Bright futures: collaborative research opportunities through the Monash Arts Faculty

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

Research success by the Monash Arts Faculty

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

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

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

Research priorities with impact at Monash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Join in the Monash Arts Faculty collaborative research success

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

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

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Political rhetoric makes a parody of remembrance

by Bruce Scates

Narratives of nationhood too often blind us to the futility of Gallipoli – and World War I.

Gallipoli. Few campaigns of World War I promised so much and delivered so little. Australian and New Zealand troops never took the high ground of the peninsula. An Allied fleet never forced the Dardanelles. There was no swift knock-out blow to Turkey, no rapid advance against the allies of Germany. Instead, Gallipoli recreated the trench warfare of the Western Front on a smaller and shabbier scale – a slow, sordid and remorseless war of attrition.

Politicians, then as now, spoke of a nation’s baptism of fire, sacralizing the slaughter, ennobling the carnage. Families grappling with the loss of loved ones needed such assurance. A hundred years on, we should surely be more honest.

Far from the triumphant entry of a young nation to the world stage, Australians fought and died as the junior partners of an imperial power and from the bungled day of the landing to the criminal incompetence of the August offensive, thousands of lives were squandered in one pathetic sideshow after another.

We speak readily of Australia’s sacrifice at Anzac – and valorise the courage and determination of those who fought there. But it is disrespectful to the men who died – and the families who loved them – not to condemn the waste and madness of what began and ended as pointless folly. Narratives of nationhood too often blind us to the futility of Gallipoli – and World War I in its entirety.

What we see at Anzac is not just the failure of a military campaign; it is a failure in the way we remember, a festival of forgetting. It is not just the way we elevate this campaign over every other; more men would die in a day’s fighting on the Western Front than in months pinned down on Gallipoli. Nor is it our laboured insistence that this was the first time Australia went to war, ignoring a war of dispossession fought in our land and at staggering human cost.

At Gallipoli, we never look beyond the gullies and ridges – “holding on at Anzac” has become a national obsession. The focus of commemoration is on the values said to emerge from the fiery crucible of war – courage and resilience, mateship and determination. We shy away from the brutal realities of warfare: the dreadful resolution to maim or kill a fellow human being.

Seldom do we consider the flawed political systems and destructive ideologies that pit the young men of one nation against those of another. And in that, again we do that generation an injustice. The men and women who fought in the Great War were promised a war to end all wars. Asking why we went to that war, situating Australia’s role in a global catastrophe, should surely have been the focus of this centenary.

Instead, we will be told the old lies again; politicians will mouth familiar platitudes; we’ll be exhorted to feel what one Department of Veterans’ Affairs official called “quiet pride and a touch of sadness”. A mountain of wreaths will bury the terrible truths of the killing fields.

Finally, our memory of Anzac seems frozen in 1915, the hour of the landing, the charge at the Nek, the pyrrhic victory of evacuation. But for all the men and women who endured the war, the fighting did not end when the guns ceased firing.

The centenary should have been the time to widen the ambit of remembrance, to reckon with the aftermath of Anzac. A legion of blind and crippled and insane men and women, irreparably damaged by war, returned to Australia. For those who came home, and for the families who supported them, a new and equally exacting battle began: to raise a family on an inadequate pension, find work without an arm or eye, forget the nightmare of what one saw, and did, on Gallipoli or the Somme, Palestine or Flanders.

Promised a land fit for heroes, inexperienced men were set to work marginal land on worthless soldier settlement blocks. Promised the praise of a grateful nation, they faced the Great Depression. Many would survive the war, but not the peace. Throughout the 1920s, gassed men choked to death, cot cases perished in their beds, “nervy men” blew their brains out. Far from uniting a nation, as we are so often told, the war tore us apart and left a legacy of trauma.

These harsh realities of the aftermath of war do not lend themselves to the rousing rhetoric of princes or politicians. They highlight the obscenity of what has become a parody of remembrance, Anzac as carnival, commodity and re-enactment, a brand sold by tour guides, breweries, and supermarkets. In 1915, the landing failed. In 2015, we failed that generation yet again.

Professor Bruce Scates holds the chair of history and Australian studies at Monash University and is the director of the National Centre for Australian Studies. He recommended the digitisation of repatriation records to the Anzac Centenary Advisory Board and leads the One Hundred Stories initiative.

This article has appeared in The Age.


The Big Idea Competition

Interested in doing something positive for your community?

Do you see yourself as a little entrepreneurial?

Are you keen to continue to develop your business skills and heighten your creativity

Do you want to be part of a team working to have a positive impact on a changing world?

Monash Arts Faculty in partnership with Monash BusEco Faculty and Monash Art Design & Architecture are offering you the chance to participate in this worthwhile competition. Come along to this session and hear what it is about. An opportunity to ask questions and hear directly from someone who has benefited from their association with the BigIssue organisation.

The Big Idea is a social enterprise planning competition, inviting undergraduate students to develop a concept and business plan for a social enterprise or a social business.  The competition is for undergraduate students from universities across Australia, so you will have some tough competition.  If you are successful at the national finals, your idea could be launched and delivered by The Big Issue on a national scale.

This competition provides a fun way for you to integrate that theory into practice and potentially have a real impact on the lives of those who need a hand up.

Download the competition flyer.

Why should you get involved?

You will have the opportunity to;

  • meet some of Australia’s most influential business leaders
  • develop a life changing social initiative, and
  • potentially win some great prizes
  • add practical business start-up experience to your resume
  • develop networks in Australia’s business and social enterprise space

How does it work?

  • during semester two, The Big Issue will run a series of educational webinars
  • Monash academic staff, who specialise in small business start-ups will be available to be your team’s mentor
  • get skills tune-ups by attending a business writing workshop and/or a presentation skills workshop
  • your teams goal is to submit and present your Big Idea social enterprise to a judging panel here at Monash in mid October
  • if your team is selected to be the best, you will represent Monash at the national finals held in Melbourne in December to be judged by some of Australia’s most esteemed business leaders at a fully catered awards dinner

What is a social enterprise and/or social business?

The Big Issue’s working definitions of social enterprise and social business will be those which students work towards in their Big Idea projects. Students will be able to enter the competition with either a social enterprise or a social business plan.

A commercial enterprise directs its resources to create products and services that generate commercial incomes.

A social enterprise must:

  • operate as a not-for-profit
  • deliver an activity or function that creates social outcomes
  • be economically sustainable in the marketplace
  • generate direct and meaningful work opportunities (with low to no barrier of entry) for homeless, marginalised or disadvantaged people within the enterprise
  • be scalable – have capacity to grow significantly and provide opportunities to a large number of disadvantaged people, even if it is small in its start-up
  • be financially sustainable – whilst seed (or start-up) funding may be sought initially; ongoing funding or donations should not be relied upon.
  • be legal – be a legally compliant enterprise, including by meeting all relevant legislative requirements, for example, applicable award rates would be paid to all employees.

A social business will fulfil all of the same requirements of a social enterprise, but may not generate direct employment for disadvantaged people.

Prior to completing the below application form, you must read the competition’s terms and conditions

Information Sessions

Come along to a short information session (one hour) and hear from The Big Issue team and past Monash Big Idea participants.

Register now for an information session at Caulfield or Clayton.


Open on 20 May 2015
Close on 30 June 2015

To apply, complete the application form


Career springboard for New York-bound students

The trip of a lifetime awaits eight talented Monash students who will wing their way to the city that never sleeps this week as part of the Global Discovery Program.

The students will travel to New York on Saturday for an eight-day internship program, which will include visits to the United Nations, New York University, Bloomberg, and lunch with a senior advertising executive. They will also attend functions with the President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Gardner AO and senior Monash alumni.

Offered for the first time in 2015, the Global Discovery Program is an initiative of the US arm of the Monash Global Leaders Network – groups of active Monash alumni and friends in Hong Kong, Indonesia, mainland China, Malaysia, Singapore, UK and US.

The New York program is being led by Monash graduate Sue Fennessy (BA(SocSc) 1994). Motivated by her own Monash-sponsored visit to New York when she was a first-year student, Ms Fennessy, founder and CEO of data technology company Standard Media Index, and founder and chairperson of We Are 8 was instrumental in creating the program in collaboration with External Relations, Development and Alumni team (ERDA).

Along with fellow alumni Patrick Loftus-Hills, Anne Valentine-Andrews and Karl Redenbach, Ms Fennessy believes the experience will empower the students with the knowledge, skills and connections that enable them to excel on a world stage.

To be considered for the program, the students were asked to provide a short video on how they would change the world. From more than 400 entries, 20 students were shortlisted to move onto the interview stage with staff from ERDA and Monash Abroad.

Masters of International Development Practice student George Kennedy was selected to take part in the program. George is currently researching approaches to decrease maternal mortality in the global south.

“My video was based on research I am currently undertaking examining maternal mortality in Pakistan, investigating the perceived role of ambulance services in decreasing delays during transportation to hospital during emergency obstetric complications,” George said.

“What I am most looking forward to is the opportunity to meet with UN policy makers who are currently working to help the world’s most vulnerable communities, and the opportunity to visit NYU’s genetic technology labs to improve my understanding of some of the technologies utilised in the forefront of development programmes.”

Damien Farrell, ERDA ExecutiveDirector, said he was impressed with the calibre of the student submissions and their ability to espouse the Monash ethos.

“It was fantastic to see so many students make the connection between their student experience and the benefit their Monash education could have on others and their communities,” Mr Farrell said.

Mr Farrell said ERDA would be working to establish similar alumni groups around the world.

“We hope that this program will act as a pilot for the Global Leaders networks in our six other locations whose objectives are to offer beneficial and unique opportunities for Monash students,” Mr Farrell said.

“On behalf of the University, I thank all the students who submitted videos and Sue Fennessy and the US Global Leaders Network for their initiative, foresight, and willingness to sponsor such an exciting program.”

The students chosen to take part in this year’s program are:

Benjamin Campbell -Journalist turned public relations practitioner turned Monash law student. Mari Smith – Engineering and Art, Design and Architecture student whose goal is to establish a non-profit organisation that will facilitate community development in third world countries. Kate Maxfield – a medicine and arts student whose career goal is to work as a community GP and advocate for government policy change. Emma Moore – a fifth year Commerce, Law and Arts student with extensive experience working with cross-border organisations. Neha Patil – a first year Master’s student studying International Development. Tony Tan – Science/Arts student driven by entrepreneurship. Christopher Tham – a first year graduate medical student who aspires to become a surgeon, and Masters of International Development Practice student George Kennedy.

To view the 400-plus submissions on the Monash channel visit

For more information, visit the Global Discovery Program website.

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Centenary plans to digitise repatriation files will change the way we think of the Great War

by Bruce Scates

In the lead-up to Remembrance Day, the Australian Minister for Veterans’  Affairs and his New Zealand counterpart will issue a joint announcement. To mark the centenary of 1914-18, the governments of both countries will digitise a  sample of repatriation records – medical, pension and correspondence files dealing with the men and women who returned from war.

”Sample” is an understatement. Initially, the digitisation program will centre on the first contingent of Anzac forces to sail from Albany in November 1914, a small (and some would say unrepresentative) cohort.

But Australia’s repatriation files are one of the largest single holdings in the National Archives, stretching over 10 kilometres of shelving. The $3.4 million committed by government will digitise a tiny fraction of what is probably the richest series of medical records in the world. And it is a paltry part of a centenary budget that exceeds $140 million.

No doubt this announcement will pass unnoticed by many. It has none of the  big bang of fireworks on Sydney Harbour celebrating the centenary of the navy; none of the staged glamour of ceremonial or re-enactment. But Project Albany,  as it’s been called, is set to change the way the Great War is remembered. We  will see no more important initiative in the years of laboured, showbiz  commemoration that lie before us. Digitising these records was the first and  unanimous recommendation made by a panel of expert historians appointed to advise the government. It will prove of far more enduring significance than a  makeshift program of ”anniversary events” (some completely unrelated to 1914-18) currently planned by Canberra.

To take just one example. Private Bertram Byrnes’ war service record has  long been available on the National Archives website. It tells us, in sparse, bureaucratic language, that Byrnes enlisted at the age of 24, served in France and was twice wounded in action. The last injury, a gunshot wound to the face  in September 1918, saw him invalided home. Private Byrnes’ service dossier runs  for barely 22 pages. There is only one letter from him, one chance for him to speak. It’s written in 1938, the year before the Second World War breaks out. Byrnes asks for duplicates of service medals lost in a bushfire. He wants to wear them on Anzac Day.

Reading the service dossier tells us very little about Private Byrnes or his family, or his wound and what it actually did to him and those he loved.

A medical report by Repat doctors refers to ”much facial disfigurement” – but Private Byrnes puts it much better himself: ”my face”, he says, ”is  practically shot away”. The wound was so severe that he dribbled constantly and there was a discharge from his nose. Bertram Byrnes had to live on what was called ”slop food”. His disfigurement, altered little by a series of painful operations, was such that most employers rejected him – he was shunned, ostracised, took up a remote block of land as a soldier settler, and found himself too weak to work it. Reading the service record you would learn nothing of this – nothing of his post-war ordeal.

