2016 Victorian Parliamentary Internship Program





Prime Minister’s Centre Fellowship for Monash academic

Dr Zareh Ghazarian
Dr Zareh Ghazarian

Dr Zareh Ghazarian of the School of Social Sciences has been awarded the Australian Prime Minister’s Centre Fellowship for 2015-16.

The fellowship, established by the Commonwealth government, was awarded by the Australian Prime Ministers Centre within the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House. It aims to raise awareness of Australia’s prime ministers and to provide a national focus for research and scholarship in the field of prime ministerial studies.

As part of the fellowship, Dr Ghazarian will undertake a project that analyses the approaches of prime ministers in advancing their party’s policy agenda in parliament. The project will also examine the leadership of prime ministers in negotiating the passage of bills through the Senate since 1949.

“This project will make a significant contribution to our understanding of prime ministers, governance and public policy in Australia,” said Dr Ghazarian.

“This research will develop new typologies by which the leadership of prime ministers and political leaders can be better understood”.

The project will build on Dr Ghazarian’s track record of teaching and publishing in political science. He is a regular commentator in the media and has just launched his latest book, The Making of a Party System: Minor Parties in the Australian Senate.


Visitors from Xi’an Jiaotong University

photoThe School of Social Sciences, and in particular, Sociology this week hosted visitors from Xi’an Jiaotong University, China.

Deputy Head of School Social, Associate Professor JaneMaree MaherAssociate Professor Dharma Arunachalum and Dr Zareh Ghazarian met with Professors Li Shuzhuo Li, Jie Li, Yang Donglang and Jiang Quanbao from the School of Public Policy and Administration at Xi’an Jiaotong University. Particular areas for discussion were shared research interests in population and demography, as the Institute of Population and Development Studies at Xi’an Jiaotong University is hosted in the School of Public Policy and Administration.


Hope in Health: The Socio-Politics of Optimism

alan-hope-palgraveA new book by Alan Petersen, recently published by Palgrave.

“The language of hope permeates contemporary health and healthcare. It is believed that patients who are hopeful are more likely to recover, and health professionals endeavour to ‘instil’ or ‘manage’ hope in patients. The rhetoric of hope is extensively employed in marketing medical tests, treatments and devices. Despite this focus on hope in health, sociologists and other social scientists have failed to offer a systematic analysis of the discourses of hope and related practices.

This book is the first to explore the socio-politics of hope in the contexts of health and healthcare. It highlights the significance of technological promise in contemporary conceptions of hope, making reference to examples such as stem cell treatments, medical testing, personal risk management, the use of self-tracking devices, and anti-ageing treatments and longevity research. The book concludes by arguing for scholars to take more seriously the significance of ‘hope’ in the contexts of health and healthcare.”

Details of the book at Palgrave…


The state of imprisonment in Australia: it’s time to take stock

by Dr Marie Segrave

This article introduces 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.

Australia has reached a decade-high rate of imprisonment. The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ announcement of this last year created little impact or interest.

Across Australia, 33,791 persons were in adult corrective services custody at June 30 2014. That was a 10% increase from 2013. By the December quarter 2014, the average daily number of prisoners had risen to 34,647.

For both men and women in custody, the most frequent serious offence was an act intended to cause injury (21 per cent for men, 20 per cent for women).

The next most common offences differed according to gender. Men were equally likely to be in custody for a most serious offence of sexual assault, unlawful entry with intent and illicit drug offences (all 12 per cent). For women, the next most likely reasons were illicit drug offences (17 per cent) and offences against justice procedures, government security and operations (11 per cent).

The circumstances that lead to imprisonment and the context of the crime cannot be ascertained from such data. It still raises important questions about the use of imprisonment for non-violent offences.

Indigenous Australians suffer punitive approach

An ongoing issue in Australia, which we have failed to reverse – just as we have failed to close the gap – is the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our prisons.

Nationally, the rate of imprisonment for ATSI people was 13 times higher than for non-Indigenous people at June 30, 2014. This figure covers a diverse situation across the nation. In Western Australia, ATSI men and women are 18 times more times likely than non-Indigenous Australians to be imprisoned in WA, whereas in Tasmania the rate is four times higher.

