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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Black Saturday research wins national award

L-R: Claire Zara, Debra Parkinson, The Hon Michael Keenan MP, Minister for Justice, Susie Reid, Helen Riseborough at the Award presentation
L-R: Claire Zara, Debra Parkinson, The Hon Michael Keenan MP, Minister for Justice, Susie Reid, Helen Riseborough at the Award presentation

Monash researchers have received an award for their groundbreaking work with communities affected by the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009.

PhD candidates Ms Debra Parkinson, School of Social Sciences, and Ms Claire Zara, Monash Injury Research Institute (MIRI) received the Resilient Australia Award under the category ‘National Significance’ for a joint project with Women’s Health Goulburn North East and Women’s Health in the North.

Revealing what happens to women and men during and after a catastrophic disaster, the partnerships resulted in the publication of two reports: “The Way He Tells It: Relationships after Black Saturday” and “Men on Black Saturday – Risks and opportunities for change” which told the stories of those affected by Black Saturday.

Sponsored by the Attorney General’s Department, the Resilient Australia Awards recognise and promote initiatives that support and strengthen communities across the nation.

Acting Director of MIRI, Professor Lesley Day said Ms Parkinson and Ms Zara’s work demonstrates how research has the potential to engage the community and influence policy and practice.

“This work is truly translational, leading to major policy changes in how authorities and other support services respond to emergency situations.” Professor Day said.

Women’s Health Goulburn North East (WHGNE) initially funded and resourced the project, instigating the first research in 2009 examining women’s experiences during and after Black Saturday. The work resulted in Women’s Health in the North and the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse joining WHGNE to hold a national conference called “Identifying the Hidden Disaster: The First Australian Conference on Natural Disasters and Family Violence.

In partnership with MIRI, WHGNE then funded and resourced the research into men’s experiences, with additional funding from the National Disaster Resilience Grants Scheme (NDRGS). A second national Conference “Just Ask: A Conference on the Experiences of Men after Disaster” was held in November 2013.

Emeritus Professor Frank Archer, MIRI, who chaired the Steering Group for the men’s study, congratulated all those involved.

“This award acknowledges not only the quality and ethical conduct of the research, but also the care, compassion and insight demonstrated by the lead researchers in what was considered risky research,” Professor Archer said.

The reports, which included recommendations for improved practice, led to the creation of Australia’s first ‘Gender and Disaster Taskforce’. The Taskforce operates under the auspices of Emergency Management Victoria, is co-chaired by the Victoria Emergency Management Commissioner, Mr Craig Lapsley and the WHGNE Executive Officer, Ms Susie Reid, and brings together senior leaders of key emergency service organisations, government departments, academics, women’s health sector, and community representatives.

Commitment has now been made by the Emergency Management Victoria and the Victoria Department of Human Services to substantially fund the work of the two women’s health services to ensure ongoing outcomes.

Further information on MIRI’s disaster resilience programs is available from Dr Caroline Spencer, MUDRI Academic Co-ordinator at



Applications open for the 2015 CEW Bean Prize

Image 1 CEW Bean PrizeThird-year and Masters Journalism students are encouraged to apply to be part of a unique European experience as a recipient of the prestigious CEW Bean Prize.

Two award-winning students will join Monash historian Professor Bruce Scates and students in Gallipoli, Prato and the Western Front to retrace the footsteps of Australian soldiers and gain valuable insight into Australia’s involvement in the Great War.

The journalism students will film on location, as part of the study program to record historical sites and oral histories of the Great War. The Beyond Gallipoli program runs from June 29 to July 24.

This award is especially significant as 2015 is the centenary year to mark the 1915 Gallipoli landing.

The recipients will enrol in 12-point unit, ATS3387 Beyond Gallipoli: Australians in the Great War, and receive $500 towards travel costs. More funding is available through Monash Abroad.

Professor Scates, who will lead this experience, has led several tours of the battlefields and commemorative sites of the Great War, including the Premier of Victoria’s Spirit of Anzac. Visit Monash’s Great War Centenary website for more information on these tours.

Applicants should prepare their CV and a 150-word statement on why they would like to win the CEW Bean Prize. Applications close on Friday, February 6 at 5pm.

To apply or inquire, email Julie Tullberg or phone 9903 4128.

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Dr Paul Watt awarded Faculty of Arts Fellowship

Dr Paul Watt, a senior lecturer in musicology in the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, has been awarded an Emerging Research Excellence fellowship by the Faculty of Arts.

Dr Watt will use the fellowship to undertake research in the United Kingdom for an article that examines the influence that Auguste Comte’s positive philosophy had on musical works in the nineteenth century.

In particular, Dr Watt will examine at hymns and songs composed by Malcolm Quin (a late nineteenth-century positivist) and the moral and social ideas they encouraged.

While in the UK Dr Watt will undertake archival research at the British Library, the South Place Ethical Society and Imperial College, University of London.

Study Music at Monash



New Monash Rudewych PhD Scholarships Advertised

In June 2014 Victor and Maria Rudewych donated $1.52 million to support, in part, university research and teaching in Ukrainian Studies in Australia.

In fulfilment of one of the wishes of the donors, the benefaction will be used in part to fund up to four three-year PhD scholarships in Ukrainian Studies or in related fields in the humanities or social sciences at Monash University.

The value of each scholarship will be equal to the value of the Australian Postgraduate Award, or $25849.00 per annum.

Applying for Monash Rudewych PhD Scholarships

Applications for the Scholarships close on 30 January 2015. Information about the Monash Rudewych PhD Scholarships is available here.

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Applications open: Jazz and Strings in New York 2015

Applications are now open for the Music – Jazz and Strings in New York 2015 Arts international study program scheduled to take place 6-17 July 2015.

Find out more about the program and the application process on the Study Programs and Tours site.

Applications close 4pm 13 March 2015. Be quick to secure your place!

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Chamber Recording of the Year 2014 awarded to Sellars and Fujimura

Dr Kenji Fujimura and Elizabeth Sellars awarded Limelight’s Chamber Recording of the Year for their album ‘The Messiaen Nexus’ (Move Records).

MessianThe highly coveted Limelight Recording of the Year awards were recently announced by the revered Australian classical music magazine.

The Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music are thrilled to announce that ‘The Messiaen Nexus’, recorded by classical performance faculty members Elizabeth Sellars (violin) and Dr Kenji Fujimura (piano), was awarded 2014 Chamber Recording of the Year.

The coveted accolades are awarded in five separate categories: Orchestral, Chamber, Instrumental, Opera and Vocal recordings. ‘The Messiaen Nexus’ was nominated alongside national and international favourites. The album was supported by a Monash University Early Career Researcher Grant and was a component of Sellars’ Outside Studies Program (OSP).

It is representative of her ongoing research into the idiosyncratic and stylistic characteristics of new and rarely performed music.  Generously funded by Monash University, this research investigates the tonal, gestural and structural characteristics of each work in addition to geographical and cultural influences.

This unique disc presents an extraordinary insight into the intellectual and creative talent that arose from a particularly fertile period in the history of the Paris Conservatoire. Centred around legendary composer Oliver Messiaen, this eclectic mix of works for violin and piano highlights the influence of Messiaen on his students György Kurtág, George Benjamin and Pierre Boulez and also considers the influence on Messiaen by his teacher, Paul Dukas.

Reviewer Brett Alan-Bayes (Limelight Magazine) gave the recording a rare 4 stars: “This disc should be praised as much for thoughtful programming as for musicianship” Alan-Bayes said. “Sellars and Fujimura focus on chamber works for violin and piano deriving their inspiration from the Paris Conservatoire under Messiaen’s period of tutelage.”

