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Australia faces severe challenges from changes in climate and our necessary response to these challenges will lead to great changes in our society, says Director of the Festival of Ideas Patrick McCaughey.

“Everyone has heard a lot about climate change and how our temperature is rising, but there are so many other aspects of climate change that need to be taken into account such as food shortages, food fights, food security, and the problem that arable land is drying while the population continues to grow,” he says.

These concerns inspired Dr McCaughey to take the theme of Climate Change/Cultural Change for the University’s first Festival of Ideas which will run from June 15 to 20.

“The Festival has assembled an array of different and distinguished voices - scientists, architects, city planners, environmentalists, social scientists, commentators and creative writers to tackle these issues and offer solutions to some of our most pressing problems.”

“The Festival will set off a chain reaction of ideas that will stimulate, excite and offer hope to the community. I hope people walk away from the Festival with a sense that there are solutions as well as problems.”

Nostalgia for the long family road trip, alongside the growing awareness of car emissions and their environmental impact, has inspired a new exhibition at the University of Melbourne.

Media focus on the morals of a dozen National Rugby League players allegedly involved in group sex with a woman in 2002 reflects deeper societal problems regarding the perception of women in our society, says expert on media and sexuality Dr Lauren Rosewarne.

 “The focus of media in this case is that this sex act is an atrocious thing, but it has been framed within this antiquated idea over what sexual behaviour should be. What’s more disturbing is that this woman has become an anonymous person, a mysterious figure who is perceived as just this vessel to have sex with.”

“We saw a very similar thing happen at the Prahran Football Club recently where a stripper was hired to rev up players before a match, and again this seems quite disturbing to me that women are being used as an objectified figure to sexually stimulate men in their own company.”

In her book Sex in Public: Women, Outdoor Advertising and Public Policy, Dr Lauren Rosewarne says that these ideas of women being objectified are often used in advertising.

“In advertising there is a tendency to photograph women without heads and the focus is then on her body which is often unconnected to her identity. And just like the stripper in Prahan or the girl involved in the group sex scandal, we don’t know anything about these women because ultimately it seems that it doesn’t matter who they are”.

VIDEO ALERT: Paid maternity leave will increase the value our nation places on paid and unpaid work of mothers according to University of Melbourne researcher Amanda Cooklin.

Ms Cooklin says the inclusion in tomorrow’s budget of an 18-week paid parental leave scheme which will begin nationally from January 2011, is an “historic and important decision”.

“Australia is one of only two industrialised nations to not have a paid universal maternity leave scheme, so we are far behind comparable countries and this policy will bring us in line,” she says.

“Eighteen weeks is a good starting point for maternity leave, and above the minimum recommended by the International Labour Organisation”.

“This time allows women a good four months to negotiate the early tasks and demands of motherhood, to establish breast feeding and recuperate from giving birth. This scheme will also protect a mothers time at home while giving her an independent income and the security of knowing she has a job to return to in 18 weeks.”

Ms Cooklin says research shows that only one in three women currently have access to paid maternity leave in Australia; and that women who aren’t able to access such a scheme have poorer mental health.

Ms Cooklin’s own research paper Employee Entitlements during Pregnancy and Maternal Psychological Well-being, found that almost one-fifth of employed women reported that they had been discriminated against at work as a result of their pregnancy. Ms Cooklin says she hopes the universal policy will go a long way toward alleviating this problem

The Pakistani Government and global aid community can’t address the needs of these refugees; it could result in a large pool of people who could easily be recruited into the Taliban says Associate Professor Akbarzadeh.

“There is a big risk that public opinion could turn against the Pakistani Government because of its bad management of this war, these military advances have resulted into over a million refugees and the Pakistani Government and aid agencies are woefully under prepared for this,” he says.

Associate Professor Akbarzadeh says there is a very big chance that the offensive will also be a long one, as Pakistan troops have been trained for conventional warfare and not guerrilla style tactics as is expected from the Taliban.

Associate Professor Akbarzadeh says the Pakistani Government has had a difficult relationship with the Taliban ever since they began allowing them into Pakistani Territory for “their excursions into and eventual victory in Afghanistan in 1997”.

“The Pakistan Government allowed this because the Islamist have serviced a useful purpose for Pakistan foreign policy. Pakistan has wanted to expand its area of influence and the Islamists have served its purpose in this regard,” he says.