The repatriation records tell us this – and they tell us so much more. You can hear the hushed voices of what they called ”the whispering men”, men whose lungs were corroding, who died, years after the war, from the effects of being gassed. You can see the shaking bodies of the ”nerve cases” – a ”war-wrecked” generation crippled by physical and psychological scars. And  what makes the repatriation records so remarkable is that these are not just  soldiers’ stories.  Women’s voices are threaded through this extraordinary archive; wives struggling to survive on inadequate pensions; mothers pleading the case of disabled sons; daughters afraid of violent, traumatised fathers.

But history is much more than an endless catalogue of horrors. There is a great dignity in Bertram Byrnes. A man whose face was shattered but who dressed in a suit the day they took his photograph, a father who struggled to provide for his family, a veteran who wanted to wear his medals on Anzac Day. Like a generation of our countrymen and women, his battles didn’t end in 1918.

With the centenary of the Great War upon us, we need to remember Private  Byrnes. We have no need of fireworks, spectacles or re-enactments. And no need of the comforting platitudes much beloved by politicians that will sanitise and excuse the true cost of war.

Australia is the only country in the world that has chosen to commemorate ”a century of service” rather than focusing on the events of 1914-18. But countless thousands of stories from the Great War – Private Byrnes’ war – have yet to be told. Project Albany is part of that process. It is long overdue.

Professor Bruce Scates holds the chair of history and Australian studies at Monash University and chairs the Military and Cultural History Group of the Anzac Centenary Program. He recommended the digitisation of repatriation records to the Anzac Centenary Advisory Board and leads the One Hundred Stories initiative.

This article has appeared in The Age.



Lest we forget lest: Anzac and the language of remembrance

by Howard Manns

Wars, soldiers and remembrance, not surprisingly, have a large impact on language.

Soldiers returning from overseas posts bring with them the foreign languages of these posts and in-group slang from everyday life. First world war Anzacs ate munga “food, meal” (from a Cairo version of the French manger) and on demand had to alley at the toot “go immediately” (a playful take on the French allez tout de suite).

Stories of these words can be confused or perhaps contrived. Plonk as a word for alcohol is popularly attributed to first world war Anzacs, reputedly a shortened version of the French vin blanc.

But lexicographer Bruce Moore points out plonk doesn’t appear as a reference to “alcohol” in Australian English until the 1930s. Plonk in this sense is conspicuously absent in WH Downing’s thorough and well-cited 1919 account of Digger Dialects.

For the Anzacs, plonk served as a reference to artillery or the sound artillery made when it fell.

Some words of war and remembrance fade with time. Still others come to serve as the foundations for national identity. Why a word takes one path or the other can be linked to a word’s origin, its use across history, and our preferences about what constitutes language of remembrance.

Lest we forget lest

To these ends, “lest we forget” is an expression of remembrance par excellence. It has dignified origins, a rich history and a budding linguistic fossil: lest.

A linguistic fossil is an archaic or obsolete word that persists in a language due to its use in idioms. For instance, we still bandy about figuratively where bandy’s more literal use in tennis had faded away by the 17th century.

“Lest” is a tenacious form in that it has seemingly been fossil-bound since Early Modern English times, but has survived to a certain degree outside the idiom. From the 17th century, lest’s use has largely been restricted to very formal, often written contexts.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines lest as:

a negative particle of intention or purpose, introducing a clause expressive of something to be prevented or guarded against.
It dates to Old English (circa 1000), where it appeared as part of the construction þý l?s þe “whereby less that”.

In the Middle English period, the þý was dropped (as part of a wider simplification of English grammatical marking), and the remaining l?s þe “less the” subsequently became contracted to “lest”.

It is well-documented that the pervasive and idiomatic Anzac Day use of “lest we forget” can be linked to an 1897 Rudyard Kipling poem Recessional, written for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee (Queen Elizabeth got Rolf Harris).

Kipling, for his part, was reputedly inspired to use “lest we forget” by its appearance in Deuteronomy 6:12:

Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

Language, solemness and kin

Kipling’s Biblical inspiration, and our subsequent poetic inspiration are no accident. We humans are often drawn to religious, poetic and anachronistic language in the forging of shared culture and experience.

English language scholar Geoffrey Hughes notes that two prevailing themes of Anglo-Saxon poetry were the celebration of battle and cynn. The latter were a tightly knit group whose verbal bond was sacred. In Modern English, we know this group as “kin”, which we more closely think of in familial rather than verbal ways.

Sacred bonds are often formed through sacred texts, which are more often than not written in older forms of a language. The Qur’an and sacred Islamic texts are written in the Arabic of the 7th century. Some Muslims view the mere existence of spoken varieties of Arabic (e.g. Syrian Arabic, Egyptian Arabic) as proof of shared human weakness.

For our part, modern English speakers have long been drawn to the 17th-century King James Bible, in spite, or more likely because, of its use of Early Modern English. Its use of the wider, case-marked pronominal system (thou/thee and ye/you) and the verbal suffix -th (it blesseth; it giveth) added a certain aura of authority and godliness to the text.

Notably, as with “lest”, the use of these pronouns and this suffix were already conservative and becoming restricted to literature and formal contexts around the same time the Bible was published. At this time, focusing on verbal suffixing, Shakespeare notably varied between the -s and the -th even within the same sentence as this text from The Merchant of Venice shows:

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
The King James Bible, on the other hand, exclusively uses the -th suffix.

Words of remembrance

Of course, words needn’t be linked to ancient texts or be anachronistic forms to be sacred. The many ways in which we refer to soldiers illustrates this point.

Anzac, as an acronym, is sacrosanct, its use regulated by the government as illustrated by recent “misuses” by business. The occasional negative or less than sacrosanct meanings of Anzac tend to fade away.

For instance, in addition to Anzac’s neutral or positive connotations, Downing’s account of Digger Dialects lists Anzac as a sarcastic reference for military police.

The American initials “GI”, in contrast, have a less illustrious beginning, and it remains a rather neutral term. GI, in popular accounts, gets linked to the printing of GI (for General or Government Issue) on soldiers’ government-issued belongings.

Yet, the “general issue” meaning of GI did not emerge until the second world war and, like Anzac, the origins of GI can be traced to the first world war. GI first appeared on the US Government garbage cans of the time, which had been made of “galvanised iron”.

Galvanised iron, of course, brought Aussies another first world war word in the form of J. Furphy and Sons’ water-cart, where rumours and gossip were exchanged. And, dear Aussies (yet another word linked to the first world war), that’s no furphy.

Dr Howard Manns is a lecturer in the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics at Monash University.

This article as appeared previously in The Conversation.


Aim must be to break the cycle of radicalisation

by Greg Barton

According to police, an alleged plot to launch an outrageous attack on Anzac Day in Melbourne has been thwarted. That is certainly good news but it is not one of those stories where we can simply move on and forget.

There are two questions to grapple with. Are alleged plots like this the shape of things to come? Will more Australians be cajoled into attempting lone wolf attacks? And will we be forever chasing our tails responding to radicalisation after the fact?

The experience of the past decade suggests that while we are lucky to live in a country where major attacks can generally be prevented, we have not yet begun to deal effectively with a problem that is accelerating.

A decade ago, a much bigger police operation in Victoria and NSW defeated nascent terror plots linked to two cells inspired by Melbourne man Abdul Nacer Benbrika. Operation Pendennis was the biggest and most expensive counter-terrorism operation in our history and led to court proceedings that were the longest and most costly we’ve seen.

Eighteen men were prosecuted and sentenced. The Sydney cell, at least, was frighteningly close to launching a major attack.

But when we take stock of what was achieved, the reality is grim. Most of the 18 sentenced, and many of their associates, remain unrepentant. In fact most are now caught up with jihadi violence in Iraq and Syria, either inspiring their young acolytes to join, as appears to be the case with the five remaining in maximum-security jail in NSW and with Benbrika in Victoria or they have actively gone to join the ranks of Islamic State or Jabhat al-Nusra/al-Qaeda.

We’re all too familiar with the sickening details of Khaled Sharrouf’s involvement with IS, along with Mohammed Elomar, whose uncle of the same name continues to serve a 28-year jail term arising from the Pendennis trials. And Adam Dahman who left Melbourne aged 17 in November 2013 became a suicide bomber in Baghdad in July last year, having been radicalised through his brother-in-law, Ahmad Raad, who had also served time for his part in the Pendennis plots.

Amira Karroum moved to Sydney from the Gold Coast to stay with relatives, where she came under the influence of two cousins. One, Fadl Sayadi, had served time because of his links with the Sydney Pendennis cell and the other, Bilal Sayadi, was involved in organised crime before joining the extremist Islamist group Street Dakwah under the sway of Mohammad Ali Baryalei. Through Bilal and Street Dakwah she met and married Tyler Casey.

Casey was born into a Christian family in Adelaide but became radicalised in Colorado after falling in with criminal gangs and then finding escape, first through conversion, then through joining al-Qaeda. The pair were shot dead a week after they arrived in Syria to fight with Jabhat al-Nusra.

The list goes on. A web of social connections and friendships links young people being radicalised and older people radicalising them across Australia and globally, like runners linking disparate clumps in a bamboo forest. The networks run across generations, linking youth in Australia with peers and mentors in Syria and Iraq, and, as appears to be the case with the 14-year-old whose arrest in Britain on Saturday triggered the Melbourne raids, joining them in a subculture of jihadis, wannabes and fan boys. Digging a little below the surface reveals the “bamboo runners” that drive the network’s expansion.

Police will allege the young men arrested in Melbourne over the past few days are friends of Numan Haider who in turn was befriended by Mohammad Ali Baryalei and his protege, fellow Melbourne boy Neil Prakash. Responding to these social networks lies at the heart of the challenge to break the vicious cycle of radicalisation that drives this threat. Police operations, necessary though they are, are not the solution in themselves.

Victoria Police, with other forces around Australia, is working with community groups to help them recognise the signs of radicalisation. That awareness is invaluable but, by itself, it is not sufficient. The next step is a nationwide case management approach to dealing with everyone at risk. Every young Australian whose passport has been withheld, or who has been taken into questioning by police or faced arrest or stopped from travelling, needs to be followed up by an expert team of community workers co-ordinating with community leaders. But for the program to work, it needs to move beyond those who have already been in trouble and engage with those at risk of radicalisation.

The devastatingly effective radicalisation dynamics of Islamic State depend upon social networks formed through one-on-one friendships and to counter that we need to do the same thing and invest in relationships.

It won’t be easy but the alternatives are much worse. Even successful police operations merely buy time — they don’t solve the problem. This is something that we will have to all do together.

Professor Greg Barton is the Herb Feith Research Professor for the School of Social Sciences and the Director International of the Global Terrorism Research Centre in the Faculty of Arts at Monash University.

This article has appeared in the Herald Sun.

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Bachelor of Global Studies: Global Scholars Program

Our latest offering to undergraduate students who have an interest in international affairs, problem-solving and global leadership is the Bachelor of Global Studies. This course is internationally focussed and provides students the space to think creatively about the challenges facing the world today and in future.

To enable students to make the most of the international aspects of this course, the Global Scholars Program provides students of the Bachelor of Global Studies with the opportunity to to get $3000  to put towards the international study component of their degree.

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Expanding research paradigms: new Digital Humanities unit available at Monash Arts

Are you interested in learning about cutting edge digital research and interdisciplinary collaboration approaches in the Humanities? Monash Faculty of Arts is pleased to announce a new unit in association with University of Warwick : ‘Digital Humanities: Expanding research paradigms’, available in Sememster 2, 2015.

Digital Humanities expands research paradigms by bringing together traditional Arts study and computational technologies and techniques. The Digital Humanities is an interdisciplinary endeavour driven by collaboration across disparate areas, working on common problems and subjects, and it is transformative in more than one way.

Explore and visualise data in new and innovative ways

In the new Digital Humanities unit you will find out about the range of available tools, and how increasingly easy it is to access and make use of them. Learn to use these new tools and build your confidence with IT.

Expand your ideas about what research can be

You will work collaboratively with a student cohort from across the globe, and as part of your assessment you will contribute something to the world of Digital Humanities research.

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Why we need a feminist foreign policy to stop war

Feminist foreign policy is au courant, but what does it mean in practice? Foreign policy informed by feminist analysis must confront masculine hegemonies in state military-industrial complexes that fuel and fund conflicts.

“Feminist foreign policy” appears to be the flavour of the month. While we are still trying to understand what that means, we have Margot Wallström to thank for popularising the term. On being appointed as Sweden’s foreign minister in October 2014, Wallström said that under her leadership Sweden would become the only country in the world to conduct a “feminist foreign policy”.

