experience of Datafest; the chosen festival information management system of Melbourne Festival, Brisbane Festival, Perth International Arts Festival, Opera Australia plus many more;
  • Maintaining invite lists for our special events;
  • Assisting with managing the Festival’s Local Artist Card program;
  • Assisting with preparing resources for local and international artists including organising the
  • Festival’s Artist Packs and managing participant cards;
  • Assisting with the preparation of documents and outgoing correspondence from the Festival;
  • Preparing support materials and information about the Festival program for the various departments of the Festival;
  • Maintaining records of correspondence between the Festival and various stakeholders;
  • Maintaining records of contractual agreements and schedules.

In addition to the on‐the‐job experience you will gain, you will also receive the following benefits:

  • Performing a role that is pivotal to the Festival’s delivery
  • Gaining understanding of the administrative function of arts management and of the unique nature of a festival organisation
  • Being part of a supportive and fun team environment
  • Obtaining course credits
  • Receiving on‐the‐job training and mentoring
  • Obtaining an employer reference

Time Commitment
Duration: Approximately 144 hours.  Placement times and days are flexible but approximately 4 months, two days per week is recommended. If internship falls on Festival dates (10 – 26 October 2014), the candidate must be available for some work on evenings and weekends as required.


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

2. Check with Arts Student Services if you have room in your degree for this 12 Credit Points unit.

3. Undergraduate students from the following Area of Study:

Please submit a recent resume along with a cover letter outlining how this internship best fits in with your major by Sunday 3rd August 2014 to

Shortlisted candidates will be invited for an interview.

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When will Australia have its Kodak moment on renewable energy?

by David Holmes

Ever since Clive Palmer announced that the Palmer United Party (PUP) would support the retention of the Renewable Energy Target (RET), The Australian and News Corp’s tabloids have really ramped up their attack on both renewables and Palmer.

Immediately following the press conference that Palmer shared with Al Gore, News Corp papers presented it as a great victory for the Abbott government and completely downplayed the fact that Palmer had actually committed to retaining the RET, the Climate Change Authority and the Renewable Energy Finance corporation.

After that came an attack on Palmer himself for having an above-average carbon footprint, and an editorial in the Daily Telegraph attacking Palmer and Gore.

The Australian also featured anumber of columnists attacking Palmer and Gore in the days that followed.

But for all the editorialising and subservience to the anti-renewable core of the Abbott government, the appeals to save carbon-intensive power interests look increasingly doomed.

That Australia will have its Kodak moment on renewables is an economic certainty. It is only being held up by the dwindling short-term political inertia that the self-isolating Abbott government is managing to apply.

Industry minister Ian Macfarlane and environment minister Greg Hunt are now considered moderates on renewables. Prime minister Tony Abbott has taken the decision on the RET into his own office, where he has been accused of lying about RETignoring the polls on public concern about global warming, and attempting to suppress the science of climate change.

Abbott not only has a tin ear on the science but he doesn’t even seem to be listening to Christian groups, who are urging him to listen to the science.

The outcome of the RET review, chaired by known climate deniers and fossil-fuel industrialists, may be irrelevant if the PUP shows unity in its opposition to repeal. But even if the PUP was to support this measure, leaving coal to carry Australia’s energy needs, the coal industry itself is looking extremely fragile globally. At UN climate negotiations in Bonn last month, an unprecedented 60 countries called for a cessation of fossil fuel use by 2050.

At the end of the day, it is the economic arguments about the RET which have caught the government in its own criteria-trap. It has been revealed that the modeling the governmentcommissioned itself by ACL Allen has presented findings showing household power bills will begin to freefall from 2020 onwards as the result of RET target provisions.

Another problem for the government is that they can’t accuse the PUP of supporting the RET on ideological grounds. Palmer himself has explained he back the scheme because it is good for the economy and “employs thousands of Australians”.

While the short term future of the RET maybe in doubt, a very positive development is that the “debate” has shifted on climate. Where there was once a pseudo-debate about the science, now the papers are arguing about whether carbon abatement or renewables is the answer.

The Australia Institute’s Ben Oquist also noted of the Gore-Palmer presser:

We have avoided a big step backwards … [it] also reframed the debate about carbon pricing – it’s hard to suggest carbon pricing is some form of left-wing, economy-wrecking conspiracy when a billionaire mining magnate supports it.

But more importantly, it brings climate policy into the orbit of a populist domain of issue-attention. This is at a time when voters dissatisfied with the major parties are looking for an alternative.

This is actually a real seachange in the mainstream reporting of climate. It is going to be very hard to bring back the Great Denial that News Corp had campaigned so long and hard for.

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

This article originally appeared on The Conversation.

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Monash student goes to the United Nations

Alistair BayleyAlistair Bayley visited the United Nations in New York as one of the winners of the Many Languages, One World essay contest.

The Monash Bachelor of Arts student, majoring in International Studies and Chinese Language was invited to the UN for the five-day Global Youth Forum, after his essay on multilingualism and global citizenship written in Chinese, won.

Sixty winners – ten from each language of the United Nations – were selected and invited to participate in the Global Youth Forum, which was held in conjunction with Adelphi University.

The forum in New York was an extraordinary experience for Alistair.

“It was fantastic to visit the United Nations in New York, and I feel very privileged to have been able to attend,” Alistair said.

The students, who attended the forum on June 27, presented their ideas to the UN based on the principles of the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI).

UNAI, launched by the Secretary-General in 2010, is a global initiative that aligns institutions of higher learning and research with the United Nations.

The Many Languages, One World essay contest invited students from around the world to compose an essay in one of the six official languages of the United Nations – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian or Spanish – that was neither the student’s native language nor the language of instruction in the student’s pre-university study.

Many Languages, One World, organised by ELS Educational Services and the UNAI, had more than 4000 people from 128 countries participated in some phase of the contest. Contestants ranged from college freshmen to Doctoral candidates from universities all over the world, and their fields of academic study were very diverse.

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Sport, drugs and gangsters: Why we need WADA

by Tom Heenan

There’s a lot of nonsense floating around about Bombergate. As we head into the courts, some are calling for the AFL and NRL to reassess their compliance to the WADA code and ASADA’s statutory authority.

Lawyer and Australian Athletes’ Alliance head, Brendan Schwab,suggested in Fairfax Media it was time to “cut ties” with the anti-doping authorities.

Surely he can’t be serious. To withdraw at this point would be a bad look and thankfully Federal Sports Minister Peter Dutton has ruled out such a move. It would look like we have disagreed with the ump’s decision, and so decided to pack up our syringes and Sherrins and head off in a huff.

