Museums are returning Indigenous human remains but progress on repatriating objects is slow

Myles Russell Cook, University of Melbourne and Lynette Russell, Monash University

It’s not difficult to imagine how someone might be prevented from paying respects to their ancestors and ensuring proper observances because they’re buried overseas. Thousands of families who’ve lost relatives during the battles of far-off wars know only too well the distress of loved ones resting on foreign soil.

But for countless Australian Aboriginal families, it’s not voluntary service or even conscription that led to their ancestors’ remains ending up overseas. Rather, it’s grave robbing, and the practice of stealing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ bodies to be placed in museums, anatomy collections and cabinets of curiosity.

In some particularly grisly cases, known individuals, such as William Lanne described as the last full-blooded Tasmanian Aboriginal man, and Yagan, a Noongar man from the western coast of Australia, were mutilated and rendered anthropological specimens.

It’s hardly surprising then, that over the last half century, there have been growing calls for lost souls like these to be brought back home. The recent repatriation of human remains from museums and university collections in the United Kingdom has resulted in some high-profile events. These include the repatriation of ancestral remains of Ngarrindjeri and other people of South Australia, in a moving ceremony conducted by Aboriginal Elder Major Sumner.

But calls by Aboriginal activists and descendants to return objects collected or stolen by colonisers, explorers and others have been met with much less enthusiasm. For the most part, museums have been slow to engage with issues surrounding the return of artefacts, even as they’ve been proactive about returning human remains.

The Gweagal Shield

The case of the “Gweagal Shield” and the current quest for its return to Australia by Rodney Kelly, a descendant of the warrior Cooman whose shield it was, highlights some of the issues at play.

The shield is generally accepted as having been “collected” when the HMS Endeavour visited Botany Bay in 1770, by either Captain James Cook or the naturalist Joseph Banks. It was subsequently given to the British Museum, where it is still held. Its story is much like that of the Dja Dja Wrung barks, which were “collected” by the settler John Hunter Kerr.

Contemporary Aboriginal activists say they regard the shield, like the bark etchings, as representing an unbroken connection with their ancestors of the 18th and 19th centuries. Their claim for the object’s return is based on this connection.

Repatriation of objects is difficult because museums are nothing without their collections. And sending back human remains, many of which are rarely shown, is an easier option.

In the United States, for instance, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), which became law over 15 years ago, ensures the return of cultural items to lineal descendants and culturally affiliated Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organisations. According to the Act, cultural items can include human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony.

But even under NAGPRA, the repatriation of “collected” cultural materials continues to be a contested, murky area.

The paths that indigenous objects travelled as they entered into the collections of Britain, Europe and North America are varied. Some of the material in collections were simply stolen, others traded, some were offered for sale, and some were taken in the aftermath of violence, even massacres.

The direct descendants of the Cooman people from whom the Gweagal Shield was stolen have said, they do not recognise the British Museum as having title or rights of ownership.

Object of study

Australian Aboriginal cultural materials, and indeed Aboriginal people, have traditionally been the objects of study in museums. Most of the great museum collections of Aboriginal artefacts were amassed over a 40-year period from the end of the 19th to the second decade of the 20th century.

The ceremonial stone – tjuringa – that had been in a Seattle museum’s collections since 1971 is repatriated to Australia in 2009. Lannon Harley/AAP Image/National Museum of Australia

During this time, Aboriginal artefacts were collected as curiosities and as sources of information about an exotic other. As a result, museums — particularly museums with ethnographic and anthropological collections — have become the focus of discontent and action by a range of indigenous communities and individuals.

In response, many Australian museums have employed Indigenous people as expert-advisors or in curatorial positions. Unsurprisingly, this has not always improved relations as the problems are structural rather than personal.

The source of tension has been – and remains – the manner in which museums are perceived as experts and authorities on indigenous cultures. The collection of cultural materials from all over the world are the spoils of conquests in which indigenous peoples were dehumanised and oppressed; the museum was part of a rationalised, operationalised dispossession.

The British, on arrival in what was to become Australia, understood the world they entered as a place that was completely alien. Everything they encountered, they saw as a new discovery. They were fascinated by Aboriginal people and collected their material culture; often as exemplars of “primitivism” – and even as examples of ancestral humans.

Resistance and the future

Some of the arguments against – and resistance to – the return of objects reflect the anxieties museum staff expressed during the debate around the repatriation of the Elgin Marbles, after the Greek government formally requested their return from the British Museum in 1983.

The Elgin Marbles are a collection of Classical Greek sculptures that were originally part of the temple of the Parthenon at the Acropolis of Athens. In 1801, Thomas Bruce, seventh Earl of Elgin removed them from the Parthenon and sent them to Britain. They have been contested ever since.

Museums as repositories of objects and collections feared that their repatriation would open the floodgates – and their very existence would be threatened.

Still, thanks to technology, change may be in the air.

The recent emergence of online exhibitions and virtual collections has meant that museums have become more accessible. And the ways that the public and communities interact with their collections is significantly different. Museum collections are no longer only accessible to those who can physically visit them.

Many museums are attempting to decolonise. By changing their processes, they are supporting the aspirations of Indigenous people and communities, and hiring Indigenous staff to develop policies and actively repair the damage of the past; as well as working with contemporary artists and artisans.

Another exciting possibility is the emergence of new virtual reality technology and 3D printing. Using the latest innovative technologies, we predict museums will have the opportunity to either offer virtual repatriations, or to hold on to the virtual object and repatriate the original.

These are exciting possibilities, but they will not satisfy everyone.

Repatriation of objects differs from returning human remains. Bringing home ancestors and family can be imagined as a human right; the right to decide the fate of our relatives. But the question of repatriating objects is clearly more complex. It needs more debate, and more creative interventions to move beyond the current impasse.The Conversation

Myles Russell Cook, Lecturer, Design Anthropology and Indigenous Studies, University of Melbourne and Lynette Russell, Professor, Indigenous Studies and History, Monash University

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

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Enter the My Place, My Story writing competition

The City of Monash is conducting the My Place, My Story Writing Competition in association with Monash University, run in co-operation with Monash Council Libraries as part of the  Literary Habitats joint research project between Monash and Warwick University. 

Aspiring and emerging writers are encouraged to write and submit a short creative piece that explores the idea of place: where you’re from, where you feel at home, and where you live. Writers must reside, work or study in the City of Monash, or be a member of the Monash Public Library Service. 

Entries must be submitted by January 14th. The competition is open to all age groups, with two different categories. Writers aged 10-17 years of age are encouraged to submit a piece that is no more than 1,000 words long. Adult writers may submit a piece that is no longer than 2,000 words in length.

Winners and notable entries will be announced at the Awards Ceremony to be held during the Clayton Festival on Sunday 12th of February, 2017.

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A Laconic Colloquium at NCAS

In late November 2016, scholars from Australia and around the world gathered at Monash University’s Caulfield campus to celebrate the career of Emeritus Professor Ken Inglis, a renowned Australian scholar. 

Presenters shared their personal and professional reflections on Professor Inglis’ work and spoke of his enormous contribution to the field of Australian history.  

The National Centre for Australian Studies gratefully acknowledges the support of the Dean of Arts, Professor Rae Frances, and for the efforts of Seumas Spark in organising the event.


Global Bioethics: A conversation with Professor Michael Selgelid

Professor Michael Selgelid is the Director of the Monash Bioethics Centre (formerly named Centre for Human Bioethics), and he also regularly provides expert advice to a number of international bodies, including the World Health Organization (WHO).

Last year, Professor Selgelid was commissioned to write a White Paper for the US Government on the ethics of ‘gain-of-function research’, and in 2016 he contributed to discussions relating to the response to the Zika virus in Latin America with the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO).

We spoke to him about his work and how bioethics and ethical considerations play into large-scale health crises.

What is bioethics and where does your work fit into the bioethics discipline?
Professor Michael Selgelid
Professor Michael Selgelid

Ethics in general is concerned with questions about what ought to be done, or what should be done. Bioethics in particular is concerned with ethical questions that arise in the life sciences, medicine and healthcare.

My own research largely focuses on public health ethics, especially ethical issues associated with infectious diseases.

This has included things like pandemic planning and/or ethical issues that arise in the context of particular kinds of diseases. I’m usually most interested in policy-oriented questions about such matters.

You recently worked on a response to the Zika virus. What did that work involve and who did you work with?

I participated in a consultation about ethical issues associated with the Zika crisis which has mainly affected South American countries. The consultation, held in Washington DC, was organized by The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), which is the regional office of the World Health Organization (WHO) for the Americas.

Since that time, I have also been appointed to WHO’s Emergency Committee regarding Zika, which, among other things, considered questions about whether the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil should have been postponed, canceled, or moved to another location (due to concerns about the international spread of the virus).

Mobilização Nacional da Educação Zika Zero by Ministério do Desenvolvimento Social e Agrário. Image license: CC BY-SA 2.0
Image: Mobilização Nacional da Educação Zika Zero (National mobilisation of ‘Zika-Zero’ program) by Ministério do Desenvolvimento Social e Agrário (Ministry of Social Development). Image license: CC BY-SA 2.0

One thing that’s become clear from numerous consultations that I’ve been doing with the World Health Organization over the years is that different diseases or different epidemics raise different ethical issues. Sometimes there’s overlap but sometimes very different issues arise. Ebola brought up questions that were quite specific to the Ebola crisis and, likewise, Zika has brought up issues that are quite specific to the Zika crisis.

A lot of the discussion and recommendations regarding Zika pertained to the rights and freedoms of women. One of the main things that needs to happen with regard to Zika is that women need to be empowered to make their own informed decisions about their pregnancies. At the PAHO meeting there was quite a strong consensus about this.

What were the ethical issues to arise from the Ebola crisis then? How were they different?

With Ebola, one of the big questions concerned the use of unregistered medications that had never previously been used or tested in humans, and the study of the use of such medications in the context of an outbreak emergency.

