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In this week’s symposium, our tutor referred to ‘traditional media’ as ‘heritage media’.

I’d never heard the term used in this context and it really stood out as something quite shocking. As I’ve mentioned time and time again, I’m a print girl, true and through. I read books, tangible newspapers and magazines in hand as much as possible. But I’m also a constant consumer of news and other texts online and via my phone.

We discussed the conservative argument for free market economics which might say heritage media has an inherent ‘checks and balance’ system for quality. Theoretically, this would ensure the ‘best’ stories would go to print or air. Yet what tends to happen reflects more of a populist approach as, largely, it is the content deemed to appeal to the masses that is published and produced.

Online there is (infinite) space for diversity of content, opinion, language, perspective and debate. By coincidence, in my webscrawling today I came across a 2006 publication of Harvard Law professor, Yochai BenklerThe Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom.

As a side note – I love that as I’ve started formally studying more topics or subjects I am genuinely interested in, the time I spend online for pleasure is actually resonating with that guided learning.

Benkler’s work is one such example. He discusses how the internet has restructured public discourse, giving individuals greater freedom and autonomy, encouraging participation, engagement as a scale-free network. He suggests the internet provides ‘avenues of discourse around the bottle-necks of older media, whether these are held by authoritarian governments or by media owners’ (p. 271). This point is particularly pertinent in light of Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Coalition’s latest tirade against (or ‘efficiency review’ of) the ABC and SBS. Of course, this is in addition to two publishing houses (or rather, two millionaires) dominating Australia’s print industry, providing the public with ‘news’ that is about as ‘fair and balanced’ as Fox News.

Benkler says ‘filtering, accreditation, and synthesis mechanisms [are a] part of network behavior’ (p. 271) and that peer production ‘is providing some of the most important fuctionalities of the media. These efforts provide a watchdog, a source of salient observations regarding matters of public concern, and a platform for discussing the alternatives open to a polity’ (p. 272).

‘In the networked information environment, everyone is free to observe, report, question, and debate, not only in principle, but in actual capability.’ (p. 272)

Perhaps most importantly, is that in today’s online, networked world, anyone can become what New York Univerrsity journalism professor, Jay Rosen, calls a ‘citizen journalist‘.

‘…the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another.’

Citizen journalism, the internet and networked science are shifting power away from leaders, managers and millionaires, and are democratising the media landscape and the society in which they exist. While I will hold on to heritage media, I am incredibly grateful for the proliferation of online networks that constantly offer me new pages to view, opinions to read and thoughts to think. But still, I’m pretty excited for The Saturday Paper. Aren’t you?

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You may remember that I’m fortunate enough to be interning at artsHub, Australia’s premiere website for everything you need to know about the arts – performing, literary, visual, screen and related fields. Tomorrow night, artsHub is launching a whole new website. It’s a makeover that’s had a lot of time and effort behind it and from the sneak peaks I’ve enjoyed, it’s an amazingly streamline environment. It’s incredibly user-friendly, adaptable for mobile and tablet devices, and marks a positive turn in and for, the organisation where membership and subscription options are being revamped to offer you more information, faster, and in greater detail.

I’ve been doing some spring cleaning of my own in my life: trying to work out what to do in the coming days/weeks/moths/years (!!!). It’s quite overwhelming and daunting, but many nice prospects are presenting themselves along the way. Primarily, I want to travel. Back to Europe, New York, Japan and beyond. Take me anywhere, really! However, before that happens, I need a paying job. So, if anyone in Melbourne knows of a company/shop/organisation who are looking for someone to do some admin/retail assisting/writing/almost anything, please let them or me know, I’d be super grateful. I’ll even send you a postcard from a city of your choice when I do finally venture across the seas.

Australia is going through it’s own ‘cleaning’ processes, streamlining a new government and organising national and international policies and priorities. There is a lot to be said about the election and voting systems we experienced last weekend, but for now, I’ll leave that to other commentators. I’m sure if you’re interested, you’ve already found your way across other websites such as Crikey, The Conversation and The Drum, alongside mainstream newspapers and television stations.

I’m also after some new podcasts to listen to. I’m pretty open and generally interested in anything, so if you’ve got any recommendations, please let me know in the comments section or any other communicative method.

I’ll leave you with a couple of pieces I wrote at artsHub yesterday:

SDC commissions eight new works for next year <— this article has the best picture, worth clicking the link just to see it

Daffy Duck, Wagnerlicht, and The Ride of the Valkyries

Emerging South Australian printmaker wins $5,000 art prize

Canberra Symphony Orchestra explores emotion in its 2014 season

Malthouse announces 2014 season

I am writing a series of pieces documenting my thoughts on the lead up to the Australian Federal Election to be held on 7 September 2013. As a young woman, it will be my first experience of voting in a Federal election. I am not endorsing any particular party or politician. All opinions are mine unless stated otherwise, and while I will try to include honest information at all times, nothing should be taken as fact without further investigation. You can view my first post here and second post here.

