Asian Correspondent » University of Sydney Asian Correspondent Fri, 03 Jul 2015 10:16:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Telling Chinese Stories Wed, 02 May 2012 17:01:03 +0000

'Telling Chinese stories' is a way for China to position itself in the modern world. [Image: Nicole Talmacs]
‘Telling Chinese stories’ is a way for China to position itself in the modern world. [Image: Nicole Talmacs]

Since 2008 the People’s Republic of China has increasingly focused on ‘telling the China story’, notes Professor Geremie Barmé – China expert, filmmaker and presenter of tomorrow’s Sydney Ideas lecture.

In fact, from the dying days of the Qing dynasty, the thinker and reformist Liang Qichao wrote about the need for China to have a new history, one that would both reflect its changed realities and help make it a modern nation.

Any of those who engage with the Chinese world encounter the stories told about China says Barmé, the director of the Australian Centre on China in the World at the Australian National University.

“There is the monolithic narrative of the party-state, the multiple stories of individuals, companies, communities, and then there are the array of accounts and told about China, some that try to deepen understanding, others that evoke.”

History and national narratives express aspirations as well as political agendas. Australia too is a country that tells itself stories. At around the time that the Chinese Communist Party’s General Secretary Hu Jintao announced the ‘Eight Glories Eight Shames’ (ba rong ba chi) as part of the new socialist values strategy in 2006, the then Liberal Coalition Australian Prime Minister John Howard and his Education Minister Brendan Nelson championed a list of nine ‘Values for Australian Schooling’. They were part of a response to our local ‘history wars’.

Barmé’s lecture will look at how these Chinese stories have come to be told, by whom and for whom, and what this may mean for those who pay attention.

In this lecture Barmé will also introduce The China Story, a publishing and Internet project being launched by the Australian Centre on China in the World.

Geremie R Barmé is an historian, cultural critic, filmmaker, translator and web-journal editor. He works on Chinese cultural and intellectual history from the early modern period (1600s) to the present. From 2006 to 2011 he held an Australian Research Council Federation Fellowship and, in 2010, he became the founding director of the Australian Centre on China in the World (CIW) at the Australian National University.

His last book was The Forbidden City (London: Profile Books and Harvard University Press, 2008, reprinted 2012), and he is preparing a work on what he calls New Sinology.

Event details

What: Telling Chinese Stories, a Sydney Ideas lecture, co-presented with the China Studies Centre 

When: 6pm, Tuesday 1 May

Where: Foyer, New Law Building, Camperdown Campus. See map and directions 

Cost: This event is free and open to all, with no ticket or booking required. Seating is unreserved and entry is on a first come, first served basis.

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2012 Endeavour Australia Awards Tue, 01 May 2012 17:01:03 +0000

Patrick Neumann (centre) receiving his Award certificate from Senator Chris Evans (left) and DEEWR Associate Secretary Robert Griew
Patrick Neumann (centre) receiving his Award certificate from Senator Chris Evans (left) and DEEWR Associate Secretary Robert Griew

Two University of Sydney PhD students will continue their research overseas after being awarded Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Awards in the 2012 round of the Endeavour Australia Awards.

Patrick Neumann and Elisabeth Kramer both received Australia-Asia Outgoing Postgraduate awards from Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the Briefing Program and Presentation Dinner held at the end of last year.

Patrick will head to the City University of Hong Kong to continue his PhD in Physics. He plans to test pulsed plasma spacecraft propulsion systems in the large vacuum chamber in Hong Kong.

Elisabeth plans to continue research for her PhD on the anti-corruption movement and changing perceptions of corruption in Indonesian society since independence. Having already completed a Master of International and Community Development, she also plans to study politics and improve her Indonesian language skills.

Elisabeth will use the internship component of her award to undertake a placement with an anti-corruption non-government organisation in Indonesia.

The Australia Awards aim to promote knowledge, education links and enduring ties between Australia and our neighbours through Australia’s extensive scholarship programs. Scholarships are available for undergraduate and postgraduate students, researchers and professionals to study offshore.

The University will hold an information session for students interested in applying for Endeavour Australia Awards and Fulbright Scholarships for 2013. Representatives from both the Fulbright Foundation and the Australia Awards will be present to answer questions from students.

Event details

What: Information event for Australia Awards and Fulbright Scholarships

When: 11am, Thursday 3 May

Where: The Boardroom, Darlington Centre, Darlington Campus

More information on current scholarships can be found on the Scholarships Office website.

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Economics columnist Ross Gittins awarded honorary doctorate Mon, 30 Apr 2012 17:01:05 +0000

Ross Gittins.
Ross Gittins.

The University of Sydney has awarded an honorary doctorate to Ross Gittins, the Sydney Morning Herald journalist who has been economics editor at the newspaper since 1978.

In a ceremony in the Great Hall attended by Professor Derrick Armstrong, the Acting Vice Chancellor, Gittins was described as being a public intellectual of national importance who has acted as an honest broker between scholarly work and the public, and in so doing has made an outstanding contribution to the public understanding of economics.

Reading the citation, Professor Armstrong said Gittins had developed the art of the newspaper column to new heights in Australian journalism. “His columns are notable for their independence, their wit, and their insistence of going beyond the sound and fury of public debate into the theoretical assumptions and evidence behind the competing claims.”

The citation went on to say that Gittins early education as an accountant meant that he had brought a forensic scrutiny to the data but that this is often concealed by the lightness of his rhetorical touch.

In his role as economics editor at the Sydney Morning Herald, Gittins mentored many University of Sydney graduates from Political Economy and Government who are now established commentators at the newspaper. These include Jessica Irvine, Tom Allard, Jacob Saulwick, Clancy Yates, Matt Wade and Gareth Hutchins.

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Moving in the right direction for better aged care Sun, 29 Apr 2012 17:01:03 +0000

The Government’s aged care reforms are a landmark for setting valuable directions for better care. It’s the first such major initiative in more than 25 years – but there’s a long and uncertain road ahead.

The reforms outlined in the Living Longer Living Better report align with important values about what older people (and their carers) want – to stay in their own homes for as long as possible.

There’s an emphasis on a fairer, more accountable, and more sustainable financial system. Inconsistencies in existing funding arrangements will be addressed and consumer protections strengthened. And the proposed Gateway and My Aged Care Website service have potential to improve transparency and access to services.

The favourable reception so far, from consumers and providers alike, reflect sound policy work by the Productivity Commission, attentive consultation by the Minister and Council on the Ageing, and astute political judgements by the minority Gillard government.

Missing nuts and bolts

But – and there are many big “buts” here – substantial commitments have yet to be achieved. Only baby steps have been outlined in terms of genuinely new public funding, with most foreshadowed increases deferred for years.

New initiatives are to be paid for mainly through increased user charges and tighter means tests, redirection of existing funds, and re-worked funding formulae. There appears to be little risk of a major consumer backlash as, once again, the family home remains sacrosanct.

But while the principles and directions are strong, one might well ask “how will this actually happen?”

It’ll probably take the planned ten-year timetable to fundamentally reorient the aged care system. And we have to remember that the ten-year implementation that occurred the last time we had reform in aged care, from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, was done under one political administration – Labor. And this government’s future – in terms of political control and leadership and economic prospects and funding contexts – is less than clear.

The focus on people with dementia recognises their special needs and community concern. We’d hope that comparable resources and sensitivity could also be directed to those with intense and complex needs on the basis of other social, cultural, and health vulnerabilities.

Community care

The new Commonwealth Home Support Program promises to better integrate and increase flexibility in providing assistance at home, carer support and respite. The new Home Care Packages would provide more options for higher-level support in the community along with a wider range of flexible consumer-directed care.

