What is the UWA PSA? The UWA Postgraduate Studentsâ€™ Association (the PSA) is the representative body for postgraduate students at UWA. Our core functions are representation, advocacy and providing services to postgraduate students. The PSA organises informative and social events throughout the year to foster a sense of community among postgraduates. The PSA is run by a committee of elected representatives and every postgraduate is automatically a member of the PSA â€“ including Coursework and Research students.
Email: email@example.com Web: www.uwastudentguild.com/psa Facebook: www.facebook.com/uwapsa Twitter: @UWAPSA Instagram: @UWAPSA
CONTENTs Editiorial 5 Your 2015 Postgraduate Students’ Association Committee 6 PSA President’s Report 8 Past PSA President’s Report 9 WHO ARE WE? Getting to know all about you! 2015 Postgraduates at UWA 10 Event photos 12 A chat with Matthew Pavlich – Captain of the Fremantle Dockers and UWA Postgrad 14 Juggling Family, Uni and Work 16 GET SOME ADVICE! Top 10 free things to do in Perth for Postgraduates 18 How to start writing, keep writing and stay sane 20 Scholarships and Awards 22 The Art of Conferences: Reflections and Suggestions 24 Wise Advisor – Letting you know why you should stop complaining about your supervisor problems 26 Limina 27 Are you coping? 28 CREATIVE CORNER For Elise 30 Symbiotica @ UWA 32 If you go to be a postgrad 34 An Autoethnographic love letter 36 WHAT WE WERE UNHAPPY ABOUT IN 2015 The Lack of Consensus Center 38 What I told the Academic Council was wrong with the HDR experience at UWA 40 Death by a Thousand Cuts: UWA’s slow slices into postgraduate research funding 42 Finally there are votes in higher education 44 Teaching support for postgraduates – or a lack thereof? 46 POSTGRADUATES GETTING OUT THERE! How I came to do a one-year unpaid internship in Kenya after completing two Masters degrees 48 Everyone is a winner – Volunteering 50 Research and reciprocity – giving something back to research participants 52 Culture Shock 101: Exchange 53
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YOUR EDITORIAL COMMITTEE 2015 Postscript Editorial Committee (L-R): Sharifah Najah Aqilah Syed Mohd Amudin, Genevieve Simpson, Su Chen Lim, Char Ching Yee Janus, ABSENT: Marjorie Fernandes
by Genevieve Simpson, PhD Candidate in Geography and 2015 PSA Media Officer
It was with some reluctance that I took on the post of 2015 PSA Media Officer. The only part of the position I was interested in was this little job – getting to be Editor of Postscript. I have read every issue from cover to cover since arriving to start my PhD, and while every issue provided me with the opportunity to learn something about how I could be going about my studies, I always thought there was something missing. The magazine didn’t seem to respond to the state-of-play of the university; it wasn’t a reflection of UWA as a place in time. And so I have taken the reduced hardcopy circulation this year as an opportunity to expand the scope of the publication. This year, Postscript comments on what’s been happening at UWA. It is a reflection of how postgraduates view changes to the UWA system that see increased competition for and reduced access to funding, support services and development opportunities. Changes did not go unnoticed, with students raising their voices via traditional and social media, through consultation with the executive and by taking to the streets. You can see just a few examples of the reaction to changes in this magazine – the Bjorn Lomborg saga; a Higher Degree by Research system that is letting postgraduates down; cuts to UWA postgraduate funding and funding across the wider tertiary education sector; and changes to support for sessional teachers at UWA, many of whom are postgraduates and all of whom influence the quality of education available at UWA. Unfortunately, there wasn’t room to talk about Laurence the peacock, aka the most embarrassing mascot in the history of university campuses.
now make up the majority of postgraduates at UWA and for too long ‘postgraduate’ has been considered synonymous with ‘higher degree by research’. I think the PSA still has some way to go to recognise the value of these students, with our awards and many of our events targeted at Research students, but the first steps are there. Stories from Coursework students highlighted difficulties with balancing work, study and family life; and also the growing need (both developmentally and emotionally) to get outside the university and take advantage of volunteering, exchange and internship opportunities. Additionally, the importance of support provided by partners, friends and family during the postgraduate journey is a theme that has emerged, not just in this issue of Postscript, but in discussions with postgrads throughout the year. There are, of course, some ‘old favourite’ sections of Postscript back again. We have creative stories and reflections, event photos, and advice to those seeking to write, attend conferences, deal with supervisors and access scholarships.
My other goal with Postscript this year was to give a voice to our Postgraduate by Coursework students. Coursework students
Genevieve Simpson 2015 Editor of UWA Postscript
This year’s Postscript is bigger (and I hope better) thanks to the enormous response I had from the UWA postgraduate community. I thank everyone wholeheartedly for their contribution to our little magazine, and hope that you all enjoy seeing your work in print. Finally, I would like to thank the 2015 Postscript Editorial Committee who helped me brainstorm story ideas and track down people to write pieces. This wouldn’t have been the same without you! Kindest regards, and back to my PhD!
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Your 2015 Postgraduate Students’ Association Committee YOUR 2015 PSA EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE (L-R): Nassif Nazar Kesavath (Vice President – Coursework), Ammar Mahmood (Vice President – Research), Vikraman Selvaraja (President), Shane Morrissy (Treasurer), Genevieve Simpson (Media) and Aaron Girard (Secretary)
OPERATIONAL OFFICE BEARERS: Events Officer: Megan Berry
ORDINARY COMMITTEE MEMBERS: David Gozzard and Kristin Barry
Off-campus Officer: Su Chen Lim Equity Officer: Charvi Handa International Studentsâ€™ Officer: Jia Huang Ho
IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT: David Raithel
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Officer: Justin Dhu FACULTY REPRESENTATIVES: Arts: Jordan Lavers Business School: Sharifah Najah Education: Jelena Rakovic
CAPA WESTERN BRANCH PRESIDENT: Kristin Barry CAPA POLICY AND RESEARCH ADVISOR: Peter Derbyshire
Engineering, Computing, Mathematics: Melissa Lee Law: Anna Celliers Medical, Dental, Health Sciences: Thomas Sharpe Science: Sadie Belica
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PSA President’s Report by Vikraman Selvaraja, PhD Candidate in Geochemistry and 2015 PSA President
The Postgraduates Students’ Association is the primary representative body of postgraduate students at UWA. We represent HDR students and students engaging in Professional Doctorates, Masters by Coursework and Graduate Diplomas. Overall, we represent over 7000 students at UWA. Our core functions are to advocate on behalf of our members, and to facilitate professional development and a sense of community among our members. We achieve this through three main methods. 1) Representation of postgraduates on major university, faculty and school level boards and committees. To summarise quickly, in 2015 the PSA Committee Members sat on the Academic Board, Academic Council, Education Committee, Curriculum Committee, Education Futures Strategy Group and a cascading series of faculty and school-level committees. Most importantly, I am a member of the University Senate and through that forum I advocate strongly on behalf of postgraduates at UWA. 2) PSA Committee members are active participants of the management, direction and activities of the UWA Student Guild. We assisted in the development of new food and drink options offered by the Guild, with a particular focus on the Tavern and future Halal food offerings, catering more effectively to the diverse and global nature of postgraduates at UWA. 3) We organised a variety of new events and continued the successful events from previous years, which most postgraduates found extremely useful in making new friends and contacts throughout the university. Beyond that, 2015 has seen postgraduate students becoming increasingly concerned with issues like fee deregulation and the strategic direction of the university. Combined with the impact of budget cuts on major scholarship programs that the university has instituted, there have been significant and continuing negative impacts on the experience of postgraduate students at UWA. The PSA, in conjunction with the Guild and the UWA – Cuts Hurt campaign, has done its best to make these concerns heard to the university but this is a battle which will outlive the life of this committee. I am certain the fight will be taken up ably by the incoming 2016 PSA Committee. Thanks Vikraman Selvaraja 2015 President, Postgraduate Students’ Association
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Past PSA President’s Report by David Raithel, PhD Candidate in Pure Mathematics and 2014 PSA President
G’day postgrads! Welcome to Postscript 2015 – I can’t believe it’s already this time again! For better or worse, it’s been a very interesting year for postgrads. After defeat in the federal senate, the government pushed its deregulation agenda once again, only to be blocked again. Our university’s dreams of charging its students exorbitant fees have been crushed… for now. We still have very little information on the status of the cuts to the Research Training Scheme. That hasn’t stopped the university from acting as though the cuts are certain. Last year we saw the cutting of the Safety Net Top-Up Scholarship, and this year completion scholarships have been threatened. The most heart-warming thing for me has been the incredible rise in student activism from the postgraduate student body. We saw the creation of the UWA - Cuts Hurt campaign, completely independent of the PSA. The campaign was even able to attract media attention, and from what I’ve heard, upset quite a few people in the university executive. It has also been fantastic to see so many UWA postgrads get involved with CAPA’s Valuepostgrads campaign. I’ve seen so many familiar faces holding up signs saying what their research degree will do and why it matters. I’ve not done one yet, mostly because I can’t think of a way to spin my PhD to make it sound like it actually matters. On the brighter side of things, it was great to see the PSA organise another stargazing event at the Perth Observatory. It is still my favourite event, and I hope future PSA committees continue with it. We also had the Scitech event this year. I love seeing the PSA engage with the mature-age postgrads, and family events like the Scitech event are perfect for that. It’s important for student representative bodies to remember that students are more than just 18-29 year olds looking to get drunk and party. I’ll end this with giving a shout out to the Events Committee of this year’s PSA for putting on so many events, and for continuing to try new events and seeing them to success. I also want to give personal thanks to Genevieve Simpson for being another great media officer and working harder than she was ever expected to. So long, and thanks for all the fish, David Raithel 2014 President, Postgraduate Students’ Association POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 9
getting to know you: 201 196 masters by research 993 extended masters
420 graduate diploma
1782 PhD by research
199 graduate certificate
there are 7024 POSTGRADUATES The PSA represented 7024 postgraduates in 2015 - 1782 PhD by research, 196 Masters by research, 3,340 masters by coursework, 993 extended masters, 199 graduate certificate, 420 graduate diploma, 94 other
3,340 masters by coursework
57% of postgraduates are in their 20s 6 postgraduates are under the age of 20, 57% are in their 20s, 26% are in their 30s, 11% are in their 40s and 6% are over 50.
