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Sue Abbey, founder of black&write!, speaks on Monday afternoon about encouraging development of an indigenous writing community in Australia.
Photo Credit: Zoe Fu | Daily Texan Staff

Indigenous Australian writers are consistently overlooked and having their identities erased by the non-indigenous majority, according to the founder of an Australian publishing house.

Sue Abbey founded black&write! to create a platform for indigenous writers in Australia to share their work.

Each year, black&write! holds a writing competition to encourage aspiring Aborigine authors to share and possibly publish their work. 

Approximately 30 transcripts are submitted, and a panel of judges decides who is deemed the winner. Black&write! keeps in touch with contestants in hopes that they find an avenue to publish their work, black&write! indigenous editor Ellen van Neerven-Currie said.

Van Neerven-Currie said growing up in Australia, she was not exposed to any Aborigine literature or writing until she started college.

“This history wasn’t taught in schools — certainly not where I went to school,” van Neerven-Currie said. 

The continuous discarding of Aborigine stories and identities is an issue that has persisted since the country’s inception, van Neerven-Currie said. 

The first well known Aborigine writer was David Unaipon, whose early 20th-century literature wasn’t attributed to him until several decades later.

Much of the Aborigine peoples’ culture was traditionally passed down through an intricate, complex oral history that spans 60,000 years, Abbey said. 

Before Australia was colonized by the British, more than 250 distinct languages were spoken by the country’s indigenous population. Today, that number has fallen to 18, according to Abbey.

“Everything was handed down,” Abbey said. “[Aborigine people do not] take lightly in using descriptions or songs that are explaining the landscape. It would be the same oral text, and they didn’t stray from it.”

While at the University of Queensland Press, Abbey noticed a lack of indigenous authors. She said she decided to create black&write! in order to increase the amount of opportunities for Aborigine people to publish their work. 

“I sat in on a few discussions and heard black writers talk about how there is no accessibility,” Abbey said. “It was through that, seeing that there’s a need, and thinking, ‘I’ll give it a hurrah.’”

Including Aborigine literature in the school curriculum can make people aware of the rich heritage that exists in Australia, said Brenda Machosky, visiting scholar from the University of Hawaii-West Oahu.

“Bringing [indigenous writing] into courses, incorporating them into classes, … my students have never read anything from Australia until I introduce it to the class,” Machosky said.

Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of Xavier Collins | Daily Texan Staff

Nexus Notes, an Australia-based college-note-sharing company, opened its website to UT students last week — the company’s first venture into the American marketplace.

Through the Nexus Notes website, students can submit a semester’s worth of notes to be posted online for a course. From there, students can purchase the notes for $35, and half of the total proceeds go to the original author.

Xavier Collins, business development manager at Nexus Notes, said the website serves as tutoring in a written format and allows students to learn from other students.

“The best students can make great teachers,” Collins said. “We see student-produced content as a supplement.”

Although Collins said the notes are intended to be resource, Panos Melisaris, economics junior and chair of the Student Conduct Advisory Committee, said purchasing someone else’s notes is unethical. 

“I think that kind of defeats the purpose of going to class and learning,” Melisaris said. “If you’re buying notes, you’re not necessarily learning or processing the information. … You’re essentially buying the information from someone else and removing that incentive to do well.”

Collins said the notes are comparable to student-written textbooks and could foster a peer-to-peer learning environment. Publishing one’s notes for profit is also a benefit, according to Collins.

“This is giving students the opportunity to [take] something they’ve put all this hard work into and actually generate an income out of it and help students at the same time,” Collins said.

Public relations senior Mia Fredricks said Collins approached her to encourage her to submit her notes to the website for future students to purchase. She is now an “author” on the website.

“I think with a student body of over 50,000, it’s a really great opportunity,” Fredricks said. “Everyone has had someone that has given them notes in the past.”

Roseanne Carreon, women and gender studies and theatre and dance sophomore, said purchasing other students’ past notes could help her gain a better understanding of a course.

“It’s always good to get someone else’s interpretation of what’s going on in the class [and] how they understand it,” Carreon said.

High textbook prices might also motivate students to purchase past semesters’ notes, according to Collins, although he said the notes are not intended to be substitutes for textbooks or real learning.

“Textbooks are getting so expensive, and it may be the case that, potentially, student-created content is seen as a better value for money,” Collins said. “But at the same time, we’re simply here to create an extra learning resource.” 

Collins said Nexus Notes will use UT’s experience as a model for growth at other American universities if the website takes off.

“We really love the fact that students are so proud to be here,” Collins said. “They really get behind the University, and that sort of campus culture, we thought, would be really conducive to growing the business.” 