We ignore WADA at our peril and calls to unhitch footy codes from its authority are irresponsible. This country would face IOC sanctions including disqualification from bidding for future Olympic Games.

The Essendon soap opera is not the doping issue to pick an international fight over. AFL is largely a Melbourne thing and it’s not worth frittering away Australia’s international sporting reputation on a localised code and club which failed to put in place the necessary checks on a seemingly rogue supplement regime.

What occurred was the fault of the club, its staff and board. They did not show the necessary duty of care to their players. As the Switkowski report stated, the Bombers instituted “a pharmacologically experimental environment [which was] never adequately controlled or challenged or documented within the Club”.

Such ineptitude is gob-smacking. If ever there was a case which shows the need for bodies such as WADA and ASADA it is this one.

The warning sign was the program’s links to organised criminal activity. Concern over the Bomber players has masked this. It was the reason Labor’s Home Affairs and Justice minister Jason Clare declared February 7 2013 the darkest day in Australian sport.

How could a club’s hierarchy hop into bed with alleged associates of bikie groups? Essendon did and so have other clubs.

Tiger player Jake King has been much maligned for his friendship with ex-Bandidos boss Toby Mitchell. Toby’s no saint. He’s been shot a couple of times, once outside Doherty’s gym in Brunswick, which is next door to the Bandidos clubhouse.

When Bombergate broke last February, the ABC’s Lateline tracked down the out-of-contract Essendon player and Bombergate whistleblower, Kyle Reimers, in Doherty’s. He was working out under proprietor Tony Doherty’s supervision, hoping to be picked up by another club in the draft. Reimers didn’t get the nod and is now playing in the ‘burbs.

Doherty’s a good mate of Mitchell. He’s also helped the Blues and Roos’ fitness programs, and is a known associate of Carlton Crew identity Mick Gatto, as well as Tony Mokbel’s old crime mate, the late Sonny Schmidt, and the elusive Stephen Dank.

According to Doherty, Dank knew the boundaries and when not to cross them. But Dank seems to have some curious business associates of his own. News Ltd alleged Dank supplied peptides to Mitchell and his Sydney business associates have reportedly done business with the Comancheros. Dank has neither confirmed nor denied these allegations.

Shane Charter has been more forthcoming and is now a star witness for the anti-dopers. He was James Hird’s personal trainer in the early noughties. Shortly afterwards Charter was arrested in possession of 10,000 pseudoephedrine tablets and jailed for two years.

Charter allegedly supplied the peptides which Dank administered to the Bomber players. Just recently Charter was nabbed by Victoria Police’s Purana Taskforce at Melbourne Airport on “drug related offences” but was released without charge.

We seem to forget the Sopranos-like soapie which lurks behind Bombergate. We think the darkest day in Australian sport is about footballers. They’re only part of the story. It’s about an Australian Crime Commission report linking Australian sport with organised criminal activity.

Sport and crime have always been bedfellows. Why else have sports bodies introduced integrity units? Players and many coaches are just the unwitting mugs. The Bomber players seem merely the guinea-pigs in this whole shonky saga.

As a nation we are too trusting of our sports’ people, though we have a hidden history of doping and fixing. Just look at the underbelly of cycling, weightlifting and horse-racing. We’ve doped and fixed some of our best.

This culture has now touched football and we tend to blame WADA and ASADA for the problem rather than the real culprits. Anti-doping authorities exist because athletes, clubs and sporting bodies sometimes break rules to gain a competitive edge.

Think of the East German athletes of the 1970s and ’80s. Many were children and they too had a program of pharmacological experimentation conducted on them. Last December 167 former East German athletes received compensation through the German Olympic Committee for harm caused by the mass doping program.

East German secret police files suggest in all over 10,000 athletes were doped. A number have developed cancers and suffered from depression, while females have experienced birth deformities.

Just look at the Balco scandal in the US. The San Francisco laboratory started in 1984 as a sports supplement supplier and diversified into steroids, EPO and numerous other illegal substances and potions.

By the 1990s it had doped some of America’s best. Baseball legend Barry Bonds was on the books, as was the Sydney Olympic gold medal sprinter Marion Jones.

This is why we need anti-doping agencies. To do away with them is to let loose the fixers, dopers and pseudo-scientists among young sports people, many of whom are incapable of making informed decisions about what is put into their bodies.

This is why we as a society must hit hard sporting organisations that dope.

This is why Essendon under the WADA code may face removal from the AFL competition. The club failed in its duty of care to its players and may well face the heftiest of penalties.

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

This article has appeared in The New Daily.

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Power Failure

by Philip Chubb

“My name is Kevin, I’m from Queensland and I’m here to help.” Kevin Rudd loved saying it, and although you could almost hear voters groan, they seemed to love it too. Most Australians heard it for the first time in April 2007, at Labor’s national conference. The leader was conveyed to the spotlight on the wings of a climate change song, “A Change in the Weather”.

Rudd was beaming. The election campaign was building and it was all about him. He would flood the country with exciting ideas and projects. Above all he would fix climate change and in the process craft a modern rallying point for Labor that reminded observers of Ben Chifley’s “Light on the Hill”.

Despite the pain of remembering, Australians should reflect on the excitement of that time as we grapple with the astonishing reality that the Senate in the next few days will almost certainly leave this nation without a cornerstone climate change policy.

There were some brief moments of soaring success in the years afterwards, but ultimately Australia’s political leadership failed the nation miserably. Will we ever believe a politician’s promises as wholeheartedly again? Did innocence die along the way? The experience of attempts to price carbon raises some fundamental questions about the way Australians are governed that must be confronted. It is important to establish what went wrong and to learn the lessons, to try to ensure that as a nation we do better.

Part of the answer lies in the impact of historical forces. As political parties have warped into hollowed-out shells dominated by factional hacks, voters have become less attached to them. This development has made leaders the embodiment of the party and government, and more central to elections. Remember “Kevin 07”? There has been an increase in resources to the executive, allowing leaders and their personal staff to diminish checks and balances and dominate Cabinet and the public service. Reflecting these changes, the media has come to view leaders as celebrities and emphasise stories about personality conflict over policy debates. Readers will be familiar with the approach, which involves an interpretative style of news reporting, sensationalism, cynicism and a preoccupation with the “horse race”.

In April 2010 Rudd, whose command and control leadership was precisely the opposite of what was required to solve a complex problem like climate policy, publicly acknowledged defeat. The shock was profound. We had watched the train crash as it came ever-closer, although without recognizing the inevitability of tragedy. We had waited in vain for Rudd to explain the meaning of carbon pricing. We had seen him sideline other ministers who might have helped us understand. We had been transfixed as he squandered the gift of consensus, employing it as a weapon to destroy Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull rather than as an opportunity to be grasped fully and urgently. Tony Abbott, with his infantile anti-science slogans, was thus Rudd’s creation. We had invested more faith as he flew to Copenhagen, puffed up to save the earth, only to suffer an emotional breakdown that left him empty of the courage needed for a double dissolution election. We had sat bemused as he then strove to blame Julia Gillard for his sad rush to hoist the white flag.

