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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.”

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.