We congratulate Elizabeth Sellars and Dr Kenji Fujimura on the incredible success of this album, as well as their ongoing research into classical performance.

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Explainer: what is al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula?

by Ben Rich

As the dust settles on a series of terrorist attacks in France, people will now look to understand the broader players of this grim drama. From their own statements and from external sources, it appears that the Kouachi brothers – the perpetrators of the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices – were affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

So, what is this chapter of al-Qaeda? Where did it come from? What are its objectives?

Al-Ayeri and the rise of the Saudi cells

AQAP is al-Qaeda’s first and only success at directly founding a major branch outside the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Groups like al-Nusra, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), al-Qaeda Iraq (now known as Islamic State) and al-Shabaab all began as distinct organisations that later swore fealty to the central group. In contrast, AQAP was founded from the ground up by order of al-Qaeda’s central command.

NATO intervention in Afghanistan from 2001 destroyed much of al-Qaeda’s command and control structures. Many veterans of the organisation returned home to their parent countries following this. Among them was Yusef al-Ayeri, a Saudi national and trusted lieutenant to bin Laden.

Under direction from Afghanistan, Ayeri worked patiently in 2002 to reactivate al-Qaeda’s networks and construct five large terrorist cells inside Saudi Arabia. The ostensible goal of these groups, according to terrorism expert Thomas Hegghammer, was:

… the eviction of the crusaders from the land of the two sanctuaries.

The cells were concentrated in Riyadh, Hejaz, Qasim, the Eastern Province and Najran. They were organisationally arrayed in a hub-and-spoke configuration and operated largely independently of one another, directed by a central command node.

An abortive terror campaign

In May 2003, this new chapter of al-Qaeda announced its existence with a devastating suicide attack on a Western contractor compound in Riyadh. It left around 40 dead and more than 160 wounded.

Saudi security forces responded quickly with a widespread crackdown. Al-Ayeri was killed in a firefight on May 31, 2003. Nevertheless, the compound bombings marked the beginning of a terror campaign that largely targeted Westerners working in Saudi Arabia for the next year and a half.

AQAP initially enjoyed a degree of local support inside Saudi Arabia thanks to its declared goal of ridding the holy land of “infidel invaders”. But this support largely collapsed after the group committed a major blunder in November 2003 in Muhayya. AQAP attempted to reproduce the success of its first signature attack – detonating a vehicle in the centre of a residential compound.

This time, however, the targeting went awry. Rather than slaughtering Western foreigners, the Muhayya incident mostly killed Arab Muslims. This immediately undermined AQAP’s message of protecting the Islamic community.

While AQAP was to stumble on for several years, its waning local support, combined with the increasing efficacy of Saudi counter-terrorism policies, saw it ultimately flee Saudi Arabia south to Yemen and merge with a smaller AQ affiliate in 2009. While the group had managed to kill several hundred civilians during its time inside Saudi Arabia, it had completely failed to credibly challenge Saudi rule or remove outsiders from the country.

Refocusing in Yemen

With little state penetration in much of the Yemeni hinterland, AQAP was able to slowly reconstitute itself. The Arabian Peninsula’s south enabled AQAP to bolster itself with militants and material, but also brought it into direct conflict with a new phenomenon: religious nationalism.

The Houthi movement, whose aspirations for Shi’a statehood were an affront the the hardline Sunni reformism espoused by AQAP, was a natural opponent for the organisation. Violence easily flared between the two.

This was in addition to ongoing conflicts with the central government out of Sana’a, numerous autonomous tribal actors throughout the country, and a relentless drone strike campaign waged by the US. These new vectors of conflict forced AQAP to realign its priorities, lessening its emphasis on attacking local Western targets, as it had done inside the Kingdom.

Instead, the group began to reorient some of its efforts to engage in global jihad, where it became something of a tactical innovator. AQAP directly organised the attempted attack by the infamous “underwear bomber” in 2009. In the same year, the group utilised a novel method in a failed attempt to assassinate the Saudi interior minister, Prince Nayef: it used a suicide bomber with a device inserted in his anal cavity.

In October 2010, AQAP again attempted to use another innovative strategy by shipping explosive devices hidden in printer cartridges to two synagogues. The group has also been alleged to have had ideological links to the 2009 Fort Hood shooter, Nidal Hassan, although this remains murky.

Although AQAP’s attempts to attack the West have largely been failures, they nevertheless have shown both relentless commitment as well as a worrying penchant for creativity.

Staying relevant

Since the Arab Uprisings, AQAP has been in a state of relative decline. With Houthi power on the rise, AQAP’s ability to confront its domestic foes is becoming increasingly constrained.

To add further salt to the wound, the conflict in Syria and Iraq has drawn many foreigners – AQAP’s primary source of recruits – away from the grinding insurgency of Yemen to the high-intensity battlefields of the Levant and Mesopotamia.

Al-Qaeda as a whole – if such a thing can even be said to exist – has also struggled to maintain itself as the ideological caretaker of global jihadism in the face of the compelling message and actions of IS. With AQAP having only roughly a thousand fighters and IS estimated to possessup to 30,000, the implications of this intra-jihadist conflict are not simply academic. For many foreign fighters, IS has become the torch bearer of what has been termed the “neo-jihadist”cause.

Down, but not out

Nevertheless, AQAP remains the most active al-Qaeda branch in the pursuit of global jihad. While other affiliates like AQIM and al-Nusra are bogged down in their own regional conflicts, AQAP has simultaneously pursued holy war at both the parochial and global level.

In 2013, AQAP’s leader, Nasir al-Wuyashi, is said to have been named al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s second-in-command. This suggests that he will ultimately inherit command of the core al-Qaeda group.

Analysts maintain that while IS is a threat in the short term, in the long run AQAP is most concerning. Although IS has made numerous calls for global jihad, its ability to realise such goals has proven ineffective thus far.

Despite being enmeshed in numerous local conflicts, AQAP, in contrast, has demonstrated a will to pursue actions against Western targets. The attacks in France seem to be a tragic reminder of this.

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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Despite a looming political crisis, Greece is no longer the threat to the Eurozone that it was in 2012

by Remy Davison

Markets loathe uncertainty. They particularly despise uncertainty as the year draws to a close. No trader wants to devote the Christmas-New Year shutdown to biting their finger nails, having gone stupidly long on Greek bonds. On 13 December, all of the major European market indices fell, victims of the general air of pessimism about 2015. Fortunately, on 18 December, Euro markets rallied in their biggest gain in three years as Greek opposition leader, Alexis Tsipras, committed to keeping Athens in the Eurozone.

But the parliamentary crisis brewing in Greece still has the potential to spill over into the brittle Eurozone economy. Greek legislators held an inconclusive first-round vote for a new president on 17 December. A second round will be held on 23 December, while a third round, if required, will take place on 29 December. However, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ coalition government may not command enough votes to elect Stavros Dimas, Samaras’ preferred candidate. If the Greek parliament fails to elect a new head of state, this automatically paves the way for a snap parliamentary election, with Tsipras’ Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza) currently leading the opinion polls.

Samaras is playing a dangerous game. On the one hand, he is counting on Greek voters’ support for a ‘clean exit’ from the 2011 bailout, meaning an end to budgetary monitoring imposed by the troika: the European Commission, IMF, and European Central Bank. Samaras is conjuring up a future where there is no requirement for an EU line of credit, coupled with a cautious restoration of Greek fiscal sovereignty. However, markets have already denied him his clean break. The IMF programme for Greece is scheduled to run until 2016, which means it will continue to monitor the Greek government’s adherence to conditionality.