The fact that the “F” word was voted as one of the top 10 words to be bannedby Time Magazine readers in 2014 certainly suggests that it has currency and provokes debate, not least of all in the realm of international affairs. Though Wallström is the first to coin her foreign policy “feminist” she follows Hillary Rodham Clinton as US Secretary of State 2009-13, and William Hague as UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 2010-14, in embracing a gender perspective on international security, development and aid.

Hague made “tackling rape in warzones” the lynchpin of his Foreign Secretary tenure. Hague considered the suppression of women’s rights to be “the single greatest continuing injustice in the world… the greatest single source of untapped potential available to humanity, and the vital missing aspect of conflict resolution world.” Clinton made empowering women in developing countries one of the six key principles of U.S. international development policy.

So what does a feminist foreign policy mean in practice?

In a speech in Washington DC in February this year Wallström argued that “discrimination against women enables threats to peace and security” and that “greater gender equality is therefore not only a goal in itself but also a precondition for achieving our foreign, development and security policy objectives”. In so doing, she implied that feminism is an overall approach to practicing foreign policy rather than a single-issue focus on sexual violence in conflict or the economic empowerment of women in developing countries, as Hague and Clinton advanced.

Like Hillary Clinton, Wallstrom mentions the importance of the “take me to your women” rather than your (read: male) leader approach when visiting conflict-affected countries in particular. This approach to diplomacy and peace talks means consultations have to happen outside formal channels because women are often literally not there, recalling that New Yorker cartoon where one man suggests “why don’t we ask the women in the room” and the realisation dawns among the men around the table that there are none.

UN Women states that women have been just 4 % of signatories, 2.4 % of chief mediators, 3.7 % of witnesses and 9 % of negotiators between 1992-2011. Following her previous role as the UN Secretary-General’s first ever Special Representative on sexual violence in armed conflict, where she was tasked with carrying out the Security Council’s women, peace and security agenda, Wallstrom strongly believes that including women in peace and security decision-making will help create the conditions for sustainable global peace.

Here we can think of women’s peacebuilding leadership even under duress in places like Syria, Iraq and the Ukraine. At the UN Commission on the Status of Women meetings last month in New York at panels organised by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and the women’s rights organisation, Madre we heard from Syrian women who against all odds are organising local efforts to meet the everyday needs of people living under conflict or fleeing extremist violence. The activation of grassroots civil society in Syria, crucially led by women, under the most difficult conditions is the untold story of the civil war.

But how can these women community leaders participate in the high politics of peace negotiations from which women have for the most part been completely excluded? This is where leaders like Margot Wallström and William Hague come into the picture. They are crucial interlocutors resourcing and opening spaces for actors who are making a material difference to conflict prevention and peacebuilding on the ground and without weapons. This is the stuff of feminist foreign policy.

So far, so good – but is a feminist approach compatible with the use of military force and with increasing military budgets? With respect to Sweden’s credibility in international affairs Wallström asserts that it is “not down to our military capacity but rather our stand on human rights, democracy, development assistance.” She adds that Sweden will advocate for stronger international positions on disarmament and development if elected to a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council in 2016 (2017-2019). Yet Wallstrom’s embrace of feminist foreign policy has been forged against the reassertion of Russian aggression in Ukraine; with Vladimir Putin flexing his muscle abroad with threats of force in the Baltics and even sending submarines to Australia’s northern coastline during the G20 meetings in a show of Russian machismo. With realpolitik at the border, Sweden’s feminist foreign policy deploys both feminine ‘soft’ and masculine ‘hard’ power. A human rights-based foreign and security policy is advocated for alongside a 150-year tradition of Swedish neutrality and self-defence which is resourced by increasing military spending and a domestic arms industry that must export weapons to be viable.

Herein lies a fundamental contradiction from a feminist perspective. How is it possible to sell arms (when, regardless of whom you first sell them to, they often end up perpetrating crimes) and at the same time promote a humanitarian, human rights approach to foreign policy? This conundrum applies to the United Kingdom and the United States as well: how can you be a force for good in the world supporting human rights and conflict-resolution but with a large trade including in arms with countries like Saudi Arabia? Sweden’s answer to this conundrum has been unfolding in recent weeks in some “splendidly undiplomatic”- we might say, ‘feminist’ diplomacy towards Saudi Arabia.

In March, Wallstrom declined to sign a cooperation agreement on arms exports with Saudi Arabia also following the blocking by Saudia Arabia of her speech to Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo in March that criticized the Kingdom’s treatment of dissidents and women. In so doing, Wallström is the first foreign minister to seek to implement Article 7 of the UN Arms Trade Treaty ratified in 2013, which requires state parties to prohibit the export of arms if they will be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian or human rights law or to commit serious acts of gender-based violence or violence against women and children. Saudi Arabia is known to have an atrocious human rights record with respect to its own citizens. It is currently engaged in a military bombing campaign on Yemen which is having devastating effects on civilians. The country is also believed to be supplying weapons to the Syrian regime, where over 200,000 have been killed, many of them civilians. What more evidence could you need to legally rescind an arms deal?

The ease of doing business to make war

In revoking the arms export deal, Wallström is negotiating the tension between Sweden’s human rights-based foreign policy with its self-defence military capacity. She is also righting past abuses of state power in the case of the Swedish Defence Research Agency’s secret “Project Simoon” to help Saudi Arabia build an anti-tank missile arms factory, exposed in 2012 by Swedish radio.  Soon after announcing Sweden’s decision to revoke the export deal, Saudi Arabia retaliated by denying business visas to Swedes and recalling their ambassador.  Meanwhile Wallström was the subject of public approbation in the Swedish media by the eons of Swedish multinationals concerned about the impact on their exports, the likes of Volvo, Ikea, H&M, so popular with especially female consumers globally. Wallström was also visited by King Olaf who tried to persuade her to renege on her decision, while the EU states have stood by, silent by all accounts.

This is a feminist fable for our neoliberal times. Even with a “feminine” social democratic government in power, the fable shows just how hard it is to address the unregulated global arms trade – one of the root causes of conflict – when it is so lucrative and inseparable from most transnational business and global trading relationships. Moreover, the fable reveals the spontaneous solidarity of a diverse group of captains of industry and of state power, nearly all men, who support the accumulation of profits over people’s lives and basic freedoms. This is patriarchy at work – and a feminist foreign policy worth its salt needs to confront regimes of masculine hegemonies and the unequal entitlements that hold such hierarchical political economic orders together at every level.

As WILPF Secretary-General Madeleine Rees has argued on 50.50, Margot Wallström shows us what can be done when we put principles and human decency above “business as usual”. She may have derailed an arms deal in undiplomatic circumstances, but feminist foreign policy must be undiplomatic if it is to be transformative.

To stop wars, we need to hold to account transnational business power, because it increasingly shapes state policies more than it is shaped by them, and because it has the power to uphold human rights, to be ethical, responsible, and responsive to consumers. And we need to refocus our advocacy for international peace and security on state power. More than ever, states value masculine qualities of competitiveness, aggression and strategic rationality, with many governments turning their back on the security and wellbeing of citizens and non-citizens as the analysis on the growth in arms expenditures and tax breaks for multinational business relative to austerity in state budgets for public health and education shows.

Gendered economic structures determine the limits and the possibilities of security and foreign policy, but the politics of democracy including in countries like Sweden, the United States and European states, are the principal means through which these structures are established and transformed. Exposing the connections between state military complexes and transnational business will enable us to better understand how power works to fuel and fund conflicts around the world.

A feminist foreign policy must have as its central goal the long-term prevention of conflict and violence. It must identify the gendered globalized structures that contribute to violence and conflict such as economic inequality and insecurity. And it must link demilitarisation and disarmament to investment in people-centred development and justice. In this way, Margot Wallström’s approach is similar to Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom’s (WILPF) century-long approach: that is, foreign policy needs to start at home with, to take one example, saving on weapons to spend on alleviating child poverty as the leader of the SNP in the UK, Nicola Sturgeon is doing in the run up to the UK general election. With Hillary Clinton getting ready to run for the US Presidency, promising to be the country with the highest military spending’s first female commander-in-chief, it will be important to keep a close check on the connection she makes between feminism and foreign policy. Above all, foreign policy worthy of the adjective “feminist” must support and resource non-militarised solutions to conflict and challenge the self-interested masculine hegemonies in the state and private sector that perpetuate the business of killing. Towards this end, establishing a US Department of Peace – an idea muted by many in the past – would clearly demonstrate the prioritizing of peace-building through international aid and development initiatives.  In approaching old problems using peaceful means, an initiative of this kind would be a vital step in institutionalising a feminist foreign policy.

This article first appeared on Open Democracy.

Jacqui True is Professor of Politics and International Relations, and Australian Research Council Future Fellow at Monash University. Her book The Political Economy of Violence Against Women (Oxford, 2012) won the American Political Science Association’s 2012 biennial prize for the best book in human rights, and the British International Studies Association International Political Economy book prize in 2013. Follow her on twitter @JacquiTrue

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Publication: New book on international students and crime

International Students and Crime bookInternational Students and Crime by Helen Forbes-Mewett (Sociology), Jude McCulloch (Criminology) and Chris Nylan (International Business) was published this month by Palgrave Macmillan.

The book, based on interviews with over a hundred and fifty key informers, analyses an issue of major international concern that impacts on lucrative international student markets, international relations, host countries’ reputations as tolerant and safe, as well as the security of international students and the public.

While crimes against and by international students have attracted a deal of media attention and discussion internationally, there is little research that systematically describes, analyses and reflects on this phenomenon.

The book analyses a spectrum of crime from petty theft to kidnapping and murder, presenting vital knowledge about international students as victims and perpetrators of crime in the US, UK and Australia. Examining the different approaches to student safety in host countries, the book considers the ways in which governments; higher education providers and police approach and implement their responsibilities for international student safety.

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Plural Politics: British-style

by Ben Wellings

In the wake of the Scottish referendum last September, I argued that although the United Kingdom still existed British politics had changed significantly.

This conclusion is being borne out by the current general election being fought in the United Kingdom to determine which party – or more likely parties – will govern the UK after 7 May. No better example of this can be seen in the case of Scotland.

One of the paradoxes of the failed referendum campaign launched by the Scottish National Party (SNP) last year was that although the referendum was lost, the party’s membership increased dramatically after the campaign. On the other hand, Scottish Labour was exhausted by its lacklustre campaign and required outside intervention from figures such as the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown to prevent the loss of Scotland. Subsequently, if the polls are to be believed Scottish Labour’s vote will collapse handing anywhere between 30-40 Westminster seats to the SNP.

One of the Labour Party’s main motivations to keep Scotland in the Union is that a significant portion of its Westminster seats comes from Scotland. At the 2010 election 41 out of 258 Labour MPs represented Scottish constituencies. But with the collapse of the Labour vote, Scotland may be lost to Labour anyway without it becoming independent.

This shift in voter allegiance is but the starkest example of a pattern that is familiar here in Australia too. The two main parties, the Conservatives and Labour, are losing support and this is translating to a dynamic political environment. Membership of the two main parties has declined dramatically since the late 1990s and voters are moving in greater numbers to smaller parties in a crowded electoral landscape. At the 1997 election only 9.3 per cent of voters did not vote for New Labour, the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems). In 2010 it was 11.9 per cent. The current BBC Poll of Polls puts the number of those not intending to vote for the three main parties at 36 per cent.

The fragmentation of this vote helped create a situation at the last General Election whereby a coalition government was eventually formed between the Conservatives and the Lib Dems in order to maintain a majority in the 650 seat House of Commons. A coalition government is again the most likely outcome of the election but the form of that coalition is not clear.

The Lib Dems had no choice but to go into government in 2010 otherwise questions about the party’s rationale would have been asked. But it can hardly be claimed that government has been good for the party that has plumbed depths of unpopularity since becoming the junior (and more vulnerable) partner in 2010. It’s vote share – and possibly seats at Westminster – looks likely to halve compared to 2010. This does not make it the obvious collation partner for whichever party initially wins the most seats. The Conservatives would be happy to partner with the Lib Dems again, but that prospect may not seem so enticing for the smaller party.

But voters have even more parties to choose from. The Green Party and the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru hope to gain one or two more seats, but significance of this for those parties may get lost in the 650 seat House of Commons unless the result is very close. The same is true for the United Kingdom Independence Party who may gain a number of seats but only in single figures. Although UKIP ‘won’ the 2014 elections to the European Parliament in the UK by sending 24 out of the 73 MEPs allocated to the UK to the European Parliament, its UK-wide party structure (unique in British politics) actually puts it at a disadvantage. To gain seats in the first past the post voting system a party needs to concentrate its vote geographically. The Lib Dems used to do this in the south west of England. The SNP now do this in Scotland.

