APSS - Past Seminars

Monday, May 30, 2011

Coping with floods in urban Fiji: responses and resilience of the poor

Associate Professor Jenny Bryant-Tokalau

Coordinator Pacific Islands Studies, School of Maori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Chair: Dr Alec Thornton


In January 2009 Fiji faced its worst floods since 1931 with 400mm of rain falling in two days leaving a dozen people dead, more than 10,000 displaced and severe impacts on crops, infrastructure and the possibility of disease. For those living in informal settlements in several towns and cities of Fiji there were few traditional ways of dealing with such a disaster as kinship networks and food security practices have been weakened over time. Whilst in rural areas the impacts were severe, it is known what proportion of the sugar crop was lost and what economic and human impact the floods caused, but in urban areas the picture is less clear. Urban squatters, living on coastal, often degraded areas are very vulnerable to severe and rapid floods with water rushing through and in some cases submerging their homes. These marginal groups have few opportunities for assistance and rehabilitation and can be overlooked in the aftermath.

Using examples from informal (or ‘squatter’) settlements, the vulnerability of the poor to major environmental change will be illustrated to show how Fiji’s urban poor cope with such disasters. Implications for education, employment and health are discussed, and alternative ways of coping outlined.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Operation Wandering Souls : A project to help Vietnam recover its wartime ‘missing-in-action’

Dr Bob Hall

HASS Research Fellow, UNSW

Chair: Dr Jian Zhang


Following the war in Vietnam, Australia had six men listed as missing-in-action (MIA). Thanks to the help of the Vietnamese government and people, the remains of the six have been located, identified and repatriated to Australia. However, Vietnam has an MIA problem that dwarfs Australia’s. The Vietnamese government estimates that over 300,000 of its soldiers remain MIA since the end of the war. The ‘Operation Wandering Souls’ project is the product of a small team at UNSW@ADFA (Bob Hall, Andrew Ross, Amy Griffin, Spike Barlow and Derrill de Heer) and aims to provide the Vietnamese authorities with as much information as possible about the burial sites and identities of those Viet Cong or People’s Army of Vietnam soldiers who died as a result of combat with Australian and New Zealand forces during the war. The seminar describes the project methodology, the data accumulated to this point, the limitations of the data and the ongoing work. Some of the problems encountered along the way will also be described. Early versions of the data have been presented to the Vietnamese authorities in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province and their reactions to it will be described.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fecal Contamination of Shallow Tubewells in Bangladesh Inversely Related to Arsenic

Professor Michael Emch

From the University of North Carolina's Department of Geography. He is currently a Fulbright Fellow at Canterbury University, Christchurch, New Zealand. He is an expert in the use of spatial analysis of infectious diseases.

He conducts medical geography/ spatial epidemiology research that uses geographic information systems, satellite remote sensing, and spatial modeling techniques. Most of his research has been on infectious diseases in the developing world including cholera, dysentery (shigellosis), visceral leishmaniasis (kala-azar), dengue fever, avian influenza, HIV, malaria, and acute lower respiratory infection. He also conducts research that looks at neighborhood-level effects on health and healthcare.

Chair: Dr Alec Thornton


Shallow (less than 100 m deep) tubewells installed over the past 30 years by millions of rural household throughout Bangladesh most likely reduced exposure of the rural population to microbial pathogens contained in surface water. However, this came at the unintended cost of exposure to cancer-inducing levels of arsenic (As) often present in shallow groundwater of the region. We explore the possibility that well testing, which has encouraged switching to low-As wells that are typically shallow, might inadvertently have re-exposed the population to microbial pathogens. Extensive monitoring of tubewell water for fecal indicators and specific pathogens since early 2008 has confirmed that very shallow (less than 30 m) low-As wells are typically more vulnerable to microbial contamination than shallow high-As wells, particularly during the monsoon. Incubations of Bangladesh groundwater containing fecal indicator bacteria demonstrated that the pattern cannot be attributed to As toxicity. These observations, complemented by field studies of pathogen transport, support the hypothesis that very shallow low-As aquifers, typically not capped with a protective layer of fine-grained sediment, are susceptible to microbial contamination due to rapid downward transport of fecal contamination. The susceptibility of low-As aquifers to pathogens is consistent with the outcome of a multivariate logistic regression of health data from 142 villages in Matlab showing that in 2000-04 tubewells containing greater than 50 ug/L As were associated with less diarrheal disease in children under five (odds ratio 95% confidence interval of 0.85-0.96) but that other factors such as socio-economic status, flood control, and tubewell depth are also significant.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Burma in Transition: Change in Continuity

Dr. Morten B. Pedersen


Chair: Dr Jian Zhang


After 22 years under direct military rule, Burma finally has a new, elected government and a new constitution. The new system is neither democratic nor really civilian. Independent parties were never given a genuine chance to contest for power, and most of the key figures in the new government are retired military officers. Yet, some change is visible, and more is possible, even likely, as the transition process unfolds further. This seminar will examine the main differences between the new and the old regime, and consider what opportunities these present for Australia and likeminded countries which seek to advance democracy, human rights and the welfare of the Burmese people.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Disaster management, reconstruction and civil society in the Asia-Pacific Region