On the other hand, the Prime Minister portrays Syriza and Tspiras as potential wrecking balls who would squander the hard-won gains of the past two years. But unless Samaras can convince 180 parliamentarians to elect Dimas in the third round on 29 December, a snap election is likely to be held, with Syriza odds-on to win the most seats in the next parliament.

Austerity: the key to Syriza’s rise

During the second 2012 election campaign, when Syriza’s emergence as the largest parliamentary grouping looked possible, Tsipras played the role of the radical. He travelled to Berlin to meet with German Left counterpart, Oskar Lafontaine, and press for an end to austerity in Greece. He warned of “world war” if Europe plunged into economic crisis. Both Angela Merkel and François Hollande refused to meet with Tsipras.

Tsipras played fast and loose in the 2012 elections. He described the harsh medicine imposed upon Greece by Berlin as “brutal.” He refused to join a unity coalition led by Samaras’ conservatives, labelling Samaras the “Prime Minister of chaos”, and New Democracy’s acquiescence to the bailout as “criminal”. He drew plaudits and popular support for demanding an end to the EU/IMF bailout and a moratorium on Greek debt; and he called Merkel’s bluff, arguing that the EU would not risk Greece’s expulsion from the Eurozone, while Greece would never leave willingly.

Since the 2012 crisis, Syriza and Tsipras have travelled their own road to Damascus. Quietly, their demands have moderated, although the anti-austerity message remains front and centre. Tspiras has canvassed modest reforms, such as tackling tax evasion and loans to establish a job creation programme. However, none of these measures would have a substantial, positive impact upon either public revenues or Greek unemployment, which is still over 25 per cent.

Syriza’s answer to the crisis is to demolish key elements of the austerity regime, such as reversing the pension and wage cuts in an attempt to boost domestic demand. Tsipras also plans to end privatisation and labour market reforms. But the centrepiece of Tsipras’ programme is to withdraw from the bailout conditions. Since 2011, the EU and IMF have advanced over €240 billion in loans to Greece, recapitalising the country’s banks, but also repayingexcessively-leveraged French and German banks, which hold the largest tranches of Greek debt.

Yanis Varoufakis, an academic economist who is expected to play a key advisory role in the event of a Tsipras government, argued recently that “Greece cannot stand up on its feet as long as its debt remains un-payable, its banks insolvent and its private sector incapable of repaying its taxes, debts and wages”.Varoufakis is right to label the problem a systemic crisis within the Eurozone, which has culminated in a “triple crisis” in Greece, comprising insolvent banks, insurmountable debt and a moribund private sector. The ‘pauperisation’ of Greece is readily apparent. So, what is to be done?

As long as the fiscal strictures upon Greece bind governments to surpluses of around 4.5 per cent of GDP, Athens has virtually no room for manoeuvre. At best, what is needed is debt forgiveness and restructuring, albeit under EU institutional supervision, in order to reflate the Greek economy. A sub-optimal solution would be a debt pause, allowing the Greek economy time to recover and grow (no mean feat in a flat European economy).

The alternative is the rise of extremism on the EU’s Mediterranean periphery, a disillusioned population and an exodus of young people, for whom Greece no longer represents a viable financial future. The extinction of Greek fiscal sovereignty has produced a prolonged recession, alarming unemployment, riots and government asset firesales. Despite this, Athens has performed a creditable and credible economic turnaround in the last two years, albeit at an extremely heavy social cost. Credit markets rewarded Samaras’ punishing prescriptions with anoversubscribed bond auction in April.

Greece’s credit rating is still in the gutter, but a debt pause or forgiveness may return some investor confidence to the country. True, European creditors would need to absorb the costs, having already taken a haircut in 2012. But it serves no financial or public good to saddle Athens with unpayable debts. As a number of economists have argued previously, even maturity extensions to IMF loans and ECB repurchasing of sovereign bonds would not make Greece solvent. Consequently, more robust solutions, such as debt forgiveness, need to be developed by Eurozone members.

The global economy of 2014 is a different animal from that of 2012. Greece alone cannot bring down the Eurozone. In 2012, it was a fear of contagion and, more ominously, the prospect of one of Europe’s larger economies – Spain or Italy – falling victim to the sovereign debt crisis. The EU’s fiscal and financial stabilisation instruments were severely lacking two years ago, leading Mario Draghi to declare the ECB would do “whatever it takes” to save the Eurozone.

However, although the Eurozone is by no means impervious to shocks, and remains stubbornly impervious to growth, the financial architecture of Europe appears much more reassuring to markets and credit agencies alike. In other words, progressive reform in a period of relative stability is vastly preferable to the muddled, crisis politics that characterised Eurozone decision making in 2012.

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 originally appeared on the EUROPP – European Politics and Policy, London School of Economics blog.

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Lone wolves show new level of devastation

by Greg Barton

Wednesday’s terrorist attack in Paris contains elements both novel and familiar. The question that now hangs in the air is whether this is a unique one-off attack or a harbinger of things to come. France has a history of terror attacks although this is the worst in more than half a century.

The profile of the killers is a disturbingly familiar one. Young men, French-born of North African ancestry, with a history of troubles with the police drawn to jihadi terrorism and further radicalised by fighting abroad.

In many respects the shootings in Paris parallel earlier shooting deaths by French nationals acting in the name of jihadi Islamism.

Last May, 29-year-old Algerian-French dual national Mehdi Nemmouche shot dead four people at a Jewish museum in Brussels. Nemmouche is thought to have been radicalised while in prison, joining jihadi militants fighting in Syria on his release in 2012.

In March 2012, 23-year-old Mohamed Merah, born in France of Algerian parents and with a history of petty criminality and association with jihadi groups, undertook a series of attacks in the south of France. He shot dead three Jewish children, a rabbi and three French soldiers with a pistol. He is also believed to have become radicalised in prison and later visited terror groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East.

These attacks are distinctly different in their mode and primary intention from other so- called lone wolf attacks we’ve seen around the world. The Lindt Chocolate Cafe siege in Sydney on December 15 saw Man Haron Monis taking hostages at gunpoint in a desperate bid to gain media attention for himself and Islamic State. Similar motivations appear to lie behind the shootings at the Canadian National War Memorial in Ottawa on October 22, and the killing two days earlier in Montreal of a soldier by Muslim convert Martin Coutre- Rouleau, who used his car to run down two soldiers.

There are several disturbing new elements in the Paris shootings. Firstly, they were of a scale never seen before.

Secondly, although Merah and Nemmouche also shot their victims in cold blood the level of “professionalism” displayed by these gunmen is of a different order. Although they made mistakes (going first to the wrong address) and had faced initial obstacles (three times being confronted by police), they overcome them and then without any display of panic succeeded in making good their escape.

The two gunmen brothers, 34-year-old French-Algerian Said Kouachi and 32-year-old Cherif Kouachi, armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles (and possibly a shotgun and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher), and declaring themselves to belong to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), entered the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, stormed into an editorial meeting with 15 staff and called out their victims by name before executing them with single shots to the head. They also shot dead two policemen.

In March 2013 AQAP used its English magazine, Inspire, to call for the assignation of Charb.

The Kouachi brothers were well known to police. Cherif Kouachi was sentenced to three years in prison in 2008 on terrorism charges for assisting in sending fighters to Iraq in 2005; he served 18 months.

Like Merah and Nemmouche, the brothers appear to have been acting autonomously as “lone wolf” terrorists. (They were assisted by 18-year-old Hamyd Mourad who later surrendered to police.) But, while the attacks of 2014 and 2012 were dismissed as small- scale isolated incidents, Wednesday’s attack is too audacious to dismiss in the same way.

It might have been a lone wolf attack but it displayed the professionalism of network terrorism and appears designed to bolster the reputation of al-Qaeda in the face of the rising brand of Islamic State.