29% of all UWA students are postgraduates 29% of all UWA students are postgraduates, the highest on recent record and up from 23% last year.
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All information sourced from the UWA Statistics Office website: www.stats.uwa.edu.au
15 Postgraduates at UWA There are 3,658 Commonwealth supported postgrads There are 3,658 Commonwealth supported postgrads, 1618 domestic fee-paying students, 1523 onshore international fee-paying students, 88 offshore international fee-paying students and 137 other.
5020 postgrad students are West Australian 315 are from somewhere else in Australia. 104 students from both Victoria and New South Wales. 76 are from Africa, 1221 are from Asia and the Middle East, 193 are from Europe, 64 are from North America, 53 are from South America and 7 are from Oceania (73 not classified).
62% of postgraduates are female POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 11
event photos The PSA holds social events throughout the year. Highlights this year included the family evening at Scitech, a Stargazing Night at Perth Observatory, a NAIDOC culture walk, our annual Quiz Night, the Cocktail Party @ Pirate Bar, and our monthly ‘Connect’ social drinks. These events wouldn’t have been possible without the hardworking PSA Events Officer, Megan Berry.
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A chat with Matthew Pavlich – Captain of the Fremantle Dockers and UWA Postgrad by Genevieve Simpson, PhD Candidate in Geography and 2015 PSA Media Officer
I had a chat with Pav about why he chose UWA for his MBA, how doing a university degree has helped his career and what it’s like being so darned busy. Why did you decide to do an MBA at UWA? I had such a great time here in my undergraduate years, and I knew the uni and what it valued. I spoke to a few of the more senior people involved in the MBA program and once I had those discussions it was a no-brainer to be involved with the great program UWA offers. And you met your wife while studying at UWA too, didn’t you? I did. We met in my very first unit at UWA. We were both doing Human Movement 101, and then we remained friends for a few years before finding each other again and working out that there was something more than just a friendship. UWA has been fantastic for me, one and a half degrees down and a wife, so I couldn’t have enjoyed my time more. Were there any other highlights to your time at UWA? Mainly just the opportunity to meet a lot of different people. When you’re doing your uni degrees part-time it’s a very transient sort of existence and you never have units with the same people again, so I’ve met a wide variety of people POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 14
from a wide variety of backgrounds and in a wide variety of industries. It’s been really informative in that perspective and it’s given me a pretty broad network, as well. Has it helped in your role as Captain for the Dockers? Whilst it’s not for everyone, studying has given me some great learnings with regard to the theoretical side of business and management. But more broadly, it also gives a methodology for dealing with issues and a pretty structured way of thinking things through. Based on those benefits is it something you encourage other players in the team to consider? Yeah. I’m the President of the Players’ Association and there’s a lot of understanding from players in the Association that guys who are engaged in something else off the field, and university is the most obvious engagement, it gives them a meaningful purpose outside of football when things go poorly on the field with injury or form. We also see that the players who have studied at uni have generally been the ones who are higher performing players on field as well. So not only have they got their lives sorted off the field with a plan for the future, but it also helps their performance on the field as well.
A lot of what you study in an MBA is about leadership, what do you think about the dynamics of shared leadership within a footy team like the Dockers? It’s critical, and it’s been a reason for our success. It’s about understanding that leadership is everyone’s responsibility and that if you see something you must do something. I think for too long in business, and in sport in particular, it was left for too few and our strength for a long time has been that we don’t rely on individuals. A lot of people have been wanting to know why you haven’t been coming to Postgraduate Student Association events… *Laughs* Mainly because I’m too busy! As much as it would be great to spend time doing more of the social activities associated with uni, I just don’t have the time. We live very busy lifestyles. Where possible I’ve tried to attend some events, but it’s been a lot harder than I thought it would be. We do hear a lot from postgraduates about being busy, many are juggling work, study and trying to raise families. So who does the cooking and cleaning and looks after your kids? I try to share duties with my wife, Lauren, as much as possible. It is a busy existence being a full-time professional athlete, and a part-time student as well as my part-time involvement with businesses, but I am absolutely a hands-on dad. I try to help as much as I can at home with the kids and also with the household chores. Indisputably Lauren does a lot more than I do but certainly it’s something that I help out with as much as I can because I know how important that role is, not only as a father at home but also to give Lauren a help out with the household duties. You’re also constantly under the microscope in terms of your activities these days… We are, but that’s a part of what we do. I’ve never shied away from that. I take my role in society very seriously. And we are held accountable for Photo copyright AFL/Elite Sports
things normal 18 to 34 year olds wouldn’t be held accountable for. Particularly off the field. But, you know, the game is the game, and sport has offered me some fantastic opportunities. And with great opportunity comes great responsibility. And I’m all too aware of that. As well as being a fan of UWA, are you also a lifelong fan of the Dockers or are you going to go back to your South Australian home team? Oh no, lifelong fan definitely. I bleed purple. I bleed purple. That works for us, too. I don’t know if you knew but the PSA colours are purple and white. Is that right? I didn’t know that, to be honest. There you go. POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 15
Juggling Family, Uni and Work by Linda Kent, studying for a Masters in Human Resources and Employment Relations
In September 2012 Rio Tinto ended its longterm contract with my husband’s exploration drilling company, so that was the end of the resources boom for us. I had spent the last 10 years at home raising our two kids, and had no intention of returning to work much less to study to further my education. However, due to the mining downturn, and with redundancies aplenty, I faced the grim reality of returning to work with an obsolete skill set and no recent employment experience. My options were pretty limited, and I needed a strategy. Towards the end of nine months of job hunting I was told by one 20-something, “sweetheart, you need to POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 16
get a job in retail”. I’m not sure how many other 50 year old women enjoy being called “sweetheart” by a Gen Y recruitment agent, but that was when I decided to go back to university. The Masters in Human Resources and Employment Relations at UWA was an obvious choice for me as I had spent a lot of my working life in HR. Little did I realise how much I didn’t know about Human Resources, but more profoundly, I didn’t anticipate how much I would absolutely love going back to uni, despite being 20 years older than most of my fellow students. A thirst for knowledge was unleashed and my brain began working again. It is however, a precarious balancing act trying to manage a family and study full-time. It’s now more compounded as I’m working part-time (20 hours a week plus six hours travel time) in HR Operations for our business. Many before me say the key to making it work is organisation, and while that’s
undeniably true, I couldn’t study, work and parent without the support of my husband who is more than happy to share the load at home, even if his signature (and only) dish is burnt sausages and lumpy mashed potatoes. I’m also in a fortunate situation where I can take time off work to study for exams and meet deadlines, or go to the occasional HR or UWA conference. That being said, trying to manage it all is not straightforward and effortless. I do know my limitations and I could do with a healthy shot of discipline. I’m the queen of delay tactics, so unless I ensconce myself in a quiet room at the Business School or the postgraduate section in Reid Library for hours over the weekends, my house will be spotless, and the kitchen will be full of well prepared, delightful food, but not one book will be opened and no assignment will be started. Furthermore, I
IT IS HOWEVER, A PRECARIOUS BALANCING ACT TRYING TO MANAGE A FAMILY AND STUDY FULL-TIME prioritise my time carefully. My priorities are family, uni and work in that order, and there is virtually no time for anything else. As the Masters course nears completion, I’m becoming conscious that the juggling act will ease off soon, and that there will be one less ball in the air (albeit a very large one), although it’s one that I will recollect with gratitude and satisfaction. Meanwhile, the house is filthy, and the food is pretty average, but at least the assignments are getting done. POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 17
Top 10 free things to do in Perth for Postgraduates by Sharifah Najah Aqilah Syed Mohd Amudin, studying for a Masters in Commerce (Human Resource Management)
Tour around Perth City Take a tour around the city using free CATs (Central Area Transit Systems) buses. These buses offer services everyday around popular tourist spots in the Perth city centre and Fremantle. Discover Fremantle by bike or bus Grab a free bike at the Fremantle Visitor Centre in Kings Square and discover amazing heritage buildings, streets and maritime and convict history. Alternatively, hop on free Fremantle CAT buses which complete regular circuits around the city, stopping at delightful spots and providing easy access to primary attractions. Picnic, BBQ & botanic walks at Kings Park Feel free to have a picnic, BBQ, or walk at the captivating botanical gardens of Perth, Kings Park. Located on Mount Eliza, Kings Park offers a magnificent view of the city and the Swan River. In addition to free BBQ facilities, free guided botany walks run daily. Enjoy movies at Northbridge Piazza Spend your free time enjoying free and entertaining movies at Northbridge Piazza’s Film Season, which runs during spring and summer each year. POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 18
Rejoice in crystal clear waters and consistent waves at Cottesloe Beach Indulge yourself with spectacular sunset-watching at one of Perth’s captivating beaches, Cottesloe Beach. Other activities available include swimming, surfing and snorkelling during the day. Explore entertainment at the Perth Cultural Centre Visit the Perth Cultural Centre, the cultural heart of the city, which showcases the Western Australian Museum, the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the Library and Information Service of Western Australia, the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts and The Blue Room Theatre. The Perth Cultural Centre is the perfect place for anyone who wants a lively fusion of arts, food, music, entertainment and festivals. Get cultural and art insights at Perth Upmarket at the University of Western Australia Get a glimpse of exquisite handcrafts designed by Perth’s most talented artists and designers at the annual Perth Upmarket event, which is held at University of Western Australia’s Winthrop Hall.