In 2013, Chris Cunneen articulated the concern in The Conversation that:

… too many Indigenous Australians will remain second-class citizens in their own country … remaining the object of law when it comes to criminalisation and incarceration.

The most recent statistics affirm that Cunneen’s predictions are unfolding with little sign of abating.

Prisons are a poor substitute for mental health care

An emerging concern is the recognition and realisation that mental illness and mental impairment are diagnosed at much higher rates within our imprisoned population than in the wider community.

Data on this issue is less easily accessed nationally. What we do know is that there is a “higher incidence of mental health problems in the Australian prison population than in the general population” and that “almost two in five prison entrants (38 per cent) reported having been told that they have a mental health disorder”.

Prison is fast becoming a significant location for individuals with high mental health needs to be supported and managed. This reflects a national malaise, stemming from the responsibility we must all bear for decisions to remove so many of the support networks that were in place decades ago – and to remove them without any replacement or alternative. The result has been the criminalisation of an increasing number of people.

Public debate ignores need for change

This brief review of current data and trends raises several important questions: why is imprisonment being used, for what purpose, and to what ends?

This series aims to offer a snapshot of incarceration trends across Australia and to identify imprisonment policies and practices that we need to change.

Each state and territory has different issues of most concern. These may relate to rates of imprisonment of particular marginalised populations, or legislative changes resulting in remand rates skyrocketing and/or parole being virtually unobtainable.

While Australian trends in imprisonment can always be favourably compared to other nations such as the US, it is clear that current trends across the nation have significant short-and long-term consequences. Attracting public attention and engagement with these consequences is challenging in a political, social, and media environmentdominated by law-and-order politics.

This series aims to provide a platform for public discussion via a critical mass of articles that take stock of the situation in each state and territory, and as a nation.

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

This article has previously appeared on The Conversation

Study Criminology at Monash


State of imprisonment: Victoria is leading the nation backwards

by 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.

Study Criminology at Monash


Emotional Experiences of early parenthood project

A new online resource supporting Australian families in early parenthood produced by The Health in Society Research Network (HiSNet)

The Health in Society Research Network (HiSNet) is a unique, interdisciplinary research network based at the School of Social Sciences dedicated to understanding health and illness experiences in the social context. Under Associate Professor Renata Kokanovic’s leadership, the network is creating a unique database of a range of personal health and illness experiences elicited through narrative research. These are used to produce online resources to support people experiencing health challenges, contribute to health and social care service improvement, and influence health policy directions.

Based on narrative research conducted by Lead Investigator A/Prof Renata Kokanovic and her team (Kate Johnston-Ataata, Caroline Hart and Nicholas Hill) and funded by Healthdirect Australia, the Emotional Experiences of Early Parenthood in Australian Families website was launched in October 2014. This is the second online resource produced by Associate Professor Kokanovic’s research team, following the Experiences of Depression and Recovery in Australia website funded by ARC LP0990229.

The Emotional Experiences of Early Parenthood website features the analysis of narrative interviews illustrated with excerpts from video and audio recorded interviews with 45 parents (36 women and 9 men) from a wide range of backgrounds and family arrangements, speaking about their experiences of becoming a parent. People’s stories included their first thoughts about having children, experiences of conception and pregnancy (including surrogacy and IVF), difficult experiences such as miscarriage, premature birth or loss of a baby, labour and birth, and impact of becoming a parent on people’s relationships and their identity.

The research, the first of its kind in Australia, contributes to broadening the terms of the debates around emotions and distress in the perinatal period, and is unique in capturing in one study the diversity of family life in contemporary Australian society. To date, the website has had over 3,500 visits, is being used as a resource in the NSW Year 11 and 12 subject ‘Community and Family Studies’, and features as an important resource on the Post and Antenatal Depression Association (PANDA) website supporting women experiencing perinatal distress. The researchers were also invited by the Childbirth and Antenatal Educators Association (CAPEA) of NSW to participate in an educational webinar to discuss findings from the study and showcase the website.