What the attacks have in common is a theme of alienated young men being drawn to act by the allure of a redemptive narrative — fixated by the promise of going from “zero to hero”. If this is indeed the work of AQAP, but achieved through inspiration rather than instruction and central planning, it may well be a sign of things to come as both al-Qaeda and IS compete to weaponise their support networks around the world. Lone wolf attacks have long been of concern because they are so hard to interrupt. On Wednesday we saw that they can also be devastatingly effective.

Professor Greg Barton is the Herb Feith Research Professor for the School of Social Sciences in the Faculty of Arts at Monash University.

This article has appeared in the Herald Sun.


Unaccompanied children seeking asylum face uncertainty and risk of exploitation

by Antje Missbach

When Karim (not his real name) was a teenager, he travelled from Myanmar to Indonesia as an asylum seeker. Stranded in Java without money and friends, he slept in a mosque for a number of weeks until an Indonesian man invited him to his family home.

What first seemed like an act of kindness soon turned out to be a trap. The man molested Karim. Unaccompanied and underage asylum seekers, more than their adult counterparts, face risks of becoming victims of exploitation.

I met Karim four years after he first arrived in Indonesia. He was not a talker. But the longer we knew each other, the more he opened up.

Unaccompanied and underage asylum seekers in Indonesia

Most unaccompanied minors in Indonesia are boys aged between 13 and 17. They are usually from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. Some come from Somalia and Myanmar. They travel to Indonesia en route to Australia. Asylum seekers deem the journey to Australia cheaper than trying to reach Europe or the US.

But many asylum seekers get stranded in Indonesia longer than they assumed at first. Since Australia implemented Operation Sovereign Borders in September 2013, very few boats with asylum seekers are departing from Indonesia. The Australian government intercepted some that did and turned them back to Indonesia.

They might have to wait even longer now to get resettled. In November 2014, the Australian government announced they would stop accepting refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Indonesia on or after July 1 2014.

As of August 31 2014, there are 9581 people registered with the UNHCR in Jakarta. 5450 of them are asylum seekers and 4,131 are refugees. 7407 were male and 2174 were female. 2652 children are currently registered with the UNHCR, including 908 unaccompanied minors and separated children. Compared to figures at the end of 2013, the number of children among the asylum seeker and refugee population in Indonesia has increased by 18 per cent.

Indonesia has not signed the UN Refugee Convention but it has signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child. As an important transit country for asylum seekers in southeast Asia, Indonesia does have certain responsibilities in regard to offering protection for unaccompanied minors. So far, Indonesia has been highly reluctant to fulfil them. It has delegated many of its responsibilities for the care of unaccompanied minors to the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Living in limbo

By November 2014, 950 children, including more than 440 unaccompanied minors, were housed in immigration detention centres across Indonesia. Like many adult asylum seekers, some minors “surrender” themselves to the Indonesian authorities in order to be detained. This usually happens when they have run out of resources.

Conditions for minors in detention centres in Indonesia are deplorable. Human Rights Watch released a report in 2013 detailing that children experience and witness violence in detention centres.

The IOM has been working with the Indonesian government to move the children from immigration detention centres to government-run orphanages and to provide alternative accommodation for families with children. The local partner organisation of the UNHCR in Indonesia has also established two special shelters in Jakarta for unaccompanied minors. The conditions in these shelters are far from ideal, but much better than in the immigration centres.

Around 120 children stay in the two shelters. They receive basic medical care and enjoy some educational activities (IT and language courses, swimming, futsal). None, however, attend school on a regular basis.

They receive a small allowance ($15) a week to cover their costs, such as food. The shelters apply very strict rules, such as night curfews. Failure to comply leads to expulsion. In order to be accepted into these shelters, some asylum seekers pretend to be under 18.

The special shelters have limited capacity to meet a growing demand. Newly arrived asylum seekers have to depend on friends or new acquaintances for accommodation. Young men often rent cheap rooms in Jakarta. Latest observations revealed that more and more asylum seeker children are forced to sleep on the street or in mosques.

Asylum seekers and refugees in Indonesia have no legal rights to work and earn money. Monthly stipends from the UNHCR are only available for a small number of vulnerable cases. Asylum seekers under the care of the IOM receive higher monthly stipends. But in Indonesia, asylum seekers and refugees often face extortion, which makes it hard to make ends meet.

At the beginning of their journey, most asylum seekers would have money or be able to rely on remittances from back home or friends elsewhere. Usually these funds dry out the longer they are stuck in transit. Some asylum seekers have tried to enter the informal employment sector, such as working as motorbike taxi drivers, but the local population oppose such attempts. Next to surrendering to immigration detention, some asylum seekers (including minors) give in to sex work and other forms of exploitation.

Unaccompanied minors in Indonesia can undergo the bureaucratic process to get refugee status and apply for international protection. However, they have no access to legal aid. Without a legal guardian, they face even more obstacles dealing with international protection regime. Even adults find the process of providing detailed evidence to prove they need protection difficult.

The long waiting times in Indonesia cause substantial stress among both minor and adult asylum seekers. Not knowing what the future will hold for them and where they will end up going, some try to numb their sorrows through substance abuse.

Infantilisation of migration

Children have always made up a significant proportion of the international refugee population. But recently, scholars have started talking about the “infantilisation of migration”. More and more children are compelled to leave their homelands – with or without their families – in search of asylum.

While most children travel with their parents, some have been separated from their kin or became orphaned before or during the journey.

In some cases, parents send their underage children ahead as “lead migrants” as they lack the money required to flee with the entire family. They hope the child could be the key figure for a potential family reunion outside of their country of origin. Families are mostly motivated by the hope to escape wars and conflict in their home or transit countries. Potential education and employment in the host country might also serve as incentive. Children’s search for asylum is often facilitated by exploitative and abusive arrangements, during and sometimes after the journey.

Another reason for why children travel on their own is to make use of the few remaining gaps in the restrictive asylum policies of the west. Many potential destination countries have special protection for people under 18. It is usually harder (but not impossible) for transit or destination countries to deport minors.

That said, after going through the arduous journey, minors have slim chances to be resettled even when found to be genuine refugees. Many countries, including Australia, refuse to accept underage refugees in order to avoid claims for family reunion.

Dr Antje Missbach is a lecturer in anthropology in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

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And, like, she goes ‘yeah, nah’: terminating our bad speech habits

by Baden Eunson

Australians aren’t well known for their articulation. From Kath and Kim to Kylie Mole, we’re the first to poke fun at our poor speech habits. But are our word choices reflecting badly on our common or garden intelligence? Should we worry about the degradation of our language leading to the degradation of our reputation?

Like, you know?

American comedian Taylor Mali in his YouTube sketch “Totally like whatever, you know?” attacks inarticulateness in the US, describing new language trends as making the current generation of Americans the most “aggressively inarticulate generation”. He despises the rise of discourse particles or “fillers” such as “like”, “you know” and the tools of vagueness, “approximators” such as “sort of” and “and that”.

Take the transmutation of the verb “go”. Time was, this simply meant “to move”, but it has evolved into a synonym for “say”. For many the most known example of this evolved in Australia in the 1970s and 1980s in The Comedy Company’s character Kylie Mole.

Yet, strangely enough, the first instance we have of “go” in this new sense is not new at all – it’s from The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens in 1836, according to the Oxford Dictionary.

We can track the “new” meaning of “like” back even further, from the novel Evelina by Fanny Burney, published in 1778, where the word in a sentence meant “as it were” or “so to speak”, which may be derived from the Old English gel?c, from which we get adverbs (quickly = quick-like) and adjectives (friendly = friend-like).