The fact that we got to mid-2010 with a deep black hole where climate policy had been was a result of the erosion of the checks and balances that Australians wrongly believe are embedded in their system of government. We were prey to Rudd’s personality. And what a personality it turned out to be. Australians were victims of his hubris and cowardice. This has become very clear after more than 100 interviews and two years researching the disasters of Australia’s attempt to establish carbon pricing for my book Power Failure.

Julia Gillard had little choice but to oust Rudd in June 2010. After all, someone had to be leader. She came to office cramped by Rudd’s failure to maintain voters’ passion for climate action. Even so, her more collaborative and consultative type of leadership led to legislative success in October 2011, as her policy to price carbon passed the House, to relieved hugs and kisses among the Labor MPs. It soon became clear, though, that Gillard’s own inability to talk to Australians about what she was doing would undermine her achievement. Between February and July 2011 a scare campaign that many veterans say was the ugliest they can remember, worse even than 1975, claimed her. But just as Rudd had been, she was the architect of her own demise. Despite strong advice she refused to engage, believing she would have time to change perceptions once she had the right policy. But the political capital lost was so great that it created the conditions for the destruction of her legacy.

The question that remains is why the modern crop of Labor politicians has been so inept at communicating with voters. Senior figures in today’s ALP got there through factional deals and branch stacking. Too often this deprived them of the experience of banging on doors, asking for support, arguing about policies and learning how to talk through complex ideas with everyday people. It is an existential challenge for the Labor Party to see whether it can produce leaders with the ability to sustain a rapport with ordinary people over an extended period of time.

The lesson for the future of carbon pricing is this: while Gillard was more effective than Rudd, success requires a restoration of our system of checks and balances and a different type of leader. But for this change to occur Australians must firmly demand it. The immediate prospect of this is not good. We will suffer many more bushfires and floods before we see another attempt serious attempt to price carbon.

Associate Professor Philip Chubb is the Head of the School of Journalism, at Monash University. His recent book Power Failure examines the inside story of climate politics under Rudd and Gillard.

A version of this article has appeared in The Age.

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Remake school chaplaincy as a proper welfare program or scrap it

by Julian Savulescu and William Isdale

The High Court of Australia, for the second time, recently found that the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program (NSCSWP) is funded unconstitutionally, and so is invalid in its current form. The program, though, can be reconstituted through tied grants to state governments. The question is, should it be?

While the NSCSWP serves some legitimate policy objectives, the program in its pre-existing form is objectionable for at least two reasons. It should either be revived as a secular student welfare program or left extinguished.

The importance of secular government

One of the key problems is that the NSCSWP violates the principle of government religious neutrality.

The Howard government introduced the program in 2006 with the stated purpose being to “assist our schools in providing greater pastoral care and supporting the spiritual well-being of their students”. Chaplains were required to have a link with a religious organisation.

The Gillard government removed this requirement. About 25 per cent of schools that applied for funding then opted to employ a secular student welfare worker. Most recently, the Abbott government sought to re-align the program with its initial religious purpose – the only option, once again, would be to hire a chaplain.

Roughly 85 per cent of school chaplains are sourced from organisations that collectively form the National School Chaplaincy Association. These all have a Christian mission. Scripture Union Queensland, for instance, “the largest provider of school chaplains in Australia”, proclaims that:

Our MISSION is to bring God’s love, hope and good news to children and young people.

It is clear that, in theory as well as substance, the program has a religious aim. The government and taxpayers provide a substantial benefit to religious groups, and to Christianity in particular. An astonishing 99.5 per cent of those funded under the program are Christian – vastly larger than the general community’s affiliation to Christianity of 61 per cent.

This religious preferencing is worrying. The key reason that government should be secular is that we live in a pluralistic society in which citizens have a multitude of religious beliefs, and some have none. Government promotion of religion – particularly where it overwhelmingly favours one religion or denomination in substance – undermines a core concern of liberal democracy, which is to govern for everyone and promote equal citizenship.

Religion should be the concern only of individuals, not the business of government. Our constitution embodies a related idea in its prohibition on making “any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance”. The High Court, though, has interpreted the provision narrowly.

Welfare workers would be better

The National School Chaplaincy Association commissioned a 2009 research report, The Effectiveness of Chaplaincy, which found that the vast majority of what chaplains do in schools has nothing to do with religion at all.

In a survey asking chaplains which issues students had raised in the preceding fortnight, “spirituality” and “big picture issues of life” ranked eighth out of the 11 most common responses. Issues that chaplains were confronted with more frequently included “behaviour management issues”, “peer relationships and loneliness”, “student-family relationship issues” and “grief and loss”.

In the preceding two weeks, “mental health and depression” was addressed by 72 per cent of chaplains, “alcohol and drug use” by 50 per cent and “self harm and suicide” by 44 per cent.

These are undoubtedly serious issues that students require help with. The question is: should it be chaplains providing that help?

In 2011, a Commonwealth Ombudsman’s report was critical of the chaplaincy program’s administration. The report noted:

There is currently no requirement for chaplains to have minimum qualifications to attract grant funding. At present it appears that there are a wide range of non-credentialled courses a chaplain can record as having undertaken. In the recent Discussion Paper, the Department acknowledges this and notes that there is ‘currently … no nationally consistent employment standards for school chaplains in relation to minimum qualifications, role and duty statements’.

The absence of any educational or professional requirement makes it difficult for the Department to ensure that chaplains have particular knowledge and skills. This sets chaplains apart from all other staff working directly with children in a school environment. … The Ombudsman supports the Department giving further consideration to chaplains’ professional qualifications.

Chaplains deal with extremely serious issues for which they are not required to hold any relevant tertiary qualifications. This is extremely concerning. Religious commitment does not equate to counselling competence. Money that is currently spent on employing those with sometimes little more than devout religious belief could be spent on employing individuals with university qualifications in counselling or psychology and relevant experience.

Besides a lack of expertise, chaplains are likely to be inferior to appropriately qualified secular welfare workers for two further reasons.

Firstly, chaplains may be actively harmful in some circumstances (likely more so than secular workers – although the vast majority of chaplains may still act appropriately). For instance, a young man grappling with his sexuality or a young woman concerned about an unwanted pregnancy may be more likely to receive advice that is contrary to their interests from a chaplain, given their religious views.

