Art, Culture and SocietySubscribe to Art, Culture and Society

To help commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions (established August 1949) the International Red Cross ran an essay competition on the importance of international humanitarian law.  The following is the winning essay by Sarah Horan, a final year Media & Communications/Law student at the University of Melbourne, on the the development of international humanitarian law since the establishment of the Geneva Conventions.

Maestro Richard Bonynge AO, CBE has been chosen by the Faculty of the VCA and Music at the University of Melbourne and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) Friends’ Society as the recipient of the 2009 Sir Bernard Heinze Memorial Award for his outstanding contribution to music in Australia.

Journalism conference to explore globalisation of mediaThe intersection of national and transnational news reporting in the new media environment will be a major focus of a journalism conference at the University of Melbourne on July 16 and 17.

Professor Pat Anderson, co-author of the Little Children Are Sacred report about child abuse in the NT delivered the annual Social Justice Lecture at the University of Melbourne recently.  On the second anniversary of the so-called "Intervention", she says governments have not acted on any of the recommendations from the report.

With growing concern about violence and insecurity in homes and public spaces, improved local government based violence prevention plans are more in need than ever before, according to the final results from a new University of Melbourne study.

Improved local government based violence prevention plans are more in need than ever before, according to the final results from a new University of Melbourne study.

"It's not rocket science, it's not a matter of allocating tremendous new resources, but simply using the resources that are already there effectively."

"The bottom line is that local coalitions can work effectively, though they need State and Federal Government support, specifically in terms of sharing ideas and an appropriate policy framework.  During the three years we did this research there were lots of exciting projects in a number of local governments, but on the whole they weren't tied in with any kind of state policy on violence prevention.  This is a shame because the State Government stated that prevention of violence and fear of violence was one of its eleven top priorities when it was elected in 1999-2000."

Dr Whitzman says the recently updated State Government policy is going to be a major improvement.

"Part of the issue with this project is the old State Government policy was phased out in the first year (2006), but the new policy is coming in at the end of the year, and I think we've been able to provide valuable input on that."

"I think we're going to have much stronger policy in this area because of this project, and that's very satisfying"

Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have had a tremendous effect on the reporting of Iranian elections, according to Associate Professor Ingrid Volkmer.

Associate Professor Volkmer says YouTube and Twitter have allowed a global audience access to footage and reports from Iranian citizens which would have been gagged by the Government, and says these first hand accounts have made the Iranian people less like ‘the other’ to a western audience.

“Basically ‘the other’ - which used to be the Iranian population - has become us. In this footage streets look the same as ours, people use mobile phones like we do, and they even look like we do,” she says.

“What Twitter does is give us immediate accounts of what people in Tehran are doing. It allows them to organise themselves and organise demonstrations. From Australia we can read the same message as if we are there, its more authentic and lively.”

“Personal interaction is having political impact and we haven’t had that before. We have only had media outlets covering global affairs such as CNN, NBC and SBS, but never this kind of personal interaction and this creates empathy.”

Associate Professor Volkmer says the impact of social media on the Iranian elections shows journalism is changing.

“In the old days we basically went overseas and delivered a message from the Australian perspective back to Australia, but this has dramatically changed because all of a sudden it seems we are one concerned community.”

Associate Professor Ingrid Volkmer is the Deputy Director of the Media and Communications Program at the University of Melbourne.

Pat Anderson, co-author of the Little Children are Sacred report into the neglect and abuse of Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory will give the annual social justice lecture reflecting on the NT Intervention at the University of Melbourne tomorrow, Wednesday, 24 June at 6pm.

A leading Melbourne University health expert says one of the main benefits of the NT Intervention has been getting Indigenous health back on the agenda as a major social justice issue in Australia.

Professor Hugh Taylor, who is Harold Mitchell Chair of Indigenous Eye Health at the University of Melbourne, began working alongside Fred Hollows in the seventies, and has for 30 years been striving to eradicate trachoma, a treatable eye disease causing blindness which disproportionately affects Indigenous Australians.

He was present in a NT Aboriginal community two years ago when the first army support teams arrived, and had a chance to observe initial contact.  Although impressed with the way members of the team handled themselves, he says some of their initiatives sought to address needs that had been identified for years, such as housing, community halls and recreation facilities, women’s refuges and an ongoing police presence.

Professor Taylor says if these things are actually delivered through the Intervention, it will make a huge difference, although some of the things that have happened are "less impressive than others".

"In one community I went to, all the houses had been painted on the outside, they look terrific, but nothing has been done inside. They’re terrible.  So there are some things that you have to question.  But it takes time to build houses, rebuild schools and community services; and it also takes money.  I think that’s starting, but it has a long, long way to go.

"The worst feature (of the intervention) to my mind - was the absolute crushing and destruction of the Aboriginal leadership.  Anybody who had been working in Aboriginal affairs was basically wiped off by the government ... People were grieving, mourning not only the impact of the intervention, but the destruction of the Aboriginal leadership and processes, and people were just totally undermined.  So that was a very bad thing to happen, and it should not have happened."

Professor Taylor says although some people are ideologically and philosophically against the practice of quarantining welfare payments (for food and essentials only), there have been some striking results.

"Some of the vocal people are against it because they want the money to spend on alcohol or on gambling ... a huge amount of money changes hands in these communities through card games.

"But the impression I get from speaking to people in the communities is that things are much quieter, there is much less problem from alcohol and noise at night ... much less humbugging for money. Kids are better nourished, and there is a huge change in the range of food and vegetables you can see in the stores."

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.”

Pages