Yeah, no

Another major language trend to have emerged is that of “yeah, no”. That too appears to have Australian origins. It is first analysed in a 2002 issue of the Australian Journal of Linguistics by linguists Kate Burridge and Margaret Florey in a paper called Yeah-no He’s a Good Kid: A Discourse Analysis of Yeah-No in Australian English.

“Yeah-no” can be a politeness strategy, especially where conflict might occur – as, for example, if a shop assistant recommends a cheese/coat/lipstick that the customer really doesn’t want, but rather than potentially offend with a straight-out “no”, the customer might say “yeah-no, I was looking for something a bit more…”

It can be a self-effacing downtoner; when a person is embarrassed by a compliment. As Burridge and Florey point out, it is often heard in sporting contexts. They give the following example from the 1999 Coolangatta Iron Man contest:


And with me is one champion, a phenomenal effort, Ky Hurst. You said you felt buoyant today, you proved that. Some of the best bodysurfing we’ve ever seen.

Ky Hurst:

Yeah-no, that was pretty incredible I think. It was, you know, in one of the swims, I think it was the first swim leg and also the second swim leg, I picked up some really nice waves coming through.

Yeah-no, is certainly spreading, and not just within the world of sport: even Bill Clinton seems to have succumbed to this bad habit.

The character from the TV show Little Britain, Vicky Pollard, won a British Award in 2010 for her “yeah but no but yeah” catch phrase. Even though many people love the Pollard character, her main characteristic, according to her creators David Walliams and Matt Smith, is her inarticulateness. Walliams remarks that:

people didn’t talk like that ten years ago […] people constructed sentences, and now it’s getting rarer and rarer.

So what does it all matter?

Is inarticulateness a hanging offence? What’s wrong with these apparently minor weaknesses in expression? Well, articulateness will get you a job, or at least be the first thing an employer will consider. Graduate Careers Australia, in its reports for the past five years, has listed the top ten selection criteria for recruiting graduates. Work experience usually comes sixth; calibre of academic results, in spite of the propaganda of the education industry, comes fourth; while interpersonal and communication skills (written and oral) always come first.

Languages are studied by linguists, who tend to be either descriptivists who prefer to scientifically observe and record language without making any value judgements, or prescriptivists who try to prescribe or lay down rules of usage.

Most linguists are descriptivists, but, to return to Vicki Pollard et al, it’s obvious that David Walliams, Matt Smith and Taylor Mali are prescriptivists – they argue strongly for articulateness, and recommend changes in the way we speak and write. Burridge and Florey’s interesting analysis notwithstanding, as a closet prescriptivist I think we have a problem with our articulateness.

If Taylor Mali refers to this generation of Americans as the most aggressively inarticulate one in yonks, then we might just be the most passively inarticulate generation of Australians in yonks. If so, what do we do?

It seems fairly simple, according to Walliams and Mali – think before you speak, and then speak in complete, declarative sentences, and say “yes” or “no”, but not both. If Australians started this stuff, let’s finish it.

Baden Eunson is an Adjunct Lecturer from the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics in the Faculty of Arts at Monash University. 

This article first appeared in The Conversation

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Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music celebrating 50 years in 2015

Monash’s Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music is celebrating its 50th in 2015 with an exciting array of music performances and events that is reflective of the progressive nature of the school:

Music 50 yearsInspiring Music Without Borders

In the new year we will be announcing concerts and events that include National and International stars, our students and of course our brilliant staff that truly reflect the nature of our school.

An example of next years events include:

Monash hosts Symposium on the Malay Musical Arts

The Second International Symposium on the Malay Musical Arts of the Riau Islands will be held from 14 – 17 January 2015 at the Music Auditorium in the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music.

During the symposium, the Music Archive of Monash University and the Museum of Indonesian Arts will present an exhibition of Indonesia’s Malay Performing and Visual Arts in the Music Auditorium and foyer of the Performing Arts Centre (Building 68). The exhibition will officially be opened on Wednesday 14 January from 4 – 5pm and will be on display in the foyer till 30 January.

Monash Academy Orchestra – 2015

Four major concerts from the Monash  Academy Orchestra  featuring alumni Lesley Howard. An Australian composition will be part of each of the 4 programs. The full program is available on the Monash Academy of Performing Arts website. 

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It takes a whole village to raise a child

by Delita Sartika

Even though women’s issues were not a top feature of the presidential campaigns in this year’s election, they have risen to be some of the most dynamic discourses around the performance of the new government.

The announcement of the Working Cabinet by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Oct. 26, which features eight women ministers, has drawn domestic and global praise. Not only did the announcement show the highest appointment of females in our Cabinet history but it also allowed women to take charge of some ministerial posts that were previously considered “masculine”, such as the Foreign Ministry.

Yet, within only one month, this optimistic gender discourse has been distorted. The first case is loud judgment over Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti. Her background as a high-school dropout and being seen smoking on the day of her inauguration at the Presidential Palace, and the phoenix tattoo on her right leg, have antagonized people’s impressions of her exceptional achievements in the fisheries and airline business, fields still alien to Indonesian women entrepreneurs.

Her unusual profile is subjectively discussed from social and religious perspectives: tattoos and cigarettes are confronted with not only social etiquette but the wholesome attributes of “women’s properness”. Some even compare her with other successful women professionals who don the hijab.

While controversy around Susi has not faded, the idea to reduce women’s working hours, proposed by Vice President Jusuf Kalla, has started to occupy the public. Although the plan has not been officially introduced, it has triggered wide controversy.

Those who support the idea agree that reducing women’s working hours is an essential investment in Indonesia’s future generation as it will allow women more time to do their duties as the children’s main caretakers. On the other hand, the opposing parties believe this plan could carry more problems than potential benefits. The reason behind this idea is obviously partial and, thus, technically discriminative. The implementation addresses only the needs of women workers who are married and raising a family.

Secondly, cutting women’s working hours may lead to a broader discrimination against women in the workplace. Women workers, or women waiting for employment, may not be given fair room to compete with men in the first place.

Assuming fewer working hours, women workers will likely be perceived as less productive than their male colleagues. This simply means a greater burden on the employers. Yet, if women accept the same workload to allow them a fair chance at work, it will create a greater pressure on women as they need to finish the same work in much less time.

Thirdly, yet most important, is the anticipated compensation for this two-hour cut. A widely quoted African proverb, “It takes a whole village to raise a child” is probably what the Vice President should first reflect on before inviting the public to assess his idea. While a significant gap in domestic responsibility between men and women is already evident, the reduction of women’s working hours might lead to them being charged more with caretaking duties, particularly in educating children at home. Meanwhile, men’s traditional status as the breadwinner of the family, which gives them the privilege of having less responsibility at home, will be reconfirmed.

While the role of women to mind their children is undeniably important for the sake of Indonesia’s future, the government should adopt more substantial moves. Providing a scheme for employers to provide affordable day care would have better prospects of ensuring that children are being taken care of properly while their parents are at work earning a proper living.

Some other urgent, yet never settled, matters are the need for sufficient maternity leave and offices that are breastfeeding-friendly for women workers. These facilities will essentially maximize women’s roles in providing the earliest foundation to build our country’s future generation.

The whole discourse of women-related issues in the barely two-month old Jokowi government clearly shows that women’s roles are still being defined more by other parties than women themselves.

This article first appeared in The Jakarta Post.

Delita Sartika is a PhD candidate in Monash’s School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics. Her research analyses Islamic expression in recent Indonesian popular culture.

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24-hour news cycle in the spotlight for its Sydney siege coverage

While Muslim community leaders say Sydney’s Martin Place siege had nothing to do with Islam and was the act of a deluded individual, many Muslims fear a backlash. But they’ve found some comfort in messages of solidarity that have swamped social media.