Secondly, there is an issue of access. Students are likely to be aware of a chaplain’s religious views, and students who do not share those views may be wary of approaching them for advice. Students of various religious backgrounds (and none) may feel more comfortable approaching a secular welfare worker.

Nothing would preclude a secular welfare worker from having religious beliefs, but they would be prohibited from wearing these beliefs on their sleeve as chaplains do.

Time for a rethink

In March, the National Commission of Audit recommended the NSCSWP be abolished. Instead, the May budget allocated A$243.5 million to run the program for another five years.

Within hours of the High Court’s invalidation, prime minister Tony Abbott affirmed his intention to continue the scheme. Labor’s support is conditional on removing the requirement for a religious affiliation.

For the reasons above, the government should consider reconstituting the program in a secular format with the requirement of appropriate tertiary qualifications.

Professor Julian Savulescu is a distinguished visiting professor in the Faculty of Arts at Monash University and a professor of practical ethics at Oxford University.

William Isdale is a Research Assistant in the T.C. Beirne School of Law at University of Queensland.

This article originally appeared in The Conversation.

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Soft Barbarism

Shanghai recently hosted the 3rd World Cultural Forum (WCF) – a Chinese initiative aimed at creating a forum for intercultural dialogue not dominated by ‘the West’. This year it chose the rather apt theme of ‘soft power’.

With a real live president (Congo), a couple of ex-prime ministers (Ireland, France), loads of ex-ambassadors and a phalanx of CPC members, the WCF was aiming for high-level cultural diplomatic impact. It forms a part of China’s increased funding for UNESCO – as seen in last year’s Hangzhou meeting – and its overall sense that it needs to project itself on the global stage through ‘soft power’.

Joseph Nye used ‘soft power’ to designate the global influence – the ability to get what it wants – exercised by the range of different institutions, associations, foundations and media channels financed directly and indirectly by the US since the Second World War. This kind of global influence can also be called – after the great Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci – ‘hegemony’. In his lexicon hegemony was not a replacement for hard power – direct coercive force – but its continuation by other means.

Nye’s soft power was an assertion of US, or sometimes ‘Western’, values of freedom, democracy, the rights of the individual and so on. This can be called ‘culture’ in the broader sense of common values. But it also used ‘culture’ in the narrower sense – artistic, entertainment, literary, scientific, and humanistic activities – to promote these values. The most well known story is that of the CIA promoting abstract expressionism in the 1940s and 1950s as symbolic of freedom and progress.

China has adopted soft power in a different sense. It is concerned to couch its rise to global power in non-threatening tones. Not wanting, like Germany and Japan in the late 19th and early 20th century, to undermine the existing world order and provoke a world war, it wishes to present its rise as harmonious. China can fit within a – slightly expanded – world order as long as this entry is not seen as zero-sum.

Chinese soft power appears not as the exercise of (or aspiration to) global hegemony by other means. Rather it is the assertion of the right to a diversity of values and voices on the global stage, and that the competition between nations be sublimated into a dialogue of culture. Soft power is the replacement of conflict for dialogue, and of winner-takes-all competition by multiple winners in a new world order.

We have here a shift from a unipolar to a multipolar world, a return to the ‘concert of nations’ envisaged by Metternich in Europe after the defeat of Napoleon and before the rise of Germany. Or perhaps the vision of the international order of self-determining nation states hoped for by President Wilson after the First World War.

The principle of national autonomy – the right to act in its own interests and be free from outside coercion – was to be tempered by the recognition of other nations’ rights, a commitment to dialogue to solve dispute, and above this a promotion of wider commonly held values and legal norms that might bind all nations to certain forms of behaviour.

Soft power as culture is a version of this. It asserts the diversity of cultures as an outcome of, and a contributor to, the free, peaceful dialogue between nations.

But there are some more difficult issues to face.

First, cultural diversity is most frequently interpreted as a diversity of national cultures. The 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was repeatedly invoked as a key piece of international legislation in this field. But this convention – to which China and Australia, but not the US, are signatories – is also about diversity within nations, and about the liberties and means to express therein. This is not always so easily accepted.

Second, culture is invoked as if it can only ever be a good thing. Dominique de Villepin’s, pointing to the troubled contemporary global landscape, suggested ‘culture as identity’ was a response to chaos and fragmentation, a strong assertion of THEM and US in a way that further contributed to the downward spiral of chaos and conflict. The strong assertion of national cultures by Germany and Japan – often founded on works and practices of art that we would now consider essential parts of our collective human patrimony – was very much part of their aggressively seeking a place in a new global order. Culture, that is, could be much closer to hard power than we often allow.

In the cold war era, the US (and Europe to some extent) competed with the Soviet Union on artistic excellence – literature, symphonic music, theatre and so on acting as testimony to the claims of either empire to represent best the future of humanity. Better than a war, certainly, but in the end this civilised cultural competition did nothing much to prevent a war that threatened to break out at anytime. Mutually assured destruction, not ballet, did this.

Or perhaps it did. Perhaps one of the reasons the US won the cold war was that the Soviet Union simply stopped believing in itself. If so then this was due in no small part, not so much to artistic, as to popular culture. Especially rock music.

We can see at play a third problematic aspect of soft power here. It is very nice to assert the diversity of cultures in a globalised world – marked by high velocity and dense flows of money, information, goods and services, people, images, sounds and texts. But this diversity is in reality dependent on some very hard issues of finance, intellectual property rights, communications infrastructures, market framing devices (ownership of formats, cinemas, platforms, distribution networks etc.) and skilled know-how.

For China the problem is that it is an emergent global hegemon but has not managed to articulate this into a ‘soft’ cultural influence in the way the US so successfully managed to do. In fact, whilst China has used globalisation to outplay the US economically, culturally it has been much less successful.

When it comes to discussions about formats, IP, access to markets, joint ventures, distribution platforms etc. the stakes are high and the soft power not very soft at all. The stakes are first, the global ‘cultural’ or ‘creative economy’, which China has convinced itself is a new growth area waiting to happen; and second, influence. Influence not just on the global scale but amongst its own citizens. Will the Chinese population become ‘Americanised’, the Chinese state somehow undermined from within by a foreign culture and a foreign power?

These questions are by no means only asked by China. They long dominated Australian and Europe – perhaps less so recently because we have more or less given up. But opposition to these global cultural flows was to found in the Global South – or as it was called then, by its one time leader, China, ‘the third world’. And used ‘cultural imperialism’ – a term for which ‘soft power’ is often simply a euphemism. This challenge – in the name of the new global communication order – was beaten back by the US in the 1970s.