GET A PLACE IN A FREE GUIDED TOUR OR HAVE A RIVERSIDE WALK ALONG THE SCENIC PARK ACCOMPANIED BY DAZZLING FLORA AND FAUNA. BURSWOOD PARK ALSO BOASTS PERTH’S SPECTACULAR SCULPTURE OF WESTERN AUSTRALIAN BLACK SWANS RISING FROM THEIR NEST
Have fun with cultural amusement at Perth International Arts Festival Get fun-filled entertainment with the Perth International Arts Festival, Australia’s longest running cultural festival, held annually in Western Australia. The program displays an array of entertaining contemporary and classical music, dance, theatre, opera, visual arts, largescale public works, Lotterywest Film Festival and the Perth Writers Festival. Free events are available throughout the festival. In addition to these great locations, why not check out www.weekendnotes.com/perth for updates on free events throughout the year!
Relax with a tour of Burswood Park Get a place in a free guided tour or have a riverside walk along the scenic park accompanied by dazzling flora and fauna. Burswood Park also boasts Perth’s spectacular sculpture of Western Australian black swans rising from their nest, which embodies the spirit of Perth’s famous Swan River. For those who wish to engage in recreational activities, jogging and cycling trails are provided within the park. Rejuvenate with nature at Matilda Bay Reserve Enjoy breath-taking views of the Swan River and Perth City at Matilda Bay Reserve, which encompasses nature and wildlife. Dolphins and a variety of water birds, such as pelicans, swans, ducks, terns, herons and cormorants, can be seen at the reserve. Moreover, BBQ facilities are provided and cleaned daily. Photo by @nonisnaps
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How to start writing, keep writing and stay sane by Ant Gray, PhD Candidate in English and Cultural Studies and STUDYSmarter Academic Skills Adviser (Honours and Coursework)
A month or two back, I was in an op-shop when I saw an old typewriter for sale. I would have left it right where it was if I hadn’t noticed one small detail: it was the same brand as the typewriter Jack Nicholson uses in Stanley Kubrick’s film, The Shining. I knew this because I’d just spent weeks writing about the film for my thesis. I must have seen that silver eagle logo a hundred times, particularly in the scene where Nicholson’s wife discovers the manuscript he’s been working on for months is just hundreds of pages of ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ typed over and over. In the film, Nicholson’s character takes his family to live in an old hotel in the middle of nowhere, hoping it will give him the opportunity to write a novel. But rather than the isolation helping him to be more productive, it makes him crazy. Frustrated that he can’t write and plagued by demons, Jack becomes psychotic and tries to kill his family. The fact that I’d stumbled upon exactly the same typewriter was significant for me because I identified a little with Jack Nicholson’s character (except for the desire to go on a homicidal POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 20
rampage). I’d just come back to writing my thesis after a long break. I had stopped because I was having difficulties and didn’t know how to finish it. So, I took finding the typewriter as a quirky sign from the universe that I was on the right track. Until more recently, I’ve never found writing easy. In fact, sometimes it’s been downright nightmarish. But coming back, it feels different this time. Which makes me think: what changed? Why do I find writing a little easier now? If I was going to draw some parallels between my experience and the film, here are three things I’ve learnt:
Make time for your inner demons, but don’t listen to them all the time. When I say ‘demons,’ I mean those voices that are constantly pointing out mistakes and slowing us down as we write. We often spend time worrying about what other people will think about our work before we’ve had a chance to do any. Instead, spend time just being a writer and researcher first, and then a critic, editor and proofreader later. Allow your first draft to be just for you and no one else.
Write regularly. Writing gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. I try to write every day if possible, just to keep up the habit and not lose touch with what I’m working on. And that doesn’t necessarily mean working on the finished text of my thesis. Writing regularly could mean summarising readings, writing notes and outlines, doing brainstorms, keeping a research journal, or writing a list of questions for me or for my supervisor. I also try not to stare at my computer for hours on end. Short mini-bursts of writing every day can be much more effective than binge-writing once or twice a week. With more regular writing, I have more opportunities to test ideas out and see if they work on the page. If you want to do some writing today and you’re not sure where to start, Rowena Murray’s writing prompts from How to Write a Thesis
Photo by Ant Gray, 2015
(2011) are really useful. Try writing some short responses to these statements: 1. My project is about… 2. The stage I am up to now is… 3. The next step is…
And finally, don’t be a ‘dull boy’ and isolate yourself too much. Any opportunity to talk to others about what I’m working on helps me to organise my thoughts. Interact with your supervisor(s) and fellow research students as much as you have time for. Join a research-writing group or start your own. If you’re a PhD or Masters by Research student, you can go to the GRS’s Facilitated Writing Sessions, Wednesdays 9-11am, Room 2204 in Student Central. And of course, all students are welcome at WRITESmart drop-in—Reid Library ground floor, 10am-noon, weekdays—to talk about any aspect of their writing, research and study. In the end, I bought the typewriter. It’s a reminder to look after myself, stay sane and keep writing.
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Scholarships and Awards Based on the worldly experience of the PSA Committee, we have two handy hints for you to keep in mind when you’re considering applying for funding. 1) Plan early. Many scholarships and awards receive a surprisingly small number of applications. This seems to be because many students don’t have research or trips planned to make use of funding. The most generous awards are for data collection and field trips. However, PhD candidates are required to line up all the funding they require for their research when they develop their Research Proposal. We recommend that you think about some ‘bonus research’ that you could do to enhance your research if funding was available, but that isn’t required to complete your work. Have this at the back of your mind when you develop your Research Proposal, and think about how your core research could benefit from additional engagement, data collection or talking to experts elsewhere in the world. 2) Submit often. There are a large number of scholarships available and someone has to be awarded them! The more you submit, the more likely you are to receive funding. Preparing award applications is also good communication practice. You have to be able to explain your research simply and effectively to someone who probably doesn’t know much about it, and justify why you deserve additional funding. These two rules apply to ALL postgraduate students, research and coursework alike. Coursework students thinking about advancing their studies into the research field should look at different scholarship options (at a variety of universities!) and external organisations. Postgraduate students benefit from additional funding for research or engagement activities, and get to include something fancy on their resume! POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 22
In 2015 the PSA advertised the following scholarships and awards: PSA Awards – 15 Conference Travel Awards of up to $900 each (7-8 each round), 4 Fieldwork/ Data Collection Awards of up to $1,350 each (2 each round) and 5 Small Grants of up to $500 each. Round One submissions closed 30 April and Round Two submissions closed 30 October. Convocation Awards – 20 $3,000 Postgraduate Research Travel Awards for research-related travel. Submissions closed 6 April 2015. Elite Editing Thesis Write-up Scholarship – A $6,000 scholarship to ‘free one postgraduate student from other employment so they may focus on completion of their thesis for 12 weeks’. Submissions closed 30 June 2015. UWA & Graduate Women (WA) Inc Research Scholarship – A $5,000 scholarship to assist research-related activities for female students who have had their Research Proposal approved. Submissions closed 31 August 2015. University Club Postgraduate Scholarship – Two $5,000 Postgraduate Research Travel Awards for research-related travel for those who have not received a Convocation Award. Submissions closed 30 September 2015. We also advertised the Graduate Research School Completion Scholarships. However, these are ‘under review’ (bureaucratic speak for no longer available). For further info see the ‘Death by a Thousand Cuts’ article on page 42. For more information on scholarships and awards check out ‘Get Funds’ and the monthly newsletters under the ‘Blog’ on the PSA website at www.uwastudentguild.com/psa.
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The Art of Conferences: Reflections and Suggestions by Joseph Carpini, PhD Candidate in Management and Organisations and recipient of a 2015 PSA Travel Grant
Conferences – love them or hate them - are an essential component of the PhD experience.
critical for connecting postgraduates with local academics and practitioners. For many in our field, attendance and participation at this conference is a critical step in building strong relations across the major Australian universities.
Indeed, the critical nature of conference attendance and participation is reflected in the major skills identified by the Graduate Research School, including the “ability to constructively defend research outcome at seminars and conferences”. It’s further demonstrated by the commitment of our Postgraduate Students’ Association (PSA) to help fund students’ attendance at conferences.
No doubt we have all heard the stereotypical reasons to attend a conference: contribute and learn about advancements in your field, network, build a name for yourself. But something that I always find lacking is advice on how to get the most out of one’s conference experience. Reflecting on my conference experiences and lending on the experience of colleagues, I have three quick “tips” for my UWA peers to help make the most of the conference experience.
Thanks to the generous support of the PSA, I had the opportunity to attend the Industrial and Organizational Psychology (IOP) Conference in Melbourne in 2015. This bi-annual conference is
Tip 1: Social Events are where Networks happen. Many would consider the boundaries of the conference to be determined by the formal program, generally between 8am and 5pm.