It’s disappointing that there hasn’t been a more fundamental funding redirection toward community care – although there are cost pressures on the residential care industry. Nor is there much indication that services will be developed and delivered at a more regional level where they can be better coordinated. That sort of redirecting is going to be a tough nut to crack and it’s going to take a lot of effort.

The bigger picture is that the directions of the reforms are sensible but still have the hallmarks of control out of central offices in Canberra. And there’s scant attention to the need for better accommodation options in the community and for more integration of aged care with health care and health promotion.

Fundamental change – not incremental program developments – is needed to get aged care focused on what older individuals and their carers really want and where they live.

Nonetheless, here are the beginnings of a necessary turn-around toward a fundamental transformation from a funding-driven, provider-driven system to one that’s driven by what older people themselves need and want. And toward how to improve the health and well-being of older people, as well as their care. Although we don’t see much way ahead on specifics as yet, you have to start with the vision, with purposes and principles and then directions.

Residential aged care

The funds given to residential care in the package are fundamentally band aids for the hole we’re in right now. That’s very understandable because it’s very difficult to provide quality care for people with high levels of need, and many residential-care providers are pressured in this regard.

But while attending to this short-term crisis, we have to make sure we don’t lock into ongoing support for high-level care only in a residential context. That’s not what older people want, and it’s not necessarily the best way of doing it. It could be a self perpetuating policy approach.

We’re going to have to work hard to enable us to really make a break and move with the new system, albeit without abandoning the good providers and the older people in care now.

Means testing

The proposed means testing is actually quite gentle at this point. There’s no way older people will be forced out of their homes in order to pay for residential care or aged care of any kind. That’s not going to happen.

If these recommendations are fully implemented, older people with the financial means would make sensible and fair contributions in a variety of ways towards the cost, especially the capital cost, of their care.

This is a necessary reform that could enable more resources to be available for those in very high levels of need. And it would limit the financial pressures on the next generation, many of whom do not have the same kind of wealth that some older people have when moving into residential care.

So this means-testing and shared funding responsibility is fundamental to refocusing the aged care system to equitably meeting our basic principles. It’s important that we use the co-contributions to improve access to quality accommodation and care for older people without means, rather than to achieve surpluses or reduce taxes.


It’s surprising to see how large the amount of money dedicated to the aged care workforce are. It makes me wonder how they’d be paid for, from savings within existing programs while maintaining levels and quality of care. Good education and training are essential, of course, but there are risks if central directives lock in work practices that aren’t meeting care needs in the most cost-effective ways.

The Productivity Commission’s approach was to adequately fund and require good quality care, leaving providers to work out the best ways ahead within these quality and cost controls.

Reforming aged care in Australia

This is the most encouraging direction we’ve had in aged care for two decades. The Government’s response is based on fundamentally important analyses and we’ll need real public will and political will to take the next steps. It will be worth it.

Expectations for care certainly are increasing for the next generation of older people. And there will be some modest increase of financial capabilities for some but your aspirations when you’re in your 50s and 60s about old age are likely to be very different once you’re in your 80s and very dependent, very frail.

Everyone wants to feel secure, comfortable and respected in advanced old age. The best way to plan for this is to have good health promotion and economic security in mid-life and to get the care system right for vulnerable people who are already in their old age.

Hal Kendig is Professor of Ageing and Health and Director of the Ageing, Work and Health Research Unit in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

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University of Sydney architect named president of peak body Sat, 28 Apr 2012 17:01:04 +0000

Paul Berkemeier: "It's very important that the architecture profession has a voice."
Paul Berkemeier: "It’s very important that the architecture profession has a voice."

Paul Berkemeier, an adjunct professor at the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, will become the next president of the Australian Institute of Architects.

Berkemeier said he was honoured to be appointed to the prestigious position at the AIA – an organisation that he says has a crucial role to play representing architects both as students and professionals.

“It’s a broad organisation that has to understand the pressures on an architect in Darwin and a student in Hobart. I’m glad to continue working to bridge practice and academe,” said Berkemeier, who is also an alumnus of the University.

“It’s very important that the profession has a voice,” he added. “The institute is very effective as a place for like minds to come and discuss issues that affect the practice of architecture.”

Berkemeier combines his AIA responsibilities with his position in the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, where he currently teaches students in Urban Architecture Research Studio in the Master of Architecture.

“Teaching is very useful for a practitioner because it becomes a way to reflect on your own approach to architecture,” he commented. “It’s not just about imparting your knowledge and ability, but also about learning from students the different ways that you can conceive of a problem and create solutions.

“Teaching is valuable in that respect,” said Berkemeier, currently director the firm Paul Berkemeier Architect.

Berkemeier’s professional achievements include winning the prestigious international design competition for the Barangaroo development (with collaborators Hill Thalis and Jane Irwin Landscape) and designing the multiple-award winning Maitland Regional Art Gallery.

He has been closely involved with the AIA for over 15 years, including terms as chair of the NSW education committee and as a national councillor, and now president-elect.

His term as national president begins in May 2013.

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Fostering a multidisciplinary approach to HIV/AIDS education in developing nations Fri, 27 Apr 2012 17:01:03 +0000

A cross-disciplinary team from the University of Sydney has won an Australian Leadership Awards Fellowships grant to host a delegation of health sector representatives from four developing nations.

The $805,000 grant will enable 23 health sector workers from Botswana, Cambodia, India and Zambia to attend an intensive three-month Professional HIV Program at the University of Sydney in August.

The program will include intensive multidisciplinary training in the management and prevention of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections, visits to centres of excellence and leadership workshops, as well as attendance at the Australasian HIV/AIDS Conference. Those who successfully fulfill all program requirements will also attend the awarding of the International Professional Certificate in HIV Infection (IPC-HIV).

Now in its third year, the program is headed up by the Sydney Medical School’s Dr Shailendra Sawleshwarkar, Associate Professor Richard Hillman and Professor Adrian Mindel in conjunction with Associate Professor Marylouise Caldwell from the Discipline of Marketing at the University of Sydney Business School.

“We believe the grant represents how educators and program managers concerned with public health are increasingly open to integrating marketing principles into their disease prevention and treatment programs,” says Dr Caldwell. “More specifically concepts, managers are routinely using marketing concepts and theories such as strategic marketing planning, market segmentation, targeting and positioning and the 7Ps of the marketing mix to enhance the effectiveness of their HIV/AIDS campaigns.”

Dr Sawleshwarkar says that the program has enormous value.

“We firmly believe that the program is an opportunity for people working in the HIV/AIDS sector to engage in the reciprocal exchange of skills, ideas and opinions and underscores the significance of partnership, capacity building and a multidisciplinary approach in HIV prevention and control,” he says. “From past experience, we know that such projects lead to deeper, more co-operative relationships between individuals, institutions and participating countries to create a network that is likely to contribute to significant improvements in HIV/AIDS programs in the participating countries.”

About the ALA Fellowships

Australian Leadership Awards (ALA) Fellowships is a fully funded program managed by the AusAID. The program aims to develop leadership, address priority regional development issues, and build partnerships and linkages between Australian organisations and partner organisations in developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East.

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Students need to be ‘switched on’ to maths, say researchers Thu, 26 Apr 2012 17:01:03 +0000

The precarious decline in children’s participation in mathematics can only be reversed by tackling a complex mix of factors, including positive and negative attitudes of a student’s parents, peers and teachers, new research has found.

The study, published in the International Journal of Educational Psychology, is the first to reveal that ‘switching off’ and ‘switching on’ to maths needs to be addressed in different ways.

“A two-pronged approach is essential. Not only is it crucial to stop students disengaging, but it is also necessary to take deliberate actions to ‘kick start’ their engagement in mathematics,” chief investigator Associate Professor Janette Bobis said.

The study was prompted by ongoing concerns about school and post-school participation in mathematics. In 2010, a panel of the nation’s top mathematicians described maths participation as being at ‘dangerously low levels’.