This gives us a deeper context for the 2005 UNESCO convention – not, as we noted above, an agreement on ‘cultural diversity’ but on the ‘diversity of cultural expressions’. The difference is important. It set out to challenge the dominance of US-led global cultural industries by asserting the right of nations to introduce legislation to protect their own cultural production systems. And to this end asserted that cultural goods are not commodities like any other and may be excepted from various WTO rules.

That is one aspect; the other is that diversity of ‘cultural expression’ goes beyond the diversity of different cultures, mapped neatly onto different nations and ethnic groups. It asserts that all individuals and communities have the right to the means of cultural expression. That is, some education, some minimum of material resources and the legal-political rights to engage actively in cultural production and consumption. This is a kind of cultural citizenship. But it also means a framing of the cultural economy system so that it provides diversity of access and is not dominated by one or two large (local or international) players, or that these larger players have the responsibility and accountability to securing diversity and cultural citizenship – not just between nations but within them.

This seems to me where issues of soft power really bite.

One of the major critics of the international system that was broken by the two world wars of the ‘short 20th century’ – Karl Polanyi – argued that what undermined the 19th century system of nation states was an unregulated, aggressive capitalism. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant had suggested in his 1795 essay, Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Essay that peace allowed trade to happen, brought increased prosperity to all and the gradual accordance of individual morality with the politics of the state. Against this classic liberal statement Polanyi suggested that instead of ensuring peace unregulated international capitalism led to catastrophic war. Not only because of the conflict it provoked between nations but of the disruption and suffering it brought to the ‘losers’ of the great transformation capitalism had instigated.

It seems to me that ‘soft power’ is frequently another version of the Kantian proposal – let’s be nice to each other so that we can continue to compete economically. But as we know the injustices, the power asymmetries, the ecological and human catastrophes of unbridled economic growth have brought peace to some but endless poverty, chaos and war to many others. What is special to our era is that culture is one of the stakes in this increased economic competition, and itself contributes to these global injustices and asymmetries.

There was a lot of talk of the creative economy as exemplifying soft power, a harbinger of world peace. This ignores the titanic struggles taking place between Google, Facebook, Baidu, We Chat, Tencent and so on. Whilst I was there all Google services were blocked. The question amongst locals was if this was just censorship around the Tiananmen Square anniversary, or a ploy to increase market share for China’s Baidu search engine (possibly with Apple as ally). Currently the US and China are directly pitted against each other in a cold digital war of online platforms, search engines and aggregation algorithms. This is before we talk about IP, film distribution, TV rights, international standards and protocols and the other panoply of global cultural trade.

In the spirit of the 2005 convention, soft power, cultural diversity, harmonious world order – these things are not just built between nations but within nations. They are about extending cultural citizenship to all, and providing the means for this citizenship to have real meaning not just in terms of consumption but also production. This is how to develop cultural soft power – let your citizens do it for you within a framework you have set and which is responsive to them.

And between nations we might add the word solidarity to that of cultural exchange: not stripping them of their asserts and leaving a cultural centre behind.

Walter Benjamin once wrote that every document of art is at one and the same time a document of barbarism. He was talking both about the social inequality and suffering of capitalism and the rise of fascism. But his words could apply today. To use culture as a means of soft power without acknowledging the claims to individual and community autonomy and their capacity to creative divergent and diverse expressions for and between themselves – without this soft power is liable to quickly degenerate into soft barbarism.

Professor Justin O’Connor works in the School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University.

A version of this article also appeared in the Huffington Post.

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Ramadan and the World Cup coincide … but it’s no big deal

by Nasya Bahfen

The World Cup and Ramadan – the ninth month of the Muslim year, during which strict fasting is observed from sunrise to sunset – last clashed in 1986. This year they did so again in spectacular fashion, with both the fasting month and the tournament’s Round of 16 beginning last Saturday.

Prior to Brazil 2014, Muslims in a range of sports fasted during their regular club competitions, with seemingly little or no impact. In Australia, Sonny Bill Williams joins Hazem El Masri as rugby league stars who have fasted during an NRL season, and Bachar Houli in Aussie Rules.

NBA great Hakeem Olajuwon’s playing stats famously improved while fasting in Ramadan. Liverpool and Cote d’Ivoire defender Kolo Toure says his body adjusts after the first few days.

This year, there are several Muslims in teams still in the knockout stages of the World Cup including at least five players from France, seven from Switzerland’s diverse squad, two from Nigeria, three from Belgium, two or three from Germany and most of the Algerian team.

There are several factors that suggest the clash of the World Cup and Ramadan this year won’t present a problem. For a start, there’s a general agreement among Muslim scholars that anyone who is travelling is included in the list of Muslims who are exempt from fasting, along with the sick, young children, and the elderly.

Several players have announced they will still be fasting, and won’t be seeking to make up the missed fasting days after Ramadan, as those claiming the travel exemption must do.

Algerian captain Madjid Bougherra who has played for a number of European clubs and fasted while doing so. Manchester City right back Bacary Sagna, who plays for the French national team, says he will continue to fast, citing the experiences of players who used to do so while playing in European leagues.

There is a growing body of research on coping strategies that Muslim athletes can undertake if they wish to continue fasting while playing, as FIFA found out.

Ramadan changes not just the amount of food and drink consumed by a fasting Muslim (none at all during daylight hours) but also his or her sleeping patterns (as a fasting person will get up pre-dawn for an early breakfast).

Muslims in general, not just those who play professional sport, are advised to consume a pre-dawn meal consisting of foods that release energy slowly throughout the day, as a listicle widely shared on social media in the days before Ramadan suggests.

Imagine the impact that a change in sleeping patterns and the timing of food and drink consumption might have on a professional athlete’s training regimen. Some studies suggest an increase in fatigue and a decline in speed and agility among Muslim athletes.

Others indicate that performance isn’t affected by fasting in Ramadan as long as regular training is maintained, and the same amount of nutrients are consumed (at night).

Finally, the Muslim world doesn’t have a central authority acknowledged by everyone who follows the faith.

This makes the fasting/sport equation even more complex because some religious figures looked up to by the players say that because of the nature of their jobs, they don’t have to fast even if they aren’t travelling and can make it up later or otherwise compensate for the fast.

Fasting exemptions for sports people are, of course, hotly debated and will probably continue to be discussed at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, scheduled for June 8 to July 8 in a year when Ramadan is expected to last until the first week of the tournament.

In a nutshell, it shouldn’t be an issue if Ramadan and the World Cup clash this year, as the players will be covered by the travelling exemption.

Those who don’t want to claim this exemption and still fast will be able to draw on the emerging research into how the body is able to adapt to fasting while maintaining physical performance.