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With this said, the most important times in my experience are those that fall outside of the program. The small dinners that professors schedule, the student networking events, and impromptu breakfasts have been, in my experience, where the real networking happens. If these activities are not part of your agenda before arriving at the conference, definitely try to build them in with people with whom you really want to connect. Tip 2: The Elevator Pitch. We have all heard of it and probably have not given it enough thought, but one of the best things one can do in preparation for a conference is come up with a very succinct and clear description of one’s thesis and core interests. While networking is absolutely key, it is only possible if one manages to keep people’s attention! Make your pitch short and sweet – it is always better to leave room for people to ask follow-up questions instead
of providing an elaborate description that loses people’s interest. Tip 3: The Post-Conference Connection. Networking doesn’t end at the conference – in fact it only begins! When you have successfully connected with several people at a conference you want to act fast upon your return to “postconference connect”. There are a couple of good reasons to move fast - mainly the fact that people generally forget who you are, or you forget who they are. You also want to take advantage of that post-conference energy to move projects from the diary into action before they go stale. Thank you to the PSA for their generous support; it is extremely important and appreciated, particularly during these times when PhD funding is become increasingly scarce across the University.
Wise Advisor – Letting you know why you should stop complaining about your supervisor problems by Marjorie Fernandes, PhD Candidate in Marine Science
I’m taking this opportunity to be a ‘Wise Advisor’ solving all your supervisor problems! From my previous experience, and talking at length with other postgrads, most of the criticisms that students have regarding their supervisors relates to concerns about the lack of time the supervisor has to guide research, to answer e-mails, to correct chapters and papers, to reply to questions or even to have a good conversation – like those that clarify your research question and make you say: ‘aaaahhhh! Now I get it!’. The supervisor has a key role in the academic life of students. Not only is the supervisor important in introducing the student to a whole new area of knowledge, but there is also a whole bunch of paperwork regarding scholarships, reports, corrections of manuscripts and statements, meetings and conferences, where students are completely dependent on the supervisor. Supervisors can be so important that in some parts of the world supervisors might affectionately be referred to as ‘mum’ or ‘dad’. And this comparison makes sense when you think that supervisors are guiding you through your professional life, just like your parents try to guide you through your life (before you end up finding your own pathway and surviving perfectly well, thank you very much!). However, put up your hand if you have never waited days for an email response from your supervisor! Not to mention that article manuscript that has been waiting for an “ok” since the world began. What few students take into consideration is that the vast majority of academics are already working one more day a week than they are contracted POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 26
to. For example, if you really wanted to find my supervisors on a Saturday morning, you would search for them in their offices at uni. Which begs the question, if they are working 24/7, why am I aiming to be an academic? Have you ever looked at what an academic has to do? Teaching undergraduates and masters students, supervising Honours, Masters and PhD projects, “publish or perish”, getting funding for fieldwork, the bureaucracy of keeping the current research funding, writing and correcting reports, papers and exams, peer reviewing papers, various committees, not to mention if your poor supervisor has landed a management or administrative position, which suddenly uses up all the time that they should be spending on their own research. I know it may be a shock to some students, but there comes a time when you need to hear it from someone else: your advisor does other things in life besides supervise you. The fact is that there is virtually no preparation for academic advising. There are few moments in the academic pathway that guidance is put under discussion. While there are a multitude of pedagogical techniques for honing supervision skills, these seem to be unknown to supervisors tasked with leading a newbie researcher down the path of enlightenment. Instead, apparently, supervision skills are developed over time through a series of ‘guinea pig’ postgraduate students! So don’t forget that your supervisor isn’t just supervising you, they are also running a finely-tuned, borderline military operation of precision, whilst also learning and making it up as they go along.
by Annie Demosthenous, Submissions Editor of Limina
Limina is a refereed academic journal of historical and cultural studies based at the University of Western. The journal operates with a special commitment to publishing the work of postgraduates and early career researchers, and encourages creative methodologies.
margins’. Limina continues to champion work on the fringes of Arts research.
Ten Reasons Why you should Love Limina! 1. We are run entirely by postgrad volunteers - We really enjoy getting to know people with different experiences from different places who have come to do postgraduate studies at UWA.
7. We love UWA - UWA has a special place in all of our hearts. We are proud of our 20-year legacy and work hard to make our founders proud in turn.
2. We care about you - We know what it’s like to be a postgrad trying to learn how to write journal articles and understand the process of submitting, while also trying to finish a PhD. We get it! We don’t reject papers outright; we have conversations with our authors to create the best paper possible. 3. We are accessible - As an open access journal our articles are available to anyone who is interested - for free! We also try to make connections between the academic community and the ‘outside world’ through our social media engagement and public lectures. 4. We support the Arts and the Fine Arts - The research we publish highlights the exciting and meaningful work happening in the humanities and social sciences. We have introduced an Art Prize as a way to connect with local artists, and give a platform for disseminating creative work by using the winning entry as our cover art. We have also started accepting Creative Writing as Research submissions, giving creative writers the chance to publish in a peer-reviewed journal.
6. We are interdisciplinary - Limina welcomes interdisciplinary research, creating a space to explore topics in new and interesting ways.
8. We promote UWA within the Australian postgraduate community - Our annual conference attracts participants from across Australia, and even from abroad. This gives us a chance to show off UWA, but also creates potential for collaboration, and expands people’s academic networks. 9. We have strong female representation, and we embrace diversity – Women are underrepresented in the higher levels of academia and we are happy that many women are using Limina to make themselves more competitive in the academic workplace, and welcome anyone who wants to participate regardless of identity. 10. We have fun - The fun, supportive and encouraging aspects of our community really gives a sense of belonging and enriches the postgrad experience for us all. Limina is always looking for people to join us as part of our editorial collective. There are lots of ways to get involved as part of the collective and we welcome all different levels of involvement. To get involved contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.limina.arts.uwa.edu.au.
5. We are liminal - In the very first volume, the editors wrote ‘LIMINA aims to promote the work of scholars willing to transgress boundaries, ignore disciplinary constraints and speak from the POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 27
Are you coping? by Genevieve Simpson, PhD Candidate in Geography and 2015 PSA Media Officer
In my role as the Media Officer for the UWA Postgraduate Students’ Association I have written a lot of Facebook posts. About 200 I would say. And while the PhD Comics posts always end up having the highest number of ‘Likes’ there is a post from way back in May that stays with me. This post referred to a UC Berkeley study into postgraduate students and found a high level of depression for both research and coursework students. When referencing the study I asked
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students to look after their own mental health and ask other students ‘Are you OK?’. The post wasn’t just ‘Liked’ by a good number of people, it also prompted a number of private messages and emails about the struggles that postgraduates experience – emotionally, physically and financially. This was dovetailed with a number of posts on the UWA – Cuts Hurt campaign page about the struggles postgraduates are facing. The impact of mental health issues on our national productivity is becoming increasingly recognised. And with that, the social stigma associated with publicly acknowledging a mental health problem is declining. We’ve seen great progress this year with public figures stepping forward and acknowledging their own struggles. UWA has even started offering ‘Mental Health First Aid for Managers’ courses, recognising that mental health issues can be as immediate and dangerous as accidents and physical emergencies. But there is so much more to be done.
In my experience, the biggest problem with mental health issues isn’t that they exist, but that they go unacknowledged, ignored and untreated. It’s often so hard to recognise where some short-term stress, a moment of breathless panic, an inability to get out of bed, a loss of appetite, a gnawing sense of self-doubt and imposter complex transitions from normal human responses to stimuli to a problem that needs treatment. And even if you do realise you’re having problems, it can be just as difficult to tell other people. If people realise you’re not coping, what does that say about you? Sometimes it just seems easier to bottle things up. I know I’m guilty of recognising tell-tale signs of anxiety and ignoring them, hoping they’ll go away when this week is over, when I’ve submitted this paper, (when I’ve handed Postscript over to Guild). But in all likelihood that week or paper (or even Postscript!) isn’t important enough to sacrifice your own personal wellbeing.
So I urge all postgrads, again (and again and again and again) to look after yourselves and each other. Seek help. Ask others if they are OK. And if someone ever says they aren’t, don’t ignore it. Ask them what they can do to reduce their stress. Suggest they talk to a councillor. Use the Guild’s Free Yoga sessions! Talk it out. None of us have all the solutions but we all have some responsibility for each other. As always, help is available. Head to www.student. uwa.edu.au/life/health/counselling for free counselling for students, call Lifeline at 13 11 14 and Beyond Blue at 1300 22 4636 for immediate help.
For Elise by Sharon Wong, studying for a Masters of Translation Studies
This is for Elise. Elise, who had pale skin, dark hair, and eyes a beautiful shade of grey-green that I had never seen before or since. Elise, who was my first love. I loved you the moment I first set eyes on you. You were so beautiful, so bonny and lithe, that I almost believed you were from another world. I used to be so scared that you would just disappear, so I did everything I could to woo you. I gave you flowers, jewels, time. My friends laughed at the way I lost my head over you, and after a while they stopped being my friends. I gave them up, all for you. I still remember those days we picnicked down by the river, when we waded in the shallow water, holding hands, splashing and laughing. Those were the happiest days of my life. I wanted to grow old with you. I wanted you to grow old with me. But after we were married, you were beset by demons, or so you said. Demons that lied to you, demons that told you you weren’t beautiful, demons that told you I didn’t care for you. None of that was true, it was all lies, and I tried to make you see it. I tried everything to make you ignore the demons you heard, the demons that made you scream and thrash in your sleep, the demons that made you afraid of me, the demons that made you hate me. I did everything I could think of. But none of it was enough. Then one night, you ran off into the night and the rain without me. Running POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 30
away from the demons. I tried to follow you but I couldn’t find you. There were these cliffs near our house, and people said you must have gone over there, lost your way and slipped, falling down, down into the ocean. They never found your body. Oh, Elise, I miss you so. And now I am a lonely old man in a house far too large for one, and I have a confession to make to you. I never believed in your demons. I didn’t think they were real. I thought they were just things you made up to explain the things you did and the things you said. I know the truth now. I know because they came to me last night, the demons who tell such lies. They told me it was my fault you ran away, that I didn’t ever show my love for you, not properly. They told me I treated you bad, that when you ran that night you weren’t running from them, but from me. I knew they were lying and I tried not to hear them, but they kept on at me even when I blocked my ears. I had thought the pain of losing you had gone, had been healed, but it seems the pain never went away. It had simply stayed buried in a dark part of my soul. Last night it came back. This is for you, Elise. If there really are demons, then maybe you are still around in some form, and you will be able to read these words I write. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry for the things I did and the things I said. I’m sorry for not listening when you told me about the demons, about the whispers and the screams in your mind. I’m sorry I drove you away, drove you to your death. Did I do that? This is for Elise, the girl I loved, who was plagued by demons. I hope she can find it in her heart to forgive me.