Editor’s note: This Q&A has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Melbourne, Australia-based Twerps released their second full-length album Range Anxiety in January and will perform at the Panache party at the Hotel Vegas Patio on March 20 for South by Southwest. Here’s what Julia MacFarlane, the band’s guitarist and vocalist, had to say on the band’s influences, writing and SXSW hopes.

The Daily Texan: What were you aiming for with the release of Range Anxiety?

Julia MacFarlane: I think we were aiming to survive the process. But we had a new member, so we were just trying to figure ourselves out as a band again and figure out those dynamics. I think it was more an interior thing that was going on and maybe less spoken about. We had some chats about having an instrumental track or making it very collage-like, but it ends up how it ends up.

DT: How did you originally meet and form a band? Why did you bring on another member?

JM: Rick Milovanovic (former bassist) and Marty Frawley (lead vocalist and guitarist) met because they worked in a video store together. Marty started Twerps with a couple of his friends, who I knew as well. We did some songs together and put them up on Myspace. I really wanted to play in the new band and they let me. Patrick O’Neill (former drummer) left, which was sad, but it was getting to a point where we had different ideas about different things. Our new member Alex Macfarlane (drummer) is a songwriter, so it was cool to have someone else in the band who has a creative voice. It was a decision to step it up creatively.

DT: How would you explain your music to someone who’s listening to you for the first time?

JM: Well the simplified version would be a guitar-pop band, but if the person knew about music or had similar tastes as mine, I would maybe say it’s pop songs with some focus on instrumentation. I might say one of our influences is The Velvet Underground. That might help.

DT: On your most recent album, a lot of the songs were more upbeat and happy. It’s easy to get through. Do you think that, at times, that could take away from your message?

JM: I do think it’s important to communicate to people that something more is there. Reviews often say our music can be easy-breezy, and I think, ‘Is there something that we’re failing to do?’ If people aren’t picking up on that, you’re, in a way, failing. It can’t be just for you. There are a lot of songs about texture, the guitar parts and rhythms, but some are serious. I actually read a review of “Shoulders,” a song I sing in, and the person thought it was a laid-back summer tune. I felt completely opposite about that song; I think it’s so fucking heavy.

DT: You guys have been to SXSW before. What do you think will make this years’ experience unique?

JM: We’re doing a show a day, whereas last time, we did sometimes several a day. You feel so fried afterward, but it’s so fun. I’m looking forward to playing the Panache party. I haven’t looked into who else is going to be there, so that’ll be a surprise.

Photo Credit: Ploy Buraparate | Daily Texan Staff

Everything in Australia is backward: Its winter is our summer, cars drive on the left side of the road, mammals lay eggs and toilets flush in the opposite direction.

Well, not quite on that last one, but, if you believed it, you’d be in good company.

The idea stems from the fact that we live on a rotating planet. Depending on your latitude, this results in traveling at different speeds. A visitor near the North Pole barely moves at all, whereas, here in Austin, we’re traveling at around 900 miles per hour.

Fire a bullet at the equator and it’s still traveling at 1,000 miles per hour. But, since the ground below it is moving at the same speed, it doesn’t appear to travel nearly that fast. But, if you’re on a cruise ship due south of Austin at the equator and fire a gun toward our city, your bullet is going to hit to the right of where you aim, since it will have received an extra 100-mile-per-hour boost from the rotation of the Earth.

This “Coriolis effect” that causes the bullet to apparently turn in midair has major implications for ballistic motion, and, in theory, should have some effect on the water in our toilets.

The idea is that, as the water moves toward the drain, the northern water in the bowl — flowing toward the south — would veer left, while the southern water — flowing toward the north — would veer right, creating a counterclockwise motion. 

The problem is that the Coriolis force is subtle and not powerful enough to affect our toilets: The bowls are too small and the flushes too quick. 

But what about a larger tank that drains slowly? That sounds like a job for an expert in fluid mechanics. 

In the early 1960s, MIT professor Ascher H. Shapiro induced the effect in a bathtub made with scientific precision. 

He built a tub 6 feet in diameter and attached a 20-foot-long hose to a drain in the base. After plugging the hose, he filled the tank six inches using a clockwise flow to ensure the act of adding water didn’t create a counterclockwise motion. He also covered the tub with a plastic sheet to prevent air currents from influencing the experiment and kept the room at a constant temperature so as not to allow temperature variations that may have affected the direction of the swirl.

Even with all of those precautions and letting the water settle for an hour or so, it would still rotate in the clockwise direction when drained because of the filling process. Things got a little better after allowing four or five hours of settling — the water would initially travel clockwise but, by the end of the drain, would begin moving in a counterclockwise direction.

Twenty-four hours of settling was required to see the effect, but even this was subtle — there wasn’t any visible rotation until about 12 to 15 minutes into the 20-minute draining period when it began to flow in a counterclockwise direction.