 Nasya Bahfen works in the School of Media Film and Journalism at Monash University.

This article has appeared on The Conversation.

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Alcohol backing raises risk of athletes drinking more

Researchers have found sportspeople receiving alcohol sponsorship consumed more and had higher odds of hazardous drinking. Photo: iStock
Researchers have found sportspeople receiving alcohol sponsorship consumed more and had higher odds of hazardous drinking. Photo: iStock

Alcohol sponsorship and hazardous drinking in UK athletes are linked, a new study has found.

The research, led by Monash University and the University of Manchester, is the first to examine alcohol sponsorship of athletes in the UK, and comes at a time when there are calls in Australia, New Zealand, UK, Ireland, and South Africa for greater restriction or bans on alcohol sponsorship and advertising in sport. The research was published today in the scientific journal Addiction.

The researchers surveyed more than 2000 sportspeople from universities in the North West, Midlands, London, and Southern regions of England. Most played community sport, and around one-third reported being sponsored by an alcohol-related industry such as a brewer or pub.

Those sportspeople receiving alcohol sponsorship consumed more and had higher odds of hazardous drinking after accounting for factors such as type of sport played, age, gender, disposable income, and region.

Alcohol consumption was found to be high in athletes overall. However, 50 per cent of those sponsored by an alcohol-related industry had scores on the World Health Organisation’s Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test that indicated the need for brief counselling and further monitoring of drinking, compared with 39 per cent of non-sponsored athletes.

Associate Professor Kerry O’Brien from Monash University, who led the study, said it had been known for some time that excessive drinking is more common in young adults who play sport or are fans, but researchers are just starting to understand why.

“Alcohol sponsorship (and the drinking culture it perpetuates) appears to be one of these reasons,” Associate Professor O’Brien said.

The study, funded by Alcohol Research UK, mirrors findings from countries such as Australia and New Zealand that have similar alcohol and sport sponsorship and advertising arrangements. However, the study went further by testing the alcohol industry’s argument that the effect of sponsorship on alcohol consumption may be unique to New Zealand or due to heavy drinkers seeking out alcohol sponsorship. The study results show that the effect of sponsorship on drinking remains after accounting for sponsorship seeking and other factors.

Dr O’Brien said there was a perception in the community that social and health benefits of sport might be compromised by the use of sport for the promotion of alcohol.

“I think most people would agree that sport is an important marketing tool for the alcohol, gambling, and fast foods industries, in much the same way it was for tobacco,” he said.

“Our study raises the question of whether sports that have such sponsorships and advertising might promote poorer health and social outcomes.”

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Face of AIDS and HIV: an international film archive

Staffan Hildebrand with the 700 hours of unedited documentary film material captured between 1986-2013 on HIV/AIDS.
Staffan Hildebrand with the 700 hours of unedited documentary film material captured between 1986-2013 on HIV/AIDS.

The School of Media, Film and Journalism is proud to host a special preview of Transmission: The Journey from AIDS to HIV on Wednesday 16th of July.

The screening will be introduced by Staffan Hildebrand and followed by a Q&A mediated by Associate Professor Mia Lindgren.

Staffan Hildebrand has been filming the HIV/AIDS epidemic since 1986, and is the founder and producer of the Face of AIDS film archive housed at the prestigious Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

In addition to several feature films, all box office hits in Sweden, Staffan’s
documentary films on HIV/AIDS have featured at many international AIDS conferences and form an important record of the global impact of HIV/AIDS.

Transmission: The Journey from AIDS to HIV was commissioned for AIDS 2014, the meeting of the  International AIDS Society to be held in Melbourne, 21-25 July 2014.

This film is a centerpiece for the conference that will engage delegates, HIV/AIDS professionals and the general population by exploring how the Australian
response was coordinated across political and ideological boundaries and driven by the community but why today,  young people continue to be at risk of HIV.

It introduces us to many of the characters who have been influential over the three decades of the fight against HIV and AIDS.

It contains original never before seen historical footage from the Face of AIDS archive, along with new interviews from contrasting countries in the Asia Pacific region and how there is the real possibility of the virtual elimination of the transmission of HIV, and the hope that a cure or vaccine might yet be found.

Yet there are still a range of challenges that need to be overcome.

The Face of AIDS film project raises important questions about the role of documentary and life stories in medical research.

These and other questions about this historic collaboration between a filmmaker
and the medical sciences will be discussed in a Q&A following the screening.

Event details:

Date/Time: Wednesday 16th July, 6-7:30 pm

Location: Theatre G104, MADA Building, Monash Caulfield campus.

RSVP to Halina Bluzer.

Download the event flyer.

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The case for Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore

By Stewart King

Crime novel covers are often plastered with endorsements: “A terrific read,” “A real page-turner,” or “Author Y is the next Author X.” It’s far less common to read quotes such as the following from Fairfax crime fiction reviewer Sue Turnbull. In 2005 she wrote that Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore “might just be a great Australian novel”.

Turnbull’s praise is surprising because there is no caveat other than the national adjective. It’s not a great Australian crime novel, just a “great Australian novel”. Turnbull wasn’t alone in recognising The Broken Shore as an important work of literature. It won a slew of national and international crime fiction awards and was unexpectedly longlisted for the 2006 Miles Franklin award.

Popular fiction and artistic merit are often considered mutually exclusive. Literary fiction is characterised by originality and creativity. Crime novels, on the other hand, are supposedly plot-driven, peopled with generic characters and limited by the conventions of the genre.

The Broken Shore is undoubtedly and unashamedly a crime novel. It has its crime: the brutal murder of Charles Bourgoyne, a local, retired patrician in his isolated country mansion. There is the investigating officer, Detective Joe Cashin, a local boy who worked in Melbourne’s homicide squad until an accident left his body broken and his partner dead.

Other generic characters include corrupt cops, Joe’s cousin Bern, a picaresque character who will do anything to make a few extra dollars on the side; an attractive love interest; and of course, the criminals. Less generic are the swaggie Rebb, who helps Cashin to rebuild the house that belonged to his great-grandfather’s brother, and Paul Dove, an Aboriginal police officer assigned to the case when three Aboriginal youths become suspects.

So how does a crime novel potentially become a great Australian novel? It does so by not allowing the formula to restrict any more than necessary. As Morag Fraser stated in reference to Temple’s 2010 Miles Franklin-winner, Truth, Temple respects the conventions of the crime novel “as a poet observes the 14-line convention of the sonnet or a musician the sonata form: a useful disciplinary structure from which to expand, bend or depart”.