With the polls beginning to swing Labour’s way, the most likely coalition is that between Labour and the SNP. But this will not be a marriage made in heaven. The rivalry between Labour and the SNP in Scotland is fierce. Questions remain about the renewal of the UK’s nuclear deterrent, Trident, that the SNP would unilaterally scrap. Having lost the independence referendum, the SNP’s role is now to bargain hard for ‘Scotland’s interests’. This is where Australia’s interests may be concerned too. It is not impossible that having avowed another referendum on independence for the next generation, the SNP could push Labour towards a referendum on EU membership and hope for a Scottish vote to stay in and an English vote to get out. This could trigger independence by the back door.

Australia is getting used to the kind of minority government and policy bargaining that the diversification in party allegiances implies. British politics will have to make similar adjustments.

Dr Ben Wellings is the Deputy Director of the Monash European and EU Centre at Monash University and the author of English Nationalism and Euroscepticism: losing the peace (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2012).

This article also appeared in the Canberra Times.

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Reform needed after Stephen Dank’s AFL anti-doping tribunal verdict

If Stephen Dank’s NRL life ban is any indication, the controversial sports scientist faces the daunting prospect of never working with AFL footballers again.

Dank, who has been found guilty of 10 breaches of the AFL anti-doping code, will receive his penalty when AFL’s anti-doping tribunal sits on May 5.

The tribunal found that Dank’s charge of administering Thymosin beta-4 to Essendon players in 2012 could not be proven.

This decision followed the clearance of 34 Essendon footballers, who were charged for using illegal substances.

After the players were cleared, it made perfect sense that Dank’s charge in administering illegal substances to the players failed to stick.

However, the tribunal found Dank guilty of attempting to traffick banned substances to Essendon staff.

He was also found guilty of trafficking a banned substance to a Carlton support person and attempting to traffick a banned substance to Gold Coast Suns’ support staff.

But Dank’s trafficking did not rest within the AFL. Dank was found guilty of drug trafficking offences in the sport of baseball.

Dank has said he will fight the AFL anti-doping judgement and his lawyers are preparing documents to activate legal processes.

Reform in sport

The Essendon supplements saga has been the messiest case in Australia’s sporting history and it has left a terrible stain on AFL football.

The Dank case is expected to trigger reform of the medical and sports science practices in Australian sport, ensuring relevant personnel document the treatment of athletes carefully.

Stringent rules are needed to prevent sports performance experts from pushing the boundaries in a way that could potentially harm the health of athletes.

The AFL have identified ten prohibited substances, including peptides and body building supplements, in its tribunal investigation involving Dank.

The illegal substances include Hexarelin, Humanofort, namely Insulin Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1), Insulin Growth Factor 2 (IGF–2), Mechano Growth Factor (MGF), Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF), Follistatin and Thymosin Beta 4, CJC-1295, GHRP6 and SARMS.

The use of these supplements aims to give athletes a competitive advantage, through the building of muscle strength and the physical ability to recover from hard-fought games.

The AFL needs to carefully police the medical and health procedures of all clubs, ensuring its integrity department is well versed in practices of sports performance and medical staff.

I commend the AFL’s work to update its anti-doping code, in which only medical practitioners may administer substances to treat footballers with a medical condition.

This will prevent “sports scientists” or biochemists from administering substances which may provide athletes with a pharmacological advantage.

While the club medical officer is in charge of the medical issues of AFL footballers, there needs to be regular checks – possibly from an AFL-endorsed and experienced medical doctor – to monitor the practices of each club.

As there is regular drug testing, medical checks would prevent the repeat of an event like the disastrous Essendon supplements saga.

It is vital the integrity of the game is preserved, so that the AFL’s competition is legitimate and worthy of fan enjoyment for years to come.

Fans appalled

Australian fans enjoy honest, hard-fought sporting battles and many have been appalled by the ugly saga, posting their comments on various social media platforms.

The scandal has also triggered abusive comments in social media forums, igniting tensions between fans.

It is expected more appeals and drawn-out legal processes will follow the tribunal’s verdict on Dank.

Just before Dank’s judgment was made public on Friday, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) were informed of the tribunal’s decisions.

ASADA said it was disappointed in the tribunal’s verdict to clear Mr Dank “of a number of serious alleged violations”.

ASADA said in a statement:

ASADA notes that all 35 matters were heard concurrently by the tribunal. We also note the tribunal stated its preference was to release their decisions on all 35 matters at the same time.

The reality however is that we have only just received the findings on Mr Dank. ASADA is disappointed that this comes as the window of appeal on the first 34 matters rapidly closes.

ASADA will now consider both decisions by the AFL anti-doping tribunal, which may lead to an appeal on the judgments.

ASADA chief executive Ben McDevitt, who described Essendon’s 2012 supplements program as “absolutely and utterly disgraceful”, is clearly disappointed over the AFL anti-doping tribunal’s verdicts because of the seriousness of alleged violations.

ASADA has 21 days to appeal and then, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has a further 21 days to appeal if its chooses to.

Dank has vigorously defended his practices and intends to fight the verdict to the bitter end. His legal fight is expected to drag on for coming months.

The AFL, its players and fans now have a common goal – to enjoy AFL football for the great game it has become and leave the ugly supplements saga behind them.

This article first appeared on The Conversation.


The history diviners: the emerging stories of early Gallipoli visitors

As The Water Diviner is released on commercial television and premieres in Los Angeles, researchers at Monash University reveal the identity of the film’s central character.

Russell Crowe’s film retraces the footsteps of a grieving father who travels across Turkey, desperate to find his missing sons.  It claims to be based on true events, and tells the story of one of the first Australian pilgrimages to the Anzac battlefields in Gallipoli.

Monash University historian Professor Bruce Scates and his doctoral student, Rebecca Wheatley, have spent years charting early Australian journeys to battlefields overseas.  An exhaustive search of archival sources, letters, diaries and travel journals has uncovered the identity of a farmer from Victoria who makes his way to the Gallipoli Peninsula within 18 months of the war ending.

“It’s a remarkable journey,” said Professor Scates, Director of the National Centre for Australian Studies.

“It not just the cost of getting there – a journey like that would have cost a year’s wages back then – or the almost impossible task of identifying the dead on the killing fields of Anzac,” Professor Scates said.

“The fact of the matter is that the cemeteries were not completed until well into the 1920s and pilgrimages were prohibited until then.  Gallipoli was a difficult and dangerous place to visit.”

Ms Wheatley said the film takes many liberties with history but that was only to be expected of so epic a production.

“Even so, it provides a compelling perspective on the grief of a generation and reminds us of the loss that war meant to Australia, Turkey and all the nations that fought there,” she said.

Monash University has prepared a brief film clip showcasing a rare Australian photo album detailing some of the earliest journeys to Gallipoli.

“It abounds with image of a landscape we have lost,” Professor Scates said.

“It reminds those journeying to Anzac today of the ordeals and experiences of the first generation of Gallipoli travellers.  The clip guides viewers through a maze of archival sources to arrive at the identity of a man until now hidden from history.”

Ms Wheatley said they hoped their work would provide a sense of context to anyone viewing the film.

“Hopefully it will remind everyone, on the centenary of the landing, that the cost of war is not just borne by soldiers,” she said.

“The burden of bereavement falls on their families and loved ones and affects a whole community.”

The mystery of The Water Diviner will form part of the 100 stories project, a digital history designed to recover the lost stories of World War One.

To mark the Centenary of Anzac, Monash has also launched a free, online course. The course (undertaken by thousands of learners the world over) offers practical advice on accessing new digital archives, connecting families with history and enlarging our understanding of the Great War.

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Reflecting on our South Africa student placement program

The Oxfam-Monash Partnership runs the South Africa Student Placement Program, which provides Monash students with an opportunity to gain experience in international and community development, through placements with Oxfam and partner organisations in South Africa. Below, we have an update from one of the program’s participants.

For six of our seven South Africa student placement participants, their time in Durban with Oxfam and its in-country partner organisations has now come to a close. Jessica Nitschke tells us about her experiences placed with the community-based organisation, Woza Moya.


At our pre-departure briefing at Oxfam, we were told that past participants had found this placement program to be a life changing adventure; one that could drastically impact upon your future career choices and study pathways.  We heard about some students who had completed the placement and gone on to completely new and different things, and others that had felt reaffirmed in their previously planned trajectories.  So, basically, I had no idea what to expect!

Looking back on the six weeks that I have since spent working with the Woza Moya Community Project, I can now say that the placement has turned out to be an  invaluable opportunity, which has given me first-hand experience in home-based care, early childhood development, food security management, water and sanitation hygiene, paralegal services and community development.

The work I’ve undertaken has involved anything from travelling into the winding depths of the lush Ufafa Valleys in the back of a muddy ute, visiting a grandmother reporting a case of child abuse, through to filming a media resource at a bustling local school, aimed at increasing understanding and awareness of gender-based violence in the community.

The latter, a short film, has formed part of a pilot project I completed for Woza Moya in conjunction with a youth survey.  The film comes with a supporting written resource that summarises the survey findings and examines the occurrence of gender-based violence in KwaZulu-Natal.  It is clear that there exists an inextricable relationship between poverty, HIV/AIDS, and gender-based violence.  The pilot project hopes to make a small contribution towards shedding greater light on this social and cultural challenge.

My other duties have been extremely varied, including graphic design and publishing, conducting social media training for staff, photography, filling in at the play school and after-school programme, producing and editing policy documents, attending community meetings and support groups, creating administrative systems, providing general IT support, poorly attempting handicrafts, briefly gardening, and chasing roosters now and then.  It has been a busy placement, to say the least! 

That said, it has not been without its challenges.  Not speaking the local language sometimes made me feel left me out of conversations, but it also improved my skills at information gathering – ultimately, I believe, making me a better listener and observer.  Being faced with emotional situations also made me feel heartbroken and helpless at times, but I have been grateful for the opportunity to work with a community organisation that is fighting to support people in these circumstances. In the end, I feel that I’ve gained  the experience and inspiration I need to start making my own contributions to a better global society.

Overall, the placement experience has given me a priceless opportunity to transfer and re-tool my existing skills, and to give myself  a running start into the development industry.  Most importantly, I know I will be returning to Woza Moya one day very soon.

For more information on the South Africa Student Placement Program, click here.

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Gough’s war: making a politician, changing a nation

by Jenny Hocking

In July 1944, stationed with RAAF Squadron 13 in Gove, Flight Lieutenant Navigator Gough Whitlam wrote “a letter of passion” to his wife, Margaret:

Darling … You must conjecture what State administration would have been like in war and compare it with what Commonwealth has been. Similarly you may conjecture what Commonwealth administration may be like in the five postwar years if this Referendum is carried and compare it with what the States’ administration was like in the two previous peacetime periods of stress after the last war and during the depression … You can hardly fail to see that the Commonwealth is better fitted to deal with such nation-wide problems. And so to bed. Love, G.

Whitlam’s “passion” for the animating question of Commonwealth–state relations was a thinly disguised, self-deprecating acknowledgement of the depth of his own “aching to return home” – of the dread loneliness of years of war service, which he had increasingly filled with politics.

Margaret and Gough had been married for barely six weeks when he left Sydney to begin his training with the RAAF. For the next three-and-a-half years as an air force navigator, Gough operated across Northern Australia and the South Pacific – from Coffs Harbour, Cooktown and Gove, to Milne Bay, Biak, Hollandia (Jayapura), Merauke, Leyte, Morotai and Palau. Whitlam had applied to join the RAAF in December 1941 – the day after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Four years later, as the war in the Pacific ended, Whitlam navigated the only Empire aircraft assigned to the RAAF Pacific echelon at General MacArthur’s headquarters at Leyte and Manila.

The contrast between American power and dynamism in the region, its keen engagement with the Australian services, and the tired unchallenged British expectations of deference and support could not have been starker. And it did not go unnoticed.

Early formative experiences

Whitlam was no stranger to international politics’ changing dimensions. His unusual childhood was spent in the earliest years of the new national capital, Canberra, where his father, Fred Whitlam, was Crown Solicitor and one of Australia’s most significant public servants.

Even as a child, Gough had been immersed in the dynamics of internationalism, current affairs and political debates. It was always in the structured context of parliamentary democracy, which Fred Whitlam considered:

… the best political system for the ordering of a humane organised community life.

Their reading matter was the Round Table, the Observer, the Children’s Encyclopedia and the Times Literary Supplement. Their guests were a broad mix of politicians, lawyers and senior public servants. Gough emerged with an astonishing breadth of knowledge and familiarity with international politics and governance. It was the perfect civic grounding for a future prime minister.

Despite the notable distinction between the gentle tolerance and determined political neutrality of Fred Whitlam and the biting wit and fiery political oratory of his son, Fred was an undoubted yet underplayed influence on Gough – in particular on his internationalism and confident view of Australia’s place in the world.

In the postwar formation of the United Nations, Fred Whitlam played a major role as a member of Labor External Affairs Minister’s HV Evatt’s delegation to the Paris Peace Conference in 1946. He was Australia’s key legal advisor in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the greatest legacy of Evatt’s presidency of the United Nations General Assembly.