However Dr Johan Lidberg, senior lecturer within the School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash, says that while the siege was unfolding, the 24-hour media cycle put a lot of pressure on outlets as there was little information to impart.

Dr Lidberg as recently features on ABC Radio to speak on the matter. Listen to the show on the ABC site. 

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FOI reform needed in Victoria amid East West Link fallout

by Johan Lidberg

The disclosure of the full business case for the East West road link in Melbourne confirmed what many had suspected – the project is a dud. The release also unequivocally shows that the Victorian Freedom of Information (FOI) system failed on its most basic task – that is, to facilitate the disclosure of information that is in the utmost public interest.

It is hard to conceive, apart from the reasons for bringing the country to war, of what could carry a higher public interest than how a government proposes to use A$5 billion in taxpayer money for a major infrastructure project. The very least you would expect as part of engaging with the public is that the government is totally open about how the money would be put to use.

The disclosure of the business case by the new Andrews government revealed a number of staggering facts, including:

  • The initial business case showed that the benefit to cost ratio was only 0.45: so, for every dollar spent, the return would be 45 cents. This was consequently massaged by the former Napthine government using a number of dubious economic forecasting methods and what was eventually released to the public in the lead-up to the election was clearly misleading.
  • The road was so expensive to build (estimated total cost $15-18 billion) that it would take 56 years to pay off. This is significantly longer than previous projects such as CityLink, eight years, and EastLink, 20 years.
  • The most extraordinary revelation in the 9000-page full business case is a note to cabinet observing that a full submission of the business case to the independent umpire Infrastructure Australia disclosing the low benefit-cost ratio “may be used as a justification for not supporting the project”.

The Victorian and Australian public clearly had a right to know these facts before the construction contracts were signed. Not disclosing these basic facts is akin to your super fund refusing to tell you how your super money is invested. You’d leave such a fund, wouldn’t you? This is exactly what the people of Victoria did in the recent election.

In the best of worlds, governments can create a win-win situation proactively disclosing information needed for the public to make informed decisions. The win-win occurs when information disclosure is used as a trust-building tool between government and the governed. Independent access to government-held information makes the public feel trusted and more engaged in the political process.

In reality, however, there is tension between the need for governments to be trusted to govern and the public’s right to know. This is where FOI laws come in.

Section 3 (1) (b) of the Victorian Freedom of Information Act 1982 states that the act’s intention is:

… creating a general right of access to information in documentary form in the possession of Ministers and agencies limited only by exceptions and exemptions necessary for the protection of essential public interests and the private and business affairs of persons in respect of whom information is collected and held by agencies.

The East West link debacle again clearly illustrates that the current FOI system in Victoria does not create this general right of access – at least not when it comes to controversial matters.

In the lead-up to the election, a number of local councils, members of the public, journalists and academic researchers lodged FOI applications. The most high-profile application was submitted by the Victorian ALP. The then-opposition spokesperson for roads, Luke Donnellan, got the same reply as the other applicants: the documents could not be released as they had been prepared for and submitted to the cabinet and hence fell under the exemption clause for current cabinet documents.

The cabinet document exemption is one of the areas in the Victorian FOI law that need re-assessment. Should a public interest test apply to whether cabinet documents are released or not?

The last Victorian government promised extensive reforms to the Victorian information access system while in opposition, but delivered very little when in government. This pattern is unfortunately far too common. Let’s hope the new Andrews government will deliver more far-reaching information access reforms.

My comparative FOI functionality research, spanning 15 years, shows that you can change the law until the end of days with little effect on the practical access to information. The legal changes need to be coupled to an FOI advocate – such as a well-resourced and vigorously independent FOI Commissioner.

There is some evidence that FOI culture can be changed. The federal Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has made some progress in this regard. Unfortunately, the OAIC has been nominated as a saving in the federal budget and will most likely be closed in 2015.

The failure of Victorian FOI to deliver access to the full business case provides the new Victorian government with a reason and window of opportunity to enact meaningful reforms.

These reforms would involve some legislative changes. But most importantly, the culture of the administration of FOI in Victoria needs to change from one of secrecy to one of facilitating access to the information that the government generates and holds on behalf of the people.

Dr Johan Lidberg is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University.

This article has appeared in The Conversation.


Questions And Mourning After Sydney Cafe Siege

Associate Professor Pete Lentini, director of the Global Terrorism Research Center at Monash University, joined Robin Young, host of the radio show Here & Now, to discuss the siege carried out in Sydney this week and its implications for security in Australia.


Monash graduate named CEO of the year

Karl Redenbach
Karl Redenbach

Monash alumni Karl Redenbach (BA 1999, LLB 2000), currently head of a global technology company LiveTiles, has been named 2014 CEO of the Year by the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI).

The award, announced at the AHRI annual dinner in December, recognises the CEO who has most convincingly achieved success for their business through best practice people management.

Mr Redenbach’s award highlighted his leadership style saying he “breaks the CEO mould by being accessible, inspiring and bringing an energy that moves others out of their comfort zone and into a place where they can really excel. Renowned for his generosity, community involvement and willingness to invest in his employees, Karl earns the respect of all he meets.”

After graduating from Monash, where he majored in politics and police studies, Mr Redenbach worked as a musician and publicist and led a publishing company with his brother before working as a lawyer for Insurance Australia Group.

In 2002 at the age of 25 he branched into the IT sector, co-founding technology company nSynergy. From humble beginnings in Melbourne, nSynergy soon became a world leader in developing modern, people-centric business solutions and is now an award-winning Microsoft partner, operating in 11 locations across the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific regions.

In 2012 Mr Redenbach moved his young family to New York to tackle the US market and is now heading up a new products company that has been born from nSynergy, called LiveTiles. Since launching in October 2013, LiveTiles has been installed for some of the world’s largest brands including Nike, Siemens and Best Buy and has recently announced it is to receive $2.5 million in investment funding from cloud licensing provider, Rhipe (formerly New Lease).

On receiving the award, Mr Redenbach said he was incredibly lucky to work with an amazing team and business partner. “This award is for the entire team who show unbelievable passion every day and hold our company values in the highest regard,” Mr Redenbach said.

“Being a successful business today is not just about finding the best people, its having them work collaboratively in an agile and flexible manner.

“Our business is based on inclusion and diversity with our operations spread across China, UK, USA and Australia. Having a culture that is team orientated and collaborative across these time zones has been critical to our success.”

In 2014 Mr Redenbach accepted Monash University’s invitation to join the new Monash US Leadership Group.

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Monash-Warwick links: Criminology academic’s fellowship posting

Dr Asher Flynn, a Monash academic in Criminology, has been appointed a Research Fellow in the School of Law at the University of Warwick for three years.

As part of the Fellowship, Dr Flynn will spend two months visiting the School of Law in 2015, where she will contribute to teaching, research and postgraduate development. The Fellowship will allow Asher to build on her current research project, Access to Justice: A Comparative Analysis of the Cuts to Legal Aid Across England, Wales & Victoria, co-led with Leverhulme Fellow, Professor Jackie Hodgson from the Centre for Criminal Justice at the University of Warwick.

This project contributes to increased understanding of the impacts of changes to legal aid funding and policies, and promotes a culture of human rights and access to justice for all.

More information on the project, including copies of the two Access to Justice Workshop Reports, information on the two workshops held at the University of Warwick (March 2014) and Monash University (July 2014) and publications arising from the project, can be found at the Access to Justice website.


Mad, weak and alone, but still a threat

by Greg Barton

The dark day that we have feared for so long has come. Little by little our lucky country has come to feel less safe and certain in this age of terror.