Normally you would never use interventions that haven’t previously been used or tested in humans on patients, but such interventions were used on Ebola patients, and then that led to the WHO convening an ethics panel that got a lot of international attention.

The panel was asked: “is it ethically permissible to treat patients with interventions that have never been previously used or tested in humans in an outbreak emergency such as Ebola? And if so, then under what conditions would this be ethically permissible?”

The panel unanimously agreed that, yes, this would be ethically permissible assuming certain conditions are met – such as informed consent, favourable risk-benefit analysis, etcetera. We furthermore concluded that, when such interventions are used, it is important that this be scientifically studied so we can learn more about whether or not they’re safe and effective.

Image: Ebola Check Point by Medici con l'Africa Cuamm. License: CC BY-SA 2.0
Image: Ebola Check Point by Medici con l’Africa Cuamm (Doctors with Africa). License: CC BY-SA 2.0

That led to all kinds of additional ethical questions regarding the design of scientific studies of the use of drugs or vaccines in the emergency scenario concerning Ebola in particular. Would placebo-controlled studies, for example, be ethically acceptable? 

These questions were quite different from previous questions that had been the focus of other ethical debates about infectious diseases, like influenza. Some of the other ethical issues associated with Ebola, like with questions about quarantine, or dangers for health workers in treating patients, involved more overlap.

This is something we’ve learned about infectious disease ethics. In much of WHO’s past work on infectious disease ethics, there was a disease-by-disease focus and we made guidelines or guidance documents on ethics in each case (like ethics in influenza, or ethics in tuberculosis).

The Ebola crises then highlighted that we need some guidelines about ethics in outbreaks and epidemics more generally, and we have since been working on that. In fact, we hosted a meeting that contributed to development of a (recently published) WHO guidance document on ethics in outbreaks and epidemics at the Monash Prato Centre in November 2015.

In 2015, you were asked to produce a White Paper for the US government. What did that involve?

I was commissioned by the US Government to write a White Paper providing ethical analysis of gain-of-function research. Gain-of-function research involves the creation of pathogens (disease-causing agents) that are more contagious or deadly than naturally occurring strains.

Sometimes there might be important public health reasons for conducting this kind of research, but creating especially dangerous pathogens also raises concerns about biosafety: the dangerous pathogen created might escape from a lab or there might be a lab accident that leads to someone being infected, and events like these might lead to public health crises.

Another worry is that published gain-of-function research studies might provide aspiring bioterrorists with recipes for making dangerous biological weapons.

In October 2014 the US Government called for a “pause” (i.e. a temporary moratorium) on the conduct and funding of gain-of-function research involving influenza virus, SARS virus and MERS virus. They asked any research institutions that had already received US Government funding for this kind of research to put a stop to it for the time-being; and they likewise asked that those who were doing, or might plan to do, this kind of research with their own private funding to voluntarily put it on hold.

During this “pause”, they initiated a “deliberative process”, and as part of this deliberative process, they commissioned quite a substantial risk-benefit analysis of gain-of-function research, especially involving those particular pathogens. The National Institute of Health (NIH) also commissioned me to write an ethical analysis White Paper as part of the deliberative process to inform the NSABB (National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity), which was responsible for drafting relevant policy recommendations to be sent to the White House.

They asked me to do three things in particular. One: To provide a review of the literature on ethical issues associated with gain-of-function research. Second: To identify relevant ethical and decision-making frameworks that might be brought to bear on policy and decision-making about gain-of-function research. Third: to develop a policy and decision-making framework for NSABB to consider when making policy recommendations.

I produced the White Paper and reported on findings at relevant NSABB meetings in September 2015 and January 2016. I also participated in a public symposium on this topic convened by US National Academies of Sciences in Washington DC in March 2016.

The NSABB has since completed its final report and sent it to the White House. The White House will presumably be making policy informed by that report shortly. One of their main concerns is to develop policy regarding the funding of this kind of research: whether or not to fund it or the conditions under which to fund it. The White Paper they asked me to produce was largely meant to inform ethical issues regarding funding policy in particular.

Can you tell us about future projects and what you might be working on in the coming years? 

Gain-of-function research is a subset of ‘dual-use research’ (i.e. research that can be used for both good and bad purposes), which has long been, and will likely continue to be, of interest to me.

There have been a series of highly controversial cases of dual-use research. Years ago at ANU we produced a report on ethical and philosophical issues associated with dual-use life science research for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. I was also involved in a related project on dual-use life science research with the World Health Organization, for which I drafted the ethics section of their relevant guidance document on Responsible Life Science Research. Dual-use research poses problems that are getting more and more important – and getting more and more attention. These issues are very difficult, and they’re not going to go away.

I also plan to pursue more research on ethical issues associated with vector-borne diseases (e.g. malaria, Zika, dengue – which are spread by mosquitoes); and antimicrobial drug resistance – which is widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest threats to global public health during the coming decades.

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Parliament finishes for 2016, capping off a messy, turbulent year

Nick Economou, Monash University; Carol Johnson, University of Adelaide, and Natalie Mast, University of Western Australia

Federal parliament has finished for 2016, capped off by a rush of deal-making on key government policies. Three of our experts look back on a messy, busy year of running the country.

Nick Economou, Monash University

This was the year in which Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull nearly lost government. The national election was the biggest event of the year, which in turn provided highs and lows for all political parties. Labor did very well, at least in the lower house contest, but questions remain about Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s ability to transcend his reputation as a factional bovver boy.

The Coalition, on the other hand, had a disastrous election. It nearly lost its lower house majority. It was also partly culpable for the increase in right-wing and populist senators, notwithstanding a ham-fisted attempt to block the “micro parties” with Senate voting reform. Whatever qualities Turnbull might possess, competence in electoral politics is not one of them.

Throughout the year, the Turnbull government seemed to be beset with minor crises, many of which were self-inflicted. Musing on raising the GST and doing away with Sunday penalty rates resulted in serious swings against the government in the economically stressed swinging seats. Its internal wrangling on racial vilification laws and marriage equality made the government appear obsessed with boutique inner-city issues that are more usually Labor concerns.

Serious tensions developed between the Liberal and National parties. This was reflected by the propensity for National Party whip George Christensen to command almost as much media attention as any Turnbull government minister.

Honourable mention should be made of Attorney-General George Brandis, who did his level best all year to gain more media attention than even Christensen, especially in relation to his dealings with the solicitor-general. And, of course, Tony Abbott continued to haunt the government from the backbench.

It was all too easy for Labor, yet Shorten’s approval rating amongst the voters remained relatively low.

Thanks to the election, the Senate was the chamber in which the minor parties exerted a lot of influence over the policy debate. But even here the sailing was not totally smooth. Family First’s Bob Day is going, and the prospect of another One Nation implosion appeared to increase with every passing day.

Still, as the year ended it appeared that the government had found a way to navigate its agenda through the upper house. This may point to a better year ahead for the government.

Given the state of the opinion polls, Turnbull will sincerely hope this will be the case.

Carol Johnson, University of Adelaide

This year has not gone as planned for Malcolm Turnbull. An ebullient prime minister was meant to sweep back into office, seizing our “exciting” times with his talk of innovation and agility. A convincing election victory was meant to confirm his legitimacy as leader, confounding both Labor and the Coalition’s social conservatives.

Instead, Labor came closer to winning the election than most expected, seriously damaging Turnbull’s credibility. The social conservatives within the party have had a resurgence.

Senator Cory Bernardi’s sojourn at the United Nations in New York might have been intended to get him out of the way for a while at an institution he despised. However, it merely enabled him to observe the Trump forces in action. Tony Abbott has been citing the significance of Donald Trump’s victory for the centre-right, while threatening to play a divisive role if not returned to cabinet.

Turnbull risks losing his own identity as he increasingly bows to the social conservatives in the Coalition. Most recently, he failed to tackle Peter Dutton over the immigration minister’s remarks regarding Lebanese Muslims.

The prime minister who said that Pauline Hanson was not welcome in parliament is forced to deal with a fractious Senate crossbench in which One Nation has essential numbers. The Coalition, and particularly the Nationals, deeply fear Hanson’s resurgence.

Nick Xenophon’s surprise victory on government procurement policy in the ABCC bill negotiations suggests the government is increasingly aware of the challenges its free-market policies face from those with reservations about globalisation and who wish to support Australian industry.

Meanwhile, Shorten seems to be settling into the role of opposition leader while still trailing Turnbull as preferred prime minister. Brexit and Trump’s victory have largely reaffirmed Labor’s election strategy of focusing on tackling issues such as class and inequality. Labor is currently doing well in the polls.

But Labor has risked damaging its relationship with some sections of business. Labor will also be hoping that its focus on addressing economic disadvantage helps defuse chances of it being wedged on culture war issues, given its continuing support for socially inclusive policies on issues of gender, race and sexuality.

Overall, this was the government’s year to win or lose, and it has won by the narrowest of margins. In the process it has kicked some extraordinary own goals, as the latest forays by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and George Brandis graphically illustrate. Turnbull will be desperately hoping that the government’s success in finally getting the ABCC bill through the Senate promises a better year to come.

Natalie Mast, University of Western Australia

This has not been a great year for the Turnbull government. The overly long election campaign was draining, and the narrowness of the victory made it seem more like a defeat.

With the ending of the parliamentary year, the government can now enjoy what must seem like a Pyrrhic victory, with the passing of the double-dissolution trigger, the ABCC legislation.

Ministerial gaffes and ineptitude from George Brandis and Peter Dutton, along with the failure of Treasurer Scott Morrison to cut through have not helped the Coalition this year. But the heart of the government’s problems rest with the fact that the Liberal Party is split between two very different agendas.

There is a core conservative group within the Liberals, including Tony Abbott, who believe that his government could have been returned to power in 2016. The narrowness of the Turnbull victory in July is being used to corner the PM on issues such as same-sex marriage, Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools program.

This has led to a situation in which voter satisfaction with the government is declining. The electorate is disillusioned that Turnbull is not delivering the leadership and policy change they had expected. The lack of unity within the Liberal Party is evident throughout the mainstream media.