“‘Switching off’ from mathematics is a significant factor in the declining trend in the mathematical performance of children in Years 6 to 8,” said Associate Professor Bobis. “Previously, experts have just focused on either switching off or switching on, or have assumed both are the same.”

Along with co-researchers Professor Andrew Martin, Associate Professor Judy Anderson and Dr Jenni Way, Associate Professor Bobis investigated the motivations and behavior of 1601 students in Years 6 to 8 from 200 classrooms in 44 Australian schools.

At home, parents’ interests in mathematics and in helping their children with mathematics were major factors affecting middle year students’ engagement and disengagement.

According to Associate Professor Bobis: “Parents can have a really positive role to play – including stressing positive attitudes to mathematics and building up their child’s self belief.

“But almost all major contexts in a student’s life were found to affect their engagement and disengagement: home, school, class. Other factors relate to a student’s personal attributes, such as their confidence to do mathematics, the value they placed on the subject, their enjoyment level and, in the case of switching off mathematics, their anxiety level.”

In the classroom, overall classroom climate was a major influencing factor that impacted strongly on individual students.

“If a school is going to do something to improve mathematics competencies they need to come from two or three angles to enhance the children’s self-belief and promote their positive engagement with mathematics. But they also need to develop strategies to reduce the negative attitudes to maths, such as anxiety and negative parental attitudes to maths.”

Because various contexts impact in distinct ways, parents, teachers and the students themselves have unique roles and responsibilities in terms of increasing engagement in mathematics and addressing disengagement.

While the study involved Australian students, the implications have enormous international significance for reducing student disengagement in mathematics and promoting more positive intentions for students’ involvement in mathematics at school and beyond.

The study is part of an innovative ARC Linkage research project and ongoing partnership between the Faculty of Education and Social Work and the Catholic Education Office, Sydney.

Switching On and Switching Off in Mathematics: An Ecological Study of Future Intent and Disengagement Among Middle School Students was published in Issue 1, 2012 of the International Journal of Educational Psychology.

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Give older workers a $1000 makeover to help them find work Wed, 25 Apr 2012 17:01:03 +0000

How much body work does $1000 buy? In many ways this is a more sensible question than how many jobs will be created for people over 50 by offering workplaces small sums of money to hire them.

The Federal Government has announced its plan to encourage employers to consider older workers by offering $1000 to those who hire and retain workers over 50 for three months.

However, $1000 is a relatively small sum for many businesses in the recruitment process. Further, this payment runs the risk of stigmatising older workers, because the idea of having to pay employers to hire a perfectly capable and highly experienced 50-year-old runs the risk of perpetuating stereotypes.

It could be argued that hiding your age might be a more effective strategy than such incentive payments to employers. Women, in particular, who re-enter the workforce report significant challenges and costs in trying to look younger in order to compete in the labour market.

There is some evidence to suggest even people in the 45-55 age bracket are mildly offended by images of older people.

Research I undertook with a university colleague showed there is ambivalence towards the use of images of older people in advertising.

We used the images from Dove’s anti-ageing campaign, which used the line, “Too old to be in an anti-ageing ad,” alongside the image of a naked, lean, tanned, beautiful older woman to kick-start discussion in our focus groups.

We were surprised by the strident responses some women expressed towards this image. While some women thought the advertisements were empowering, most women aged 45-55 expressed disquiet or even disgust at the image.

In the focus groups the women talked about the body work they engaged in to look younger so that they continued to be seen and heard at work and when applying for new jobs.

While most, though not all, of the women eschewed the idea of plastic surgery, they agreed they worked at disguising their age, making use of make-up, hair colour and Botox to get through the door for interviews.

A recruitment consultant who participated in one of the focus groups was adamant that if you were over 45 there was no way you should include a photograph of yourself in your resume.

Other research I have undertaken with a colleague in the UK found that male hedge fund traders who were 35-plus spent quite a bit of time and money on keeping fit, colouring hair and whitening teeth to ensure that they were still seen as up to it in what is generally considered a young person’s game.

Being 50 may not seem or feel old, unless you are someone who is over 50 and looking for work.

Research and personal anecdotes attest that older workers are perceived as slower to learn, set in their ways, change-adverse, inflexible, and oh yes, hopeless with technology. There are a series of intergenerational reports and business case arguments from consulting groups, such as Accenture, countering such negative perceptions and spelling out the benefits of employing older workers, including loyalty, experience, problem-solving skills and greater flexibility.

But most employers continue to prefer younger people when it comes to recruiting. Perhaps this is not surprising in a culture where vitality, energy and innovation are seen as synonymous with youth.

It’s time for a rethink. Firms, particularly those that rely on excellent customer service and sales to grow their business, might want to consider the benefits of reflecting their customer base through their workforce.

But as long as we as a society continue to equate dynamism and flexibility with youthfulness, the experiences of the women and men who participated in my research lead me to suggest the Federal Government would be better paying the $1000 to 50-plus job seekers so that they can get themselves a serious makeover.

Dr Leanne Cutcher is a senior lecturer in work and organisational studies at the University of Sydney Business School.

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Historic university building recognised as part of Australia’s heritage Tue, 24 Apr 2012 17:01:03 +0000

Left: The Round House in the mid-20th century, as captured by famed photographer Max Dupain. Right: The Round House today.
Left: The Round House in the mid-20th century, as captured by famed photographer Max Dupain. Right: The Round House today.

A small octagonal timber building originally used by veterinary science lecturers when demonstrating to students on cows and horses has won a major heritage award from the National Trust of Australia today.

The building was designed in 1920 by the University architect and dean of the first faculty of architecture, Professor Leslie Wilkinson, who named it the Round House despite its octagonal design.

The historically meticulous restoration by the heritage architects Clive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners saw the building awarded the 2012 National Trust of Australia Heritage award today for the best small project in the corporate and government category.

The architects’ work included restoring the wooden shingles on the roof, and repairing the damaged skylight and building’s timber structure. A steel frame that had been installed in 1954 was also removed.

A builder was found who could source and split Forest Oak shingles to match the originals. Historical photos, including one taken by Max Dupain, were found to assist in recreating building details, such as the lantern leadlight, as accurately as possible.

“We were gratified to receive the award and very pleased that the University has done so much good work over the years looking after its buildings,” said heritage architect Ian Stapleton.

Wilkinson designed the building in 1920, soon after arriving in Sydney from England. The structure was designed to be “an ‘observation box’ for the vets to stand in the middle and work on animals such as cows,” Stapleton says. “Students would stand on platforms around the building and look down into the well to watch.”

Trevor Howells, a senior architecture lecturer at the University and author of the book University of Sydney Architecture, nominates the Round House as his favourite building at the University – ahead of other better known and highly acclaimed Wilkinson buildings at the University such as the Physics Building.

Howells believes the Round House as most likely modelled on a medieval Abbot’s Kitchen at Glastonbury Abbey, which Wilkinson had visited and sketched.

“I am really delighted,” commented Howells on the win. “It is Wilkinson’s only timber building on campus, and it is an eccentric building in a way; it is both small and it sits in the round.”

“Why I am particularly pleased is that over a long period it fell into not only disuse but into disrepair: to see it win a heritage award is fantastic for the University and the long term survival of the building.”

The newly restored Round House will now once again be used by the Faculty of Veterinary Science for teaching and small group demonstrations. It will also be used for faculty celebrations and graduation and cocktail parties.

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A new approach to obesity and diabetes treatments Mon, 23 Apr 2012 17:01:04 +0000

The book offers strategies from our top experts to address the social and economic costs of obesity and diabetes.
The book offers strategies from our top experts to address the social and economic costs of obesity and diabetes.

A new book produced by the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre has challenged existing approaches to diabetes and obesity treatments and presented a strategy with the potential to revolutionise the way our society approaches weight management.