Although the initial crime takes place in an isolated mansion, The Broken Shore is no Christie-esque murder mystery set in “Cheesecake Manor,“ to borrow Raymond Chandler’s memorable phrase. From the initial murder, Temple investigates and interrogates contemporary Australia. What he uncovers is not pretty.

Temple pulls no punches in his description of regional Australia. He describes Cromarty, the larger of the two fictional centres, as “not a big country town. It’s a shrunken city, shrunk down in the shit, all the shit without the benefits.”

The smaller town is Port Munro, a place undergoing a profound social and economic transition:

Just six boats still fished out of Port Munro, bringing in crayfish and a few boxes of fish, but it was the only industry apart from a casein factory. Its only industry if you didn’t count six restaurants, five cafes, three clothing boutiques, two antique shops, a book shop, four masseurs, an aromatherapist, three hairdressers, dozens of bed-and-breakfast establishments, the maze and the doll museum.

Yet when readers encounter Port Munro, it is May, the shops are shut and Melbourne’s middle-classes have departed, leaving only the town’s “hardcore […] – the unemployed, under-employed, unemployable, the drunk and doped, the old-age pensioners, people on all kinds of welfare, the halt, the lame”.

Temple’s is a country divided between weekenders and locals and between white fellas and black fellas, many of whom live in an area known as the Daunt. Aboriginal dispossession and marginalisation are major themes.

When police kill two Aboriginal youths in a bungled stake out and a third supposedly commits suicide following police harassment, Temple reminds us that little has changed since the report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was handed down in 1991.

In some ways Cashin sits across all of these divisions. He’s a local who returns after a long time away. He’s a cop who distrusts other cops and, at times, the law.

Finally, he’s a white fella who is also a “boong-in-law,” according to Dove, because of his Aboriginal aunt and cousins. If his marginality can be a hindrance in his social relations, not belonging to any one group helps him to overcome the divisions to solve the mystery.

The broken shore of the title refers to the iconic, jagged coastline along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. The shore is not all that is broken. So too are the country and its inhabitants. Without wanting to give anything away, the initial crime leads to the discovery of multiple transgressions that go back years.

In them, Temple depicts a society in which the traditional and contemporary cornerstones – the economy, families, religious institutions, the police, the legal system, and so forth – are broken.

When Temple won the Miles Franklin or Truth, it reopened the debate about the literary merits of genre fiction. But, for me, The Broken Shore is the better novel.

Sometimes even good crime novels are diminished on a second reading. Great crime novels are enhanced. The Broken Shore certainly deserves re-reading. To take Sue Turnbull’s statement a step further, The Broken Shore is a great Australian novel.

Dr Stewart King is a senior lecturer in the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University.

This article has appeared in The Conversation.

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Welfare review fails to understand Australia’s labour market

Those on a disability support pension, previously counted as outside the labour force, will have to become active jobseekers under the review. Photo: Dreamstime
Those on a disability support pension, previously counted as outside the labour force, will have to become active jobseekers under the review. Photo: Dreamstime

by Veronica Sheen

The interim report of the Review of Australia’s Welfare System, led by former Mission Australia CEO Patrick McClure, is a vexed piece of work. Much in it is commendable and even far-sighted, but there is also much in it that is deeply problematic, reflecting the limitations of thecontext in which it is written.

The report also contains some odd inconsistencies. It makes no mention of the dramatic reform to social welfare for people under the age of 30, which was announced in the federal budget in May.

The report also does not sufficiently account for the nature of Australia’s contemporary labour market, which imposes a significant challenge to the type of universal labour force participation that the government aspires to.

Core premises

The report is founded on several overarching premises about social welfare that radically extend current trends. These can be characterised as:

  • Assistance to those “most in need”, a phrase that appears consistently through the report. While this is intuitively fair enough, “most in need” is a subjective benchmark and can be set anywhere.
  • “Capacity to work”, which takes forward the welfare-to-work agenda of previous governments. But this is a much more assertive approach and marks some departure from existing practice, especially in relation to people with disabilities who previously may not have been deemed capable of workforce participation.
  • “Individualised tailoring” of assistance and requirements, which extends a long-standing commitment in government policy to case management. It also implies a vigorously “individualised” rather than “social” view of welfare. This has merit to some extent, but the systemic causes of social problems – such as unemployment – also need to be recognised.
  • A strong focus on “family functioning and capability”, which is an interesting development in social welfare. Income management is one of its contemporary manifestations. It invokes an idea that certain families are in effect dysfunctional and need intensive oversight and direction by a government official. Again, the danger is that some systemic causes of their problems are overlooked.

What’s missing

Absent from the report are some of the fundamental ideas that have driven the development of social welfare over the last century, and especially in the post-war period:

  • Social equity: welfare as a means of ensuring that very large disparities across society are mitigated through provision of basic income support.
  • Poverty alleviation: the report does mention this but only in so far as it relates to how work is better than welfare. It does not countenance social welfare as a means of ensuring that citizens can avoid the worst of poverty.
  • Managing social risks: the emphasis is on individual responsibility for averting risks such as long-term unemployment. This gives insufficient weight in the model of social welfare to the exogenous factors that affect risk of long-term unemployment, such as insufficient jobs or age discrimination.

Separation between pensions and working age payments

The report recommends a sharp division between pension payments for aged people or people with severe disabilities, and working age payments for everyone else who is deemed to have a capacity for some employment.

This recommendation has, at its heart, a view that everyone who has some capacity to work should work. It also asserts that the prime purpose of social welfare is to set such people on course for obtaining employment through targeted and individualised assistance as well as appropriate education and training, especially linked to local employment opportunities.

It is particularly focused on long-standing concerns that too many disability support pensioners could work but have little incentive or encouragement to do so.

It may be the case that many can work at least part-time. However, arguably too few such employment opportunities are open to them. For a start, in Australia there is a current underutilisation (unemployment and underemployment) rate of 13.5 per cent.

Those on a disability support pension, previously counted as outside the labour force, would join this group of active jobseekers. They face a formidable level of competition for any employment vacancies.

The report calls for employers to lift their game in employing people with disabilities and cites a number of commendable initiatives in this area. However, the reality is that high productivity achieved through work-intensification practices is demanded in most employment situations. While not to underestimate people with disabilities, it is fair to say that a proportion will find this level of performance difficult to achieve.

In addition, social services minister Kevin Andrews has been saying that mental health problems of many people receiving a disability payment tend to be episodic, enabling them to work for extended periods. While this may be so, it is questionable as to how many employers will be willing to tolerate unpredictability of such employees.

Better alignment between rate of pensions and allowances

The report recommends a better alignment between the rate of pensions and allowances. This is a long-standing anomaly in the social welfare system. The Newstart Allowance has become a very low-level payment and is now a “poverty trap”.