The first indications of Gough Whitlam’s abiding concerns for social equality, electoral equity, postcolonial national independence, enhanced federal powers and Aboriginal rights – the pillars of what would become his government’s reform agenda – also emerged at this time. This was seen most clearly in his unstinting support for the Curtin Labor government’s 1944 Commonwealth Referendum on Post-war Reconstruction and Democratic Rights – the “14 powers” referendum.

Stationed in Gove, Whitlam had first come into contact with Aboriginal Australians and was shocked by the conditions in the missions and the towns. He was dismayed by the discrimination that he witnessed not only in the community but also in the services. It was the beginning of his determined policy of recognition of Aboriginal land rights, acknowledgement of wrong and a commitment to end residual discriminatory policies. In his own modest assessment:

That gave me an insight which nobody in the parliament had so well.

In Cooktown, Whitlam led what he termed “my first political campaign”. He agitated among his own squadron in support of the 1944 referendum to extend the Commonwealth wartime powers for a further five years, to enable it to undertake the extensive national reconstruction effort needed once the war had ended. Evatt called it “planning for peace”.

The 1944 referendum

The referendum powers to be transferred to the Commonwealth included national health, employment and unemployment, “reinstatement and advancement” of service personnel and their dependents, uniform company legislation, trusts and monopolies, profiteering and prices, overseas exchange and investment, air transport, uniform railway gauges and family allowances.

The 14th of the Commonwealth powers sought was for “the people of the aboriginal race”. The inclusion of the race power in the 1944 referendum was both a reflection of a “new wartime idealism about the position of Aboriginal people”, and an acknowledgement of the growing international dimension to national considerations of Indigenous affairs. Paul Hasluck, then a senior member of the Department of External Affairs, tried to impress upon successive Australian governments that:

… in the postwar settlements, the treatment of native races is likely to be made the subject of international discussion.

This international dimension to postwar national developments is the critical framework for understanding Whitlam’s own political trajectory. The extensive reform agenda he later spearheaded through the ALP platform, and the blueprint for “the Program” once in government, provided the domestic articulation of these same postwar international principles of justice and rights first seen in the 1944 referendum.

Whitlam was already a strong supporter of the Curtin government and of John Curtin’s determination that the expansive reach of Commonwealth powers in wartime should not be seen as just a “passing phase”. Curtin’s refusal to concede the undoubted difficulty of reform or to accept “the paradox that the Labor Party was free to enact its policies in times of war alone”, was particularly compelling.

This drove Whitlam’s proselytising for the referendum and his belief – as his war service had already shown him – that only the national government had the capacity to undertake the massive, nationwide postwar reconstruction effort that would be essential once the war ended.

From Canberra, Fred Whitlam (who had drafted the terms of the referendum) sent Gough the paperwork – in typical disinterested public service style enclosing both the “Yes” and “No” cases – together with Evatt’s 188-page 1942 “booklet” Post-war Reconstruction: A Case for Greater Commonwealth Powers, and United Australia Party (UAP) leader Robert Menzies’ second reading speech in forensic opposition.

The referendum’s international context

The referendum’s apparently pedestrian proposals to continue the expanded federal powers of wartime were in reality a powerful mechanism for change. Often forgotten yet fundamental to any understanding of it, the earliest iteration of the necessary Commonwealth postwar powers considered at the Constitutional Convention in 1942 had also included four key “democratic freedoms”.

These freedoms were considered, in the context of world war and the rise of fascism, as centralto the postwar spread of liberal democratic citizenship and to future world peace:

… freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

In this original specification of core political and democratic rights, postwar reconstruction would enable a radical reconfiguration of pre-war certainties, “to lay the foundations for a new social order” through its recognition of fundamental civil and political rights, and of social justice.

It was a dramatic conception, an expression more of hope than possibility, which drew clearly on the urgent political poetry of the Atlantic Charter – a visionary wartime commitment by Roosevelt and Churchill in August 1941 to a world without war, free of deprivations, tolerant and non-discriminatory.

This would be a world that would, with harmony and security at home, never again see the insidious rise of fascism. At its heart, the Atlantic Charter – a pact of mutual aspiration rather than a binding treaty – pointed to a new world order of self-determination and nation-building, of territorial respect, economic security, human rights, international governance and, above all, of peace:

All of the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons, must come to the abandonment of the use of force.

Roosevelt had first articulated the four freedoms in a January 1941 address as “a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our time and generation”: freedom of speech, of worship, from want and from fear. The inclusion of the freedoms from want and from fear represented both an early notion of economic security as a human right in this post-conflict democratic paradigm, and an internationalism within which the national elaboration of rights and freedoms should be understood.

Like the Atlantic Charter and the initial terms of the Post-war Reconstruction referendum to follow, Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” brought the specifics of national reform into an international framework for a democratic future. It was a forerunner of the postwar international organisations to come.

Evatt’s elevation of the Atlantic Charter and these “four great freedoms” can be seen in his concluding remarks of his first ministerial speech in the House of Representatives on November 26, 1941:

… international peace can be maintained only through international justice, and … the four great freedoms – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from fear, and freedom from want – are meaningless unless they be enjoyed, not in one or two or three countries, but, as President Roosevelt insists, “everywhere in the world”.

To Curtin, the four freedoms and the “common principles of national policies outlined in the Atlantic Charter” were at the very heart of a new and better world order. He described them to the 1943 Labor Party national conference as:

… comparable in their significance to the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.

The referendum’s defeat

In its conception, the 1944 referendum was decades ahead of its time. Remarkably, Curtin initially appeared to have secured the necessary cross-party support for its success. After all, in 1942, the states had agreed to the voluntary transfer of much of these same powers.

What defeated the 1944 referendum in the end was time. The end of the war quickly brought an end to any appetite for what was readily depicted as a continuation of onerous wartime regulation and control. Meanwhile, the capricious politics of federalism saw the support of the states evaporate.

Hasluck recalled that the referendum had provided one of the few rallying points for the rapidly disintegrating UAP and Country Party unity, feeding conservative concerns over:

… the possible use of wartime powers and arrangements to inaugurate lasting socialist or unificationist programmes.

The campaign became further mired in petty squabbles with the states, both Labor and conservative, over the detail of the 14 powers and the implications of the four rights and freedoms. When the revised referendum bill was finally put to the House of Representatives after two years of escalating division, the “four freedoms” had been its greatest casualty. None appeared in the version introduced on February 10, 1944.

Curtin and Evatt insisted that the provisions would be put as one. They argued that they made little sense in isolation. They refused to be drawn into endless arguments about specific clauses, state rights and confected fears of federal control – driven by dire press claims that the referendum would “impose a dictatorship in Australia” and that freedom “would vanish entirely”.

In its final form, the “democratic rights” referred to in the referendum’s formal title – Constitution Alteration (Post-war Reconstruction and Democratic Rights) Act – bore little resemblance to the powerful and purposive “four great freedoms” originally proposed.

Instead, the referendum question would now include provisions “to safeguard freedom of speech and expression and freedom of religion” – the latter by extending the provision ofSection 116 guaranteeing freedom of religion to include the states – and to increase regulatory oversight of delegated government decisions.

This only served to further confuse an already confused debate over the nature of and powers needed for postwar reconstruction. As Ian Milner described it:

Referendum campaign politics twisted beyond recognition the actual basic issues involved.

Whitlam had campaigned fervently for the 1944 referendum, convincing even long-term RAAF pilot Lex Goudie – a paid-up member of the UAP – to support it. But despite majority support from within the services, the referendum did not succeed. It was carried in just two states and failed even to reach the necessary nationwide majority.

The greater degree of service support showed the willingness of those already familiar with and personally reliant on the adequate reach of Commonwealth power in wartime to accept its extension in peacetime, particularly given the specified power for the “reinstatement and advancement” of service members.

The service vote also evinced an anomaly in the broader voting system. The Commonwealth Electoral War-Time Act enabled all service personnel to vote in the referendum even if they were not on the electoral roll. This led to the unusual outcome of an apparently greater than 100% turnout in the referendum vote in some divisions.

The 1944 referendum’s failure had an immeasurable impact on Whitlam. It was not only personally disappointing, but in his now-committed Labor view it was politically devastating. Nearly 60 years later, Whitlam reflected that:

The campaign had an immediate and lasting effect on my attitudes and career.

Whitlam understood the almost insurmountable difficulties faced by reforming Labor governments with the Constitution deemed to minimise the reach of federal powers except during wartime. He saw the failure of the 1944 referendum as a singular lost opportunity for future Labor governments.

The “14 powers” propounded by Curtin and Evatt foreshadowed the expanded federal responsibilities in health, welfare, regional and urban development, trade and industry regulation and Aboriginal rights later introduced by the Whitlam government, as well as the protection of basic rights and freedoms that are its hallmark.

Much of what was set out in that referendum, and in the arguments for the expansion of Commonwealth powers first rehearsed there, can be seen in a direct policy line from the extensive renovation of the Labor Party platform of the 1960s driven by Whitlam and the “modernisers” to the reform agenda of the Whitlam government itself.

This was unfinished Labor business – expanding the reach of Commonwealth powers, ensuring the rights of Aboriginal Australians, recognising international responsibilities and agreements, an independent foreign policy stance and a fundamental notion of equality of opportunity as the gateway to social and economic progress – that he would pursue in the Labor Party, in opposition and in government.

Whitlam’s appointment of Curtin’s Director-General of Post-war Reconstruction, Dr H.C. “Nugget” Coombs, as his personal adviser in the days before the 1972 election was an equally powerful reclamation.

How it shaped Whitlam’s reform agenda

Perhaps most significantly, the nature of the referendum and its defeat did not consign Whitlam to the pessimism and constitutional impotence that would soon engulf the Labor Party during the bitter infighting of the postwar decades.

Instead, it gave way to Whitlam’s energetic search for alternative means to accrue federal powers within the confines of the constitution – to enable a reform agenda despite the apparent strictures of Section 92 (that trade, commerce and intercourse among the states shall be “absolutely free”) long seen as an historic constitutional barrier to fundamental Labor reform.

In this, Whitlam would follow – with greater success – Evatt’s defiant attempt through the 1944 referendum to remove any such constitutional barriers to “building a better world”:

If there are constitutional limitations on such bold and imaginative action, then the Constitution has become the instrument of reaction. Let us not fear to change it.

Ultimately, Whitlam would realise this shift in federal–state powers without constitutional change, through his expansive application of the interstices of Section 96 enabling the use of “tied grants” of federal funds to the states:

I went from the despair of Section 92 to the confidence of Section 96 – 92 was the barrier, 96 the avenue.

Both the reach of the Whitlam government’s comprehensive reforms – “the Program” – and the means through which to achieve it had their origins in his own wartime experiences, and in particular in the lessons of the Curtin government’s 1944 referendum. Out of failure had come opportunity.

Although rightly seen as a moderniser in terms of Labor reformism and policies, Whitlam’s approach to policy and method also evidences a continuity to this earlier Labor tradition. As an unashamed protector of the Curtin legacy, Whitlam’s novelty in government was less about policy reform and more about finding a means to achieve, within the existing constraints of the constitution, Curtin’s stalled vision for postwar reconstruction, democratic rights, social justice and peace.

Whitlam’s RAAF missions across the Pacific had reinforced the simple reality of this profound geopolitical shift in Australia’s international and security relations. This was expounded by Curtin in 1941 when he shocked the colonial relics with his candid assessment that, at this time of war:

Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom.

For Whitlam, the continuing, quasi-colonial deference to the United Kingdom was little more than an embarrassing reminder of an arrested national development, and he enthusiastically took up Curtin’s shifting rhetoric and embraced the security implications of the growing US influence in the region – not least because he had experienced its implications in action.

Whitlam’s commitment to an international order

In 1945, two days after Curtin’s death, Whitlam returned home on leave. He joined the Darlinghurst branch of the Australian Labor Party the following month. Twenty-seven years later, as he began the final stage of his long road to government, the opening words of his now-famous “It’s Time” policy speech were also Curtin’s words:

Men and women of Australia.

In this continuity of political influence and history, Whitlam was more than just a product of these postwar global forces. He was an ardent proponent of them. While in government, he drove Australia’s recommitment to them after decades of desuetude.

Under the Whitlam government, more than 133 international treaties were entered into force. This included:

Whitlam’s appointment in 1983 as Australia’s Ambassador to UNESCO by the Hawke government gave him a rare opportunity to meet that commitment to international governance from within one of the key international organisations itself. He remarked:

For the rest of the decade I sometimes had to apply as much intensity to international politics and administration as I had often applied to national politics and administration during the three previous decades.

As a specialised UN agency, UNESCO was itself a product of the postwar drive for internationalism, peaceful conflict resolution and universal human rights that was also fundamental to Whitlam’s domestic political agenda.

Although Australia had played a major role in the creation of the international organisations, this early engagement had waned during the decades of conservative government that followed. Not a single UNESCO convention had been ratified by the Menzies government – an inertia comprehensively overturned by Whitlam.