In A Modern Epidemic – Expert Perspectives on Obesity and Diabetes, researchers and clinicians from across the University and elsewhere have joined forces to tackle these major health challenges from a more holistic perspective. They have offered expert strategies to help address the high social and economic costs to the community.

Charles Perkins Centre Academic Director, Professor Stephen Simpson said diabetes, obesity and their related diseases together made up one of the greatest challenges to human health in the 21st century.

“Obesity and diabetes are not just problems for the individual, they pose risks to the environmental, psychological and economic stability of the entire community,” he said.

“The estimated financial cost of type 2 diabetes alone in Australia is A$10.3 billion per annum. Innovation of health and service delivery is critical to address the burgeoning problems of diabetes, obesity and related diseases as the population ages.

“The solutions, therefore, need to be equally wide-ranging, and accessible to all. Acknowledging this, our authors have written in an engaging and easy-to-read style about the causes and consequences of obesity and diabetes, as well as prevention and treatment: how to identify and mitigate the risk factors, deliver targeted and effective health care, and formulate global strategies to ultimately turn the tide on this century’s most devastating diseases.”

Contributors to the book are diverse and include endocrinologists, pharmacists, haematologists, biologists, paediatricians, psychologists, health policy experts, lawyers, nutritional scientists, nurses, health promotion experts, exercise and sports scientists, and dietitians.

Summary of key findings

  • We don’t need to count kilojoules or weigh portion sizes in order to reduce weight just eat only if you feel comfortably and physically hungry, and stop when you feel genuinely satisfied, not over satisfied.
  • Constant overconsumption of a high fat-high sugar diet triggers similar changes in the brain to those seen in drug addiction. These changes can override the biological weight-control systems, driving the development of compulsive overeating and excessive weight gain.
  • Community pharmacists as a valuable resource of trained healthcare professionals can be utilised to provide prevention and care services as part of an integrated primary care sector approach.
  • Obesity is linked to changes in the nutritional balance of our diet, with a primary role for protein appetite driving excess energy intake. Small changes in the percentage of protein in the diet can potentially yield big effects on intake, with consequences – both good and bad – for weight management.
  • The link between epigenetic changes and obesity and the troubling possibility that obesogenic diets not only render individuals incapable of losing excess weight, but they may also affect ensuing generations with residual weight problems.
  • Weight-loss approaches that recognise the individual struggle with gender and the influence of other social structures may be an alternative to current, largely unsuccessful treatments of obesity.
  • There are a range of psychological problems associated with obesity, such as low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, depression and eating disorders. In fact the most prevalent recognised obesity-related complications in childhood and adolescent are psychosocial issues.
  • Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), where the child has pauses in their breathing during sleep that may be severe enough to result in reduced oxygen to the brain, is up to 30 times more common in obese children and adolescents than in normal weight youngsters. Difficulties with concentration secondary to sleep deprivation from obstructive sleep apnoea may contribute to poor academic performance.
  • The stigma associated with obesity is considerable and comparable to racial discrimination. Discrimination against obese individuals is evident in all areas of life including social life, parenting practices, education, employment and healthcare. Furthermore the stress which obese individuals are exposed to as a result of negative societal attitudes and behaviours can lead to further weight gain, and worse health outcomes.
  • Promising societal and environmental responses to overweight and obesity include redesigning the built environment, providing active transport options, promoting the availability and accessibility of healthy food choices, restricting promotion of unhealthy foods, and implementing ongoing social marketing strategies to influence sustained healthy eating and physical activity behaviours. Government leadership, social planning and urban renewal that engage communities, businesses and other relevant stakeholders are fundamental to the process.

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Give older workers a $1000 makeover to help them find work Mon, 23 Apr 2012 01:46:08 +0000


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Tell it to the whispering walls, says Sydney artist Sun, 22 Apr 2012 17:01:03 +0000

A whispering scene in Fellini’s classic film La Dolce Vita, famous whispering walls in India, and a fascination with technology, language and codes are all influences behind the latest installation by artist Robyn Backen.

Backen’s Whisper Pitch, a site-specific installation in the Carriageworks foyer, features two parabolic-shaped brick walls facing each other. Inside, speakers embedded discretely in the walls softly emit multi-lingual recordings of whispering voices, including a translation of the whispering scene in Fellini’s film.

The parabolic walls bounce sound from one end to the other, making it seem like whispers are spoken directly into your ear.

The parabolic walls bounce sound from one end to the other, making it seem like whispers are spoken directly into your ear.

The work developed out of her fascination with architectural structures and the whispering walls that can be found in churches, cathedrals, mosques and other places of worship and contemplation.

Backen, a lecturer at the Sydney College of the Arts, writes: “Amid the ambient noise and bustle of public buildings, whispering walls offered the possibility for discretion and secrecy in the open. The spoken word of one person reflects and travels in a straight line to the opposite side of the parabola or elliptoid, so it is as if the words are spoken directly into the ear of another.”

Earlier this year she made audio, video and still recordings at the tomb of the 16th century ruler Akbar in the Indian city of Agra, and at Gol Gumbaz, a 17th century mausoleum, and the world’s second largest dome, in the Central India in the town of Bijapur.

Robyn Backen coordinates the Masters of Studio Art at Sydney College of the Arts.
Robyn Backen coordinates the Masters of Studio Art at Sydney College of the Arts.

“I am interested in old architectural sites,” Backen says. “The ambience of these spaces is quite special and there is something spiritual about being in these spaces.”

Backen has a two-year Australia Council Fellowship that will allow her to continue her travel to historical whispering architecture throughout the world to create more works. Her sights are now set on Central Station in New York City and St Paul’s Cathedral London.
Robyn Backen has shown in many national and international exhibitions and completed many large public commissioned artworks such as Weeping Walls, Sydney International Airport 2001; Delicate Balance at Ballast Point Park for the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority 2009; and Walls that Whisper, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, Canberra 2009. She coordinates the Masters of Studio Art at Sydney College of the Arts.

Event details

What: Whisper Pitch by Robyn Backen

When: Exhibition opening 6pm, Thursday 19 April. This exhibition will be open 10am to 6pm daily until 19 May.

Where: Carriageworks, 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh. See map

Cost: Free

Whisper Pitch is presented by Performance Space.

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Success on the road to a career in oral health Sat, 21 Apr 2012 17:01:03 +0000

Jacinda Matthews (right) receiving her testamur from University of Sydney Chancellor Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir.
Jacinda Matthews (right) receiving her testamur from University of Sydney Chancellor Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir.

As a mature-age student with no Higher School Certificate (HSC), Jacinda Matthews had been concerned before starting her uni studies in oral health about whether she would be able to keep up with other students who had come straight from high school. On 16 March 2012, her mother sat in the University of Sydney’s historic Great Hall, beaming with pride as Jacinda received her degree.

An Aboriginal woman of the Wiradjuri nation, 32-year-old Jacinda grew up in Sydney’s inner-west, and first discovered her passion for working in oral health when she got a job in a dental surgery in Darlinghurst. Her experience there convinced her to decide to apply to the University of Sydney.

“I am the first person from both sides of my family to attend university and I know they are extremely proud of my achievements,” says Jacinda.

With no HSC, she had to sit a University Preparation Course (UPC), gaining excellent results that led to an offer in Sydney’s Bachelor of Oral Health program. The Cadigal Alternative Entry Program supported her right from the start of the application process through to the completion of her degree, including by providing information about the University’s Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme, scholarships, cadetships and financial assistance.

Jacinda says while her course was “extremely demanding”, her time at the University provided “a sense of my abilities and possibilities that I never envisioned before.”

“The best I can do for my family is through personal example,” she says. “Anything is possible if you are prepared to work hard for it. I now have the confidence to go into the world, knowing that I am going to be a great oral health therapist.”