Photo by @nonisnaps
SYMBIOTICA @ UWA
SymbioticA is a unique artistic research centre dedicated to the research, learning, critique and hands‐on engagement of the life sciences. It is the first research laboratory of its kind in the world, in that it enables artists to engage in wet biology practices in a biological science department. SymbioticA offers a new means of artistic inquiry, one in which artists actively use the tools and technologies of science, not just to comment about them, but also to explore their possibilities. As a mark of international recognition of its activities, SymbioticA was awarded the inaugural Golden Nica for Hybrid Arts in the Prix Ars Electronica in 2007. Five postgrads studying in SymbioticA have provided work for PostScript this year: Audrey Appudurai (PhD Candidate) works with The Neuroecology Group, School of Animal Biology, and SymbioticA, School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology at UWA. She is interested in the scientific, artistic, and cultural pursuit of the lungfish visual experience. Tarsh Bates (PhD Candidate) is an artist/researcher interested in how meanings and experiences are created and transferred between materials, bodies, environment and culture. Her research is concerned with the aesthetics of interspecies relationships and the human as a multispecies ecology. She is particularly enamored with Candida albicans. Michael Bianco (PhD Candidate) is an artist, curator and researcher working with SymbioticA, School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology and the Centre for Integrative Bee Research. Bianco’s research focuses on interspecies relationships, and considers the concepts of both ‘host’ and ‘parasite’ within the broader context of honeybees in relations to theories of hospitality and environmental sustainability. Stephanie Reisch (PhD Candidate) is a multidisciplinary artist who explores mystical and shamanistic precepts through trace and essence. Clarice Yuen is currently undertaking her Masters of Biological Arts and is exploring biological projects based upon her contemporary arts background. POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 32
 Clarice Yuen, Work in progress (field work) 3
 Stephanie Reisch, The Immortals #6, 2015, pigment on ACP, 250mm dia. X 4mm  Tarsh Bates, Surface Dynamics of Adhesion, 2015, agar, human blood, living Candida albicans, acrylic, 2100 x 150mm, Photo credit: Tarsh Bates  Michael Bianco, Trophallaxis, 2015. Photo credit: Michael Bianco
 Cernentia: exploring the visual perception of lungfishes without eyes installation (Audrey Appudurai, 2015). Photo credit: Julian Frichot.
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If you go to be a postgrad by Peter Derbyshire, PhD Candidate in Zoology and 2015 CAPA Policy and Research Advisor
You’ll feed on bread and on mi goreng, And a seminar lunch come your naming day. You’ll sweat and bleed till you submit, And your only funds will be dreams of funds, If you go to be a postgrad.
Your bed’s a far and fond desire. The clash of advisors a battle choir. Should you survive your annual reports, Your mind will ache from stats and revisions, If you go to be a postgrad.
Your supervisor will change locales. A cluttered lab be your only land. Fodder for the grants and none to earn. You’ll curse the day that you enrolled, If you go to be a postgrad.
Your supervisor will forget your face, You’ll lose your beauty, youth and grace. They’ll judge you with complete contempt; You’ll find your coffee’s your dearest friend, If you go to be a postgrad.
You’ll sleep on floors, and office chairs, With holes from rats in old lab coats. You’ll wake to the cleaners emptying bins, Then march ‘till Connect’s a passing sigh. If you go to be a postgrad.
There’s honour and a sense of pride, To fight for knowledge with your life, Not all approve but none object, That all who learn deserve respect, If you go to be a postgrad.
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An Autoethnographic love letter by Petra Elias, PhD Candidate in Social Work
As I write this letter, I do not know how to address you. Though important to me, you are not my precious, this is a position held only by my children, those who share my carbon properties and DNA. You are not my darling, nor dearest, nor cherished. You are not my love as I already have a lover, a best friend, a confidant, but you do bring a sense of commitment and passion to my life. You demand of me great exertion and infinite energies - sometimes much more than I have. You are unyielding in your refusal to accommodate my small deviations to other seductive bed fellows, even in my strong conviction that they will bring a richness to our journey. You have an insatiable need for my attention - though without my life force you would not exist, you would not develop and grow or mature into a rounded, and occasionally, sophisticated form of yourself. Whenever I think you are complete, you want more. I value the stimulation you bring to our relationship and the sense of reward and achievement when we overcome a hurdle and reach a milestone. This can be exhilarating; bringing a heady sense of freedom and daring to dream which only encourages me further in our symbiotic existence. I forgive you small things - misspent words and inarticulate phrases and in so doing, reprieve myself. You have a blind spot for my misplaced, sometimes abuse of conjunctives and mixed metaphors. You provide a welcome distraction but when I fail to satisfy, you surreptitiously shove me back to those who need me more. Ours is not an equal association, I only come to you when it suits me, when I have time, when I can give you my full concentration and am free from the demands of those who always take first place, when motivation and fecund inspiration emerge. In short, when I want to be with you. When I am ready to again lean into your pleasures and challenges, your rampant tendrils are there, always ready to engage with me, holding me tight but it is my inspiration that drives us on. Even when you achieve great success, it is me who receives the shining glory, the accolades, the praise. You are cast to the sidelines albeit with reverence, dignity and pride. I rarely consider what you might want from me. It probably should be more my focus, certainly you deserve that much, but inevitably I derive inspiration from my own needs. Much of the time, I sense your incessant, oppressive lurking - reminding me always to capture inspired embryonic thoughts in words, desperately trying to seal them within my mind for a time when I can be fully absorbed by and luxuriate in caressing and shaping them. At other times, my vision of your apposite potential and my hopes for our future are enough to sustain me during long periods of contact between us. Ironically, being with you provides much needed intimacy with myself which only causes tension and more demand from the ones who are truly precious. I resent the inner tensions, frustrations and sometimes enmity you arouse in me and at these times I can but only walk away and breathe out, spending time to reflect and seek solace in other tasks. Those things that provide unconditional acceptance, without fear of failure, those that provide me with respite to recover from your mercurialism and nihilism and give me the space to envisage a different way of being with you. Sometimes this occurs in the form of engaging in dalliances POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 36
with others of your ilk - the ones that are highly polished, complete and self-contained, those with strident confidence. At best, inspiration comes at these times and creativity descends over me and I scurry back with near-bursting enthusiasm to try out all my new ideas. When I am not with you, I desperately long for more time together, to massage and nurture your development and in the process feed my own vicarious growth. At times this lust is intense - I can barely contain my desire. I am intolerant of distractions even from those I love and especially those that are mundane and ordinary; stress and routine being the killers of my desire for you. When we are alone and smitten, progress comes easily without disappointment. But invariably, we tire of one another and the familiar apathy sets in, letting me know it is time to leave you again. I am reassured by the familiarity of this ebb and flow between us, this unchoreographed tango. Even when apart, you constantly occupy my thoughts. Today, I am so absorbed by you, I am not aware that the plane I am on has taxied out of the gate and taken off - I am shocked by the altitude we have achieved without my notice - the diminishing city lights below resembling tiny, sparkling sequins. Indeed, as I write this, I am not tempted by the proffered entertainment or food, nor the luscious coppery horizon that is screaming for my gaze. I am like a drug addict; driven, distracted, fidgety, restless and increasingly anxious that I will not be able to return to my keyboard before my inspirations are indelibly contained in the fibres of the page, before the Captain restores my ability to return to this digitised expression of my desire and obsession; this letter for you, my PhD.
Photo by @nonisnaps
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The Lack of Consensus Center A wholly biased recap by Fiona McRobie, PhD Candidate in Paleoclimate Science
Bjørn Lomborg - skeptical environmentalist - was coming to UWA, and bringing with him the Copenhagen Consensus Center he’d previously run in Denmark and the US. The Center is an economic and policy think-tank, perhaps best known for its evaluation of anthropogenic climate change as “by no means our main environmental threat”. Following the response of UWA-ers, ViceChancellor Paul Johnson held a series of meetings with students and staff. These were packed, and those who couldn’t attend could tune-in via #stoplomborg, as members of the audience livetweeted the events. The main concerns revolved around politicallymotivated appointments, the lack of transparency in the funding structure, and the methodology of the Center. With success rates of Discovery Projects, DECRA, and Future Fellowships each under 20%, the argument followed that a $4 million handout was perhaps ill-timed.