“So when the Taliban were pushed out of Afghanistan following US offensive and settled in the northern territory of Pakistan, this created a challenge to their sovereignty. For a time they were trying to appease the Taliban forces and allowed Sharia Law to be implemented as a way to appease the Taliban, but this was a major mistake.”

“In Pakistan public opinion was very uncomfortable that Islamic Law was being implemented, and there was a swell in public opinion against it as well as pressure from the US who were wary that the Taliban now had the territory to regroup, retrain and prepare for further excursions into Afghanistan.”

Associate Professor Akbarzadeh says that while it was a combination of these factors which made Pakistan launch its offensive to eliminate Taliban forces, their short sighted approach could be counter-productive if the offensive drags out and refugees become disillusioned.

With the Federal Government set to resume debate today on proposed changes to taxes on alcopops, Professor Rob Moodie, Chair of Global Health at the University of Melbourne, discusses the benefits of such a tax.

Professor Moodie says there is independent evidence that the alcopop tax does work in reducing consumption, with independent studies revealing 165 million fewer spirit-based drinks were drunk by Australians when the tax was enforced between May 2008 and January 2009.

Professor Moodie says making the tax permanent is an important step in creating a much safer drinking culture in Australia, and ultimately saving lives as part of a concerted effort to reduce teenage binge drinking.

Ms Cooklin says the inclusion in tomorrow’s budget of an 18-week paid parental leave scheme to begin nationally from January 2011, is an “historic and important decision”.

“Australia is one of only two industrialised nations to not have a paid universal maternity leave scheme, so we are far behind comparable countries and this policy will bring us in line,” she says.

“Eighteen weeks is a good starting point for maternity leave, and above the minimum recommended by the International Labour Organisation."

“This time allows women a good four months to negotiate the early tasks and demands of motherhood, to establish breast feeding and recuperate from giving birth.”

“This scheme will also protect a mothers time at home while giving her an independent income and the security of knowing she has a job to return to in 18 weeks.”

Ms Cooklin says research shows that only one in three women currently have access to paid maternity leave in Australia; and that women who aren’t able to access such a scheme have poorer mental health.

Ms Cooklin’s own research paper Employee Entitlements during Pregnancy and Maternal Psychological Well-being, found that almost one-fifth of employed women reported that they had been discriminated against at work as a result of their pregnancy.

Ms Cooklin says she hopes the universal policy will go a long way toward alleviating this problem.

 

Ned Kelly’s remains should be returned to his family and he should be given a decent burial says former Pentridge Prison chaplain, Fr Peter Norden, AO.

Fr Norden, who has been appointed a Vice Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Melbourne, says that in the 12 years since the former Pentridge Prison closed and moved into the hands of private commercial developers, nothing has been done to recognise the grave sites of those buried in the prison grounds.

Ned Kelly’s remains were moved from the Old Melbourne Gaol in 1929, after they were disturbed by building works for the Melbourne Working Men’s College (now RMIT University), along with more than 30 other persons executed in the city gaol. They joined the remains of the 10 executed and buried at Pentridge Prison.

“Forensic Services are now assessing the human remains buried at Pentridge Prison. These are not unknown persons, but the remains of those the Victorian Government executed,” Father Norden says.

Because of the lack of recognition of the Pentridge gravesites, Fr Norden, arranged for the exhumation of Ronald Ryan 40 years after his execution. His remains were returned to his family last year, and Fr Norden is now calling for the same treatment for Ned Kelly’s remains.

“Female descendants of Ned Kelly’s family have expressed to me an interest in providing assistance for DNA testing and I believe they should decide where Ned gets buried, certainly not back in the former Pentridge Prison site.

“Ned Kelly’s family’s descendents should have the same rights as Ronald Ryan’s,” insists Fr Norden. “It would be fitting to conduct a private memorial service for the family, as his remains should not be controlled by private commercial interests.

“Let’s give Ned Kelly a final resting place with his deceased family members and insist that the Victorian Government recognises the human remains of those who cannot be identified, by providing a memorial at the gravesites at Pentridge.”

Father Norden AO will be available for interviews at the Melbourne Law School today.

Ned Kelly’s remains should be returned to his family and he should be given a decent burial says former Pentridge Prison chaplain, Fr Peter Norden, AO.

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