A few years later, researchers in Australia replicated the experiment in the Southern Hemisphere, hoping to produce clockwise rotation. It did, but not without difficulties. The scientists noted that winds from outside the laboratory were enough to disturb the experiment, at least on a blustery day.

It is the nature of science that one cannot prove an idea to be correct. Experiments are designed to falsify premises and, though these tests ended up with results consistent with predictions based on Coriolis forces, there’s no way to ensure that there wasn’t some other force the scientists neglected. It’s only through continuously attempting to prove ourselves wrong that we can ever hope to be right.

And, if the experiments happen to turn out differently than we’d like them to, we need to be ready to flush our pet theories down the toilet — but not necessarily in a counterclockwise motion.

The lights fade up to reveal exhausted prisoners lying on the ground with a fleet of ships in the horizon. It is a scene that could be taken out of a history book, but in reality, it is the opening moment of the University’s department of theatre and dance production, “Our Country’s Good.” 

The plot of “Our Country’s Good” is based on the true story of Australia’s colonization by British prisoners. After being shipped to Australia, the trapped British convicts put on a production of the play “The Recruiting Officer,” creating art in the toughest of environments. In the process, the relationships and conflicts between the guards and prisoners are explored.

“The whole idea of the British settling Australia with convicts … and putting on a play, is such an interesting idea and it’s true,” said James Daniels, director of “Our Country’s Good and a senior lecturer in the department.”

Though set in a harsh environment, “Our Country’s Good” explores the theme of creating art in unfavorable conditions in both comedic and dramatic ways. 

“This theme about the redemptive power of the arts sounds all highfalutin and intellectual but it’s an enormously important theme,” Daniels said. “That’s what this theme is about, but it’s presented in a really dramatic and very funny way.” 

It is this complex dynamic paired with Daniels’ familiarity with the script that made the show enjoyable and interesting for him to direct. 

“I was in it 20 years ago and I love it,” Daniels said. “It’s a great script. It’s a great play. In terms of tackling something and solving a lot of creative challenges, this is a great play to work on.”

This production of “Our Country’s Good” will be held in the Oscar G. Brockett Theatre which has a thrust stage that allows audience members to be seated on three sides of the stage instead of one. This setting inspired the set design and creates an intimate environment for the audience. 

“The very fact that we’re in a three-quarters thrust kind of defines how the show’s got to be done,” Daniels said. “So you get the aboriginal world, you get the cargo of the English world that’s being brought over, and you get this fleet of English ships in the background, and you even literally get what appears to be the worlds crashing into each other.“ 

This merging of different worlds required the cast to study a culture and period in history completely different from their own.

Ian Eisenberg, theatre and dance sophomore who plays the villain Major Robble Ross, prepared for his role by reading Thomas Keneally’s “The Playmaker,” on which the show “Our Country’s God” was based. 

“With this huge cast, we’ve all done as much research as we can because these are historical people,” Eisenberg said. “We want to make sure we tell their stories as honestly as we can. They weren’t just prisoners here, they created this beautiful piece of art, and it has been able to live on.” 

For Shanaya Kapai, theatre and dance sophomore who plays Mary Brenham, the most rewarding part of her research was pairing her character’s unfamilar emotions with a foreign Cockney accent. 

“Incorporating [an accent] with the characteristics of a convict — understanding what a convict has been through, learning and feeling what they could have felt — has probably been my favorite part of the show,” Kapai said. 

Another way the cast incorporated “Our Country’s Good’s” historical past was through adding old sailor songs to the script. In order to make the production realistic, the prisoners sing together in key moments of the show. Eisenberg said that officers and prisoners used to sing these sort of songs while on long ship rides as a form of unity and entertainment. 

“We wanted to make them seem more human,” Eisenberg said. “They are all comrades. They are all brothers. They are all together in a way.”

Prison privatization, the delegation of government prison control to private companies, proved a controversial topic in a lecture given by Malcom Feeley, a University of California, Berkeley law professor.

The Wednesday afternoon lecture, titled “Prison Privatization in Australia and the United States: Differences in the Role of the State” discussed the successes of prison privatization in Australia, including less violence, reduced suicide rates and more dedicated prison officials. Feeley said despite some very strong arguments against prison privatization, Australia has proved the possibility of success. 

“In Australia, I found something that genuinely surprised me, and that was pretty good prisons,” Feeley said. “There’s no good moral theory for privatization other than cost-benefit analysis. Propriety of punishment isn’t something people readily condone.”

Government professor Rhonda Evans Case said Feeley’s lecture is the first of a new series hosted by the Clark Center for Australian and New Zealand Studies. 

“We’re bringing people who have held the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in American political science in Australia to UT Austin after they come back from doing four to six months of research in Australia,” Evans Case said. “When you’re a Fulbright, you are able to travel all around Australia and learn about it, and also talk about American politics in various forms.”