The decline in support for the government strengthens the anti-Turnbull faction, which limits Turnbull’s power to enact change – so voter support falls. He needs to break this cycle.

In September 2015 I suggested that the Rudd-Gillard saga had taught us that former prime ministers needed to be removed from parliament as quickly as possible. I argued that the Turnbull government needed Abbott and his supporters to “accept their loss and work for the good of the party”.

Fifteen months later, Abbott commented that “it is good we’re no longer talking about innovation and agility because that frankly loses people”. This so openly undermines Turnbull’s agenda that it is almost inconceivable that he could rejoin cabinet without further destabilising the government.

The conservative faction within the Liberal Party needs to face the fact that they are part of the coalition’s problem, not its solution.

The Liberal Party can’t continue to run on two agendas. If 2017 is going to be a better year, and if the Turnbull prime ministership is to meet the expectations of the electorate, he needs to take control of his party and whip the malcontents into shape.

Meanwhile, Bill Shorten followed up his “almost victory” tour of Australia with a plan to wedge Turnbull wherever possible. Labor has bounced back far more quickly than expected following the Rudd-Gillard saga and used the long election campaign to present a credible alternative government.

Turnbull can’t afford to fight on two fronts. He has two years to deal with Labor, but his timeline for his internal troubles will be much shorter.

The ConversationNick Economou, Senior Lecturer, School of Political and Social Inquiry, Monash University; Carol Johnson, Professor of Politics, University of Adelaide, and Natalie Mast, Associate Director, Performance Analytics, University of Western Australia

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

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Sleep, more complicated than you’d think

Photo by Nomao Saeki
Photo by Nomao Saeki, obtained under Creative Commons Zero license

We spend one third of our lives asleep, but few of us clearly remember what we dream about, or even if we dream at all. It’s always been believed that you’re conscious when you’re awake, and this consciousness fades away as you drift into deep sleep. But what if you could retain consciousness in your sleep, remember your dreams and even decide what happens in them?

New research is challenging our long-held assumptions about dreamless sleep and consciousness. Monash University’s Dr Jennifer Windt has co-authored a paper ‘Does Consciousness Disappear in Dreamless Sleep?‘ (published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences) together with Evan Thompson of the University of British Columbia, and Tore Nielsen of Université de Montréal.

In the paper the researchers argue that consciousness exists on a spectrum between wakefulness and sleep, and that our current view of dreamless sleep as uniformly unconscious is an oversimplified one – not least because there’s no concrete definition of dreaming and dreamlessness. 

“Until recently, there was no agreement on how best to use the concept of dreaming itself,” said Dr Windt, a lecturer at Monash’s School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies, and author of Dreaming (2015).

Dr Windt explained that the idea for criticising the current assumptions around dreamless sleep came from a book chapter in co-author Evan Thompson’s book Waking, Dreaming, Being, and the exchange between Thompson and Dr Windt in Open Mind. From this initial idea the researchers broadened their argument to include memory consolidation and sleep behaviour. 

Criticising the assumption that dreamless sleep is uniformly unconscious, and that conscious experience in sleep is exhausted by dreaming, Dr Windt and her colleagues argue that a more precise taxonomy for describing dreamful and dreamless sleep has consequences for investigating the sleep-stage and neural correlates (the minimal set of neuronal events needed for consciousness) of conscious experience.

Dr Windt and her fellow authors suggest that what happens when we sleep is more complicated than we’d imagined, and Dr Windt said she hopes the paper can help to inform other specific areas of sleep research. 

“Sleep disorders, including sleep behaviour and sleep state misperception, for example in insomnia, is another area where an improved understanding of the relationship between sleep conscious experience might lead to improved diagnostic criteria and therapeutic measures (such as mindfulness and insomnia),” said Dr Windt.

And the research could even impact the legal system and those who commit violent crimes whilst asleep, because how someone experiences dreamless sleep could affect their culpability for violent behaviour in NREM sleep. Some researchers argue that the only way someone could be excused for such violent behaviours was to demonstrate a total lack of consciousness and a complete lack of recall.

“We think, however, that this requirement might be too strong. It is not at all clear that NREM sleep behaviour can simply be described as unconscious automatisms—essentially as zombie-like behaviour,” said Dr Windt.

“The relation of these behaviours to different forms of conscious experience is just not well enough understood at this point. But it suggests that even if violent behaviours arising from NREM sleep are associated with some form of conscious experience and recall, this might not be enough for holding the person responsible.” 

The issue of responsibility for NREM sleep behaviour might still be an open question but Dr Windt is of the opinion that it will be an area where an improved understanding of the relationship between sleep behaviour and conscious experience could have implications beyond philosophy and science. 
As well as entering the mainstream, dreaming is now being discussed in the context of the debate on the neural correlates of consciousness.

Dr Windt said her research, with co-authors Evan Thompson and Tore Nielsen, can help to inform this debate,  “because it suggests that simple or perhaps even minimal forms of phenomenal experience can exist in dreamless sleep, whereas dreaming seems to involve a more complex, immersive kind of experience. Our proposal for a refined taxonomy can therefore help identify new and hopefully more precise targets for investigating the neural correlate of conscious states.” 

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Change of Preference Expo


Monash students star at the Ossie Awards


Scorsese’s Silence and the Catholic connection to the atomic bomb

Gwyn McClelland, Monash University

Today, Martin Scorsese’s Silence will have its premiere at the Vatican, where it will be screened to hundreds of Roman Catholic priests. The famed director’s first foray into East Asia links to familiar themes of Catholic guilt and redemption, as he portrays the brutal 17th century persecution of Jesuit missionaries and their converts in Japan.

Scorsese’s film, which will open here in January, is an adaptation of Japanese author Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel Silence. It tells the story of two Portuguese Jesuit priests (Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield) who travel to Japan at a time when Christianity was banned to find their mentor (Liam Neeson) and support the local converts. The pair are imprisoned and tortured.

A pieta ‘fumi-e’ image, from Nagasaki 1923. National Library Australia all rights reserved, Author provided

The characters of the priests Cristóvão Ferreira and Sebastian Rodrigues were based on Portuguese and Italian Jesuits found in the historical record. Endo’s novel (沈黙)describes the hostile environment that leads to the missionary priests’ relinquishment of faith. They were forced to place their feet on fumi-e (踏み絵) – religious images – to demonstrate that they had given up all faith. Rodrigues (played by Garfield in the film), believes he hears Jesus’ voice telling him to apostatise by stepping on the fumi-e.

The remaining Christians went underground. The persecution continued until the ban against Christians was removed in 1873. But the indigenous Japanese who returned to Catholicism in the 1870s after 250 years of “hidden Christianity” remembered their long period of “betrayal”.

A painting of the ruin of Urakami Cathedral drawn by Nagai Takashi. author provided by permission of Nagai Tokusaburo, director of the Nagai Takashi Memorial Museum

Most descendants of the native Christians lived in Nagasaki during World War II. On the 9th August, 1945, when the United States dropped the A-bomb on Urakami, a northern suburb of Nagasaki, 8500 of the 12000-strong Catholic Christian community were amongst the dead. The bomb was meant to target Nagasaki city, but because the Americans were low on fuel and clouds opened above the northern suburbs, the eventual Ground Zero happened in Urakami. Its cathedral – the biggest Catholic church in Asia at the time – was only 500 metres from Ground Zero.

Nagasaki Catholics remember the A-bomb in particular ways, as I show in my research on memory in Nagasaki. My work has involved interviewing nine Catholic survivors of the atomic bombing, as well as three other non-Catholic survivors, and members of the Urakami community.

The Catholic interviewees explained that their grandparents had been exiled to other regions of Japan in the 1860s and 1870s due to their return to Catholicism after 250 years of “hidden Christianity”.

One interviewee, Matsuo Sachiko, explained that her grandmother was a double survivor, having first survived the Christian exile (referred to as the 4th exile) imposed by the government in 1867-73 and then later, the 1945 atomic bombing. She says:

Yes… my grandmother was one of the Urakami Fourth Exile survivors and at that time there were still some of those survivors who were alive… these people still believed, everyone was able to stick at it and get through… Within their testimony, they didn’t talk about their pain.

Matsuo Sachiko pictured in 2014, author provided

Orphaned Ozaki Tōmei adopted a new name after the bombing, as a novice at a Polish monastery in Nagasaki. Normally Japanese monks would adopt the name of a Western saint, but he selected a Japanese saint, Ozaki Tōmei, who is a child martyr of 1597 from Nagasaki.

Ozaki remembered his mother telling him that the 26 martyrs of 1597 were marched directly past his childhood home in the middle of winter on the way to their execution. The child martyr Ozaki had been separated from his mother and was marched to Nagasaki from Kyoto. Along the way, he was able to write a letter to his mother, in which he reflected on the “transience of the world”.

My informant Ozaki linked his own experience to this boy of 1597, writing:

The experience of the atomic bombing was exactly like that. Everything in the world is breakable and vanishes. As far as the atom bomb went, there was nothing to be known of reality which was not destroyed. Koware-iku sonzai ni tayotte wa naranai. We cannot depend on a life so fragile. Nonetheless, after that, staring at reality, what I saw was the indestructible God’s existence. The Lord God who holds all created things, the source of love and life is the God I know. This is also the source of faith.

Brother Ozaki Tomei, author provided

Despite the destruction around him and the tragic loss of his mother, Ozaki, orphaned monk and survivor of the atomic bombing, held on to the faith of his ancestors.

His resilience might be considered one fruit of the missionaries whose ambivalent lives are depicted by Scorsese in Silence. Ozaki turned 88 this year and continues to write prolifically on his blog.

Silence was originally controversial amongst Christians in Japan for the perceived faithlessness of its priest protagonists. Nevertheless, Scorsese’s film version – which has taken 27 years to make – is eagerly awaited in Nagasaki, where the descendants of the hidden Christians still continue to be a practising community of faith.