Men in Black

Men in Black

With the election less than five weeks away, the Government and the Opposition are well and truly into their campaigning across the country. Both parties seem to be most concerned with the state of the Australian economy, and the action of the Reserve Bank today, has only given the economy a more prominent position in the debating arena. The Australian dollar is down, as are interest rates, but so is spending. Australians are saving their money, and as a result, the retail and business sectors as struggling. Shops are closing, private organisations are going into voluntary administration and liquidation sales seem to be on every second street corner.

Asylum seekers are making every effort to enter our country in the hope of a better future. Both major political parties are doing their best to ‘Stop the Boats’. I am currently reading Geoffrey Robertson QC’s Crimes Against Humanity. Robertson speaks in detail about the UN’s High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the agency’s ‘hurculean task’ of supervising millions of asylum seekers and processing their claims.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution’. Yet politicians are deeming these so-called boat people, ‘economic immigrants’, therefore denying the legitimacy of their asylum seeking.

It is interesting in the context of the 2001 Tampa case where Australia had the humanitarian duty to consider those on board the sinking boat’s claims to asylum. I am reading the 4th edition of Robertson’s book, published in 2012.

Robertson writes: ‘Many Asian countries refuse to sign the [International Convention on Refugees] and have become notorious for pushing ‘boat people’ back to sea as prey for pirates (Malaysia) or for turning a blind eye to the bribery which makes them a transit point for people-smugglers (Indonesia).’

He then comments on the Tampa case, saying the country bribed Nauru to take the majority of the refugees, which ‘may be explained by the fact that the government was in the throes of an election, and took the opportunity to boost its popularity at the expense of refugees and respect for international law’. Sound familiar? It’s great to see how much progress our nation has made in the name of equality, acceptance and diversity, (note the sarcasm).

Labor says it will increase the country’s refugee intake from 13,750 to 20,000 per year, inline with the recommendation of the Expert Panel of Asylum Seekers. The Coalition argues any increase in the quota is both unaffordable and would send the wrong message to people smugglers. The Greens say they will boost capacity of UN in Indonesia and Malaysia to speed up assessment and resettlement, yet as mentioned above, these countries have not signed the Convention, and thus are less likely to be open to much negotiation.

The Solomon Islands are also uninterested in being a part of the Australian Government’s new ‘Pacific Solution’ for processing and resettling asylum seekers. However, the country’s Prime Minister makes a good point: ‘We have to respect the choice of asylum seekers, and the choices that these people have made is that they want to come to Australia.’

The state of mental health care in Australia and across the world is dismal. This piece published in the New York Times is incredibly poignant in describing the urgency of improved and expanded mental health care in the States, but translates easily to other nations, including Australia.

Labor has the $2.2 billion mental health packages announced in May 2011. The funding aims to provide ‘genuine, practical and sustainable mental health reform to ensure that Australians living with mental illness get the care they need, when they need it’. Both the ALP and the Coalition will back EPPIC, an integrated and comprehensive mental health service model aimed at addressing the needs of people aged 15-24 with early psychosis, and promote the growth of treatment and opportunities for those with mental health conditions, including employment prospects.

However, progress and action in regards to mental health seems to be happening on a smaller, state-wide basis. New South Wales police will receive specialised mental health training from as soon as next month, while in Victoria, Labor’s mental health parliamentary secretary Wade Noonan has said ‘Our acute mental health services have reached breaking point under the Napthine Government, which increases the risks to both staff and patients’. In a similar response to assaults on nurses, the ACT government will speed-up the timetable to build Canberra’s first secure mental health unit after receiving Opposition support for the proposal.

Yet despite all of this, Former Australian of the year Pat McGorry, Brain and Mind Research Institute head Ian Hickie, and former chairman of the National Advisory Council on Mental Health, John Mendoza, have today called for and end to political talk without subsequent action and voiced concern that neither parties had ensured adequate funding for mental health.

Tying two issues into one, the Greens will commit to setting up an independent panel of medical and mental health experts to monitor asylum seekers sent to Papua New Guinea and Nauru under Labor and Coalition policies, after reports of suicide threats, hunger strikes and severe trauma amongst asylum seekers.

Of course, there are other significant issues and policies in this year’s federal election including education, jobs, a price on carbon, transport, and DisabilityCare. The ABC is hosting an educational tool called Vote Compass, that is designed to help you ‘discover how you fit in the Australian political landscape’. By answering a few short questions, you will be given a numerical and visual representation of how your values and interests sit in comparison with those of the major political parties. You can find Vote Compass here.

Additionally, make sure you’re enrolled to vote. You must be enrolled by 8pm on Monday 12 August. Visit the Australian Electoral Commission here.

I am writing a series of pieces documenting my thoughts on the lead up to the Australian Federal Election to be held on 14 September 2013. As a young woman, it will be my first experience of voting in a Federal election. I am not endorsing any particular party or politician. All opinions are mine unless stated otherwise, and while I will try to include honest information at all times, nothing should be taken as fact without further investigation. You can view my first post here.