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Art Unlimited goes on show Fri, 20 Apr 2012 17:01:04 +0000

A work by Adrian Segon.
A work by Adrian Segon.

Six artists who work from studios in a former gaol in the Victoria town of Geelong are featured in an exhibition opening this week at the Sydney College of the Arts’ Callan Park Gallery.

The Old Geelong Gaol studios form part of Art Unlimited – a program that supports artists producing what is known as ‘outsider art’, a general term referring to art outside the commonly recognised cultural community. It is also known as ‘raw art’.

The current show focuses on the medium of drawing, including works by Dylon Davies, Voula Hristeas, Jack Napthine, Adrian Segon and Susan Stripling, explains the show’s curator and the SCA Dean, Colin Rhodes.

“Drawing is a primary artistic medium – immediate, direct, and yet capable of great subtlety and enormous variety,” says Professor Rhodes, an internationally recognised authority on outside art and author of the influential Outsider Art: Spontaneous Alternatives.

“Drawing, more than anything else, reveals the character and creative wellsprings of an artist. As a result, we are witness here to five strong artistic personalities, speaking their experiences and truths from the gallery walls.

“The result, whilst highly individual in its elements, is nevertheless harmonious in ensemble, in the way that good art has of living well together. There is a thread of wit and good humour in the show.”

The sixth artist and the exhibition’s emerging artist, Tara Allitt, creates works with crayon. “Her works are saturated essays in colour and form,” says Professor Rhodes. “Depicting some of Australia’s more iconic buildings [they] stamp both their character and the artist’s vision into the viewer’s memory.”

A work by Susan Stripling.
A work by Susan Stripling.

Art Unlimited is an initiative of St Laurence Community Services that aims to support artists with disabilities to develop and sustain their practice.

“Whilst we are witness here to the creative excellence of six strong individuals, their practices would certainly be poorer, and perhaps non-existent, without the supported context in which they have been able to thrive,” notes Professor Rhodes.

The studio provides professional studio facilities and is staffed by qualified, practicing artists. Artists attending the studio are given full autonomy over their work, which has resulted in a diverse collection of art.

Art Unlimited offers artists’ work for sale, providing artists with opportunities to gain an income.

Event details

What: Art Unlimited, an exhibition of outside art

When: 12 to 2pm, Thursday 19 April. Exhibition runs until 27 April (gallery hours: by appointment)

Where: Callan Park Gallery, Sydney College of the Arts, Balmain Road, Rozelle (enter opposite Cecily Street)



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Breakthrough in solar cell efficiency Thu, 19 Apr 2012 17:01:03 +0000

Low cost solar cells suitable for rooftop panels could reach a record-breaking 40 percent efficiency following an early stage breakthrough by a University of Sydney researcher and his German partners.

(L-R) Associate Professor Tim Schmidt and his research partner Dr Klaus Lips at the Helmholtz Centre for Materials and Energy have made a breakthrough in solar cell technology. [Image: HZB/Philipp Dera]

(L-R) Associate Professor Tim Schmidt and his research partner Dr Klaus Lips at the Helmholtz Centre for Materials and Energy have made a breakthrough in solar cell technology. Pic: HZB/Philipp Dera.

With Australian Solar Institute support, Associate Professor Tim Schmidt from the University’s School of Chemistry, together with the Helmholtz Centre Berlin for Materials and Energy, has developed a “turbo for solar cells”, called photochemical upconversion that allows energy, normally lost in solar cells, to be turned into electricity.

The finding has been published in the Energy & Environmental Science journal.

Associate Professor Tim Schmidt said using the upconversion technique, a process which harvests the part of the solar spectrum currently unused by solar cells, eliminates the need for costly redevelopment of solar cells.

“We are able to boost efficiency by forcing two energy-poor red photons in the cell to join and make one energy-rich yellow photon that can capture light, which is then turned into electricity,” Associate Professor Schmidt said.

“We now have a benchmark for the performance of an upconverting solar cell. We need to improve this several times, but the pathway is now clear.”

Australian Solar Institute Executive Director Mark Twidell said this is a great example of successful collaboration between leading Australian and German solar researchers.

“Together, Australia and Germany can accelerate the pace of commercialisation of solar technologies and drive down the cost of solar electricity,” Mr Twidell said.

“That’s why the Australian Solar Institute is supporting collaboration between the two countries through the Australia-Germany Collaborative Solar Research and Development Program.”

The Australian Solar Institute is a $150 million commitment by the Australian government to support the development of photovoltaic and concentrating solar power technologies in Australia.


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Get online and discuss What Matters to you Wed, 18 Apr 2012 17:01:04 +0000

Ben Quilty spoke candidly in the online chat about what matters to him.
Ben Quilty spoke candidly in the online chat about what matters to him.

Celebrated artist and University of Sydney alumnus Ben Quilty shared his insights into why support for the arts is a critical issue in an online chat as part of the ‘What Matters’ campaign.

In discussion with members of the public, Quilty discussed his personal experiences as an artist, his days as a student at Sydney College of the Arts, and his views on funding for the arts and how it compares with funding for sports in Australia.

“Australia suffers from some pretty intolerable lack of art appreciation, so I think it’s important for everyone within the arts to support creative endeavour,” said Quilty in the chat.

When asked how he stays motivated to keep painting, Ben cited the strong camaraderie between artists:

“It’s something that’s been around forever, I think: people working together for something that’s beyond the world’s obsession with development and money. I didn’t become an artist to be rich. I haven’t yet met an artist who began a career in the arts for that reason,” he said.

More than 5000 people around the world have this month participated in our What Matters campaign, which asks members of the public to vote for what matters to them in a bid to find out what is important to Australians and give the world a better idea of our work. More than 8000 votes have been cast since the campaign launched at the beginning of this month.

Forty-six percent of those polled so far for What Matters saw reducing our environmental footprint as a critical issue, followed by improving children’s literacy (39 percent), more funding for cancer research (27 percent), introducing plain packaging for cigarettes (24 percent), and more support for the arts (19 percent).

Each month, we will be asking people to vote for five new topics that matter. Next month will feature Professor Shane Houston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) (on educating tomorrow’s Indigenous leaders), Professor Geoffrey Garrett, Dean of the University of Sydney Business School (on advancing Australia’s relationships with China and the US), Anna Rose, alumna and founder of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (on solving climate change for future generations), Professor Jennie Brand-Miller of the Charles Perkins Centre (on maintaining a health diet) and Professor John Keane, founder of the Sydney Democracy Initiative (on the impact of communications on our political environment.)

What else matters to you?

As part of the campaign, members of the public can nominate other issues that are important to them. Some issues already identified include the following:

Reducing the obesity epidemic

Obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease – and related conditions, such as renal disease, breast cancer and colorectal cancer – are the leading causes of mortality and disease burden in Australia. These conditions are particularly prevalent in disadvantaged groups, including Indigenous communities.

The University of Sydney has now commenced construction of the recently unveiled Charles Perkins Centre, in a bid to reduce the prevalence, incidence and health impact of these diseases with unique research collaborations that span the University’s 16 faculties.

Professor Jennie Brand-Miller, who will join the What Matters campaign next month, is a leading researcher in the Charles Perkins Centre, and is internationally recognised for her groundbreaking research into the glycemic index, which measures the body’s absorption of carbohydrates.

Her current research includes investigating the diets of pregnant women, with the ultimate aim of reducing childhood obesity. Professor Brand-Miller hypothesises that a low GI diet during pregnancy will lower maternal glucose levels and be superior to a conventional low fat diet.

Supporting the ageing population

More and more Australians are living and working longer, which presents both a challenge and opportunity to individuals, the wider community and government. In Australia, it is estimated that over the next 40 years the number of people of current working age will increase by 45 percent, but the number of people aged between 65 and 84 will more than double, and those 86 and older will increase more than fourfold.