Adam Driver in Silence. Cappa Defina Productions

The 26 Martyrs’ Museum, just down the road from the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, frequently posts updates on the progress and making of the movie on its blog.

Meanwhile, another interviewee, Matsuzono (a pseudonym) told me:

Soon Martin Scorsese will release the movie, so the things we locals talk about will spread around the world…

Gwyn McClelland, Oral historian and associate, Japanese history, Monash University

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

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Winner announced for the Pizzicato Effect Prize for Composition

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Professor Bain Attwood gives Returning Harvard Lecture

Monash academic and leading scholar in the field of cross-cultural history Professor Bain Attwood presented the 2016 Returning Harvard Chair of Australian Studies Lecture.

Why did the British government deny Indigenous sovereignty and rights of land in its Australian colonies in the 18th century only to recognise them in New Zealand in 19th century? The question in recent decades has been dominated by legal and intellectual issues. What of the actual encounter between the Indigenous peoples and Europeans in the colonies? And the response of the imperial government?

Difficult Pasts: Denial in Australia from Monash Arts on Vimeo.

Professor Bain Attwood from the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies presented the 2016 Returning Harvard Chair of Australian Studies Lecture on November 15. The lecture was hosted by the Dean of Arts at Monash University, Professor Raelene Frances and supported by Monash University, the Harvard University Committee on Australian Studies, and the Harvard Club of Victoria.

Professor Attwood held the Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser Visiting Professorship in Australian Studies at Harvard University (2014-15), joining two other Monash University historians appointed to the chair, Graeme Davison (1988-89), and John Rickard (1997-98).

The visiting professorship was established at Harvard in 1976, as a result of a gift from the Australian government to mark the bicentennial of the United States.  

Professor Attwood’s current research deals with the ways Aboriginal sovereignty and rights to land were treated, remembered and forgotten in Australia by settlers and Aboriginal people. He has published extensively in the history of settler colonialism. His book Possession won the 2010 Ernest Scott Prize for the most distinguished contribution to the history of Australia or New Zealand or to the history of colonisation.

In addition, Professor Atwood has held fellowships at the Australian National University (2001-03) and Cambridge University (2007-08), as well as the Visiting Professorship in Australian Studies at Harvard University (2014-15).

Professor Bain Attwood delivering his lecture
Professor Bain Attwood during his lecture “Difficult pasts: denial in Australia”

In his lecture, Difficult pasts: denial in Australia, Professor Attwood discussed Australia’s denial of its troubled history in regard to Indigenous peoples and sought to explain why this denial took the form it did.

“Settlers acknowledged the Aboriginal peoples of the land, only to argue that they were not actually in possession of it,” Professor Atwood said in his lecture.

“Aboriginal people were figured as a primitive people and as the doomed relics of an earlier age of man, rather than as a people who belonged to the modernity that Europeans claimed for themselves.” 

All nations have pasts that they find difficult to acknowledge and assimilate but this problem is particularly marked in settler societies like Canada, Australia and New Zealand since their very foundations lie in the dispossession, destruction and displacement of Aboriginal peoples.

At the same time there has been no point at which these societies have experienced the kind of event that has forced other nations to repudiate the oppressive discourses and structures that lie at their heart.

In his conclusion, Professor Attwood states, “the vital work of remembering this difficult history and undertaking the work of mourning that this remembrance entails, remains to be done.

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Journalism’s Dr Johan Lidberg nominated for MPA Supervisor of the Year

School of Media, Film and Journalism academic Dr. Johan Lidberg has been nominated for the Monash Postgraduate Association 2016 Supervisor of the Year Award. Dr. Lidberg is one of 27 nominees from across Monash University.

lidberg“I feel quite honoured as this is a direct nomination from my PhD candidates,” Dr. Lidberg said.

“Every PhD project is like a three and a half year journey full of ups and downs and a lot of learning for all parties, that’s why it’s so enjoyable.”

The award ceremony will take place on December 9, 2016 at Monash’s Clayton campus.

According to the Monash Postgraduate Association website, the Supervisor of the Year award was created to acknowledge and celebrate excellence in research supervision practice. It has been awarded since 1992.

“The MPA award is truly a decision of the postgraduate community. Supervisors are nominated by their postgraduate students and entries are judged by an independent subcommittee of research postgraduates drawn from the MPA Executive Committee,” the  Monash Postgraduate Association wrote on its website.

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Monash mental health research contributes to major Victorian parliamentary report

For people with severe mental health problems, it’s hard enough just to get through some day, without having to make decisions about their own medical treatment, finances and housing … right? Actually the opposite is true.

A new study ‘Options for Supported Decision-Making to Enhance the Recovery of People with Severe Mental Health Problems has found that when people with severe mental health problems are given access and support to make these fundamental decisions for themselves, there are significant benefits for their recovery and quality of life.

The Victorian study, the first of this kind in Australia, was a 3-year interdisciplinary research collaboration between Monash University and the University of Melbourne, funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant.

The project was led by Associate Professor Renata Kokanovic (Monash) in collaboration with Professor Bernadette McSherry Professor Helen Herrman and Associate Professor Lisa Brophy (University of Melbourne). It was supported by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Mind Australia (Mind), Neami, Wellways (formerly Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia) and Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC) and Tandem Carers.

The study aimed to explore the lived experience of people using mental health services, and to identify the barriers and facilitators to accessing the support they may require in making decisions about treatments and other aspects of their lives.

The researchers found that one of the key barriers to giving this group of people agency in their own health outcomes is that both the current laws, and the model of mental health service delivery, frequently deny people with severe mental health problems access to that decision making process. The study also found a key strategy for improving access to supported decision making was the reform of ‘cultures of care’ in mental health services.

The findings of the research are already having an impact in the sector with a major new Victorian Government report: ‘Victoria’s mental health services annual report 2015-16‘ incorporating many of the findings of the joint Monash University/University of Melbourne study.

The Victorian Government report will be the first time that such comprehensive information about Victoria’s public mental health system has been compiled in a single, easily accessible document. The report aims to be as engaging as possible to health services, consumers, carers and families, and contributes to broader community understanding about mental health and mental health services. The report is being tabled in the Victorian Parliament on the 22nd November 2016 and will be housed in the National and State Libraries and Archives.

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Australians more alarmed about state of politics than impact of migration and minorities, survey finds

Andrew Markus, Monash University

There is no shortage of expert commentary on current shifts in public opinion, understood as a revolt against political elites.

Within Europe and the United States interpretations are supported by the British vote to leave the European Union, the increasing popularity of far-right parties campaigning on anti-immigration and nationalist platforms, and the success of Donald Trump in winning the US presidency.

In Australia, commentators point to instability in politics, elections that fail to return clear majorities, the loss of office of first-term governments in Queensland and Victoria, growing minor party representation in the Senate, and public unease at immigration policy and the Muslim presence.

In a recent article titled “Immigration system is groaning under influx of new migrants”, The Australian columnist Judith Sloan argued:

Our program is no longer working in the national interest … My guess is that more people are beginning to appreciate this fact, particularly as they bear the costs of congestion, loss of amenity and safety, and declining housing affordability.

A different perspective on the Australian political mood is provided by the 2016 Scanlon Foundation survey. Contrary to Sloan’s “guess”, survey data indicate a continuing low level of concern over immigration.

In 2016 just 34% of respondents considered that the immigration intake was “too high”, the lowest recorded in the Scanlon Foundation surveys. This matched the findings of recent Lowy Institute and Roy Morgan polls.

There are grounds for caution in drawing lessons from British and US votes, while ignoring developments in Canada and New Zealand. Structural factors, notably the impact of the global financial crisis on employment and the housing market, and uncontrolled cross-border population movement, do not have the same impact on public opinion in Australia.

Australia bucks the trend

The annual Scanlon Foundation survey, the ninth in a series that began in 2007, was conducted in the weeks following the 2016 federal election. It employed a probability sample with 1,500 respondents, and comprised more than 60 questions. It provides the most reliable measure of the trend of Australian opinion.

There is consistent high-level agreement with the proposition that “multiculturalism has been good for Australia”, in the range of 83% to 86% across the 2013-16 Scanlon Foundation surveys.

The ideal of “assimilation” appeals only to minorities. In Australia, 28% agree with the proposition:

It is best if all people forget their different ethnic and cultural backgrounds as soon as possible.

A relatively high proportion indicate that they are “very negative” or “negative” towards Muslims: 25% of respondents in 2016, compared to 5% with negative views towards Christians or Buddhists.

However, this level is not close to 50% – as indicated by a recent survey. And the trend of opinion shows little change: over the course of six Scanlon Foundation surveys, the proportion negative to Muslims has been consistently in the range of 22% to 25%.

The Scanlon-Monash Index of Social Cohesion, which aggregates the results for 18 questions, finds more evidence of stability and social cohesion than of deterioration, although there are some negative indicators. In 2016 the index is at 89.3, down from 92.5 in 2015 – but close to the average of the last four years.

Not all good news

The findings, however, are not all neutral or positive.

The proportion of respondents indicating experience of discrimination over the last 12 months on the basis of skin colour, ethnicity or religion increased from 15% to 20%. This is the highest level recorded by the Scanlon Foundation surveys.

There are heightened negative indicators in questions concerning neighbourhood. Agreement that “people in your local area are willing to help their neighbours” fell from 85% to 81%. Concern “about becoming a victim of crime in your local area” increased by a large margin, from 26% to 36%.

Questions on the working of Australian democracy continue to find low levels of trust in parliament and political parties. An increased proportion agree that “the system of government we have in Australia … needs major change”, up from 23% in 2014 to 31% in 2016. A further 11% would like to see the system replaced.

The lack of trust in the political system may in part reflect the failure to tackle socially progressive issues supported by a majority of electors.

The 2016 Scanlon Foundation survey sought views on current environmental and social issues. It found 80% support “medically approved euthanasia for people suffering terminal illness”, and 67% support “marriage equality for same-sex couples”. Climate change was considered with reference to “legislation for reduced reliance on coal for electricity generation” and found support at 70%.