There is a fine circularity in Whitlam’s appointment as Australia’s Ambassador to UNESCO (1983–86) and his subsequent election to its Executive Board. It was emblematic of the lasting impact of the postwar influences of modernism and internationalism on Australian politics. This was the overdue transformation of the postwar political settlement, promised yet unmet through the decades of Liberal–Country Party government.

The Whitlam government was the necessary rupture with that strained past. It had a reformist vision whose origins lay in Whitlam’s own wartime experience. In the developing institutions of international law, it saw the mechanism for the peaceful resolution of conflict, for equity and democratic rights.

Professor Jenny Hocking works in the National Centre for Australian Studies. She is the author of Gough Whitlam: His Time, Melbourne University Publishing, 2012, and Gough Whitlam: A Moment in History, Melbourne University Publishing, 2008

This article has appeared on The Conversation.

You read a longer version of this article and others from the Griffith Review’s latest edition on the enduring legacies of war here.


A global war for relevance: can al-Qaeda reclaim the jihadi crown?

by Ben Rich

With a new, vibrant generation of jihadist groups such as Islamic State (IS) emerging, al-Qaeda – which once forged the path for global Islamist militancy – is struggling to maintain its relevance and support base. Why?

al-Qaeda: a one-hit wonder?

Following the 9/11 attacks, al-Qaeda became the incontestable embodiment of global jihad. The “War on Terror” and the corresponding scramble by many Western states to proof themselves against this “new” brand of terrorism was stark testament to this status.

Since 9/11, al-Qaeda and its affiliates have failed to reproduce an event that shook the international order in a similar manner. Despite assassinating prominent political figures, killing Westerners en masse in Muslim countries and occasionally inflicting a bloody nose on the US military, al-Qaeda was impotent when it came to striking the Western “far enemy” on its home turf.

During this time, al-Qaeda’s propaganda output was hit and miss. While it was able to produce E-zines like the infamous Inspire, it never really comfortably transitioned to the new generation of social networking and media technology emerging in the late 2000s. al-Qaeda videos were often either tedious, droning academic sermons on esoteric Islamic legalisms, or cheaply produced attempts at machismo.

Perhaps more damning was the lack of progression in the vision conceptualised by al-Qaeda’s Islamist intelligentsia. While it made a international nuisance of itself with sporadic terrorist attacks, al-Qaeda never transitioned to the territorialisation necessary for creating the Islamic state it purported to pursue.

This was actually hard-coded into the basic concept of al-Qaeda’s self-image. It never saw itself as an instrument of governance. Instead, it took on the role of an “inciter in chief” whose actions would inspire the global Muslim community to rise up and form a state based on the tenets of the pious ancestors and the first community.

However, al-Qaeda’s inability to foment global Islamic revolution in such a manner – while offering no alternative – has proved less than inspiring for those who support the idea of an Islamist state.

A swing and a miss

Al-Qaeda’s fortunes appeared to be changing in 2012. A secular-nationalist uprising in Mali’s north by disaffected Tuaregs was quickly hijacked by an Islamist coalition. Among its strongest members were al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its splinter group, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO).

Together with the local Islamist group, Ansar Dine, this motley crew quickly imposed sharia law and began governing a new Islamic state. It seemed as if Osama bin Laden’s vision might be taking shape, albeit in a rather different geographical locale than was predicted.

But Operation Serval quickly reversed this success. The decisive French intervention in Mali in January 2013 routed AQIM and its allies. It pushed the survivors into Mali’s remote northeastern Ifoghas mountain range.

Brief calls on various jihadist internet forums to mobilise in support of the collapsing Islamic state petered out within days. No-one wanted to fight on a losing side.

Problem child, prodigal son

After its messy public split from al-Qaeda in 2014, IS quickly established itself as its own entity with its own style. Its rapid successes in Syria and Iraq stood in stark contrast to al-Qaeda’s efforts at global jihad over the previous decade.

IS’s progress grasped the imagination of many onlookers and drew tens of thousands of local and foreign recruits, as well as considerable private donations from regions like the Gulf.

IS’s declaration of a caliphate in June 2014 showed a resolve to see its vision to fruition. While Ayman al-Zawahiri and al-Qaeda’s leadership waxed intellectual over the future of Islamic statehood, IS was getting down to the nitty gritty of governing. The perception for many supporters of jihad is that while al-Qaeda barks, IS bites.

This is far from the reality. While the Afghan-Pakistan centre of the al-Qaeda franchise seems increasingly inactive, affiliates like Syria’s Jabhat al-Nusra and Yemen’s al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have long been engaged in brutal parochial struggles under the pretence of establishing an Islamic state. But while often showing prowess on the battlefield, neither has been able to market their struggles as effectively as IS.

Explaining Islamic State’s success

IS has been incredibly savvy in its use of technology to broadcast a compelling narrative that simultaneously serves to motivate supporters and intimidate opponents.

IS’s media is slickly produced and shot in high definition. Cuts and pacing are often reminiscent of modern, gritty action movies. It also places great emphasis on the emotional appeal of its media, rather than presenting arguments rationalised primarily through long lectures of Islamic jurisprudence.

Given the typically young age of most of its recruits, this is a logical choice. Like many traditionalmilitary recruitment advertisements, which also tend to target youth, IS promises excitement and glory, stroking the egos of would-be jihadists with the prospect of adventure, camaraderie and social status.

IS’s recruitment ethos, relative to al-Qaeda, also highlights its comparative efficacy. Traditionally, admission to al-Qaeda has often been a long, drawn-out process that requires knowing the right people at the right time to open the right doors.

In contrast, IS has embraced a far more egalitarian, open-door strategy. It uses social media extensively to provide pathways for those seeking to join up, as well as to groom other potential neophytes.

IS’s social media platforms include widespread use of Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and Snapchat – to name but a few. Governments worldwide have struggled to establish effective policies to combat this strategy. The results so far have been less than inspiring.

With a combination of progress, prowess and a healthy appreciation for the power of modern technology, IS currently appears to be stealing much of the oxygen used to keep the al-Qaeda flame alight. IS has rapidly gained affiliates in Libya, Egypt and even Nigeria. al-Qaeda appears to be in a state of contraction, typified most starkly by its inability to reign in IS.

Whether this is an emergent trend – or just a historical aberration – remains to be seen. The effect of the Charlie Hedbo attack in January 2015 was sudden but short-lived. With Yemen in meltdown, it is impossible to say what the future holds for the currently unleashed AQAP.

What seems assured is that al-Qaeda and IS will continue to struggle over the same pool of resources that comes with being seen to wear the global jihad crown.

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

This article first appeared on The Conversation.

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After the cyclone: why relying on tourism isn’t in Vanuatu’s interests

by Joseph Cheer

Cyclone Pam has left anindelible mark on the landscape and psyche in Vanuatu. And the famed resilience of the country’s ni-Vanuatu people has been severely tested. Apart from rebuilding, attention should swiftly shift to how the country’s economy can be made more resilient in the event of future crises.

Vanuatu is deemed one of theworld’s happiest countries while conversely it is considered themost vulnerable because of exposure to natural disasters.

One of Vanuatu’s biggest challenges is how to handle thesharp decline in tourism. The World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that in 2013 tourism’s total contribution to GDP (including wider effects) was 64.8 per cent, generating 55.4 per cent of total employment.

The call for tourists to return is understandable and Cyclone Pam is a reminder of the acute vulnerability of tourism-dependent economies. This is not to say that tourism should be wound back. Instead, the call is for policymakers and key aid donors like Australia and New Zealand to urgently consider how Vanuatu can move beyond a disproportionate dependence on tourism.

Economic diversification

The question “if not tourism, what then?” is inevitable. This suggests that capacity to diversify its economy is limited. Such an approach is complacent economic policy that ignores the risk of relying too heavily on tourism.

The main sector that holds potential for greater economic diversification is agriculture. TheWorld Bank estimates that agriculture comprised 28 per cent of GDP in 2013, although much is absorbed in the small domestic market and in subsistence consumption. Vanuatu’s capacity for beef, kava, tropical fruit, coffee, cocoa and other potentially high value produce must be developed.

Tess Newton-Cain, founder of DevPacific Thinknet argues that the focus should be on low volume-high return activities that includes in-country value adding such as honey, coffee and chocolate, and the small but potentially lucrative horticulture and aquaculture industries.

Vanuatu’s proximity to Australia and relatively lower labour costs makes the potential for a services sector attractive. This could include back office and call centre operations. Vanuatu’s zero corporate, income and capital gains tax regime is a strength. However investment in vocational education, requisite infrastructure and economic incentives are crucial.

Manufacturing is another sector for consideration, especially ready-made garments, food processing and craft industries. Although the barriers are considerable and few countries in the region had mixed success with this strategy, it deserves examination for the long-term.

Recently the potential for deep seabed mining has been raised. This involves the exploration for diamonds, precious metals and mineral ore. While the environmental impacts have been criticised, if it can be managed carefully, it deserves serious evaluation.

Irrespective of the route taken, the effectiveness of institutions and political processes are enduring impediments that must be overcome.

Tourism policy and planning

One of the key questions that should be posed is: what kind of tourism should be developed? To answer this question with clarity, deep insights into the overall impact of tourism are essential.

This requires fine-grained, longitudinal research beyond simplistic measures of international arrivals, expenditure and expatriate investment. Research that identifies modes of tourism that are high yield, low impact and have a higher tendency for trickle-down effects is pressing, yet rarely conducted.

By comparison, Vanuatu’s destination image of sun, sand and sea is ubiquitous with destinations in the Pacific and Asia, and it must draw more strongly on its unique cultural and landscape attributes. Further, Vanuatu’s price competitiveness and quality of tourism infrastructure and services lag its competitors with the phrase “three star destination at five star prices”, often and perhaps unfairly used to describe Vanuatu.

Tourism and grassroots impact

Also under-acknowledged is the question of the grassroots impacts of tourism. Increasing arrivals and tourist expenditure does not automatically confer a positive impact and obsession with these metrics stifles constructive debate about the efficacy of tourism.

Tourism is largely dominated by international intermediaries and expatriate owner-managers, mostly Australians and New Zealanders resident in Vanuatu. While they are necessary and important players, increased attention must be given to optimising the engagement of ni-Vanuatus for more meaningful grassroots impact.

Most visitors remain within the Port Vila tourist enclave or visit for the day on a cruise, assuming they disembark. With limited numbers spending considerable time in the outer islands, dispersal of tourist expenditure and linkages to the broader grassroots is curtailed. Strengthening grassroots engagement must be a focus if “turism blong yumi blong evriwan” (“tourism belongs to everyone” in the local Bislama language) is to occur.

Tourism and aid are the lifeblood of Vanuatu’s economy. If Vanuatu is to withstand crises of a similar magnitude in the future, increased economic diversification will build greater resilience. And as Kirk Huffman, guardian of Vanuatu culture argues, tourism has to be developed in a culturally sensitive and sustainable manner.

Joseph Cheer works in the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University.

This article has appeared in The Conversation.

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Digital Humanities offers global learning opportunity

A unit in Digital Humanities will be available to undergraduate students at Monash University and the University of Warwick, thanks to funding and support from the Monash Warwick Alliance.

Digital Humanities is an approach to research and teaching that applies computational techniques to traditional humanities. It is an interdisciplinary field that uses digital tools to re-examine existing data and create new data to find innovative ways to ask questions and tell research stories.

The unit, offered at both universities, will be split into two components: digital methods will be taught separately at each institution to align with their teaching period timetables; while discussion of the theory and implications of the digital methods, will be co-taught in the final three weeks of the Monash unit, coinciding with the first three weeks of the Warwick unit.

The course headed by Dr Simon Musgrave, School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics, Faculty of Arts at Monash University and Dr David Beck, Institute of Advanced Teaching and Learning at the University of Warwick will examine the application of digital technologies in humanities research.

Students will conduct a research project based on one of two datasets. The first from the Monash based Restoration Theatre Song archive, a complete catalogue of songs from theatrical performances in London during the Restoration period. The second, the digitised diaries of William Godwin, a turn-of-the-19th-Century intellectual who networked with major literary figures of the time, contributed by Warwick’s Professor Mark Philp.

An important facet of the unit will be to help students develop their thinking around the process of research.

“We will get students to play with and produce research from the two datasets. They will learn the digital tools, but we want them to understand the process of thinking about data in a structured and useful way, no matter their discipline,” Dr Musgrave said.

Development of the course infrastructure was also supported by the Monash Warwick Alliance through its Seed Fund initiative, which gave Drs Musgrave and Beck the opportunity to meet in person to develop the course curriculum and hold a workshop with colleagues across a variety of departments to discuss the broader issues of digital humanities and data management across the two institutions.

“Having the chance to meet face-to-face to flesh out ideas and resolve issues for the module as well as have broader discussions about digital humanities has been invaluable,” Dr Beck said.

Drs Musgrave and Beck believe the Alliance is supporting deeper discussions about teaching between researchers at the two institutions.