What. A. Day.

For Australia. For Australian politics. For democracy. For Gillard. And for the Australian Labor Party.

I almost don’t know where to begin which seems crazy in that I only learnt of today’s events at 3:15pm. As I write, it is not yet 8pm. So all this has happened, been and apparently gone, finished, done, within a matter of hours. Now, that’s not to say today’s challenge within the Labor caucus came out of the blue. Such a statement would be dismissive of much debate and controversy documented by the media over the past weeks (and months, and years, depends where you draw the line).

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, urged journalists to ‘lift their game’ as presumably false reports came in that his support for Prime Minister Julia Gillard, had dropped. While Minister Carr has been a loyal supporter of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, for quite some time now, Carr confirmed that he was well behind the Prime Minister to lead the Australian Labor Party into the Federal Election in September this year. Despite this, no one was doubting the ruckus the Labor Party were in. This was confirmed by many, including Chief government whip Joel Fitzgibbon. However, yesterday he did say that he’d ‘not seen anything’ that would suggest today’s leadership challenge.

But late last night it became known that Simon Crean, previously thought to be a steady supporter of Gillard, was being pushed to offer himself as an alternative leader of the Labor Party. At the same time, Mental Health and Ageing Minister Mark Butler, confirmed his own support for Gillard.

All of this has occurred within the context of the last week of parliamentary sitting before the May budget. The agenda this week included the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Stephen Conroy’s proposed media reforms, the Murray Darling Basin Plan, and the national apology to those who faced forced adoptions. Much of these debates flew under the radar today, but the newly named DisabilityCare and Murray Darling Basic Plan passed, while the majority of Conroy’s media reforms did not. Most unfortunately, the apology regarding forced adoptions was largely stamped out by Simon Crean’s insensitive timing with his decision to call a leadership challenge.

The Minister for Regional Australia and the Arts demanded a ballot and simultaneously announced that he would run for Deputy if Kevin Rudd were to run for the leadership again. While Rudd has repeatedly stated he would not run for leadership, the public and to some extent, his fellow party members may have been right in thinking he would go back on his word. Politicians are known to be unreliable.

But true to character, Julia Gillard took all of the above in her stride and announced a leadership spill to take place at 4:30pm and warned jovially that others should ‘in the meantime, take your best shot’.

What followed all happened very fast. Kevin Rudd held true to his word and announced that he would not be standing for the leadership position. Thus, caucus met and Gillard and her deputy/Treasurer Wayne Swan, were reelected to their positions, unopposed.

Mr Crean has since stated that he was ‘surprised that Kevin Rudd didn’t stand’. No shit, mate. You’ve just caused a major disruption to parliament, made yourself look like a total dick on a national stage, and subsequently, you’ve been demoted to the backbench. All in a good days work, I suppose.

Many Ministers jumped on board to express their (reserved) opinions including Defence Minister Stephen Smith, who gave a calm response to the media, expressing that there were a number of people he suggested should consider their positions within the Party. Joel Fitzgibbon has already stated he would be taking the seven weeks between now and The Budget to do so, yet Smith alluded to others who should do the same. No names were mentioned. Ultimately, Smith stated ‘It’s over. That’s it.’At for the moment, it looks like it might be.

But what does this mean for the Australian Labor Party and the September election? The Party is in such a state I’m finding it hard to draw any conclusions what-so-ever, right now. But Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has sure found himself in a lovely place tonight. Additionally, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has called for an election. He says the past two and a half years have been wasted by the Labor government at the expense of the nation.

Today has left the Labor Party in pieces. The Coalition are sure in a sunny spot and it looks like any success for the Labor Party in September has vanished. But as I tweeted in the heat of the moment this afternoon, ‘In Australia’s democracy, you vote for a Party, not a person. ALP voters must vote this way to avoid an Abbott leadership in September.’

So now it’s in our hands. You can pick and choose your people, and I’m not saying these figures are unimportant or hard to look past. But they shouldn’t necessarily dictate which party receives your vote. Remember, vote for the values, the policies and the government body as a whole. Because that’s the way our nation works. And that’s one thing that’s not changing anytime soon.

And for your entertainment, here are some screen shots of my tweets from earlier:Screen Shot 2013-03-21 at 8.48.57 PMScreen Shot 2013-03-21 at 8.49.21 PMScreen Shot 2013-03-21 at 8.49.38 PM

And this:

Screen Shot 2013-03-21 at 9.00.56 PM

My piece Do Not Discriminate – In the Firing Line of Hate, has been tailored and published on We Matter Media, and now a similarly edited version has also appeared in RMIT’s student magazine, Catalyst. You can view it online here, but what is also exciting, is that it is my first print publication.

This is the first edition of Catalyst for the year and the new editors have totally revamped the style, facade and interiors of the magazine. It looks amazing. In addition, they’ve initiated and launched Catalyst online, which basically means you have no excuse not to read what’s on the minds’ of RMIT students no matter where you live. So bookmark it and be sure to check back regularly for updates.

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