The University’s Ageing, Work and Health Research Unit, within the Faculty of Health Sciences, looks for ways to improve ageing experiences and enhance the health of older Australians throughout their lives. From within fields as diverse as sociology, gerontology, biostatistics, medicine and allied health, the group contributes to leading bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), National Seniors Australia and state and federal governments.

In one study currently underway, Professor Hal Kendig and Dr Kate O’Loughlin are working on an Australian Research Council-funded study to examine how life expectancies of the baby boom cohort in Australia and England influence health, productivity, wellbeing and pension and service use.

In another study, Associate Professor Lindy Clemson has conducted randomised trials in the area of falls prevention, while a study led by Professor Deborah Black targets ways aged-care facilities can adapt to the increasing likelihood of heatwaves.

Providing affordable housing

Housing affordability is a large and widespread problem, and affordability problems are projected to increase in the coming decades. Housing provides shelter, but it also influences workforce participation, access to jobs and services, family stability and educational attainment.

The Planning Research Centre, within the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, is leading research in a range of areas including planning for housing accessibility, diversity and affordability, urban governance and policy, urban residential developments and coastal planning in sea change communities.

Associate Professor Nicole Gurran, who will be featured in What Matters in the coming months, is chief investigator on the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) project ‘International Practice in Planning for Affordable Housing’. She believes that instead of allowing inner cities to decay and outer suburbs to sprawl, affordable housing should be a key factor in metropolitan renewal and development.

One of Associate Professor Gurran’s current projects involves the establishment of the Australian Urban Land Use Planning Policy Monitor, which will enable the collective analysis of statutory controls for more than 600 local jurisdictions across the country.

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The looming chocolate crisis? Tue, 17 Apr 2012 17:01:04 +0000

A chocolate supply crisis may be looming says Professor David Guest, from the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment at the University of Sydney.

“We’re in a situation where chocolate manufacturers are anxious about meeting demand, as there’s rapidly increasing chocolate consumption in developing economies, paired with instability in cacao growing areas,” said Professor Guest. He will outline both the threat to the chocolate supply and the work he and his colleagues are doing to counter it in a public talk The Chocolate Crisis on 18 April at the University.

Cacao is produced from fruit of the tropical tree Theobroma cacao which translates as ‘food of the Gods’ and is grown in West Africa, South America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

“Cacao is grown in areas vulnerable to climate change, political instability, pests and diseases,” Professor Guest said.

Threats to cacao production also include ageing plantations, poorly trained farmers and poorly managed trees, dependence on a narrow genetic base and crop substitution where cacao is replaced by maize because of the demand for bioethanol.

The chocolate crisis is exacerbated by the fact that global chocolate consumption is rising by two to three percent annually.

“Chocolate consumption trends are different around the globe. In Australia, Europe and North America total consumption – around 6kg of chocolate per capita per year – is stable, but the trend is to dark chocolates or to niche marketed gourmet chocolates. Consumption dropped slightly during the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009,” said Professor Guest.

Professor David Guest (right) in Papua New Guinea with local scientists John Konam (left) and Anthon Kamuso (centre) with cacao farmers.
Professor David Guest (right) in Papua New Guinea with local scientists John Konam (left) and Anthon Kamuso (centre) with cacao farmers.

“In China, India, Eastern Europe and Brazil, however, per capita consumption rates are increasing rapidly, albeit from a relatively low base.

“One estimate is that global production will need to increase by one million tonnes per year by 2020 – from 3.6 million tonnes in 2009/2010 – to meet global demand.”

To counter a chocolate catastrophe, Professor Guest’s research supports the chocolate industry by improving the sustainability and profitability of smallholder cacao production.

Professor Guest and his colleagues’ work with farmers in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Bougainville shows that good farm management increases yields, resulting in improved living standards, reduced rainforest clearing, political and social stability, and securing future supplies of chocolate.

“We work with farmers to select better genotypes of cacao, to demonstrate improved crop and soil management, to understand the constraints they face and what can be done to improve technical support,” said Professor Guest.

“The keys to reducing diseases and pests are sanitation, pruning and regular harvesting. We have a mantra for the farmers to remind them to regularly harvest their cacao crops: ‘Every pod, every tree, every week’.”

“We’ve found it’s really effective to explain to farmers that disease is caused by microorganisms similar to those that cause human disease. Showing farmers how the pathogens survive and spread helps their understanding and leads them to realise that they can reduce disease with improved management,” explained Professor Guest.

“Otherwise cacao farmers tend to blame nebulous factors like climate change or more virulent pathogen strains, which they feel powerless to do anything about.”

Addressing a chocolate shortage is a challenge we have to meet if we are going to secure the world’s supply of chocolate, while at the same time improving the livelihoods of cocoa farmers, Professor Guest says.

“While controlling disease is relatively straightforward in theory, changing farming practice to become more sustainable and rewarding is a much more complex challenge involving social, economic, political and environmental factors,” said Professor Guest.

Event details

What: Sydney Science Forum – The Chocolate Crisis 

When: 5.45 to 6.45pm, Wednesday 18 April

Where: Eastern Avenue Auditorium, Camperdown Campus

Cost: Free

RSVP: Online form or 

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Public forum to scrutinise Finkelstein recommendations Mon, 16 Apr 2012 17:01:03 +0000

A public forum at the University of Sydney on the recent Finkelstein Inquiry into the news media will examine the outcome of the inquiry, scrutinising the politics of recommendations and whether they are likely to be successfully implemented.

The inquiry proposed a new statutory regulator to cover news across all media, expanding the range of likely subjects of regulation to include those who consider themselves “entertainers”, the commentary, bloggers and other gate watchers. Next week’s free panel discussion brings together views from across the political spectrum in what promises to be an entertaining and lively debate.

Panellist Dr Richard Stanton from the University’s Department of Media and Communications says the inquiry’s finding simply scratch the surface of what we see and hear in the media. He also believes the inquiry’s recommendations are about increasing control because there is a misunderstanding in government about what the media does: “For the government it’s about whether journalism and the media are doing the right thing but there’s a bigger layer underneath.

“We’re happy to say 80 percent of news is sourced by public relations but the question should be ‘Who is behind that information being published as news?’.”

Other speakers include:

Dr Tim Andrews, co-founder and managing editor of conservative website Menzies House. A former Vice President of NSW Young Liberals, Tim is current Treasurer of the Australian Liberterian Society and serves on the Board of Management for the HR Nicholls Society.

Andy Fleming, a Melbourne-based anarchist, Andy is author of the Slackbastard blog, featuring his political and social musings. He is a long time observer of the far right in Australia and internationally.

Dr Derek Wilding, director of Standards at the Australian Press Council. Derek joined the council last year to take up the newly-created role of Director of Standards. He will run the Standards Projects, an initiative that will, among other things see the Press Council review and modernise its existing standards.

Event details

What: Independent Media Inquiry and the Regulation of Online News 

When: 2 to 4pm, Monday 16 April

Where: Lecture Theatre 101, New Law Building, Camperdown Campus. See map and directions 

Cost: Free

RSVP: Online registration essential

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Reality bytes for high school teachers Sun, 15 Apr 2012 17:01:03 +0000

A 'train the trainers' approach aims to improve the teaching of computer science.
A ‘train the trainers’ approach aims to improve the teaching of computer science.

An educational initiative designed by Google has the potential to produce brighter, smarter computer students at tertiary level, according to the University of Sydney’s information technology experts.

Google has commenced partnerships with a handful of universities in Australia including the University of Sydney to conduct a Computer Science for High School (CS4HS) program.