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There was issue with Lomborg’s academic track record: the Copenhagen Consensus Center had been defunded by the Danish Government, and the Center typically publishes textbooks rather than peer-reviewed papers. Staff raised concerns regarding the reputation of the University as a research institute, and postgrads consoled themselves with the knowledge that even in a competitive academic job market it’s possible to get a prestigious research position with only a handful of peer-reviewed papers. Most of all - of course - was Bjørn Lomborg’s position on climate change. While recognising that the science is compelling, his economic methodology says that cutting emissions isn’t a high-priority in the short-term. The response from the VC was that the institute was never intended as a climate science centre, but rather was to focus on UN development goals. He also noted that Bjørn Lomborg himself would not actually be running the Center. However, the round robin of student and staff meetings made it into national media, with a number of students and staff members sharing their views on social media - alongside other academics around the country. On May 8th, UWA reversed it’s decision, and handed the generous $4 million back to the Federal Government. So, to summarise: VC: “Lomborg’s not here to do climate science, it’s economics” UWA: “Yeah, but no.”
Here’s a round-up of the events, emotions and opinions from the mouths of those who matter most: UWA postgrads, staff and students, from that source of verifiable and accurate information: blogs and social media
“Johnson indicated that Lomborg’s methodology was not to be confused with his views on climate change. ‘Science is science, and economics is economics’. This is a worrying statement from a Vice-Chancellor at a university that is apparently promoting cross-disciplinary research.” - Genevieve Simpson www.gensimpson.wordpress.com The author wishes to disclose the glaring conflict of interest in that, being a PhD student researching climate science, she is 97% likely to think that anthropogenic climate change is kind of a big deal. POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 39
What I told the Academic Council was wrong with the HDR experience at UWA by Vikraman Selvaraja, PhD Candidate in Geochemistry and 2015 PSA President
I’m taking this opportunity to discuss what I think are some of the biggest issues facing postgraduates in the foreseeable future. I’m going to focus on Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students as, in my opinion, that’s where the greatest uncertainties and issues lie. There are, however, certainly problems with the Masters by Coursework programs and questions about their delivery mode, whether they’re appropriate to the requirements of more mature students and whether they are delivering on the promise of improved employment rates on completion. In terms of HDR students, I believe that the ability to write, speak and communicate effectively in English needs to be a more prominent recruitment tool and supervisors recruiting students whose language ability isn’t at an acceptable standard need to be clear about what they and the student are going to do to increase English language proficiency in the first year of candidature. This is extremely important for students, as it is often almost impossible to wade through the bureaucracy of the university management or POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 40
to understand your rights and responsibilities if your English language skills are insufficient. It is also crucial for supervisors and the university as students who don’t make enough progress in their language development would naturally be less likely to complete, more likely to have a poorer quality thesis and would have fewer publications in the course of their HDR. I am also of the opinion that new supervision arrangements need to be seriously considered. There are far too many examples of supervisors abusing the power they have over their students and their progression. Already, some schools are seeing this as a problem and tackling it, and I would encourage more to join them. The School of Earth and Environment is perhaps an example, with new students contracting a member of their supervisory panel from outside their research group, which helps to monitor the overall progress and satisfaction of the student. I think it’s clear that in most high cost science HDR’s the relationship between the supervisor
and the student is indistinguishable from a workplace environment. This means issues like workplace bullying and harassment are ever present and female students feel it far more acutely. UWA needs to make sure that anyone propagating unhealthy cultures in their research group gets identified and strategies put in place that ensure this behaviour doesn’t go unnoticed until it is too late to do anything substantial about it. Finally, universities need to put a lot more thought into how students leave the research training system. The number of people finishing PhD’s has tripled as a ratio to population relative to the 1970s, but the number of permanent positions in academia has remained roughly constant. In many fields, the number of people who obtain a permanent academic position within 15 years of completing their PhD is under 10%! This means, in some cases, 90% of people completing a PhD aren’t going on to a lifelong career in academia. Is this a problem? On some levels it is, we should not shy away from ensuring that there is stable and proportionate public funding for universities and that this is tied to a rise in the number of academic positions, with direct benefits for coursework students. However, many students come into HDR degrees not expecting a career in academia, and universities need to deliver for them as well. Universities need to experiment with new structures of PhDs and make it clear to students that what they take out of it is not just a deep and thorough understanding of their field of research but also a variety of skills, including in terms of writing, research and project management, which are extremely valuable in non-academic employment. To facilitate this, students should not just be given flexibility in their research but encouraged to take on fixed period internships, secondments and other forms of collaborative employment in a variety of organisations. The university should play a role in engaging businesses, non-profits and government agencies
UNIVERSITIES NEED TO PUT A LOT MORE THOUGHT INTO HOW STUDENTS LEAVE THE RESEARCH TRAINING SYSTEM. THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE FINISHING PHD’S HAS TRIPLED AS A RATIO TO POPULATION RELATIVE TO THE 1970S, BUT THE NUMBER OF PERMANENT POSITIONS IN ACADEMIA HAS REMAINED ROUGHLY CONSTANT. to take on HDR students in short term roles as this gives everyone some perspective on what options are available outside academia and enriches the collaborative relationship between the university and broader society. To finish up, the current structure of PhD training doesn’t reflect what students actually end up doing, or what they want out of a PhD. There has been a positive response to many of my suggestions and it is part of the remit of the new Dean of the Graduate Research School to push for some of these suggestions to be adopted. It is hoped that we’ll take the opportunity to remodel our PhDs alongside recommendations coming from the Commonwealth and its review of the Research Training Scheme. POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 41
Death by a Thousand Cuts: UWA’s slow slices into postgraduate research funding by Aisling Blackmore, studying for a Masters in History, on behalf of the UWA –Cuts Hurt Campaign Team
When the discontinuation of Completion Scholarships was announced earlier this year, many research students were outraged and disappointed. This is only the latest in a series of cuts to postgraduate welfare funding which the university has forced the Graduate Research School to find over the last four years. In 2012, we saw a reduction in the assistance for health insurance to international postgraduate students. Even more alarmingly, in 2014 came POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 42
the announcement that the Top-Up Safety Net Scholarship would slowly be phased out. The four people behind the UWA – Cuts Hurt campaign recognized that this was becoming a pattern, and that we as students were accepting an increasingly unfair support system in exchange for our research, teaching, and promotional activities which UWA benefits from financially and reputationally. In 2015, research students
brought $16.5 million of Federal funding into the university through completions alone. HDR students are named on just under 20% of all of the university’s publications, which brings in a further $660,000 in Federal government funding. We are the casual tutors, the research assistants, the people promoting new research through papers and posters around the world. Yet the Vice Chancellor is paid nearly $1 million per year and research students on scholarship live on $29,000 per annum. The minimum wage in Australia is $30,888 after tax. It is inequality of the highest order, a wealth gap which belies any public statement about the UWA executive valuing postgraduate research students or securing the future of research. UWA is systematically cutting funding and support from hard working, highly skilled, innovative research students, and endangering their mental health as well as their chances for a successful completion.
he would have given precedent to other matters which were more pressing.”
The campaign asked UWA research students to submit their stories for us to publish and circulate online, to demonstrate that these cuts were having a significant impact on students across the university and to show the Completion Scholarships and Top-Up Scholarship tangibly contribute to increased completions and improving the wellbeing of students. These will be collated into a submission to Senate asking them to intervene and ensure the ongoing security of funding to research students. At the time of publication, this submission is still pending, but we would like to share just two of the stories sent to us. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who took the time to write up their story and send it to us.
We’ve been a bit quieter recently, but we are still working hard in the background to make sure that UWA understands that supporting research students is not optional. We have been careful not to criticize individuals during the course of this campaign. But since we started this campaign, we have had our motives questioned, been accused of trying to destroy the reputation of the university, and actively campaigning against enrollments. All the while, we have protected the anonymity of other students who were concerned about repercussions of speaking up on their access to funding, references, and career opportunities. We undertook this campaign independently, focused only on ensuring that UWA is aware of the impact that their cost cutting measures have on students who contribute so much to academic life and learning at this institution. Thank you to everyone who has supported and encouraged us so far, be assured that we continue to fight for more – more support, more recognition, more respect.
Dr Madeleine Bussemaker: “I received the Completion Scholarship which not only enabled me to work full time on my write-up but also focused my work to achieving my goal within a strict timeline. In addition, the scholarship also focused my supervisor who was perpetually busy and pressed for time. My supervisor had supported the completion scholarship and hence had an invested interest in my completion. Without this incentive I believe
Dr Siobhan Hodge: “The Completion Scholarship took a lot of stress off my shoulders during an otherwise very intensive period. It also served as a fantastic confirmation from the university that not only was my project worthwhile, but that my time committed to it should be supported.” We also ran a crowd-funding campaign to be able to provide a soup kitchen on campus for postgraduate students – it was an opportunity to engage media and to bring people together to talk about the campaign. A huge thank you to everyone who donated: Lara McKenzie, Shirley Bode, Jo Elliot, Rukmini Pande, Carly Wilson, Geoff Appas, Andrew B, Jo Hawkins, Peter Derbyshire, Mathew Carter and our three anonymous donors.