“It’s not about applying the same things at both institutions, it’s about working out what will fit within your institution and having the Alliance helps with that process because it’s so focused it encourages the deeper conversations,” Dr Beck said.

“There is potential to be exposed to a different pedagogical culture and to improve student learning as a result,” Dr Musgrave said.

“There are clear benefits for teaching from the perspective of global studentship,” said Dr Beck.

Expanding Research Paradigms: Digital Humanities begins in July 2015 at Monash University in Semester Two and Digital Humanities and Texts commences in October 2015 at the University of Warwick in the Autumn Term.

A video outlining the course is now available for Monash and Warwick students.

Formed in early 2012, the Monash Warwick Alliance represents an innovation in higher education and research and aims to accelerate the exchange of people, ideas and information between Monash University and the University of Warwick.


Peter Singer: The Most Good You Can Do

The Most Good You Can DoHow Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas about Living Ethically
Hosted by Dr. Linda Barclay

Monash University welcomes Professor Peter Singer to discuss how effective altruism is changing ideas about living ethically. Professor Singer will be making two presentations while visiting Monash University, on the evenings of May 14 and 15.

Peter Singer, often described as the world’s most influential living philosopher, presents a challenging new movement in the search for an ethical life, one that has emerged from his own work on some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Effective altruism involves doing the most good possible. It requires a rigorously unsentimental view of charitable giving, urging that a substantial proportion of our money or time, should be donated to the organisations that will do the most good with those resources, rather than to those that tug the heartstrings. But what counts as ‘the most good’? How do we balance emotional and practical concerns when trying to do good? How should we feel about making donations that give us a self-satisfying ‘warm glow’ but don’t save the greatest number of lives? Does everyone’s suffering count equally? What about other values, like justice, freedom, equality and knowledge?

A percentage of proceeds from the events are directed to our official non-for profit partners; the Oxfam – Monash Partnership and The Fred Hollows Foundation.

‘Peter Singer’s status as a man of principles and towering intellect—a philosopher extraordinaire, if you will—is unrivalled in Australia.’

Sydney Morning Herald

‘Peter Singer may be the most controversial philosopher alive; he is certainly among the most influential.’

New Yorker

Peter Singer is Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University, and Laureate Professor, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne. He is the author of more than twenty books, including The Life You Can SaveThe President of Good and Evil and The Ethics of What We EatSinger was born in Australia. He divides his time between New York City and Melbourne.

Event Details

Location: Alexandra Theatre, Monash University, Clayton Campus
Date: Thursday 14th and Friday 15th of May
Time: 6:30 – 8:30 pm
Doors open at 5:30 pm


Book your tickets on the Monash Academy of Performing Arts website.


Building 7, Alexander Theatre
Monash University, Clayton 3800
T: +61 3 9905 1111

The MAPA Box Office is open Monday to Friday, 9.30am-4.30pm.


Students in the Master of Interpreting and Translation Studies complete an internship at the headquarters of the international organisation ACAP

Four students from the Master of Interpreting and Translation Studies have recently completed a one-week internship in Hobart, in the headquarters of the organisation ACAP, the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels. The three official working languages of this international organisation are English, French and Spanish, and the internship was an opportunity for the students to learn about the work of in-house translators.

Reflecting on their experience, this is what they said:

“This internship helped me gain experience on the practical level and understand the issues and challenges translators face in their work: not only the short deadlines to submit the translations but also all the ad-hoc knowledge to acquire before starting a translation or a glossary, to be the most accurate and precise. This internship was much related to my training because I could apply some theoretical concepts I learned in university courses”.

“During the practicum I found myself drawing on theory and practical activities that we had done in class in order to deal with complexities involved in the translations – which were very technical. I have found that the experience of doing practicum really grounds the course content and has helped me to really appreciate how useful it will be to my future career as a translator. We also needed to be conscious of deadlines and to work well together as a team – sharing information and being open to opinions and translation decisions of each other”.

“Working with ACAP not only gave me a clear understanding of the linguistic and cross-cultural challenges of technical translation, but it provided broad insight on how working as a professional translator is like. This is an experience I will cherish because the practicum entailed the dissemination of important information on seabirds conservation being made possible through translation”.

“My internship at ACAP was an excellent opportunity to get real-world practice in translation work. I learned a lot about glossaries, building a knowledge base and specialised translation”.

MITS students (from left to right): Fernanda Pico, Jonathan Beagley, Virginie Pfeiffer and Georgina Begg.
MITS students (from left to right): Fernanda Pico, Jonathan Beagley, Virginie Pfeiffer and Georgina Begg.
Georgina Begg and Fernanda Pico with ACAP Executive Secretary Warren Papworth.
Georgina Begg and Fernanda Pico with ACAP Executive Secretary Warren Papworth.


The Executive Secretary of ACAP, Warren Papworth declared: “The intern programme worked really well. All of the students were excellent, very professional and highly committed to the work on hand. They did a fantastic job. As always, it was a great pleasure having the students in our office. It is wonderful to see such dedicated and enthusiastic young professionals. I hope this programme will continue well into the future”.

The Translation and Interpreting Studies program and the students are really grateful and thankful to ACAP, and in particular to its Executive Secretary Warren Papworth and its Science Officer Wieslawa Misiak, for such a wonderful opportunity.

Study Translation and Interpreting at Monash:



Monash graduates make their mark at News Corp

Monash journalism graduates are scoring key roles and winning awards at News Corp publications, particularly the largest newspaper in the country, the Herald Sun.

Several graduates have secured positions this year, while other journalists have won major awards in the Quills and Walkleys, and in the News Corp annual awards.

Caroline Schelle.
Caroline Schelle.

Masters student Caroline Schelle has recently commenced a News Corp traineeship based at the Herald Sun’s Southbank offices.  The program runs for a year before the journalists vie for positions in News Corp newsrooms.

Caroline will rotate among various Herald and Weekly Times publications, including The Weekly Times, mX,  Leader Newspapers, the Geelong Advertiser and also join the Herald Sun’s digital team.

Jade Gailberger.
Jade Gailberger.

Jade Gailberger, who also secured a News Corp traineeship,  is currently based at The Advertiser in Adelaide.

Jade, who is gaining experience in news and sport, writes stories that also appear in other News Corp publications, including the Herald Sun.

Sophie Smith, who graduated from Monash in 2007, has worked for Time Inc UK as a sports reporter.

Sophie recently secured a news reporting position on the Herald Sun after returning from London.

Sophie Smith.
Sophie Smith.

Sophie has returned to Melbourne after covering major sporting events in Europe and Asia, including the Spring Classics (2013, 2014), Giro d’Italia (2013, 2014), Tour de France (2012, 2013, 2014), UCI Road World Championships (2012, 2013, 2014), Saitama Criterium and the 2012 London Olympics.

Sophie has recently covered the Essendon Football Club saga, in the aftermath of the AFL anti-doping tribunal’s result.

Masters student Caroline Zielinksi is a Herald Sun-based digital journalist and producer, creating stories for five News Corp mastheads, including the Herald Sun,, The Daily Telegraph, the Courier Mail and The Advertiser.

Caroline formerly worked as a breaking news journalist at The Age and is skilled at delivering high-quality content at high speed.

Kate Salemme has been appointed as and AFL content producer at News Corp,  generating digital packages for all News Corp mastheads, including the Herald Sun.

Kate, who has worked in digital communications at Hawthorn Football Club, completed a successful sports internship at the Herald Sun in 2010. She will be based at the Herald Sun.

Tiffany Korssen.
Tiffany Korssen.

Masters student Tiffany Korssen, a recent finalist in the Melbourne Press Club Student of the Year, has been appointed as an editorial assistant at the Herald Sun.

Tiffany has produced many interesting stories in the Herald Sun in recent weeks.

Brendan Casey.
Brendan Casey.

Brendan Casey, who graduated at Monash in 2010, is working as a social media producer at the Herald Sun.

Brendan has been innovative in his work for the Herald Sun’s department of the internet.

Other prominent Monash graduates include Herald Sun national politics reporter  Annika Smethurst, award-winning AFL reporter Sam Landsberger,  Quill winner and news reporter Monique Hore,  Walkley and News Corp young journalist of the year Ashley Argoon,  and Herald Sun city reporter Christopher Gillett.

Herald Sun editorial assistants Chad van Estrop and Phillippa Butt have also produced many stories for Melbourne’s largest metropolitan newspaper.

The Sir Keith Murdoch scholarship winner Alana Mitchelson has recently finished her three-month internship at the Herald Sun.

Alana has won Pulliam Journalism Fellowship, and she will soon work at the Indy Star in Indianapolis, the United States.

Monash journalism alumni Jonno Nash has recently accepted a TV reporting role at Channel 10 after working at the Herald Sun for several years.

Other Monash University alumni and Herald Sun journalists include Gold Walkley winner and Underbelly author Andrew Rule, general news reporter Shannon Deery and AFL digital editor Alistair Paton.

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State of imprisonment: Victoria is leading the nation backwards

Criminology Seriesby Dr Marie Segrave, Dr Anna Eriksson and Emma Russell

This article is part of The Conversation’s series, State of Imprisonment, which provides snapshots of imprisonment trends in each state and territory. The intention is to provide a basis for informed public discussion of imprisonment policies and of the costs and consequences for Australia of rising rates of incarceration.

Victoria was once the most progressive state when it came to imprisonment. The state was characterised by low imprisonment rates and innovative corrections policy. Victoria now leads the nation with the highest rate of growth in imprisonment.

The Victorian imprisonment rate increased by 40.5% between 2009 and 2014. The next highest growth, in South Australia, was 26%.

The impact on the state budget is huge. The real recurrent cost of prisons (in 2011-12 dollars) for every resident of Victoria has grown from A$56.47 per year in 2003/4 to A$83.95 in 2013/14. Taking into account inflation and population growth, this is a 49% increase.

Having more people in prison ultimately has negative impacts on community safety. The long-term intergenerational impacts are devastating.

In 2014, Victoria’s prisons held 6,112 people compared to 3,624 in 2004. This rapid growth is anticipated to continue, with the prison population projected to reach 7,169 by June 2015.

Capacity and costs are expanding

The new Labor government’s minister for police and corrections, Wade Noonan, has recognised that this growth has resulted in a system “under enormous pressure”.

The response to this pressure under the previous Napthine government was to invest in prison capacity.

In the 2013-14 financial year, 938 new prison bedswere opened. All existing prisons have expansion plans. In September 2014, the previous government signed a A$670 million contract for construction of a private medium-security men’s prison contracted for 1000 beds, but with a capacity of up to 1300. It is expected to be in operation by 2017.

This is a system that is expanding exponentially, with profound consequences for the community. What are the reasons for this increase?

What is driving up imprisonment rates?

The rapid growth in the imprisonment rate is not directly correlated with increased crime rates. The most recent Victoria Police crime statistics show that the 2013/2014 crime rate was 1.6% lower than 10 years ago. Hence, it isn’t crime but other policy and practice changes that are driving imprisonment trends.

The four critical changes have been:

  1. Sentencing: imprisonment terms have increased.
  2. Parole: changes to parole from September 2013 resulted in many parole applications being rejected and therefore longer terms of imprisonment. Plus evidence is emerging that increasingly stringent parole conditions and/or more severe punishments for breach of parole are resulting in many prisoners electing to serve their full sentence in prison instead of applying for parole.
  3. Bail: the Bail Amendment Act 2013 brought about significant changes, including more rigorous oversight of charged persons and the introduction of offences for contravening bail conditions or committing an indictable offence while on bail, each punishable by up to three months imprisonment, creating the potential for further charges and longer sentences.
  4. Suspended sentences: Victoria fully abolished the suspended sentence – a term of imprisonment that is fully or partially suspended for a specified period – in September 2014. The legal fraternity has criticised the abolition of this sentencing option as a “mistake” that will lead to “a more sustained increase in the prison population … in the crime rate [and possibly] … the rate of recidivism”.

Who feels the impacts?

Imprisonment affects the whole community. It is expensive and fails to increase community safety in the long run. The broader impacts are wide-reaching and long-term.

However, the data reveals that some key groups have been affected more significantly by the upward trend in imprisonment in Victoria. We highlight two.

Indigenous Australians

The rate of imprisonment for Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander (ATSI) people in Victoria is 12.6 times higher than non-ATSI people. While ATSI Australians make up 0.7% of Victoria’s total population, they represent 7.7% of the prison population.

That proportion is not as high a level of over-representation as in other parts of Australia: for example, in New South Wales, Indigenous Australians comprise 24% of the total prisoner population, and in the Northern Territory it is 86%. However, it still reflects a disproportionate impact of prison expansion on Victoria’s Indigenous population. Indigenous imprisonment must be connected to the broader context of Indigenous disadvantage across health, employment and education.


The imprisonment of women in Victoria has also grown disproportionally in the last decade, at a rate of 41%. A quarter of the women’s prison population in Victoria is un-sentenced, meaning they are on remand.