The CS4HS workshop which takes place this Thursday and Friday aims to increase high school teachers’ knowledge and ability to promote and teach computer science and computational thinking in classrooms. The program takes a “train the trainer” approach. The two to three-day workshops for teachers provide training, tips and actual classroom materials to help them teach programming and computing in schools and turn students into computational thinkers and creators.

Dr Bernhard Scholz from the University’s School of Information Technologies said the initiative was supported by the school’s academics because it was beneficial for both high schools and universities.

“If we can help high schools teachers fully engage their students in computer science and computational thinking, ultimately we have students with higher skills levels enrolling at the University.”

Science teacher at St George Girls High School and workshop participant Jenny Zhang admits: “Technology is changing so rapidly and students know about the technology, the latest, the greatest, but don’t know how to really use it or how it was developed. They really need help with it.

“Unfortunately, some of us are not as up to date or as computer savvy as our students and are working with knowledge from 20 years ago. This workshop is a perfect opportunity to build our knowledge with the assistance of Google and University of Sydney experts.”

The initiative not only has the support of 40 high school teachers who are giving up their holidays to take part but also support of pupils.

Richa Mudaliar, a student at St George Girls High School, said that there aren’t many opportunities to learn computer science at school and the workshop would help the teachers bring the latest thinking on the subject to students.

Fellow student Dharani Nadarajah said she was excited that teachers were getting involved in programming and would now have the potential to integrate their knowledge in the classroom.

Dharani believes that the program would encourage students to become more involved in programming and develop a greater understanding of what it involves.

“Programming is extremely relevant and can be very useful for heightening our understanding of topics in maths and science,” says Dharani.

Google spokesperson Sally-Ann Williams said the CS4HS program had been successfully launched in the USA and parts of Europe.

“We are delighted to have been able to make this program available in Australia and New Zealand. We look forward to partnering with more universities in 2012 to equip and inspire more students across both countries,” she said.

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Australia-first meeting tackles unacceptable maternal and child health in Burma Sat, 14 Apr 2012 17:01:07 +0000

Unacceptably high maternal and infant mortality rates in Burma were addressed for the first time in Australia at a conference at the University of Sydney held Tuesday, April 10-Wednesday, April 11.

More than 80 delegates from Australia and overseas attended the two-day meeting, which aimed to find practical ways to improve maternal and child health in Burma.

The infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births in Burma is 28.2 in urban areas and 30 in rural areas, according to data from the Statistical Year Book, Central Statistical Organisation (CSO). The maternal mortality ratio per 1,000 live births was 1.23 and 1.57 for urban and rural areas respectively.

The most serious illnesses of maternal and child health are those arising from premature birth, followed by pneumonia, diarrhoea, infections associated with malnutrition, and meningitis.

“This meeting is occurring during a critical period of global re-engagement with Burma,” says Dr. Gomathi Sitharthan, one of the conference organisers from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

“Burma has been isolated from the international stage for decades, and as a result has not had access to much available information for the dissemination of health care,” she said. “We hope the meeting will also open the door for further collaboration to engage in medical, health, scientific, social and humanitarian causes.”

Held jointly with the Burmese Medical Association of Australia and partly supported by AusAid, the event involved clinicians, health service planners, academics, representatives from the government and researchers from Australia, Burma, Malaysia, Brunei, the USA, the UK and Canada.

“The participation in this meeting of a Burmese delegation has been made possible by the recent change of political climate in Burma toward greater openness and the current aid policy of the Australian government,” said Dr. Raymond Tint Way, President of the Burmese Medical Association Australia.

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Joseph Beuys exhibition at University Art Gallery Fri, 13 Apr 2012 17:01:03 +0000

Joseph Beuys; 'Filzanzug (Felt Suit) 1970'; felt, cotton, ink on synthetic fabric and metal safety pins; edition 69/100; JW Power Collection, University of Sydney, managed by Museum of Contemporary Art.
Joseph Beuys; ‘Filzanzug (Felt Suit) 1970′; felt, cotton, ink on synthetic fabric and metal safety pins; edition 69/100; JW Power Collection, University of Sydney, managed by Museum of Contemporary Art.

Australia’s largest public collection of the work of Joseph Beuys, one of the late 20th century’s most influential artists, has gone on show at the University of Sydney’s Art Gallery.

German-born Beuys (1921-1986) produced works from a range of disciplines including sculpture, performance art, installations and graphic art. Hugely influential on subsequent artists, his own greatest influences include his involvement in the German army during World War II, Rudolf Steiner’s work and mythology.

Joseph Beuys and the ‘Energy Plan’ is a free show of works from the University of Sydney’s Power Collection. His Filzanzug (Felt Suit) 1970 is the centrepiece of the exhibition and refers to Beuys’ memories of the war.

“A volunteer for the Luftwaffe, Beuys was shot down over the Crimea in 1944 and it’s claimed the Tartars who rescued him wrapped him in felt, which became a common motif in his work,” says exhibition guest curator and University of Sydney PhD candidate Donna West Brett.

“For Beuys, wrapping himself in felt and wearing the felt suit are about healing.”

Like much of Beuys’ work in the exhibition Felt Suit is a multiple, one of many identical pieces produced, with other examples in the permanent collections of the Tate Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Multiples gained popularity in the late 20th century as a means of rejecting the exclusivity of art. Often Beuys’ multiples relate to his performance work: 1st Class Grilled Fish Bones came from a performance where Beuys fried fish.

The exhibition title refers to the artist’s foray across the Atlantic in 1974. ‘Energy Plan for the Western Man’ was a hugely successful lecture tour which introduced Beuys to the American public.

Joseph Beuys and the ‘Energy Plan’ also explores Beuys’ collaboration with German photographer and art critic Joseph Krüger. Krüger photographed Beuys’ work between 1972 and 1979, one of the few people to comprehensively document his art. Krüger’s friendship and association with Elwyn Lynn, former curator of the Power Collection, led to the inclusion of these photographs in the collection, as well as a substantial body of Beuys’ work.

Joseph Beuys and the ‘Energy Plan’ is being held to mark the 50th anniversary of the Power Collection, from the visionary bequest left by the artist JW Power.

Event details

What: Joseph Beuys and the ‘Energy Plan’ 

Where: University Art Gallery, War Memorial Arch, northern end of the Quadrangle, Camperdown Campus. See map 

When: Now until 29 June

Open Monday to Friday, 10am to 4.30pm, and the first Saturday of each month from 12 to 4pm. Closed public holidays.

Cost: Free

For more information, call the University Art Gallery on 02 9351 6883.

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Matrix and veterinary science know-how creates a cutting-edge model Thu, 12 Apr 2012 17:01:04 +0000

The lifelike model of a dog's abdomen helps veterinary students hone their surgical skills.
The lifelike model of a dog’s abdomen helps veterinary students hone their surgical skills.

A company that worked on the film The Matrix has developed groundbreaking technology which will help University of Sydney veterinary students improve their surgical desexing skills.

“The first year of a veterinarian’s career can be both exciting and intimidating. A major expectation from day one on the job is that they will be able to desex cats and dogs,” said Associate Professor Max Zuber from the Faculty of Veterinary Science.

This skill, of soft-tissue surgery on small animals, has previously been perfected solely by experience at the university hospital and at veterinary clinics.

“While students will continue to operate in those settings they now have the added opportunity to practise these skills on highly lifelike models or simulators,” Professor Zuber said.

Working with Studio Kite the faculty developed a prototype of a silicon-based, lifelike model of a dog’s abdomen that reflects the anatomical and surgical challenges of desexing, before final approval of a working model.

“The model we’ve created is a world-first in a couple of ways. First is that its look, its feel and its ability to be operated on is ‘cutting edge’!

“Another major innovation is that the reproductive track is replaceable. To give students a true experience of desexing they need (in females) to remove the reproductive tract which is destroyed in the process. They can do that with this model because the reproductive tract is a replaceable part.”