The first turning point came in the dreadful hours of the morning of October 13 2002, waking up to the reality of an awful bombing in Bali that took the lives of at least 202 people, including 88 Australians.

Twelve years on, we recoil with horror from another tragedy. This time it is of a different nature and of a different scale but still there are too many innocent lives lost.

International terrorism reached out and touched us when we were travelling away from home. Now homegrown lone wolf terrorism has struck us in our own streets and cafes. We have been warned for months that this was coming. We came to understand it was a case of “when” not “if”. But still the reality hit with a sickening thud.

This emotional response is natural, necessary and inevitable. But as we move on, what are we to make of the threats facing us? How has our world changed? Is it safe to go into the streets of Sydney or Melbourne to celebrate Christmas and New Year?

A recent report on the state of terrorism in the world, published by the Institute for Economics and Peace, points out that, globally, people are 40 more times likely be killed by regular homicide than by terrorism — and Australia is vastly safer. And of course cancer, car crashes and other catastrophes are much more probable causes of grief than either homicide or terrorism. Terrorism is hardly our biggest threat by a long measure. Domestic violence and substance abuse are far greater threats.

But terrorism is the “shark at the beach”, rare and unlikely to harm us but too horrible to think about. And just as the unlikely shark attacks are real, so to are terror attacks. Regrettably, we do need to invest resources, change laws and respond to this constantly evolving threat.

But what do we make of the particular threat of lone wolf terrorism? What do we make of what happened in Sydney this week? It is easy to dismiss Man Haron Monis as simply mad and bad, damaged and dangerous. It is easy to explain his motivation and actions in terms of a man coming to the end of his tether and lashing out in desperate attempt to justify a life squandered in delusion and deception.

All of that is true but there is more that is also true.

At first, Monis looks like an outlier not fitting into the profile of a “proper terrorist”. But when we understand that Islamic State is reaching out to damaged, troubled, vulnerable men, the sinister efficacy of its message is seen more clearly. Monis was a loner, and a very recent convert to the sectarian Sunnism of IS, but men like Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Ali Baryalei struggled with similar issues and were drawn to the same promise of redemption through violent action.

The seductive appeal of the Islamic State message is “if you come and join us and fight with us or if you act alone and fight in our name, a lifetime of sin can be atoned for with one courageous act”.

THE chief end of lone wolf attacks, in IS terms, is to achieve notoriety and capture media attention — as long as the black banner of Islamic State appears in videos circulating the world, then the most pointless act of terror has meaning and the most banal terrorist finds purpose.

If we understand the appeal of the IS message, then the threat of the lone wolf terror attacks it seeks to unleash in streets and in cities around the world becomes more immediate and more understandable.

Terrorists like the Norwegian lone wolf attacker Anders Behring Breivik are typically damaged individuals driven by a mix of narcissism, self-doubt and the need for affirmation — whatever political creed they claim or religious position they appropriate. Lone wolf terrorism in particular is an ungodly, impure cocktail of motives and justifications. But that does not make it any less real or any less dangerous.

In fact the low threshold of entry, and the modest demands it makes upon those embracing it, make its allure all the more potent and seductive. And like it or not, we must acknowledge that Man Haron Monis succeeded in holding the world hostage to his horrible venture — news bulletins and websites around the world for 24 hours were dominated by what he was doing.

And for too many people the demonstration effect of this act and the success achieved by this most pathetic of actors holds strong appeal.

Others will surely copy his tactic of siege and hostage-taking. If a man as weak and ordinary as Monis could achieve this, then so could anyone.

The question now is no longer “when” but “how many” — will we see just a few sporadic attacks or will they come in waves of increasing frequency? This will remain a limited threat but the signs are that it is rising one.

Professor Greg Barton is the Herb Feith Research Professor for the School of Social Sciences in the Faculty of Arts at Monash University.

This article has appeared in the Herald Sun.


Monash social scientists recognised

Four Monash social scientists have been recognised for their distinguished achievements and exceptional contributions by the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (ASSA).

Professor Bruce Scates from the National Centre for Australian Studies, Professor Alistair Thomson from the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies, Professor Lisa Cameron from the Monash Centre for Development Economics, and Professor Farshid Vahid from the Department of Econometrics and Business Statistics were installed as new Fellows at the academy’s annual symposium and annual general meeting. Emeritus Professor John Legge AO from the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies was recognised as a Jubilee Fellow, having been originally elected to the academy in 1964.

Each of these scholars has been recognised as having built a distinguished research career in one or more social science disciplines in Australia.

All have been recognised by their peers for their contributions to the field of social science research.

The ASSA promotes excellence in the social sciences in Australia and in their contribution to public policy. It coordinates the promotion of research, teaching and advice in the social sciences, promotes national and international scholarly cooperation across disciplines and sectors, comments on national needs and priorities in the social sciences, and provides advice to governments on issues of national importance.


Abbott should dump, not ‘refine’, his paid parental leave scheme

59726a555f18d10cb44e40fc702a13c2_nBy Veronica Sheen

Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed over the weekend that he will use the parliamentary summer break to review his paid parental leave (PPL) scheme, which has so far proven to be a large political liability.

However, Abbott shouldn’t waste his time and taxpayers’ money on a review. His PPL idea doesn’t need reviewing. It needs scrapping.

This is not because there is no need for PPL: it is because Australia already has an effective and equitable scheme. It is quite consistent with schemes in other OECD countries, notwithstanding their enormous diversity, as the ANU’s Peter Whiteford has previously pointed out.

What’s so good about the existing scheme

The existing scheme began at the start of 2011 and so is just four years old. There are costs associated with the establishment of any program and with its break-up and replacement with something else. In the age of austerity and budgetary constraint – as we are continuously reminded– these are important considerations.

But the current PPL scheme is clearly delivering good results across a range of measures. These should be at the forefront of considerations in whether it should be replaced.

The existing PPL pays everyone the same rate: A$641 per week before tax. That adds up to the national minimum wage for a 38-hour week. It is paid for 18 weeks, which is in line with schemes in other comparable countries, according to a recent OECD report. It should be noted that the information about Australia in the report is out of date.

While the Coalition’s original PPL proposal made much of the “replacement” wage for women – which would particularly benefit middle and higher-income earners – it provided little evidence that such women are motivated by higher-level maternity leave payments in relation to the time taken off work. Also, as Whiteford points out, the “replacement wage” in other OECD countries is open to interpretation.

The existing scheme pays the same rate for low-earning women in casual and part-time work as women on incomes up to $150,000. Women working around one day a week in ten of the previous 13 months before the birth are eligible. This is a great boon for women with other children or locked into short-hours work who cannot work full-time. Women who are self-employed and not earning very much from a business are also eligible.

An important finding of the review of the current paid parental leave scheme, which was released in June, is that it has encouraged women on low incomes, in casual work and those self-employed to stay at home with their newborn babies for longer and, at the same time, encouraged them to return to work in the longer term. It has also had positive effects on employers’ retention of mothers on their return to work.

These are very desirable outcomes in terms of equitable life chances for babies and equitable treatment of mothers at a vulnerable point in their lives. The evaluation associated with the review found:

… an improvement in mothers’ and babies’ health and well-being and work-life balance particularly amongst those for whom PPL made the most difference – mothers least likely to have access to employer-funded parental leave, and those with least financial security due to precarious employment.

With so many women working in part-time casual jobs – around 25 per cent of the female workforce – including 10 per cent underemployed, the existing PPL is proving to be an effective social program.

The review indicates that there are community concerns about PPL, such as in some of the eligibility criteria. However, its report card indicates that this program has very considerable positive social impacts for Australian women and there is no justification for it to be scrapped and replaced.