The 2016 Scanlon Foundation survey thus provides grounds for caution in applying overseas comparisons. The key finding points more to stability than change, which is measured at less than five percentage points in response to most questions.

At the same time, there is an increased reporting of discrimination, heightened neighbourhood concerns and mounting dissatisfaction with Australian democracy.

The Conversation

Andrew Markus, Pratt Foundation Research Chair of Jewish Civilisation, Monash University

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

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Death or Liberty tours in London, Dublin and Wales

“Democracy wasn’t granted in the 1850s and late 19th century simply because some wise politicians granted it or Queen Victoria agreed to it. It’s because people sacrificed their lives and certainly their liberty for these causes in the United Kingdom, in Ireland, in North America, in Canada, all over the Empire, and did time in Australia.”

– Associate Professor Tony Moore

Death or Liberty, a feature length documentary charts eight decades of oppression leading up to the British Empire’s colonialisation of Australia, the UK and America. It is adapted from the book Death or Liberty: rebels and radicals transported to Australia 1788-1868 by author, historian and Monash University Associate Professor Tony Moore.

After its premieres in Australia, Manchester and Scotland last year it has since garnered many awards and is now on its London, Dublin and Wales tour.

The documentary draws from the stories and experiences of the 3,600 political prisoners transported to Australia in 1788-1868, and sheds light on the leading rebels and champions of human rights amongst them. Their fight secured the basic human rights and freedoms we know today from land reform to universal suffrage, freedom of speech and colonial self-determination.

Original songs for Death or Liberty are performed by folk troubadours, Ireland’s Lisa O’Neill, England’s Billy Bragg and Australia’s Mick Thomas, filmed at Hobart’s convict-built Theatre Royal. It is dramatised with an Australian and Irish cast and is the result of an international collaboration between Monash Associate Professor Tony Moore, Tasmania’s Roar Film Ireland’s Tile Films and broadcasters the ABC, TG4 Ireland and SC4 Wales.

London Chartist leader and son of a West Indian slave, William Cuffay (played by Kelton Pell), sentenced under the Treason-Felony Act during the Chartist activities of 1848, was transported to Tasmania and became and inspiring union activist in the colony. Photo by Michael Rayner
William Cuffay (played by Kelton Pell), photo by Michael Rayner

The documentary features London Chartist William Cuffay, son of a west Indian slave transported for agitating for workers’ suffrage who became a crusading Tasmanian union leader; Irish independence fighters Phillip Cunningham and Michael Dwyer who became champions for the rights of the oppressed Celtic minority in the infant colony; ‘Young Ireland’ revolutionary leader William Smith O’Brien, the aristocratic MP whose dignified martyrdom during solitary confinement on Maria Island led to an international campaign for his release and inspired the struggle for self-determination in Ireland and Australia, and many other lesser-known champions in the transnational history of the British Empire.

Political prisoner, British MP and Young Ireland rebel leader William Smith O'Brien (played by Lochlann O'Mearain, transported to Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania) for Treason in 1850, foiled in his escape from isolated Maria Island. Photo by Michael Rayner.
William Smith O’Brien (played by Lochlann O’Mearain), photo by Michael Rayner.

I am here to regret nothing I have already done, to retract nothing I have already said. I am here to crave, with no lying lip the life I consecrate to the liberty of my country ….to lift this island up to make her a benefactor to humanity instead of being the meanest beggar in the world – to restore to her, her native powers and her ancient constitution, this has been my ambition and this ambition has been my crime.”

– William Smith O’Brien



The Dublin premiere is on Friday 18th November and is hosted by the Australian Ambassador to Ireland, Richard Andrews in association with the Australian Studies Centre, University College Dublin.


Billy Bragg, Musical Director of Death or Liberty
Billy Bragg, Musical Director of Death or Liberty

Celebrated singer/songwriter Billy Bragg will speak at the London premiere of Death or Liberty on Tuesday 22 November at Nash Theatre, Kings College London hosted by the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies (FREE but registration essential). He joins Associate Professor Tony Moore and UK based director Keith Farrell in introducing the documentary.

Bragg, who is a Musical Director for the film, told ABC Radio,

“They [The British government] were trying to get rid of these people and sent to the other side of the world where they couldn’t be heard any more, realising if they were hung, drawn and quartered for treason they’d become martyrs. I don’t think the Crown realised it was ceding the colonies with a bunch of crazy radicals. You can see links between what happened with transportation here in Tasmania and Eureka Stockade, the early achievement of democracy and universal suffrage ahead of what we had in the UK. Many of the people who were sent, the Chartists, the Welsh, Irish, French Canadians, Americans had an impact.”

South Wales

Chartist leader of Zephaniah Williams (played by Lion Williams) at Port Arthur. One of the leaders of the Newport Rising, Monmouthshire, Wales 1839, transported to High Treason to Van Dieman's Land in 1840. Photo by Michael Rayner.
Zephaniah Williams (played by Lion Williams), photo by Michael Rayner.

The film’s final stop is at Shire Hall, Monmouth on Friday 25 November – in the very courtroom where in 1840, sentence of death was passed on John Frost, Zephaniah Williams and William Jones.  They were leaders of a popular uprising in 1839 on the South Wales coalfield. This punishment was commuted by royal decree and all three men were shipped out to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and removed from British political life.


While in Ireland and Britain, Tony Moore will present to archive institutions and others about a digital humanities ARC Linkage project being developed, that builds on  the documentary and book, entitled ‘Conviction Politics’. Professor Moore states,

“the next stage will be new digital archive research into the convict origins of collective resistance and democratic movements in Australia, visualised through an online ‘transmedia hub’ about and for the researchers, students and the public, connecting the book and elements of the documentary with international archives holdings, heritage groups and sites, a travelling digital exhibition and portals for community participation.”


Death or Liberty has been awarded and shortlisted for: Finalist in the 2016 ATOM (Australian Teachers of Media) Awards in the category Best History Documentary; Award for Excellence for documentary history/biography at the US based Accolade Global Film Competition; selected to screen in Balinale: the Bali International Film Festival; and Platinum Award ‘truly remarkable films’ at the Spotlight Documentary Film Awards 2016, USA. Death or Liberty will be released on DVD with CD soundtrack by the ABC in early 2017.

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A matter of inclusion: Dr Matthew Piscioneri receives award for teaching innovation

Dr Matthew Piscioneri from Monash Academic and Professional Writing, recipient of a 'Teaching innovation and impact award'.
Dr Matthew Piscioneri from Monash Academic and Professional Writing, recipient of a ‘Teaching innovation and impact award’.

Would you employ a dog if you thought it was suited to the job? Imagine you are looking at a Youtube video: a dog – golden retriever – is speaking to camera telling you why it is a good candidate for the position, and the pitch is pretty convincing – you might actually hire this dog!

The talking dog video was created by a student for a unit run by Monash teacher and academic Dr. Matthew Piscioneri. When we caught up with Matthew he showed us the video as an example of how students in his online tutorials sometimes use animated avatars in their presentations, and that while the result can be slightly unnerving and funny, it can also be surprisingly effective. The use of avatars is just one of the techniques Matthew employs to break down barriers for a better study experience for his students.

Matthew has recently been recognised for his innovative teaching approach using online tutorials for distance and disabled students, receiving a ‘Teacher Innovation and Impact Award’ from the Vice-Provost (Learning and Teaching).

The award is designed to reward small changes that create a big impact on teaching and learning at Monash, and Professor Rae Frances, Dean of Monash Faculty of Arts, said of Matthew’s award, “This award recognises Matthew’s commitment to teaching and student learning and demonstrates the Faculty’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

Matthew said it was his time on Academic Progress Committee that really opened his eyes to what can be going on in the background for students, and what some have had to overcome just to get to tutorials (which are mandated (compulsory) for a 75% attendance rate.)

“I got a shock when I found out that students were coming from as far away as Geelong, and I thought this travelling time could be spent better,” said Matthew. “I’ve also had a bit to do with the disabilities liaison unit, and you realise that so many students have issues going on in the background to their study, and so the online tutorials were meant to address that.”

Matthew decided to explore ways that technology and online learning can make a difference by using synchronous and non-synchronous tools including movenote and anymeeting. Some units were delivered wholly online, whilst for others there was an option to do tutorials either face to face or online. Matthew found where the option existed, about 20 percent of students took up the online option.

He also discovered things were not always as he expected. For example, he found that although video might seem like a good solution for replacing the face to face experience of a tutorial, in the context of online tutorial, video can be distracting and even confronting.

“It’s a really interesting one,” said Matthew. “Research has been done that shows that students prefer slides and audio, and not necessarily video…,” and he laughed when he added,”… of their ageing lecturer – and I don’t blame them!”

Matthew said that online tools also gave students the choice of whether to see an image of their lecturer, and he said it was interesting to see how many students chose to have the ‘audio only’ option.

Matthew has even used avatars himself to introduce an online tutorial, setting the tone and introducing an element of humour to put people at ease and show a human side.

“Often teachers sit around and talk about how they can get more engagement in their tutorials. I remember being a first year student and being petrified with lack of self confidence, so possibly online might help some people overcome this, ” said Matthew. “When the lecturer/teacher starts to play around with different platforms then it gives students permission to try something similar, to stretch themselves.”

So how has the response been to these new ways of learning? Matthew said he is still waiting for formal ‘SETU’ results (University wide system for getting student feedback), but anecdotally the feedback has been very positive.

Matthew also says the award from the Learning and Teaching area is a great endorsement for education innovation at Monash, and he found the award application process was a very positive experience for him. Applicants were asked to present their application as a three minute video, and this helped Matthew to focus his message and reflect on the essence of what had been achieved.

“I’m an education focused academic so it’s nice to see the University (through Better Teaching Better Learning) being so supportive,” said Matthew.