The model even contains fake organs and blood.
The model even contains fake organs and blood.

Studio Kite is a special effects and model making company specialising in animatronic creatures. Their credits include making possible the famous ‘goo’ scene in The Matrix film, where humans are revealed as living in pods.

The model consists of moulded plastic with indentations representing the vertebral column, kidneys and large intestine.

The abdomen includes a female reproductive tract, intestinal tract and bladder.

Its walls consist of layers of skin, subcutaneous tissue and muscle layers whose varying layers of silicone are made to look and feel as true to life as possible. If the tissues are torn then silicone tubing filled with coloured fluid ‘bleed’.

“Yet another advantage of using these surgical simulators is that their lifelikeness means they are perfect for teaching basic skills used in a wide range of surgical procedures, apart from routine desexing operations,” Professor Zuber said.

“It also means students are not performing their first live-animal surgery as novices, but with a degree of competence and confidence already established: a benefit for them, their supervisor and their animal patient.”

Other Australian universities have shown an interest in the model. Studio Kite is now hoping to manufacture the product commercially and adapt it for use by medical students.

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Fatty acids fight cancer spread Wed, 11 Apr 2012 17:01:03 +0000

Professor Michael Murray and Dr Sarah Cui were part of the team who made the discovery.
Professor Michael Murray and Dr Sarah Cui were part of the team who made the discovery.

Tiny agents found in omega-3 could potentially be used to block the path of primary cancer tumours, preventing the advance to secondary stage cancers according to pharmacy researchers at the University of Sydney.

Investigators in the Pharmacogenomics and Drug Development Group of the Faculty of Pharmacy are using breast cancer tissue cells to gauge the blocking capacity of the omega-3 agents called epoxides on cancer cell movement.

Dr Michael Murray, Professor of Pharmogenetics at the University, says a major life-threatening consequence of malignant breast tumours is metastasis where the disease has spread to distant sites (or tissues) and at present there are no treatments.

He led his team to the discovery of the anti-metastatic actions of epoxides which are produced within the body from omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. The groundbreaking work has led Murray and his Drug Development Group deeper into the molecular structure of the omega-3 agents.

Professor Murray says: “These agents are a bit like frontline soldiers blocking the assault of an invading army and now we want to advance our research which was published late last year and apply it to breast cancer cells.

“We know that epidemiological studies have reported that dietary intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids including eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids, decrease the risk of certain cancers. And many of us are including sources of omega-3 such as tuna and salmon in our diet as a precaution.

“The major objective of our new project is to speed the development of anti-metastatic agents based on omega-3 epoxides and trial their effectiveness in vivo on breast cancer tissue.

“Longer term we are aiming to develop a completely new class of anti-metastatic drugs designed to inhibit the spread of primary cancers,” Murray says.

Although not all experts agree, women who eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids over many years may be less likely to develop breast cancer. More research is needed to understand the effect that omega-3 fatty acids may have on the prevention of breast cancer says Murray.

Research has also shown that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and may help lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and arthritis.

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School shoes lose traction as best option for kids’ feet Tue, 10 Apr 2012 17:01:03 +0000

Parents spend a lot of time and money picking out the perfect school shoes for their children, but a University of Sydney study is questioning whether the traditional solid, sturdy shoe is the best choice.

Faculty of Health Sciences PhD candidate Caleb Wegener is today presenting preliminary results from his research into how school shoes affect children’s gait for the International Foot and Ankle Biomechanics (i-FAB) Conference at the University of Sydney.

Caleb and his team used 3D camera motion analysis technology to break down children’s gait and investigate foot and ankle motion while running both in school shoes and bare feet.

He found that school shoes alter a number of variables in a child’s gait that may have implications for their foot development.

“While further research is needed to show exactly how these changes in gait affect children’s long term development, our main finding was that when children wear school shoes there is a reduction in motion within the foot that is compensated by the ankle,” says Caleb.

“One of the things the shoes do at the ankle joint is increase how much the foot rolls in, which has been linked to injury in some people.

“The reduction in motion of the joints within the foot means the calf has to work a lot harder during propulsion, which potentially has injury implications for overuse of the calf and Achilles tendon,” he says.

Children wearing school shoes also have a longer stride length, walk faster and have a wider base of gait, indicating that they might be looking for more stability.

“It’s clear that we need to make some changes to school shoes. Shoes are important for protection and comfort, but shoe design doesn’t always complement the function of the foot. We need to do comparative studies between traditional shoes and shoes that complement the natural movement of the foot,” says Caleb, who is currently working on a new prototype school shoe.

In a separate study which will also be presented at i-FAB, Caleb looked at how children’s sport shoes affect their balance, running agility and standing long jump. He found that there was no significant change between sports shoes and bare feet in running agility or balance, and only a slight improvement in standing long jump.

“In some ways sports shoes and school shoes are fairly similar, although there are some differences. There are enormous differences between going barefoot and wearing shoes, but the differences between shoes are much smaller, as they affect your foot in a similar way,” says Caleb.

About i-FAB2012

The third international foot and ankle biomechanics congress (i-FAB2012) is hosted by Associate Professor Joshua Burns from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Health Sciences in collaboration with the International Foot and Ankle Biomechanics community, and runs from 11 to 13 April.

The program covers both basic and clinical aspects of foot and ankle biomechanics from the perspectives of podiatrists, physiotherapists, orthopaedic surgeons, biomedical engineers, athletic trainers, biomechanists and other allied health professionals. i-FAB2012 has attracted almost 300 speakers and delegates from 22 countries, who will present four workshops, six keynote and invited addresses, 55 podium papers and 33 posters over the three days.

According to Associate Professor Burns, “The i-FAB community is driven by the desire to improve our understanding of foot and ankle biomechanics as it applies to health, disease and the community. i-FAB activities seek to enable more effective approaches to researching the foot and ankle, accelerating our ability to address the unique challenges the foot and ankle pose for biomechanical researchers, and foster seamless activities between researchers, clinicians and consumers. i-FAB has an open philosophy and connecting people across traditional disciplinary boundaries is one of its key objectives.”

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South American visit pays dividends Sun, 08 Apr 2012 17:01:03 +0000

Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence has signed an agreement on behalf of Australia’s leading research universities that will bring a significant increase in the number of Brazilian students coming to Australia.

Dr Spence led a Group of Eight delegation to Chile and Brazil in March for meetings with university leaders and education officials, to strengthen links with a region that is fast becoming an important education partner for Australia.

In Brasilia, Dr Spence signed two MoUs with the Brazilian Government that will boost the number of Brazilian students undertaking higher education courses in Australia.

Dr Spence said: “Australia’s links with South America have flourished in the last decade and we are keen to explore new areas of cooperation and engagement. We are interested in building long-term relationships, and it is important for us to focus on partnerships that bring mutual benefits and broaden our research base.”

Professor John Hearn, the University’s Deputy-Vice Chancellor International, said it was important for Australia to look at the long-term strategic opportunities in Brazil and Chile. He said there was considerable interest across South America in partnering with Australian universities in double degrees, student exchange and research collaborations.

In Chile the delegates met representatives from the National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research and members of the Chilean university rectors’ group, CRUCH. Since 2008 the Go8 has had an agreement in place with the Chilean Government under its US$600 million Chilean Bicentennial Scholarship Fund for Human Capital Development. The large majority of Chilean scholarship students coming to Australia now choose to enrol in Go8 universities.

In Brazil the primary focus of the visit was meetings with the Ministry of Education (CAPES) and the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development. These two government agencies have been charged with administering a $2 billion scholarships program which aims to send 100,000 Brazilian students to the world’s best universities and thus increase Brazil’s capacity in the knowledge economy.

Contact: Richard North

Phone: 0425 395 370

Email: 21100d0b00150d6028074a150e06401c2523350844151c1c652e42

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