Feeley said that although Australia has experienced success with prison privatization, the culture there is also fundamentally different from that within the U.S. in that it is less crowded and has considerably less violence.  

“My answer about ‘Should we privatize prisons and can they work?’ is: it all depends,” Feeley said. “Not a very powerful answer, but it seems to me that that is the only reasonable answer. It can’t be categorically yes, or categorically no.”

Government senior Mariela Rubio said she hopes research like Feeley’s helps to fuel experimentation with privatization in the U.S. 

“I’m in the human rights and politics class, and this is the exact kind of topic we deal with,” Rubio said. “After hearing Feeley talk, I’m intrigued that privatization is met with so much opposition here in the U.S. Australia acts as a direct example of this method working for and improving the country that works to employ it.”

CANBERRA, Australia — Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered a historic national apology in Parliament on Thursday to the thousands of unwed mothers who were forced by government policies to give up their babies for adoption over several decades.

The seven-member Senate committee began investigating the federal government’s role in forced adoption in 2010 after the Western Australian state parliament apologized to mothers and children for the flawed practices in that state from the 1940s until the 1980s.

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka’s navy says it has rescued 32 Myanmar nationals whose wooden vessel began sinking while making a perilous journey to Australia.

A navy statement says the rescue was made about 250 nautical miles off the island’s eastern coast on Saturday. Those rescued are being treated for acute dehydration.

The group comprising 31 adult males and a boy had been at sea without food for 21 days when the navy rescued them after being informed by a local fishing boat.

Survivors have told local newspapers that there were 130 passengers at the beginning of the journey and 98 died on the way and their bodies were dumped to sea.

They said they were planning to go to Australia after their attempt to enter Malaysia failed.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The first detachment of 200 U.S. Marines has arrived in northern Australia, where a permanent joint training hub is taking shape as part of a U.S. shift of military strength in the Asia-Pacific region.

In November, the United States and Australia announced plans to send more U.S. military aircraft to Australia and to rotate up to 2,500 Marines through the northern city of Darwin to better protect American interests across Asia.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in a statement the first 200 Marines had arrived in Darwin late Tuesday from Hawaii.

She said the initial six-month rotation of Fox Company will not include heavy equipment, vehicles or aircraft. Air and sea movements in support of this rotation will be minimal, she said.

“There are no U.S. military bases in Australia, and this will not change,” she said.

Defense Minister Stephen Smith told the Marines on Wednesday at an Australian army barracks outside Darwin where they will be based that their arrival was a historic day in the 61-year-old alliance between Australia and the United States.

He rejected analysis that the closer military ties between Australia and the United States, Australia’s most important security ally, are a response to the growing military assertiveness of China, Australia’s most important trading partner.

“We don’t see China or India as a threat,” he said. “There is nothing inconsistent with our relationship with China and our long-standing, successful alliance with the United States.”

U.S. Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich told the welcoming ceremony that the Asia-Pacific region was the “most dynamic area in the world.”

“This is the fastest growing economic area and also the one that is enduring the greatest demographic change and we want to make sure that it continues to be a peaceful, prosperous and stable area,” he said.

“The way that we accomplish that is by ensuring that trade routes are open and that we’re prepared for any issue that could come up,” he added.

Published on Thursday, April, 5, 2012 as: First shipment of marines arrive in Australia, base not planned.

CANBERRA, Australia — A popular right-wing commentator was found guilty Wednesday of breaking Australian discrimination law by implying that fair-skinned Aborigines chose to identify as indigenous for profit and career advancement.

Federal Court Justice Mordy Bromberg ruled that fair-skinned Aborigines were likely to have been “offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated by the imputations” included in columnist Andrew Bolt’s two articles published by the Herald Sun newspaper in Melbourne in 2009.

Bromberg ruled out Bolt and his publisher’s defense under a clause of the Racial Discrimination Act that exempts “fair comment.” Bromberg said he will prohibit reproduction of the offending articles and will consider ordering the newspaper to publish a correction if it doesn’t print an apology.

Bolt, who writes opinion pieces for newspapers around Australia and hosts a nationally broadcast weekly public affairs television program, described the ruling as a defeat for freedom of speech.

“This is a terrible day for free speech in this country,” he told reporters outside court. “It is particularly a restriction on the freedom of all Australians to discuss multiculturalism and how people identify themselves.”

But Aboriginal activist Pat Eatock, who filed the court action, said Bolt’s two articles “were not professional journalism.”

“He set out to offend from the word ‘go,’” she said.

The judge said his orders would not suggest it was illegal to challenge the genuineness of people’s racial identification. Bolt and the newspaper broke the law because the articles “contained errors of fact, distortions of the truth and inflammatory and provocative language,” Bromberg said.

Printed on September 29, 2011 as: Australian courts: columnist guilty of discrimination