Matthew teaches Professional Writing, Advanced Professional Writing and English for Academic Purposes, and his recent research evaluating student preferences for modes of teaching and learning resource delivery is closely linked to his teaching. Matthew has been working with KMUTT University in Thailand sharing techniques and strategies from the Monash experience, and he is also looking at working with a University in Cambodia who are about to roll out that country’s first online program.

Matthew works for Monash Academic and Professional Writing (APW) where students learn strategies for powerful and effective writing, and how to use English at University and in professional work beyond. Based in the School of Media, Film and Journalism, APW units are open to students across the University, with students come from Business and Economics, Science, Medicine.

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Godzilla’s lost nuclear past: Dr Jason Jones

You might remember Godzilla demolishing San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, or Matthew Broderick defeating the monster in New York, but what do you know about Godzilla’s nuclear past?

The original Godzilla film tackles the threat of the atomic age and nuclear weapons, it’s about Japan being drawn into war again, and about people living with the constant threat of bombs and destruction. Godzilla, or Gojira, was one of the first films to show the full extent of the devastation that Japanese civilians experienced when the United States dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. 

30 Godzilla films have been produced since Ishirō Honda’s 1954 Japanese science-fiction original. In that time, the monster’s story has morphed from a nuclear allegory into a Hollywood cliché – but recent events show that our fear of nuclear catastrophes is far from over. Wikipedia searches for ‘Godzilla’ spiked following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, showing that the monster’s power as a window into post-war attitudes about the dangers of nuclear radiation still rings true today.

729px-gojira_1954_japanese_posterDr Jason Christopher Jones
 of Monash’s Japanese Studies program has been interested in Japan since he was a child. His inspiration? Video games. In his youth, everything was text based, and in order to know what was happening in the game, he had to learn to read it in Japanese. Dr Jones recently spoke to us about how the Godzilla films reflect Japan’s experience of nuclear tragedies, just one of his particular areas of research. 

Jason joined Monash University in 2015. He is a lecturer in Japanese Studies in the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics, and researches wine manga, Godzilla and themes of cultural exchange and adaptation. In addition to his research, he is an active translator and interpreter.

Listen to our interview with Dr Jason Jones on Godzilla’s lost nuclear past:

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Music Industry Survey: Investigating the Value of Music Exports

At a time when Australian pop, rock, country and hip hop acts are finding new international markets in unprecedented numbers, a team of researchers begin the first phase of their study of national and global music export markets. Monash University’s Associate Professor Shane Homan (School of Media, Film and Journalism) is collaborating with Professor Richard Vella and Professor Stephen Chen (University of Newcastle) and Millie Millgate (Sounds Australia) to investigate the cultural and economic value of music exports.

Funded by the Australian Research Council, APRA AMCOS and the Australia Council for the Arts, the research project is an exciting collaboration between the music industry and academics from the University of Newcastle and Monash University.

Stage One of the research includes assessment of the scope and depth of Australian music activity. The project team are calling on Australian artists and businesses (including managers, record labels, booking agents, music producers and promoters) who have engaged in music exports to complete a detailed survey that canvases the full scope of the Australian music ecosystem.

Associate Professor Shane Homan
Associate Professor Shane Homan

“This survey is vital to capture in detail the domestic and international extent of our musicians’ work across different sectors and platforms,” says Associate Professor Homan. “As a net importer of cultural trade, our music industries can provide valuable insight into what is required to improve the global visibility and revenues of our cultural industries”.

Music export offices are increasingly evident as nations realise the value of targeted support of key acts. “The music industry survey is an important first step to measuring the economic contribution of exports,” said Associate Professor Homan. “It is part of a wider investigation of how and where assistance can be provided to open up new territories for Australian artists”.

The Australian Music Exports Survey is open from 2 November to 2 December 2016. 

For further enquiries, please contact Associate Professor Shane Homan


There is no female president this time, and women are divided about it

Jacqui True
, Monash University and Aida Arfan Hozić, University of Florida

This is what we learned on November 8th: a white pantsuit is not an antidote to global Trumpism. Here is why.

Donald Trump’s victory is more than just an election of another American president, it is a regime change. This momentous event will affect the functioning of both American and global institutions. But it will also affect the politics of everyday life, especially those domains often associated with women and minorities – household economies, health and education, welfare and social care, migration and reproduction. This is a victory for a particular kind of masculinity – paternalistic and violent, punishing to those who do not fit its standards.

Yet Trump is not a unique political phenomenon, but a symptom of disenchantment with globalisation. As he often pitched it to his voters on the campaign trail – “This is ‘BREXIT-plus-plus-plus’”. His victory is a product of homegrown economic problems gone viral, pandering to white fears, botched military interventions in the Middle East and millions of wounded bodies.

It is also a reflection of the worldwide shift toward populism in reaction to the increases in economic inequality, the perceived elitism of politicians and parties, uncertainty about the future and threats to economic and physical security from within and without. Whether it’s in Brazil, Russia, Poland, Turkey, the Philippines or the UK – and soon, possibly, France and even Australia – liberal elites have been sent packing because of their apparent failure to sustain the entitlements of blue collar, white men. They were unable to deliver on the expectations of key constituencies with the unleashing of competitive globalisation.

Thus, it should not surprise us that Trump’s win was not pulled off by poor working class whites alone, as was reported from Florida “Economic victims didn’t elect Trump. The well-off and segregated did”. .

Women simultaneously rushed to vote and were sharply divided by it. The 2016 election represents the biggest gender gap in voting since 1973, but Hillary Clinton has not benefited much — if at all — from group solidarity among women.

Trump beat Clinton 53% to 41% among men and Clinton won among women by 54% to 42%. More women voted Democrat than ever before, and more men voted Republican. Shockingly, 53% of white women voted for Trump, even though early polling showed them more likely to support Clinton.

Even 45% of women with a college degree voted for Trump. Whatever gains Clinton made among women, it was thanks to women of colour. White women have clearly made patriarchal bargains: they may benefit economically as part of male breadwinner, heterosexual family households from a Trump Presidency tax cut dividend. On the down side, they now also will be represented by a President who advocates “grabbing pussy”.

There are several implications of Trump’s victory for women in general and feminism in particular. First, after this election, and despite Hillary Clinton’s emotional concession speech, it is unlikely that politics would now seem like an attractive calling to young women. One look at what happened to Clinton would deter most. It seems you can’t win even when you’re smart, capable and qualified. This indicates a deeply ingrained sexism within US democracy, which is echoed in other western polities. One example of this is the United Kingdom, where women’s perspectives hardly featured in the pre-referendum Brexit debate, and are still hard to find despite the ascension of a female prime minister.

Second, Trump would not have been elected in a world serious about tackling violence against women and girls. We can expect the further trivialisation and normalisation of sexual and gender-based harassment, abuse and violence.

Finally, the vote highlighted that those who were worst affected by the global financial crisis and housing bubble in the US – African American women – voted for Hillary in droves (93%). These women know that women of colour, women-headed households, and women employed in the public sector with less income and assets than men will not be helped by slashing the corporate tax rate and Obamacare.

What does Trump’s win mean for feminism? There is no doubt that feminism now operates between two poles – rising misogyny and scapegoating of women (Hillary Clinton was more hated than Donald Trump) and the potential for moblisation (women came together after revelations about Trump’s sexually abusive language and behavior).

Perhaps Clinton’s version of feminism is outdated – stuck in the 1990s, under the shadow of her husband’s term as US President, and surrounding herself with generals, CIA officials, former Republicans, in order to prove her competence. There was little appeal for millennials in this, as seen in the drop of young people’s vote for Hillary as compared with Obama.

Feminism – and feminist activists – now need to recharge their batteries, forge solidarity with people of colour, immigrants and minorities everywhere. This needs to happen in local elections, non-profits and grassroots organisations. We need to take economic concerns – of men and women, and particularly of men and women of colour – very seriously. We need not feel ashamed of appealing to emotions as much as reason in advocating for equality and social justice.

Jacqui True, Professor of Politics and International Relations, Australian Research Council Fellow, Monash University and Aida Arfan Hozić, Associate professor, University of Florida

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

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Trump can kill trade deals but he can’t kill globalisation

Remy Davison, Monash University

2016 will go down as a watershed year for all the wrong reasons: Britain’s EU exit faces strong opposition; Syria remains plunged in civil war; and in the wake of the US election politics in the two major Anglosphere democracies are now deeply polarised.

In Britain and the US, the majority of voters have embraced candidates and movements that eschew globalisation, immigration and free markets. Instead, they preach nationalism, closed borders and protectionism.

But it is hyperbolic to suggest that the post-2008 financial crisis era is beginning to look very much like the 1930s in the wake of the Wall Street crash. This is not a clash between fascism, communism and democracy. But what the Brexit and US presidential votes do show is that modern democracies have proven incapable of dealing adequately with income inequality, unemployment and declining opportunity.

With Trump as president, US policy is likely to become more unpredictable, but the business of government and policy implementation must go on nevertheless.

Despite Republican majorities in Congress, Trump will not be able to treat the legislature as a mere rubber stamp. In the US system, Congress holds the whip hand. Moreover, Trump is at war with so many senior Republicans, he is unlikely to enjoy a smooth ride. Where congressional Republicans and Trump do agree is that tax cuts are needed.

Unchartered waters

In this respect, we are really navigating unknown waters as to how Trump will behave in office as president. Trump has no public sector background. He will be the first US president to enter the office without any gubernatorial or congressional experience, or any previous role in an administration.

Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush served as state governors; John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama were junior senators (Obama also served as a state senator from 1996); George H.W. Bush served in multiple roles, including the vice presidency. In the post-war period, only Eisenhower comes close to Trump as a political cleanskin. But Eisenhower had a substantial military career, a reputation as a war hero, and had been a key adviser to both the military and the Department of Defense before and after World War II.

Trump’s victory has been built on his image as a Washington outsider. But his isolationist, nationalist and protectionist policies are not new; the first US Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, was an unabashed protectionist, viewing American infant industries as central to the US’s commercial rivalry with industrial Britain.