Women prisoners have been found to be 1.7 times more likely to have a mental illnessthan male prisoners. Non-Aboriginal women are significantly more likely than non-Aboriginal men to have attempted suicide.

It is well known that women are disproportionately affected by post-release homelessness and that the majority have dependent children. Imprisonment exacerbates multiple challenges – including mental health instability, inaccessible secure long-term accommodation and a limited likelihood of post-release employment – that significantly affect women and their children. Those problems often disrupt family reunions and the return of children to their mother’s custody. The result is that imprisonment can have devastating long-term impacts on women’s lives and the lives of their family members.

Where do we go from here?

Two important things have happened in Victoria.

The first is the change of government that occurred in November 2014. Labor, under Premier Daniel Andrews and Corrections Minister Noonan, has committed to investing in custodial and post-release prisoner support programs. But concerns remain about what, if any, concrete policies will be put in place to arrest the state’s fast-rising rate of imprisonment.

The second is the Victorian Ombudsman’s investigation “into the provision of rehabilitation programs and transitional services for offenders in Victoria”. Following the call for submissions (29 were received) and a report is due to be published in late 2015.

These are positive signs. What remains critical is to ensure Victorians are onside with innovation and meaningful reform at the policy and program level. These must be targeted to specific areas and informed by research in order to reduce imprisonment numbers, whilst improving our overall safety and well-being as a population.

On Wednesday May 13, Monash Criminology is hosting a free public event, Beyond Imprisonment: innovation and reform opportunities for Victoria, which will build on issues raised in this article. Hosted by Maxine McKew, the forum will involve leading innovators in the area discussing what is possible for reform in Victoria. For more details and to register click here.

Dr Marie Segrave is a senior lecturer of criminology in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University.

Dr Anna Eriksson is a senior lecturer of criminology in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University.

Emma Russell is a PhD candidate in criminology at Monash University.

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Special Seminar on the Dramatic World of Jon Fosse with May-Brit Akerholt

Jon-FosseThe Centre for Theatre and Performance is hosting a special seminar on the Dramatic World of Jon Fosse with May-Brit Akerholt.

Event Details:

Date/Time: Monday 27th April 2015, 4:00-6:00 PM
Location: Sir Isaac Brown Room, Ground Floor, Building 55, 21 Ancora Way, Monash University, Clayton

Please join us at the Centre for Theatre and Performance to hear a special presentation on the work of the enigmatic Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse by his English translator, renowned production dramaturg May-Brit Akerholt.

“Fosse almost ‘paints’ words, his plays exist as visual statements in the sense that the words conjure up the landscapes of his west-coast fjords and valleys with such intensity and vividness that characters and nature enhance each other, in a dance where the verbal and the visual move as one. Leif Zern claims you have to be prepared to ‘see these plays…You must be prepared to see the dialogue, how the characters sounds, think aloud, are silent'”

May-Brit will discuss her explorations of, and the limits to a dramaturgical methodology through translation and production dramaturgy.

Joining May-Brit will be CTP’s Jim Daly who will speak on the quest for the grotesque in a production of Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman using an auto-ethnographical and phenomenological approach.

Nibbles and refreshments provided.

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Highlighting 25 years of the Victorian Parliamentary Internship Program

This year, the Victorian Parliament celebrates the 25 Year Anniversary of the Internship Program. The program offers students studying Politics at Monash the opportunity to undertake a parliamentary internship as part of their degree. 

As part of the celebration of the 25 year anniversary, we are highlight prominent Monash alumni who took part in this internship during the course of their studies.


Nick Staikos’ journey from politics student to Parliament highlights the practical utility of the many opportunities offered at Monash University. Read more




In 1996, a decade before ‘Google’ became a verb, 21-year-old Alistair Harkness was conducting research as a Parliamentary Intern. He recalls sitting in the bowels of the Trades Hall Council, sifting through employment records in Lever Arch folders. Read more…


Philip Dalidakis

In an era of privatisation, reform and regulation, 2000 Monash University graduate Philip Dalidakis had an ardent interest in the political process. Already invested in the political scene on campus, Philip bridged the gap between academic theory and practice as an Intern in the Victorian Parliamentary Internship Program. Read more…

The Parliament is keen to reconnect with former Interns. For more information, please contact:

Tom Hvala |Research Assistant
25 Year Anniversary of Parliamentary Internship Program

Parliament of Victoria
(03) 8682 2787

Find out more:


Greece will survive another D-Day – no thanks to Russia

by Remy Davison

Greece will avoid D-Day. That’s D for “Default”. This week, Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis met with IMF chief Christine Lagarde, assuring her that Athens would meet its €450 million obligation to the Fund, due on April 9.

Had Greece failed to meet that deadline, it would have been formally in default. But markets scarcely seemed to notice. This week, Greece had no trouble selling over €1.1 billion in short-term Treasury bills in an auction on April 8. The coupon rate remained under 3 per cent, virtually unchanged from a year ago.

However, it costs Athens significantly more than its Mediterranean partners in Spain and Portugal to roll over old debt into new. Moreover, Greece has now hit the €15 billion ceiling on private-sector borrowing that its Troika conditions allow.

But it doesn’t end there. Greece has a raft of payments due to the IMF, with the largest tranche, €745 million, scheduled for 12 May. The May 1-12 period alone requires the Greek government to repay €950 million to the IMF.

In total, Athens owes the Fund €9.7 billion this year. Under the conditionalities imposed by the Troika (the EU Commission, European Central Bank and IMF), a single loan left in arrears would technically consign Greece to the status of defaulter. No country has ever defaulted on an IMF loan since the Fund was formed following the 1944 Bretton Woods conference.

April’s repayments are covered. But the cash register may be empty in May. This is where Varoufakis’ commitment to repay the Troika loans internally contradict his party’s expenditure commitments to ensure payments to pensioners and public servants. Syriza also went to the election promising not to cut wages or pensions further. No Greek leader has determined how to untie this particular Gordian knot. Former prime minister Samaris chose major expenditure cuts. Conversely, Prime Minister Tsipras and finance minister Varoufakis seek to dismantle New Democracy’s austerity regime; however, in law, Greece is bound by commitments of the former Papandreou government, which gave in to Berlin’s demands for fiscal discipline.

The IMF has estimated Greece would raise $2.2 billion from privatisations in 2015. Conversely, the Greek government argued that if the ECB distributed its 2014 Securities Market Program (SMP) profits, a bond-buying program operated by the central bank, Greece’s $1.9 billion share of SMP revenues would cover most of the shortfall, if the asset sales did not proceed.

In a leaked transcript of the Eurogroup meeting of February 11, Varoufakis argued strongly against fire-sale public asset liquidations in order to finance Athens’ debt obligations, due to deflated prices.

In late March, the ECB, controversially, forbade Greek banks from assuming more public-sector debt via the purchases of Greek government T-bills (thus preventing Greece’s banking sector from creating new money out of government junk bonds). However, the ECB also raised the limit on the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) program by €700 million, to ensure continued liquidity within the Greek financial sector. ELA provides the Greek central bank with an essential lending facility to the commercial and retail banking sectors.

Meanwhile, Tsipras wants to implement Syriza’s policy agenda urgently. His Syriza coalition has moved quickly on three fronts to distance itself from the former New Democracy government’s austerity program. First, on the expenditure side, the government is committed to its pre-election program of restoring a number of pension benefits.

Second, in the finance sector, it has removed the chairpersons of the two biggest Greek banks and appointed its political allies.

Third, on the revenue side, Varoufakis’ finance ministry has made sensible reform suggestions in relation to tax audits to combat evasion, outbound capital transfers and VAT collection, all of which have contributed to serious revenue shortfalls.

However, since Syriza’s election early this year, German-Greek relations have soured noticeably, as Berlin remains implacably opposed to a renegotiation of the terms of the Greek bailout. This, in turn, has led Athens to seek suitors elsewhere.

From Russia, with love

During the Balkan wars, the disintegrating Yugoslav federation faced international opprobrium and a UN arms embargo. But throughout the 1990s, Athens turned a blind eye to smuggled Russian weapons, as the Greek government, with a telescope to the blind eye, acted as a conduit for arms transfers to President Milosevic’s genocidal regime. The EU’s recognition of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in 1995 also enraged the Greek government, which blocked FYROM’s plans for EU membership.

More recently, EU insiders have complained that every European defence document winds up in the hands of the Kremlin, courtesy of Athens. Indeed, Greece’s “tilt east” has furrowed enough brows in Washington to bring the big guns in to set Tsipras straight. In March, Obama sent Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, to meet with Greek officials. Yes, the same Victoria Nuland who was recorded saying “Eff the EU!” in 2014.

Doing deals with Russia always comes with strings attached. In 2013, the government of Cypruscreamed off Russian oligarchs’ deposits to deal with its own sovereign debt crisis. But Moscow had the last laugh, as the collapsing Bank of Cyprus sought drastic measures to avoid disaster. 60% of shareholders of the Bank of Cyprus are now Russians. It was, as the New York Timesput it, delivering a systemic EU bank into the hands of the Russian oligarchs. To add a cherry on top, Moscow secured naval access to Cypriot ports as a reward for its efforts.

Greece has looked even further east for investors as EU private sector participation in Greece has fallen flat. In 2009, China’s Cosco took a 33 per cent stake in Piraeus, Greece’s largest port. More recently, Cosco bid for a controlling 58 per cent of the port in the latest wave of privatisations, but Syriza may temporarily halt Beijing’s Mediterranean thrust.

Tsipras’ Moscow visit drew a terse response from Angela Merkel, but no deal has been announced, beyond support for a Turkish Stream gas pipeline from Russia. The EU’s biggest fear is that Athens will dilute or even repudiate the sanctions Moscow has faced since its annexation of Crimea in 2014. Putin’s government, for its part, has canvassed food exports to Greece, coupled with cheaper wholesale gas prices. Ironically, Germany pays much less for gas from Russia than Greece, under Berlin’s long-term Nord Stream pipeline deal.

But Putin doesn’t run a charity. Russia will want chunks of Greek infrastructure in exchange for cheap gas and investment, although cash-strapped Moscow doesn’t have the capital to bail out Athens, even if it wanted to.

Don’t mention the war

And now we shift from the Crimean War for the Second World War. This week, Greece’s deputy finance minister, Dimitris Mardas, placed a figure – $US382 billion – on the World War II reparations Athens claims it is owed by Berlin.

This shouldn’t prove more than a minor irritant to Angela Merkel’s government. The issue of German reparations was settled by the 1953 London Agreement, to which Greece was a signatory.

Frankly, Greece’s general accounting office should have better ways of spending its time than devoting resources to this fool’s errand. The World War II forced loan the Nazi government obtained from the Bank of Greece may be up for debate (worth around €10 billion now), but the question of German reparations was settled in international law with Bonn’s DM115 million payment to Athens in 1960.

What is to be done?

As I’ve argued elsewhere, the humanitarian crisis in Greece could be tackled better by the eurozone engaging in a serious study of debt forgiveness. Third World economies have persistently been granted debt amortisation in response to an inability to repay a major part of their loans. So should Greece – but with conditions.

Significant debt restructuring took place during the 2012 Greek crisis; yet, it left Athens with debts on the current loans until 2054. On current projections, the next generation of Greek 20-somethings are in for a lean time during the late 2030s, when debt repayments peak.

The Troika’s requirement that Greece maintains a primary fiscal surplus of 4.5 per cent of GDP, coupled with structural reform, leaves precious little room for social spending, let alone domestic infrastructure investment, which will be left to foreign investors.

Most economists agree that a reduction of the primary surplus, combined with some flexibility from the ECB (for example, participation in the quantitative easing program the bank commenced in March) would be preferable to rigidly-high unemployment and growth-limiting austerity.

The IMF typically ties its loans to the implementation of a structural adjustment program. Iterative debt forgiveness or restructuring, coupled with genuine structural reform implementation, would provide the incentive to current and future Greek governments to maintain the pace of reform in return for increased national investment in human and physical capital.

To be blunt, when Greece acceded to the EU in 1981, it was a Second World economy. It has remained that way, with only the debt-fuelled binge provided by the appreciating euro from 2002 presenting a thin veneer of affluence. 2009 proved how implausible this really was.

In 1953, the bulk of Germany’s debts were forgiven, which paved the way for post-war prosperity. Washington understood what could emerge from the insurmountable debt obligations imposed upon Weimar at the 1919 Versailles Conference and injected massive amounts of capital into Western Europe, while seeking debt amortisation for Germany.

In 1919, John Maynard Keynes stalked out of Versailles in a rage and wrote The Economic Consequences of the Peace, prophesying the Great Depression with remarkable prescience.

The trouble with Europe’s leaders today is that not one possesses either Keynes’ courage or his foresight.

Dr Rémy Davison is Senior Lecturer in International Relations in the School of Social Sciences, and Associate Director of the Monash European and EU Centre.

This article has appeared on The Conversation.