Professor David Lovell


Chair: Dr Jian Zhang


Natural disasters are no respecters of countries, living standards or state capacity; they strike with impunity at rich and poor, at prepared and unprepared, alike. The Asia-Pacific region is a zone where natural disasters are frequent. Whether because of climate change, or the spread of economic and social development, or the 24-hour news cycle, disasters in this region seem to be increasing in frequency and severity. Hard-won gains in infrastructure, economic development and living standards are blown, or washed, or shaken away, with perhaps the greatest hardship and disappointment suffered by those whose gains are most recent and most fragile. This paper will reflect on the roles of civil society in responses to natural disasters in the Asia-Pacific region, both in the immediate aftermath and the reconstruction period, as well as in the context of long-term requirements for sustainable social development. In the first phases of a disaster the capacity of governments is tested, and often found wanting: the immediate requirements of speed, coordination and effectiveness in disaster relief are often supplied by foreign governments and NGOs; long-term issues around reconstruction are sometimes undermined by unsustainable development and the misuse of aid funds. While the damage to, and repair of, physical infrastructure may be ‘newsworthy’, we should not forget the associated, long-term, somewhat mundane, but nevertheless crucial issues around the reconstruction and continuing development of social infrastructure. Urban planning, the provision of housing, sanitation, and education, and the development of secure and thriving communities in the rapidly growing cities of the Asia-Pacific can be conceived in some of these countries as slow-motion disasters, which also expose government incapacity, corruption and mismanagement. The development of indigenous civil society organisations under these circumstances is an opportunity both to develop more resilient communities, better able to protect and assist themselves, and to channel discontent at corrupt or inept governments into demands for political change.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Televising the ‘local’: An analysis of the production and reception of local television service in Yogyakarta and Solo, Indonesia

Bram Hendrawan

Visiting Scholar, HASS, UNSW and a PhD candidate from Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

Chair: Dr Edwin Jurriens


Since the implementation of the new Broadcasting Law in 2002, allowing the establishment of local commercial television service, there are now 274 local television stations established throughout different regions in Indonesia. In my PhD project, I’m analysing the development of local television by looking at different aspects of television (institutions, programs and audience reception). More specifically, I ask how local television plays a role in the construction of local public sphere and cultural citizenship. In this talk, I will present some findings of my first fieldwork in Yogyakarta and Solo (Jogja TV and TATV). The focus of the presentation will be on the production process of programs and the audience reception of local television.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mr Bean and King Kong in Pyongyang

Associate Professor Stewart Lone


Chair: Dr Jian Zhang


In 2010, I became the first teacher from Australia to work in the North Korean school system. At the newly-designated Korea-Australia Friendship School (Kumsong Middle School 1) in Pyongyang and at its sister school, I gave 60 hours of formal and informal classes to 180 boys aged between 13-15 about use of the English-language, and about life in Australia, England and Japan. I also spoke at great length with them and their teachers about their own lives, interests and ambitions. This seminar explains just some of the things I heard and observed, and tries to show how North Korean youth view the outside world.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Politics of Mount Merapi Eruption in Central Java, Indonesia: Preliminary Notes

Dr Priyambudi Sulistiyanto

Flinders Asia Centre, School of International Studies, Flinders University

Chair: Dr Edwin Jurriëns


Mount Merapi, one of the most active volcanos in the world, erupted for several weeks starting from the end of October until early November 2010. The eruptions caused the death of about 300 people and also forced more than 200,000 villagers to evacuate their homes and land. Ash and lava flows destroyed schools, government offices, roads, bridges, irrigation systems and local produce markets. The questions are posed here: how did the local people respond to the eruptions? What strategies did the local and national governments adopt to deal with the eruptions? What role did the media play in reporting on the eruptions? What local political dynamics emerged during and after the eruptions?

This presentation is based on preliminary observations made during a trip to Yogyakarta in November-December 2010. It aims to answer the questions posed above and to examine the Mount Merapi eruptions in the context of the on-going tensions arise between President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Sultan Hamengkubuwo X (Governor) over the special status of Yogyakarta Province in contemporary decentralised Indonesia.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday special seminar: The medium is nothing without the message!

Enrico Aditjondro and Yerry Niko Borang

Enrico Aditjondro (Southeast Asia Editor) and Yerry Niko Borang (Indonesian Content and Outreach Coordinator) from the EngageMedia office in Jakarta


EngageMedia's Jakarta based team are in Australia to talk about their work and screen a selection of videos documenting some of the more critical and rarely known issues from Southeast Asia. These aren’t award winning documentaries, nor have they been screened at "A Grade" festivals. They're short-format documentaries and witness testimonials made with anything and by anyone with the means to produce and upload to EngageMedia.org - a video distribution platform for Southeast Asian activists to share their stories.

Whilst many urban Indonesians are now aware of the recent torture of Papuan farmers, from a video that circulated over Youtube, the people in the Jayawijaya Mountains, where the torture took place, know nothing of the international implications of this video and how it may impact on them. EngageMedia works to change these situations, by bridging online with offline communications, reaching some of the most marginalised communities in the Indonesian archipelago.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Why is it important to write love stories for the Muslim Youth?

Habiburrahman El Shirazy

Habiburrahman El Shirazy is a graduate of Islamic boarding schools in Indonesia, and pursued his university education in Islamic theology at Al Azhar University, Cairo, the centre of Islamic studies among Muslims in the world. Upon his return to Indonesia, he has published a series of novels including Love Verses (Ayat-Ayat Cinta) and When love is blessed (Ketika Cinta Bertasbih). The success and popularity of his novels have been shown by the record-breaking book sales and successful making of popular films based on his novels. One of the successes of his stories is his novels focus on the theme of love, love for the country, love for the family and the community, and love to pursue knowledge in Islam. In this seminar Minako Sakai will ask Habiburrahman questions focusing on the importance of writing love stories of Muslim Youth in contemporary Indonesia.

Chair: Dr Minako Sakai


Habiburrahman El Shirazy, a bestselling author from Indonesia, interviewed by Dr Minako Sakai