On defence and trade policy, Trump is close to many of the positions articulated by the America First movement in the 1930s and 1940s. Substantial figures, such as Charles Lindbergh and future president Gerald Ford, sought to keep America out of the second world war. But once Washington entered the war, it did not make the same mistake it made after Versailles in 1919; instead, the US became a global economic and military superpower, eschewing the isolationism of 1920–41.

As a self-declared neo-isolationist, one of the keys to Trump’s victory was his denunciation of the free-trade orthodoxy that has dominated Washington’s economic agenda since the Bretton Woods conference of 1944, which created the IMF, World Bank and, later, the GATT, the predecessor to the World Trade Organisation.

Let’s take a look at the state of play of the US’s current and mooted free trade negotiations. We’ll also briefly canvass how President Trump is likely to deal with Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve.

Dead in the water. Olivia Harris/Reuters

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

The TPP was initiated under George W. Bush’s administration, but President Obama pushed the 12-member bloc, obtaining fast-track trade promotion authority from Congress in June 2015. This allowed him to press forward with the finalisation of the agreement, which was released in October 2015. However, Trump’s opposition to TPP, along with Hillary Clinton’s second thoughts about her support for it means the deal is unlikely to pushed through during Obama’s final weeks in office.

In November 2015, Trump declared TPP “insanity”. Trump’s anti-TPP campaign demonstrated how he and the Tea Partyists had so convincingly vanquished the traditionally pro free trade Republican Party. By July this year, Republicans began to erase all trace of TPP support from their websites. By September, staunch TPP supporters Marco Rubio and Pat Toomey performed a volte-face; having praised the TPP, now they sought to bury it. Both Obama and Hillary Clinton were depending on the pro-TPP Republicans to get the pact through Congress.

Verdict: Dead in the water. Many Australians will applaud Trump for killing the TPP, as it was far from popular.

A Bush legacy soon to be lost? William Philpott/Reuters

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

NAFTA was a product of the Reagan-Bush years, building on its 1998 predecessor, the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (CUSTA). George H.W. Bush’s administration did most of the heavy lifting, but Bill Clinton pushed NAFTA through Congress in 1993, expending considerable political capital as he faced off against the unions, the Democrats’ biggest supporters.

Trump has labelled NAFTA “the worst trade deal ever”. True, NAFTA may have destroyed 879,000 US jobs, according to one study. But it also provided a low cost labour base for both the US and Canada, as they strove to compete with Asian manufacturing and the EU’s newly opened eastern periphery.

Verdict: No happily ever NAFTA. Likely to stay, but regulatory changes will be made.

Europeans came out in force against the TTIP. Francois Lenoir/Reuters

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

TTIP may be dead already, mostly due to the fact that it’s as popular as Hillary Clinton. It is in Europe that TTIP has found its strongest opponents, with thousands protesting against it.

Clinton, Sanders and Trump’s position against TTIP coalesced early, as it was clear it was a vote loser within all three candidates’ voter bases. In a pitch to Sanders supporters, Clinton declared she would quash any deal that hurt American jobs.

Clinton’s opposition to free trade deals demonstrated how decisive both the Sanders and Trump campaigns had been in shaping the narrative of the anti-free trade debate. Equally, the union base of the Democratic Party had always opposed FTAs. Had Clinton won the election, it is likely she would have attempted to revive TTIP during her tenure, as both the EU and US had pushed for a transatlantic FTA in some form since 1990.

Verdict: This is an ex-parrot.

Trump wants to put Britain ‘at the front of the line’ in any trade deals. Hannah McKay/Reuters

A UK-US free trade deal?

President Obama infamously intervened in the UK Brexit debate earlier this year, declaring Britain would go “to the back of the queue” if it left the EU and sought a FTA with the US. Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox will be hoping that President-elect Trump will welcome a special free trade relationship.

During the campaign, Trump advisers indicated that he would be willing to discuss a FTA with the UK. Indeed, Trump stated that Britain would “always be at the front of the line” when it came to trade deals. This would be critical to Brexit Britain; the US is the UK’s largest third-country market, with more than £30 billion in exports.

But the UK also enjoys a trade surplus in goods and services with the US, and Trump’s administration is unlikely to grant substantial concessions to an ally that already makes substantial hay from its existing tariff arrangements.

In other words, why would President Trump do a deal that gives UK firms more access to the US market?

Verdict: Boris needs to grab that American passport of his, head for Washington and start speed-dating. Soon.

Trump has suggested he would replace Janet Yellen as US Fed chair. Andrew Gombert/EPA/AAP

Audit the Fed!

What future for Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair? The Donald has expressed his dislike of the Federal Reserve chair on more than one occasion.

In September 2016, Trump took aim at Yellen’s near zero interest-rate policy, arguing it existed only to make Obama look good. Janet Yellen wasn’t about to take this lying down. In a press conference, she responded – implicitly – to Trump, arguing that:

“I can say emphatically that partisan politics plays no role in our decisions…We do not discuss politics at our meetings.”

It’s unknown whether Trump would seriously attempt to remove Yellen. But in May this year, he did state that he would “most likely” replace her as she was “not a Republican”. In September, Trump’s position hardened; he said he would audit the Fed and replace Yellen in the first 100 days of his administration.

There are precedents; in 1981, US Treasury Secretary Donald Regan began to brow-beat Fed Chair Paul Volcker for maintaining his tight monetary policies as the Reagan administration sought to introduce wide ranging tax cuts. Despite Reagan’s early support for Volcker (a Carter appointee), by 1987, the President had had enough; he ended Volcker’s tenure, bringing in Alan Greenspan.

Verdict: Anyone looking for a central bank chief? Used for one term only. Low, low interest rates.

Apple is not about to repatriate iPhone production and establish manufacturing onshore. Bobby Yip/Reuters

Another brick in the wall

Trump’s triumph is partly built upon faulty and drastically over-simplified conceptualisations of the operation of the US and the global economy. Corporations, banks, finance and even consumers are no longer “national” entities. They have not been for many years. Manufacturing and services are not local but global. This complex web of interdependence has manifested itself over many decades.

Globalisation has even brought jobs back to America; but in the post-GFC environment, this has produced US jobs that, on average, pay 23% lower than they did prior to 2008.

Mexican walls, Chinese trade negotiations and bans on Muslims: if Trump were to implement some of these initiatives it may have some impact upon people movements. But low-tech manufacturing jobs en masse are not coming back to America. The US used to build vast numbers of radios and TVs; these have not been made in America for a long, long time. Similarly, Apple is not about to repatriate iPhone production and establish manufacturing onshore. And US corporations are not about to stop doing business with the rest of the world.

This is the brutal reality that Trump cannot smash, but his supporters appear to believe he can. He is wrong and they are wrong. And they will be bitterly disappointed.The Conversation

Remy Davison, Jean Monnet Chair in Politics and Economics, Monash University

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

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See Also:


ARC success for DP, DECRA and FT (for funding commencing in 2017)

The results for the ARC DP, DECRA (for funding commencing in 2017) and FT (for funding commencing in 2016) schemes were announced on 1 November 2016. The Faculty of Arts’ success rate for DP was 25%, well above the national average of 17.8%. Eight Monash-led proposals were funded with one proposal submitted through Faculty of Business and Economics and will be led by Arts researchers. The DECRA success rate was 7.7%, with 1 successful proposal. The success rate for FT was 60% with 3 successful proposals, well above the national average of 30.9%.

In total the Faculty was awarded $5,203,024 in research income for project commencing in 2017 administered through Arts.

You can find out the list of successful applicants and their proposals via the following links: 

Discovery projects:




Monash composers to premiere new works in Germany


Growing inequality in the US is bad news for climate change

David Holmes, Monash University

This week’s US Presidential election will likely be more important for climate change action than the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference which started in Marrakech yesterday. Whichever candidate makes it to the White House, progressive action on climate change in America, and therefore globally, is going to take a hit.

We have already seen stagnation on climate change action in the lead up to the US election. The mudslinging and controversy of the campaign has taken climate change off the front pages. Climate change has had even less visibility in the US election campaign than it did in the Australian election in July.

It was telling that Hillary Clinton, who had talked up climate policy in the primaries when competing against Bernie Sanders, dropped the climate ball as soon as she had the Democratic party’s nomination.

It wasn’t simply that there was no longer any point taking on climate change in order to win more Sanders supporters, but that climate change was so far down the list of ways Clinton could differentiate herself from the Republican candidate Donald Trump that it seemed pointless to insert it into the election campaign at all.

Trump’s worldview projects a complete abnegation of climate change, as shown by his intention to undo America’s commitment to the Paris climate agreement should he get to the White House.

Trump’s negative attitude towards climate change is another example of his belief in conspiracy theories. But his neglect of climate change is not to be found in deploying denier myths, but his abandonment of a policy stance about anything in favour of filling the airwaves with insults more suited to a bar room brawl.

For many Americans, its 240 year old system of democracy is in great danger. Because so many unemployed and dispossessed Americans feel that neither capitalism nor the two great parties can meet their needs, they are rejecting the political elites and the establishment politics that keep the unequal distribution of wealth in check.

Of course, such a system has always been part of American life. It’s just that it is now at breaking point. It is of no consequence that Trump is himself part of the US economic elite. It is enough that he has himself been a “loser” many times over, and that he speaks the reality-TV language of those who want America to be “great again” both at rallies and on social media.

Ironically, America is a greater power now than it has been in the past. But due to the automation of the increased manufacturing output in heavy industries and the reliance on China for consumer goods, unemployment and income inequality have risen to unacceptable levels. It’s now the turn of working class Americans to be the “losers of globalisation”.

This has given rise to a loss of faith in American institutions, and the celebration of Trump as a bad boy who should be able to do whatever he wants to rail against the establishment.

Many analysts have drawn the comparison between Trump’s version of America and fascism — military isolationism, the ridiculing of “others” (including Muslims, Hispanics, women, Chinese and Mexicans), high levels of paranoia (the media is “rigged”, the election is “rigged”), and the fairy tale conviction that one person alone can save America.