Facebook: www.facebook.com/uwacutshurt Twitter: @uwacutshurt
Artwork reproduced with permission from Greg Smith at the Western Suburbs Weekly
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Finally there are votes in higher education by Peter Derbyshire, PhD Candidate in Zoology, with Kristin Barry, PhD Candidate in Neuroscience, UWA CAPA Representatives (with help from Kristin’s husband, David Raithel)
When I first became involved in higher education policy I was told “there are no votes in higher education” but what a difference a federal budget can make. Since then, the federal government has repeatedly parroted its reasoning behind the decision to deregulate university fees (even if we haven’t seen the modelling) and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has warned us of a future with $100,000 degrees. These reforms were widely accepted by university vice-chancellors (with the exception of Canberra University’s Vice Chancellor Stephen Parker) as the saviour of the sector while the NTEU, the National Union of Students (NUS) and the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) have all argued the importance of public
THE INTRODUCTION OF FEES FOR RESEARCH STUDENTS, THE CUTS TO THE RESEARCH TRAINING SCHEME AND THE DELAY IN PROVIDING INCOME SUPPORT FOR MASTERS COURSEWORK STUDENTS HAVE BEEN THE FOCUS OF CAPA’S FIGHT POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 44
funding for public education. For the first time in my memory the funding of higher education is in the public eye and has grown in importance as an issue for the voters. However, the government’s stubborn determination to push these reforms, and the ensuing intense opposition to them, has resulted in a policy black hole for higher education. For postgraduate students the issue of $100,000 degree is perhaps less of a concern, especially in comparison to some of the less publicised aspects of the education reform package. The introduction of fees for research students, the cuts to the Research Training Scheme and the delay in providing income support for Masters coursework students have been the focus of CAPA’s fight in battling the proposed reforms. Despite the calls for reforms this has been a year of reviews in regards to the sector. Since January this year there have been a number of reviews that have focused on every aspect of postgraduate higher education. This has been an opportunity for CAPA to not only review the sector and provide feedback but to also focus the higher education policy-makers on postgraduate issues, such as the falling (failing!) value of the APA and the lack of income support for coursework students. With an election around the corner and enough reports and reviews to sink a chartered helicopter, there is no reason for any party to not have a well-planned and thought out higher education policy that takes into account postgraduate issues. So what next for higher education and postgraduates? No doubt there is a funding issue
needing to be addressed, particularly in regards to postgraduate resources and scholarship funding. Some solutions have been to implement more Masters Courses and use the student fees to subsidise research. These solutions are preferred by Group of Eight universities, but it raises the issue of how a university can provide quality education when student fees are being used to subsidise research? Popularity of Masters Courses at UWA has fallen below expectations, but is that really a surprise? If students are not provided with income support how can they be expected to focus on the more difficult work required at the Masters level? These are all questions that need to be addressed in the policies taken to the next election. With the public focus on higher education at an intensity not seen in this country in decades, it is time to see the sector strongly publicly funded, as it should be. After all, every higher education policy-maker agrees that a shift into a knowledge and innovation based economy
is going to require an effective higher education system and a well funded research training system. The only meaningful question left is: who will take the opportunity to really invest in higher education?
IF STUDENTS ARE NOT PROVIDED WITH INCOME SUPPORT HOW CAN THEY BE EXPECTED TO FOCUS ON THE MORE DIFFICULT WORK REQUIRED AT THE MASTERS LEVEL? POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 45
Teaching support for postgraduates – or a lack thereof? by Theresa Miller, PhD Candidate in Literature
During 2015 UWA’s Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning (CATL) was dissolved, with functions transferred to the new Centre for Education Futures. These changes have, and will continue to have, a considerable impact on sessional tutors, which includes many postgraduate students. In the past I have benefited, on a number of occasions, from courses delivered by the former CATL. In 2014 I was lucky enough to secure a place on the Postgraduate Teaching Internship Scheme (PTIS). The program not only provided postgraduates with the opportunity to teach in their subject area but also to gain an understanding of the pedagogy involved in adult education within a tertiary setting. I say ‘provided’ as the decision has been made to discontinue this program. With the rebranding of POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 46
CATL, and the changes to the way professional development in teaching is being delivered across the university, the future looks bleak for this award winning program. The loss of this program will be widely felt as the PTIS has regularly been shown to benefit not only the individual postgraduate undertaking the program but also their faculty and the students they taught. As an undergraduate my most engaging and memorable tutorials and lectures were those delivered by doctoral candidates on the PTIS, three of whom won teaching awards and two of whom can share some of the responsibility for my own decision to embark on a PhD. One of my favourite assignments was designed in response to the curriculum development aspect of the PTIS, where participants are required to develop or modify a resource that will enhance student learning. The success of this assignment is reflected in the fact that it continues to be used in some units today, six years later. Likewise I was nominated for a teaching award and I know the training I received on the PTIS helped me deliver the level of support that led a student to nominate me for the award. For those students who did not secure a place on the internship, CATL ran a short foundational course over a few days which provided basic grounding in teaching small groups in a university setting. This year I have heard that this course
is no longer on offer. No notice given, no reason supplied, it simply stopped. At the same time the workshops on topics ranging from using technology in the classroom to assessment strategies and how to write a rubric have similarly disappeared. This is not the appropriate space to discuss the focus on e-learning environments delivered through Carpe Diem and The Centre for Education Futures, however, I would note that postgraduate students and sessional tutors alike do not need to know how to redesign or create an online learning environment for our students. We simply don’t have the sort of power necessary to implement these changes. For myself and many of my peers all we need, more often than not, is an introduction to pedagogy and some basic transferable tips and tools on how to engage with our students. All we ask for is the opportunity to build on these basic skills, as and when the need arises. The dissolution of CATL, and the various teaching programs and workshops they offered, is a great loss for sessional tutors, postgraduates and the students they teach as CATL provided a level of professional development which was both practical and implementable, and which could easily be transferred to any university or tertiary institution that offered employment in the future.
Ed: At the time of printing the newly formed UWA Sessional Staff Association was collecting signatures for an open letter to Prof Alec Cameron, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) opposing changes to CATL. In addition to the loss of professional development opportunities noted in this article the ‘removal’ of pedagogical academic staff to advise on changes to UWA’s teaching policies etc is opposed. Whether the letter will have any impact is unknown, but the Association is pleased with the level of support they have received from the UWA Community.
FOR THOSE STUDENTS WHO DID NOT SECURE A PLACE ON THE INTERNSHIP, CATL RAN A SHORT FOUNDATIONAL COURSE OVER A FEW DAYS WHICH PROVIDED BASIC GROUNDING IN TEACHING SMALL GROUPS... THIS YEAR I HAVE HEARD THAT THIS COURSE IS NO LONGER ON OFFER. NO NOTICE GIVEN, NO REASON SUPPLIED, IT SIMPLY STOPPED. POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 47
How I came to do a one-year unpaid internship in Kenya after completing two Masters degrees by Anita Williams, former Masters of Infectious Diseases
Honestly, just reading that title kind of makes me depressed – how is it that after completing two seemingly useful Masters degrees from two highly ranked Australian universities I felt as though I couldn’t get a job in my desired industry? Was university, specifically post-graduate education, a waste of time? Or are universities teaching post-graduate courses because we aren’t “work ready”?
My name is Anita Williams; I love cupcakes, travelling and infectious diseases. I gained my Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Human Anatomy from Monash University in 2007, a Masters in Infectious Diseases from UWA in 2013 and a Master of Philosophy in Applied Epidemiology from ANU in 2014. I always had the dream of working in the Global Health field, something Australia isn’t really at the forefront of, considering a reduction in the aid budget for the next three financial years will reduce the percentage of GDP spent on foreign aid to the lowest levels since the formalisation of Australia’s aid program. But that point is worthy of its own article. In July 2014 I realised I had lost myself in being a post-grad student and didn’t know who I was outside of uni. When faced with the question of what I was going to do after graduation my mind drew a blank – what else was there to life other than late-night lab work, cramming for exams, pointless supervisor meetings and the dreaded thesis deadline? So I drained my savings account and went to Argentina for a much needed mental break. It was on my way home that I met a 34 year-old Brazilian girl who was moving to Australia to learn English. She told me that in order to move to Australia she had sold all her belongings, quit her job, moved back in with her parents, and that when she returns to Brazil she would be starting all over again. I thought “wow, if that girl can do it then why can’t I?” So I started looking for jobs overseas in Global Health, and whilst I found many amazing, incredible jobs that my dreams were made of,
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I HONESTLY FELT I DIDN’T WANT TO WASTE MY EMPLOYER’S MONEY TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW MY UNIVERSITY EDUCATION COULD BE APPLIED IN THE FIELD. my heart sank when I looked at the selection criteria; after years of my supervisors yelling at me, having colleagues telling me I’m shit, and being looked down upon for still being a student in my late twenties I had no confidence in my abilities to actually do anything functional. I came to the decision to do an unpaid internship because I honestly felt I didn’t want to waste my employer’s money trying to figure out how my university education could be applied in the field. I chose to do a one year unpaid internship with the Foundation for Sustainable Development because I liked their financial transparency and commitment to long-lasting community-driven change. I was accepted to the internship program in October and then started panicking – how on earth was I going to raise $10,000USD in three months? There are no travel grants or funding bodies for this type of learning experience. Thank God I was incredibly fortunate to win the Foundation’s Katie Edwards Memorial Scholarship for Public Health interns worth $5,000USD, which left me to fundraise the remaining $5,000USD. I baked cupcakes, sold all my belongings, moved back to Melbourne to live with my parents, held a trivia night, wrote to the local newspapers, begged people on my blog (www.infectiouscupcake. blogspot.com) and borrowed money from the Bank of Mum and Dad. On the 27th of February 2015 I departed Australia bound for Kakamega, Kenya. It’s been six months so far, and I have no regrets
whatsoever, even with the constant illness and weird food and crazy local politics. What I learnt during my post-grad years has come alive in a way no classroom lecture or practical laboratory ever could teach. I am confident in my capabilities as a Microbiologist and Field Epidemiologist and believe that come January when I start applying for work I will be successful in finding one of those dream jobs that combines my passion for infectious diseases, helping people and travelling the world. If I were to offer advice to course co-ordinators on preparing their graduates for the real world, I would say incorporate real-world opportunities not just research-based opportunities. Partner with NGOs to create a program that will get your students out of their comfort zones and applying their knowledge in unique and creative ways. They don’t have to be long-term deployments like mine, 9-weeks is more than long enough to change someone’s life; just get your students off the campus and into the real world. And if you are like me, facing that deplorable question of “what the hell are you going to do after graduation?”, or maybe you’re just not ready to get a “real job”, I would highly recommend doing a voluntary internship. POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 49
Everyone is a winner – Volunteering by Char Ching Yee Janus, studying for a Masters of Journalism
Postgraduates’ lives are often packed with a busy schedule, a part time job, endless assignments and a thesis. With such hectic and stressful lives, it may be hard to find time to volunteer. However, volunteering brings numerous benefits to you, your family and your community. You can get emotional and mental support from communities; protect your physical health; expand your social network; it looks good on your CV and helps your career. A support system is formed while you volunteer, POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 50
people in the team can protect you against stress or depression. It helps you put aside your own worries, and adds more positive vibes to your life. Your volunteer experience may open a gate that exposes you to organizations and internships beneficial to your future career. Everyone’s a winner when you volunteer! UWA provides various volunteering opportunities, from UWA clubs and societies to overseas volunteering. Guild Volunteering should be your first port-of-call for advice on volunteering at UWA, with a range of volunteering choices available. One of these is job-related volunteering. It provides you with
the opportunity to practice what you learn at university in the workplace. For example, Amnesty International WA provides various volunteering positions, from communication officers, graphic designers to event organisers. Volunteers get to know about teamwork, communication, project management, risk management planning and task management. A social media officer in the communication team acquires skills for writing press releases and designing flyers when the graphic designer is too busy. While volunteering students often get tips from colleagues, and sometimes an urge to try out a new career! Alternatively, if you are interested in teaching, you can volunteer at a school or nursery. AIESEC UWA provides a program for students to teach as volunteers abroad, in countries like Poland, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia. Students get a chance to explore and expose themselves to different cultures and to challenge themselves. UniMentoring may be the most well-known volunteering opportunity at UWA. Not only does it help mentees to expand their network, it also helps mentors get to know more about students from all round the globe and get to know more about different cultures. Through the UniMentoring program, many students broaden their support network and newbies can get insider tips through their mentors. Many students who volunteered as mentors said volunteering helped develop their communication and leadership skills. UWA residential colleges all have a volunteering department. Each year, University Hall contacts local communities to do volunteer work, from planting trees to travelling to regional areas like Albany to teach aboriginal children. St Catherineâ€™s College also has a volunteer program, where residents can have a short break from university. Residents are able to explore the world and whatâ€™s happening around them.
A lot of students hesitate and many wonder how to get the most out of volunteering. Here are some tips that I recommend: Make sure you know what you want, what experience you want to get, how much time you want to spend, and check if the experience is right for your skills or area of study. Before you start volunteering, make sure you know the organization well. Do not over commit yourself, but give yourself some flexibility in case there is a change of focus or assignment deadlines. If you are not comfortable with the position or your volunteering experience, speak up! Do not force yourself to do something you do not enjoy. Most volunteering organizations are open to help you get the right match! Lastly, relax and enjoy your volunteering experience while getting recognition from UWA through your academic transcript. UWA always welcomes and encourages students to be active at university and outside school. Everyoneâ€™s a winner through volunteering, impossible can be pursued through persistence and passion! To find out more about volunteering opportunities, head to the Guild Volunteering hub webpage at http://www.volunteering.guild.uwa.edu.au/.
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Research and reciprocity â€“ giving something back to research participants by Michelle Walker, PhD Candidate in Geography and recipient of a 2015 PSA Fieldwork Award
Everybody needs freshwater and managing water supplies is a key part of life in any culture. When I moved to a coastal Indigenous community in the Kimberley in 2012, I wondered how the Aboriginal people I was meeting maintained freshwater sources in the landscape. The Bardi Jawi township that I live in, called Ardiyooloon or One Arm Point, was only established in the 70s, and some elders grew up without the water infrastructure we rely on today. With this interest, I began to scope out a PhD project looking at freshwater management from an Indigenous, or cultural, point of view. I spoke to representatives of the Bardi Jawi and Nyul Nyul peoples, whose traditional lands (country) lie on the Dampier Peninsula, north of Broome. Both groups were interested in participating, with the condition that the research should benefit their communities. Since starting my PhD, I have worked alongside the Bardi Jawi and Nyul Nyul Rangers, two Kimberley Indigenous ranger groups employed to manage their country. Indigenous rangers are similar to national park rangers, but have a broader scope as they work to protect both (Indigenous) cultural, as well as ecological, values of land and sea. The rangers and I have travelled to many traditional freshwater sources (wetlands, creeks and groundwater sites) and interviewed elders and custodians about those places. We have investigated why these places are important and how Bardi Jawi and Nyul Nyul peoples have managed these freshwater supplies and ecosystems over time. Mid-way through my fieldwork I was awarded a PSA Fieldwork Award to help with travel (fuel) costs and to produce a product that I could give back to families participating in the research. From this I made a photo-book using iPhoto, with a hardcover POSTSCRIPT 2015 | PAGE 52
and lovely glossy pages full of colour photos of people and places, and profiling stories told by elders about freshwater.
Reciprocity is an important principle when working with Indigenous groups. It means giving something of tangible benefit back to the research participants. It can also mean getting a little creative! The photo-book was one way of giving something back to the research participants. I received lots of great feedback and other families also requested a copy. Some recipients of the book have wanted to share it with others. For instance, one elder and community leader (Irene Davey, pictured) gave her copy as a gift to Margaret Abbott, the (previous) Prime Ministerâ€™s wife, when Mrs Abbott was visiting Indigenous communities in our area. It has been rewarding for me to be able to offer something of value back to the people who have made my research possible.
Bardi Jawi elders Bessie Ejai (L) and Irene Davey (R) read over the photo-book.
Culture Shock 101: Exchange by Mark Teo, studying for a Masters in Architecture
In the summer of 2013, I was accepted into the UWA international exchange program. It was an awesome opportunity that I knew I should take, but at the time I was thinking it would be bothersome as I wanted to be comfortable and spend time with my friends in Perth. I knew that living in Switzerland would be different. I would no longer have the convenience of my car, my friends, or my family. I had no idea what life would be like there. I wondered what I could do without a car and hoped that the Swiss public transport system was good. The unknown life ahead scared me and
I really knew nothing about the Swiss culture. The only thing I was sure about was that Switzerland had opposite seasons. Therefore I prepared myself to be cold. On arrival it was cold. Not blistering arctic coldbut much colder than Perthâ€™s forty degree from the previous day. To make up for the miserable temperature, I was greeted by gorgeous snow tipped mountains lined with picturesque houses along the base. By first sight I was very excited to live there! But as I got in my taxi and was driven to my address, the taxi drove further and further away from what I thought would be my picturesque new
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home. As the world outside the window began to blur, I tried communicating with my driver. However everything he said to me was a mesh of words I could not understand. He only spoke Italian! I had automatically assumed that everyone spoke English, especially in a developed country like Switzerland! And it became clear that I was sitting in a car with no idea where I was going, in miserable weather, and unable to communicate to anyone in the entire country. At the time I thought things could not have gotten worse. But they did… After driving into what seemed like the small ghost town of movies, I spotted an old grey building. It was a university, where an extremely ugly, gigantic bird sculpture was superimposed over the building’s façade. I now completely understand the feeling a layperson has when they look at contemporary art and have the reaction “My five year old kid could do that”. The bird appeared to be a highly colour-saturated painted papier-mâché made by a legion of five year old children. I had wondered what kind of second rate institution the university was… Then I read the name plastered at the apex of the building. It was my exchange university. As my gut sank I had the feeling that my exchange trip was going to be much colder than I originally thought. After six months however, I have very warm memories of my time in Switzerland. From my apartment in the small town of Mendrisio, every day I was bid farewell by the sun as it kissed its red rays along the length of the local cliff face and hid its face behind an opposing set of sparkling mountains. By the end of the first week I had become friends with every person
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in my apartment complex. And by the end of the semester I had hiked those local mountains, attended cultural festivals, and even performed on stage breakdancing with my now good friends. Living in a culture different to my own forced me to change. It forced me to understand different types of people and how to cope with new challenges I never thought existed. In my small town for example, it was normal for shops to close at 11:30 and reopen at 15:30. The daily midday break really opened my eyes to the value of lunch. In Perth I had scoffed down my lunch as fast as possible in order to do more work. I prepared and ate whatever was quickest, sometimes foregoing entire meals for the sake of working harder. But watching the town as a whole take daily rests from their lives to enjoy their meals made a significant impact on the way I viewed meal times. I now consciously make time in my day to properly eat and appreciate food, even though eating lunch properly might be such a trivial notion to some. I feel as though through it I’m living a higher quality life, enjoying the simpler pleasures, and finding more joy in the world around me. Every person that has gone on exchange tells me that “it was a life changing experience”. Before going I had simply doubted their previous life experiences, and/or assumed they were exaggerating their claims. However after witnessing firsthand the exchange life I can now agree. Going on exchange has changed my life. P.S. I now have the party trick of speaking Italian. P.P.S. I am single.
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IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS ABOUT YOUR STUDIES, THE GUILD IS HERE TO HELP! Contact our professional Student Assist team for friendly, 100% confidential advice about: • Wellbeing and stress management • Living on a postgrad student budget • Your relationship with your supervisor • Applying for a deadline extension • Deferring, withdrawing or changing courses • Complaints, grievances and appealing the University’s decisions • Your student visa or visa options after graduation … or anything else you’re worried about!
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Postscript is the annual publication of the Postgraduate Students' Association.