What Abbott needs to focus on

As Abbott is very concerned about women’s advancement and retention in the workforce – he has the women’s portfolio, with Michaelia Cash as the minister assisting – he has many policy possibilities to consider over the summer break.

As well documented, women participate in the workforce on very different terms  than men. This results in a gender pay gap and lower retirement income. A troubling and significant gender wealth gap is also coming to light.

By any measure, PPL is just one plank in the raft of measures that contribute to women’s employment participation and economic equality. A PPL scheme facilitates women’s return to work but does nothing to help their ongoing capacity to do those jobs.

As the National Foundation for Australian Women points out, accessible and affordable child care goes hand in hand with PPL. This has actually overtaken PPL as the defining issue for women in the workforce. The question of child care is to be rolled into the review of Abbott’s PPL scheme.

Finally, there is the question of funding for Abbott’s PPL scheme. The original proposal was to be funded through a 1.5 per cent levy on around 3000 of Australia’s largest companies and to be offset by a modest company tax rate cut.  The levy and related company tax cut amount to forgone revenue that could be better used to bolster the budget, whether or not anyone believes there is a budget emergency.

There are a lot of outstanding needs across social programs generally. But to bolster women’s employment participation as Abbott so desires, some better funding for child care would be a good way to go.

Dr Veronica Sheen works in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University.

This article has appeared in The Conversation.


Spotlight on Kepri music, dance and theatre

One of Indonesia’s best kept secrets, Kepri Province’s Malay music, dance and theatre forms will be the focus of an upcoming symposium hosted by Monash University.

The Second International Symposium on the Malay Musical Arts of the Riau Islands (also know as Kepri) will see scholars from Denmark, the USA, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Australia present papers on all aspects of the music, dance and theatre of the islands. Kepri is an archipelago in Indonesia, located east of Sumatra along with two islands south of Singapore.

Symposium convenor Professor Margaret Kartomi from Monash University’s Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music said because the Kepri Province was founded as late as 2004, the secrets of its artistic culture are only now beginning to be exposed to the world.

“The beauty and distinctiveness of the arts of Java and Bali are well-known around the world; however, Indonesia’s equally beautiful and unique Malay arts from the cradle of Malay-Indonesian civilisation – the Riau Islands/Kepulauan Riau are yet to be discovered outside the province,” Professor Kartomi said.

“This will be the first time the performing and visual arts of the Riau Islands will be discussed and exposed to the public in Australia.”

Keynote speaker and historian of Southeast Asia, Professor Leonard Andaya of the University of Hawaii, will present new research on ‘The Southern Malay World’.

During the symposium the Music Archive of Monash University (MAMU) and the Museum of Indonesian Arts (MIA) will present an exhibition of Indonesia’s Malay Performing and Visual Arts.

In addition, the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music will host a team of artists and scholars from Tanjung Pinang, capital of the Riau Islands.

Professor Kartomi said this would be the first visit of a team of Kepri artists and scholars to Australia and to the outside world at large.

“The visit by the Kepri artists will be an magical experience for those who attend their performances,” Professor Kartomi said.

“For nearly 200 years the main royal court of the Malay world was centred at Daik-Lingga in southwest Kepri, and today’s artists are reviving the former sultans’ nobat orchestral music, which derives from ancient Arabo-Persian models; and composers are incorporating its haunting sounds into modern digital compositions,” Professor Kartomi said.

“Some fascinating dances, including long-fingernail and betelnut offering dances, and three different forms of people’s theatre called mendu, bangsawan and makyong are still performed.

“The descendants of the second royal palace on Penyengat Island are reviving the intricate zapin dance tradition of Arab-Hadramaut origin that replaced some of the older spirit-venerating dances in the nineteenth century.”

The Second International Symposium on the Malay Musical Arts of the Riau Islands will be held from 14 – 17 January 2015 at the Music Auditorium, Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music, Monash University Clayton campus.

The Exhibition of Indonesia’s Malay Performing and Visual Arts, to be held in the Music Auditorium and foyer of the Performing Arts Centre (Building 68), Monash University Clayton campus, will officially be opened on Wednesday 14 January from 4 – 5pm and will be on display in the foyer till 30 January.


Sugar and spice and all things nice

Emeritus Professor Mark Wahlqvist, from the Monash Asia Institute, was recently featured on ABC radio’s 612 Brisbane.

Health experts say adding just one gram of turmeric to breakfast could help improve the memory of people who are in the very early stages of diabetes and at risk of cognitive impairment.

Professor Wahlqvist says the finding has particular significance given that the world’s ageing population means a rising incidence of conditions that predispose people to diabetes, which in turn is connected to dementia.

Professor Mark Wahlqvist says early intervention could help to reduce the burden, whether by halting the disease or reducing its impact.


New Postgrad Research Area: Trans-Asian Cultural and Media Studies

A new research area has been added to the postgraduate research program within the School of Film, Media and Communication (MFJ) at Monash, ‘Trans-Asian Cultural and Media Studies’.

Currently, there are thirteen prominent scholars available for supervision both within MFJ and across Arts, with opportunity for cross-disciplinary research.

With an emphasis on transnational perspectives and cross-disciplinary approaches, the program will cover wide-ranging research topics of cultural and media studies in the contexts of diverse Asian countries/regions including Australia.

The following are major research topics (but not limited to):

  • Globalization and popular culture (TV, film, music, sports, celebrities etc.)
  • Trans-Asian cultural flows, connections and exchange
  • Cultural economy and cultural policy
  • Critical studies of soft power and nation branding
  • Digital culture
  • Communication technologies and the body
  • Media, citizenship and the public
  • Media and affect
  • Youth culture and urban culture
  • Multiculturalism, racism, nationalism
  • Diaspora, migrants and transnationalism
  • Visual culture, gender/sexuality and queer studies
  • Asian-Australian studies
  • Asia-Australia connections and interactions

Please see the detail of research interests of each faculty member at the Monash webpage:

For any inquiries and to apply, visit the MFJ post-graduate research site or email:



Monash Arts student success in GradConnection Top 100 Future Graduates Awards

Monash Arts student, Ashley Coleman-Bock, was recently listed in the top 3 Arts Graduates according to  the Grad Connection Top 100 Future Graduates Awards.

Ashley Coleman-Bock
Ashley Coleman-Bock

Grad Connection is an organisation designed to link high calibre students and graduates to businesses seeking new recruits. This year, Grad Connection began a Top 100 Award to highlight the graduates working with them. The competition culminated in a Top 100 Awards Gala Dinner to showcase graduates across Australia and celebrate their achievements, held in Sydney last week.

The selection process for the top 100 is rigorous and involves written applications, online testing and video interviewing, carried out by a number of organisations working in graduate recruitment. Ashley Coleman-Bock, a student at Monash University, ranked in the top 3 in the Arts section nation-wide.

Ashley is studying a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Business, majoring in Management, Politics and International Studies and is due to complete her studies next year.

The Top 100 Award Gala Dinner held at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney. Image: GradConnection
The Top 100 Awards Gala Dinner held at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney. Image: GradConnection

In addition to this, she’s enrolled in a Diploma in Languages, specialising in Korean, and in 2010 studied Philosophy at Monash as part of the VCE Enhancement Studies program.

“To be recognised not just in the Top 100, but in the top 3 Arts graduates, is a huge honour. The process is quite long, and involves a range of interviews, psychometric tests, group tasks and individual assessments, but it was well worth the work,” Ashley said.

As this is the first year of the competition, Ashley urged fellow students and graduates to get involved in coming years. “I really recommend everyone apply for the program. It’s a great way to get recognised for your work, and build vital connections with employers,” she said.

Study Arts at Monash: