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Do schools and corporations mix?

 The furore following the announcement that Jenny Craig CEO Amy Smith would address a gathering of hundreds of girls' school teachers has once again brought the uncomfortable issue of corporate presence in schools to light. 

The public response – that school groups should not be seen to endorse the dieting industry – is certainly warranted. But such corporate presence in education is really just the tip of the iceberg.

Counting the numbers in Timor-Leste’s elections

Jose Ramos-Horta’s decision to support the Democratic Party (PD) in the parliamentary elections has two sets of implications for Timor-Leste’s politics. The first and most obvious will be the effect that this has on the outcome of the parliamentary elections and in particular the level of success of PD. The second, less obvious, implication will be for the next, second round of the presidential election, for which Ramos-Horta was unsuccessful.
Assuming that votes for candidates will be translated, more or less, into parliamentary votes, based on Ramos-Horta’s support, with his 18% added to PD’s 17%, PD can expect to receive around 35% of the vote which, extrapolating from first round presidential figures, is likely to make it Timor-Leste’s single largest party and hence in a dominant position to form a majority alliance in parliament.

Timor-Leste’s presidential run-off

Following Timor-Leste’s presidential election last Saturday, the two leading candidates, Fretilin’s Francisco ‘Lu-Olo’ Guterres and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao-backed Taur Matan Ruak, will now progress to a second round of voting in mid-April. Their success to date reflects perhaps more the relatively high level of party loyalty within Timor-Leste than support for the two as individuals.

At 28%, Lu-Olo’s vote was almost exactly the same as in the first round of the 2007 election. Ruak’s vote reflected support in 2007 from the main government party, CNRT, for outgoing president Jose Ramos-Horta, then at 22 per cent. At that time, CNRT was a new party and has since had time to consolidate in office, reflected in Ruak’s 25% vote. 

Both Lu-Olo and Ruak are well known in Timor-Leste, but neither is especially well known outside the country. That will no doubt change for one of them after April. 

The appeal of long form "adverfilms"

Clearly, some PR company (or companies) is making good money out of convincing large corporations and businesses that the way to get to consumers, in this fragmented media world, is to do long-form advertisements. Rather than short, pithy 30 second spots, there seems to be a bit of a movement toward longer, snappy and emotionally rich adver-films that tell the story about "Our People". Some swelly music, beautiful sweeping pan shots, nice depth of field, and happy smiling faces... you get the picture. The Australian mining industrythe Mormons, and now Qantas have all put together a series of films about how their people, are people, just like you and me.

Liam Jurrah and Yuendumu

Liam Jurrah’s involvement in a violent incident in an Alice Springs court last week has captivated the Australian media for days. The 23-year-old forward at the Melbourne Football Club recommenced training yesterday, after being granted bail by an Alice Springs court on charges of unlawfully causing serious harm and being armed with an offensive weapon. The weapon is believed to have been a machete, and Jurrah is implicated in an attack that left a 35-year-old man in hospital with serious head injuries. The incident is reported to have been part of ongoing clan disputes that have plagued his home community of Yuendumu, 300km west of Alice Springs, for 18 months. This morning, The Conversation spoke with Jurrah’s biographer and friend Bruce Hearn Mackinnon. Mackinnon is a senior lecturer at Deakin University and hosted Jurrah on his initial move to Melbourne.

Democracy as Lulic?

Amongst Timor-Leste’s traditions, there is none more central to how Timorese understand themselves in relation to their world than that of lulic, or that which is ‘sacred’.

While a sense of lulic is not always visible, especially in life that is affected by elements of modernity, such as in a town or in Dili, it continues to lie under the surface for many, perhaps most, Timorese.

The idea of lulic can apply to place, to the relationship between things, such as the sun and the moon or the earth and the sky, to relationships between people, to life and death and social obligations and to symbols of authority and social organisation.

As traditions evolve and change to incorporate new elements, so too has lulic changed to incorporate such symbols.

Old Portuguese swords may be considered as lulic, as can flags that have a particular value or importance.

Security, peace, dignity? The role of Victorian human rights laws

Phil* became homeless after his partner died and his house was repossessed.  He cycled through shelters and crisis accommodation, dangerous rooming houses, and the couches of friends and families.

After several months, Phil hit the jackpot and was accepted into transitional housing.  As the name suggests, transitional housing is short- to medium-term housing to assist people transition from homelessness into long-term housing.

Phil was excited to move into the house.  On the day he moved in, he was handed a lease, a set of keys and a 120-day eviction notice.  ‘It’s just how we ensure that we can evict you when we need to,’ explained his housing worker.

East Timor's calm ahead of presidential elections

The dog was sleeping, its head on its paws, in the middle of the road leading from the airport. As we approached in a four-wheel-drive, it looked up, gauged the situation and put its head back on its paws and closed its eyes. This sleeping dog was let lie.

Apart from horrific moments of violence and destruction, East Timor has otherwise been a pretty laid back place, as it is now.

The pigs that used to wander the streets just outside of the main commercial precinct are only a little less common than they once were.

Yellow taxis ply the streets at the slowest possible speed to conserve fuel. Sunday c-ckfights and wet season thunderstorms are often as exciting as it gets.

When things are normal, life tends to move at a pretty slow pace. It is only when violence erupts that East Timor goes from a lazy day dream to a frantic nightmare.

Discriminating on the basis of criminal records: the need for reform

We all make mistakes: often they are embarrassing or hurtful, sometimes they have more serious consequences. However, where the police and courts get involved, they can have long-lasting impact on people’s lives.

Discrimination on the ground that a person has a criminal record is widespread in Victoria, particularly in obtaining and maintaining employment. There has been a significant increase in the number of criminal record checks undertaken in Victoria: Victoria Police data shows a 6000 per cent increase in checks between 1992-93 and 2003-04. Indeed, in the employment sphere, ‘criminal record checks are fast becoming a routine part of the recruitment process’. In this context, it is increasingly concerning that laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of a person’s irrelevant criminal record lack any real teeth.

#kony2012: a new paradigm in social media for social change?

This week, global attention has turned to wartime atrocities committed by Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony.  This has been driven by a social media campaign launched by Invisible Children – in its first three days, the Kony2012 campaign’s YouTube video had been viewed over 40 million times.

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