SoSS academics draft working paper on ‘Women in Politics’

Monash Academics from the School of Social Sciences, Professor Jacqui True, Dr Swati Parashar and Dr Sara Niner, alongside Dr Nicole George from the University of Queensland, recently drafted a working paper addressing regional issues relating to increasing women’s participation in politics.

The paper, which focuses on the Asia Pacific region, is part of the ‘Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum working papers on Women in Politics by the Social Science Research Council.

The Asia-Pacific paper discusses the various forms of resistance that women’s participation in public life faces, including cultural and religious obstacles, as well as violence faced by women seeking public life or office.

The paper also offers ten key recommendations for increasing women’s political participation that target macro and micro efforts including state machineries, electoral mechanisms, political parties, international organisations, local civil society and international governance structures.

About the CPPF Working Papers:

One of the central tools for achieving gender parity is to increase women’s presence in spaces of political representation. Even when greater representation is achieved, however, a central question remains: will having more women in decision-making positions result in more gender-sensitive policies?

The CPPF Working Papers on Women in Politics series looks at how four different regions—the Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa—have encouraged women’s political participation, and it evaluates the success of these efforts, examining the correlation between wider participation and changes in the political agenda, and noting specific policy measures that have been implemented and that may be needed to overcome barriers to gender parity.

Access the papers in this series on the Social Science Research Council website.


Honours Prizes

SoSS awards a number of prizes at the end of each year for the highest thesis mark in percentage terms, including:

Sally White Anthropology Honours Prize
Awarded to the author of the highest scoring Honours thesis in Anthropology

The Human Geography Honours Dissertation Prize
Awarded to the author of the highest scoring Honours thesis in Human Geography

Criminology Dissertation Prize
Awarded to the author of the highest scoring Honours thesis in Criminology

The Rufus Davis Memorial Prize
Awarded to the author of the highest scoring Honours thesis in Politics & international Relations

The Anne Edwards Sociology Honours Dissertation Award
Awarded to the author of the highest scoring Honours thesis in Sociology

We also have one award for the student with the highest overall Honours mark in the School of Social Sciences, the SoSS Honours Prize.

It is within the discretion of the discipline and the School to decide whether or not there are suitable candidates for the award. In the event that there are no outstanding theses results, the prize for that discipline may not be awarded.


Congratulations to our SoSS Honours Award Recipients

On Monday 8 December, the SoSS team held a morning tea to recognise the recipients of the 2014 Honours Dissertation Awards.


(L-R: Dr Asher Flynn, Dr Danielle Tyson, Duncan Wallace, Natasha Abrahams, Dr Paul Muldoon, Maddy Ulbrick, Amy Pfiefer, Allegra Schermuly, Dr Helen Forbes-Mewett & Associate Professor JaneMaree Maher)

The morning tea was attended by our five outstanding award winners and their very supportive and proud friends and family, alongside their supervisors, SoSS staff and HDR students. The discipline awards are presented to the students who attain the highest thesis result in their discipline. The SoSS honours award is presented to the student who attains the highest thesis result across the entire School. More information on the awards can be found here.

This year’s recipients included:

Anne Edwards Sociology Dissertation Award 2014

Natasha Abrahams (supervised by JaneMaree Maher) and Allegra Schermuly (supervised by Helen Forbes-Mewett)

Behavioural Studies Dissertation Prize 2014

Amy Pfeifer (supervised by Kerry O’Brien)

Criminology Dissertation Prize 2014

Madeleine Ulbrick (supervised by Danielle Tyson and Asher Flynn)

Rufus Davis Memorial Prize 2014

Duncan Wallace (supervised by Paul Muldoon and Michael Janover)

The SoSS Honours Dissertation Prize 2014

Duncan Wallace (supervised by Paul Muldoon and Michael Janover)

A big congratulation to Natasha, Allegra, Amy, Maddy and Duncan. We are incredibly proud of your achievements and success, and wish you all the very best for your future endeavours. Congratulations also to the staff involved in supervising these outstanding honours candidates.