The report does not specifically mention this problem, but it does detail the extent of the anomaly. Most importantly, it does not engage with the question of what would be a decent level of payment for the Newstart Allowance.

Given the direction of government social welfare policy as per the budget, there should be disquiet about which direction the alignment goes. A change in the indexing arrangement for pensions has already been announced, which will reduce their value over the long term. It is conceivable that the alignment could be achieved through further reduction in pensions.

The report incorporates phrases such as “adequate support” and “adequate payments” but what this means is not interrogated. Realistically, it is hard to see the current government increasing the rate of Newstart or any other payment.

Tiered payment system

Much is made in the report of the need to simplify the income support payment system; it suggests a new binary pension/working age payment “architecture”. However, the proposal for working age payments is a “tiered” system which, according to the report:

… takes account of individual circumstances, such as partial capacity to work, parental responsibilities or limitations on availability for work because of caring.

But is this really simplifying the payments? Many questions arise, such as about the decision-making process for determining what tier an individual is allocated and what level of discretion the Centrelink official or other decision-makers will have, given the high level of “individual” management under such a system.

Overall, the vision for the reform of Australian social welfare depends entirely on whether labour market opportunities will open up to those for whom it has previously been closed. It could also be viewed as part of the agenda for the end of the age of entitlement.

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

This article has appeared on The Conversation.

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New Colombo plan scholarships awarded to Monash language students


L:R Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC, Minister Julie Bishop, Sarah Bishop and Jason Emmanuelle.
L:R Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC, Minister Julie Bishop, Sarah Bishop and Jason Emmanuelle.

Monash language students have found success through the New Colombo Plan (NCP) scholarship program. Monash student Jason Emmanuelle was last night named the Kishi Fellow to Japan, the highest award available under the NCP. Monash student Emma Moore was also awarded a scholarship through the program. 

Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC, and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, awarded forty inaugural scholarships, including Emma’s, and announced Jason, along with three others, as the New Colombo Plan Fellows for 2014. 

As an arts student at Monash, Jason will join a linguistics and immersion program at Osaka University in Japan for 12 months, bringing him closer to his goal of working for a Japanese enterprise. 

“My time in Japan will allow me to establish academic connections for future cross-linguistic research, as well as helping me to specialise in second language acquisition,” Jason said. 

“One day I hope to work on uncovering potential reforms to language-education in Australia and Japan, and this scholarship will only further develop such opportunities,” he said. 

The Kishi Fellow, named after previous Japanese Prime Minister Kishi, is one of four fellows awarded across Japan, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Singapore each year. The program helps to strengthen people-to-people and institutional relationships, through study and internships undertaken by Australian undergraduate students. 

Emma Moore with His Excellency General the Honourable Peter Cosgrove AC MC Governor General and Foreign Affairs Minister Hon Julie Bishop MP.
Emma Moore with His Excellency General the Honourable Peter Cosgrove AC MC Governor General and Foreign Affairs Minister Hon Julie Bishop MP.

Trevor Goddard Associate Director Global Programs, said the scholarships are a fantastic opportunity for students to strengthen relationships in the Indo Pacific region, helping to facilitate future career opportunities. 

“The Kishi Fellow will help to lift Jason’s understanding of the region, allowing him to make connections, and expand his understanding of business and government in Japan,” Mr Goddard said. 

Prior to starting his undergraduate studies, Jason travelled to Japan, supporting himself as a part-time English teacher. After seven months of self-directed study Jason also passed N2 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), enabling access to the highest level Japanese class at Monash – Japanese for Background Speakers. 

Jason is also the cultural ambassador between Australia and Japan in the Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youth (JENESYS).

Alongside Jason’s success, fellow Monash student  Emma Moore,  4th year Monash student in BCom/LLB and Diploma Languages (Chinese),  was awarded a New Colombo Plan Scholarship.

Ms Moore will undertake an exchange to University of Hong Kong as one of 40 inaugural students selected from across Australia as part of the New Colombo Pilot into the Indo Pacific region.

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The right to be bigots? What does repealing 18C mean for multiculturalism?

Senator George Brandis provoked public outcry when he stated that ‘people have the right to be bigots’, maintaining that aspects of the Racial Discrimination Act is an impediment to the freedom of speech. Critics, however, argued that new laws will license public racism and negatively impact the well-being, health and belonging of ethnic and religious minorities in Australia.

Professor Andrew Markus of the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation (ACJC) at Monash, will be taking part in a lecture ‘The Right to be Bigots?’, alongside Professor Farida Fozdar, from the University of Western Australia, and the Hon. Mark Dreyfus QC, Shadow Attorney General.

The lecture will explore section 18C of the racial Discrimination Act (1975) and its role in Australian multiculturalism and ask, do these new laws license bigotry and will they lead to increased racial tensions?

Event details:

Location: The Wheeler Centre, 176 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne VIC 3000

Date/Time: 6:00 – 7:30 pm

RSVP to the event here.

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Monash History student to take part in undergraduate research conference

History student Laura Riccardi’s research abstract has been accepted to be part of the International Conference of Undergraduate Research (ICUR), founded by the Monash-Warwick Alliance. ICUR offers undergraduate students the chance to present their research to thousands of students, academics and members of the public.

Laura, whose paper on the propagation of the American Dream as a central component of US national identity and ideology during the Great Depression, is a third year Arts student. She wrote her paper as part of Dr Taylor Spence‘s class on American Empire: The United States from Colonies to Superpower.

The conference is a 24 hour global event that links participants and attendees by technology and is held concurrently in Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Malaysia and South Africa in September of this year. Undergraduate students across various disciplines are invited to showcase their research in the form of a 20-minute presentation, or a poster.

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Oxfam-Monash Partnership research in the Monash Magazine

This month, the work of Oxfam-Monash Partnership Research Fellow Larry Stillman has been featured in the latest edition of Monash Magazine, as part of a feature on Monash’s work in the emerging field of ‘development informatics’.

Discussing the potential role of information technology in strengthening international development efforts and empowering social and economic change, Stillman’s work for the Oxfam-Monash Partnership in South Africa and Bangladesh is provided as a prime example of the promising work that Monash is currently driving in this field.

Through his research, Larry Stillman has been exploring new ways of using technology to improve the flow of information to developing communities, as well as to improve the ability of communities to project their voices upwards to the higher decision-making processes that affect their daily lives.

As he has so far found, “people who cannot read can still learn how to use icons on the phone; people who can’t write can communicate textually using voice recognition programs. These are tools that empower a person in a developing country, or groups of people together, helping each other”.

To read the article, click here, and to learn more about Stillman’s research work with the Oxfam-Monash Partnership, head to his research page.

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