But the real danger for the US is in four years from now. If Trump doesn’t win the presidency, a smarter Republican candidate – one who is actually supported by the floor of the Grand Old Party, actually has policies and appeals to the disaffected – will take US politics to a climate inactive isolationist extreme.

However, a moderating force for climate change is the success of the Paris agreement, which is now in full force. The Paris agreement, which replaces the Kyoto framework, has been ratified extremely quickly by UN standards. It now has almost 100 countries signed up – needing only the 55 countries that account for 55% of global emissions.

This is impressive progress given the scale and complexity of the UN’s framework convention on climate change. The momentum of the Paris agreement provides a kind of political guardrail for achieving stronger action on climate change, leaving no country with an excuse not to join in.

The only counter-force that could reverse this momentum would be the rise of populist support for isolationism within the states signed up to the treaty. And a Trumpist America, whether it eventuates this week or in the future, offers an archetypal case.

The Conversation

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

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


Can private security companies improve responses to victims of family violence?

Diarmaid Harkin, Deakin University and Kate Fitz-Gibbon, Monash University

In an Australian first, the Salvation Army has partnered with a private security company, Protective Group, in a large-scale project to provide safety solutions to family violence victims. The Safer In The Home project launched in September 2016 operates in Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland. By 2017 and 2018 the project aims to provide services to over 600 clients across the country.

What is notable about this project is the involvement of a private security company. Private security companies are typically contracted by large businesses, governments and wealthy individuals. They rarely partner with charitable organisations to tackle domestic violence.

However, over the past few years private security companies have been gradually entering this space.

Since 2013, Protective Group has been working with a number of family violence services including the Safe Futures Foundation, Wishin Foundation and Salvation Army in Victoria. Between 2013 and 2015 they provided services to over 200 victims.

Protective Group draws on their former experience as Victoria Police officers and expertise in security to debug homes of malicious surveillance, provide advice on the justice process and suggest interim security solutions. These include 3G Safety Watches and SafeT Cards. A 12 month partnership pilot with Protective Group and Safe Futures Foundation found that using the SafeT Card system resulted in a “100% deterrence” in perpetrators breaching intervention orders.

The introduction of commercial security providers in family violence matters raises questions about the suitability of private security employees engaging with family violence victims. There are also concerns around the profit motive of the companies. Our recent research examines the potential benefits and risks of private security responses to victims of family violence.

The benefits of private security for family violence victims

Initial experiences indicate that private security companies can provide a beneficial service to victims that is distinct from those provided by the police and other family violence services.

Private security companies can provide a high level of attentiveness in responding to victim’s fears and needs. Victoria Police receive a domestic violence related call every two minutes and recorded over 68,000 incidents in 2014 alone. This results in overstretched police resources and contributes to a recognised inability to respond effectively to all cases.

Alternatively, private security companies can offer more practical support and implement a variety of security strategies. These are individually tailored and more focused on the question: “what can be done to make you feel safe?”

Likewise, police responses tend to involve the credibility of the victim being challenged. Research from Queensland has documented that police can often trivialise, minimise, disbelieve or consider the complaint “not that serious” or “annoying”.

Private security companies, on the other hand, do not investigate what happened, assign culpability or establish the merits of complaints. Instead, they are focused on providing advice and security based on the person’s expressed wishes and needs.

The risks of private security for family violence victims

There are reasons to be optimistic that private security companies can play a useful role in improving safety for particularly vulnerable people. However, there are two key immediate concerns.

First is the level of competence and appropriateness of private security employees gaining privileged access to victims. The re-traumatisation of victims is a major risk and only trusted, competent and specialised workers should have face-to-face access. In the case of Protective Group, the Salvation Army have expressed satisfaction with their abilities demonstrated over years of partnership.

However, with potentially large numbers of companies offering this service, the skills and competency of commercial providers cannot be guaranteed.

Second is the potential for financial exploitation. In the case of the Safer In The Home program there are no costs to the clients, as it is funded through a federal government grant. Protective Group has established a relationship of trust and confidence with the Salvation Army built on years of providing free services.

However, with financial gain available to multiple private security companies there is perhaps scope for the manipulation of government funds, family violence services or even clients.

The need for monitoring and accountability

There is nothing to prevent further expansion of private security working in this area – no specific accreditation or regulation system is yet in place. National and state governments and family violence services may contract providers and companies may willingly donate free labour and services.

There are benefits for victims of family violence engaging with security experts and this may empower them with safety options previously unavailable. However, the question remains of how to guarantee the integrity and competence of private service providers. If the suitable checks and balances are in place, it may be that private security can be an important part of a integrated family violence response system.

The Conversation

Diarmaid Harkin, Lecturer in Criminology, Deakin University and Kate Fitz-Gibbon, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Monash University

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


How Jakarta’s first Chinese Indonesian governor became an easy target for radical Islamic groups

Noor Huda Ismail, Monash University

Jakarta saw its biggest protest in years on Friday, prompting president Joko Widodo to cancel his planned visit to Australia.

Some Western media report that the rally of some 200,000 people marching in protest against the Chinese-Christian Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaya Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, was a “show of strength” and a sign of radical Islam “taking hold” in Jakarta.

Indeed, there were many Muslim organisations that joined the rally, demanding Ahok to be jailed for blasphemy for “insulting Islam” over his comments criticising his opponents for using Koran verses against him. Groups such as the Islamic Student Association (HMI), the Islamic Mujaheedin Assembly (MMI) and Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia all went along in the rally. The hardline Islamic militia group the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), notorious for violent thuggery and attacks against minorities, organised the rally and was the loudest and most visible on the scene.

But the reality of the November 4 rally in Jakarta is much more complex than growing Islamic radicalism in Indonesia.

Racism, the political agenda of Purnama’s opponents in the upcoming gubernatorial race, and discontent from the urban poor over Purnama’s policy on forced evictions all factor in the protest turnout in addition to religious motives to defend Islam.

Who is Ahok?


The rally on Friday demanded the police to jail Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaya Purnama. Reuters/Iqro Rinaldi

Last week’s rally was not the first protest against Ahok. FPI organised a rally in October 16, attracting thousands, after a video of Ahok criticising his political opponents for referencing a verse in the Koran to prevent people from voting for him went viral. He is running for governor in next year’s Jakarta gubernatorial election.

Ahok has apologised. But FPI reported him to the police for blasphemy, punishable with up to five years in prison under Indonesian law. The rally on Friday demanded the police to jail Ahok.

Ahok became the first Chinese Indonesian Jakarta governor when Jokowi left the seat after winning the presidential election. He was Jokowi’s deputy governor.

Ahok is an outlier in Indonesia’s politics, which is dominated by the Javanese Muslim majority. His ethnicity and religion make him a double minority in the world’s most populous Muslim majority. He also doesn’t come from Java, where Jakarta is located, and where national government administration in centred. He was regent of Belitung Timur in the Bangka-Belitung Islands. Before holding leadership position in the Jakarta administration, he was a member of parliament with the Golkar Party. He is a “rural kid” who came to the “capital”.

The gubernatorial election in February 2017 will be Ahok’s first time running for Jakarta governor. The PDI-P (Indonesia’s Democratic Party of Struggle) has endorsed his candidacy. But prior to that, Ahok managed to collect 2 million Jakarta ID cards as proof of Jakartans’ support for him to run as an independent.

Like his predecessor Jokowi, Ahok has become a symbol of merit-based politics. His governorship is proof that Indonesia has come a long way in its democracy after the collapse of Suharto’s regime.

Former education minister Anies Baswedan and the son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, are also running for Jakarta governor.

Racism, rivalry and discontent


The protesters who joined the rally have various motives. Some are influenced by their disappointment with Ahok’s policy in forced evictions. Some protest due to their racist sentiments against Chinese Indonesians. Some genuinely want to defend Islam.

The YouTube video of Ahok’s criticising the use of Koran verses against him, which brought the wrath of Islamic groups in Indonesia, was posted by a man believed to be a supporter of Ahok’s opponent in the Jakarta governor race.

Islamic groups quickly took the bait. A video of FPI’s leader Habib Rizieq inciting people to kill Ahok surfaced not long after and went viral.

Accusing Ahok of blasphemy not only benefits the interests of Islamic groups, but also the political interests of his opponents and the economic interests of the urban poor.

Under Ahok’s leadership, thousands of urban poor have been displaced due to forced evictions in Jakarta to clean up settlements by the river banks. The poor are traditionally close to PDI-P, which declares itself to be the party of “the little people”. PDI-P support for Ahok’s candidacy as governor does not sit well with the victims of evictions.

During the rally, anti-Chinese sentiments were palpable. There were chants to “kill Ahok” and “crush the Chinese”. But this anti-Chinese sentiment is not rooted in radical Islam. As a global religion, Islam doesn’t care about race. The anti-Chinese sentiment is partly a result of institutionalised racism against the Chinese that hasn’t been resolved to this day. The Suharto regime banned expressions of Chinese culture and politically segregated the Chinese, a policy that was also present during the Dutch colonial rule.

Friday’s protest had “Defending Islam” as its slogan, but it is clear that various interests are behind the movement against Ahok. Rally organisers cunningly used the Islam card, which, judging from Friday’s rally turnout, does have currency among some Indonesian voters. Social media messages from rally organisers exploit Muslim religious identity to lure people to join the protest against Ahok. Chain messages in Whatsapp that suggested if one didn’t join the protest their faith in Islam was weak were circulated prior to the rally.

But playing this card is dangerous. Islam is transnational. It speaks to conservative Muslims who would march in a peaceful protest as well as violent jihadi groups such as Islamic State (IS).

We can already see the result. On social media, Indonesians who joins the rebel groups in Syria are posting picture of Ahok’s coffin. Radical Islam may be gaining ground from this episode, but it’s not merely of their own doing.

The Conversation

Noor Huda Ismail, PhD Candidate in Politics and International Relations, Monash University

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