Words by Martin Ditmann

The Australian Medical Students’ Association has launched a new campaign about asylum seeker policy, based on health concerns.

The campaign urges the Australian government to change its policies on asylum seekers. AMSA says the current system of prolonged detention is harmful to asylum seekers’ health—particularly in terms of mental health. It seeks to end any policy that deters asylum seekers from coming to Australia.

Campaign Logistics Officer Kasun Wickramarachchi said AMSA recommends “specific band-aid solutions” to minimise health impacts. These include an independent national health body and support for state governments to improve accessibility of mental health services.

AMSA Global Health Officer Timothy Martin said many asylum seekers grapple with mental health issues. “There are a range of mental health conditions which our policies are causing – depression, anxiety, suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder,” he said.

Mr Wickramarachchi said he believes everyone should have an equal right to health and mental health is a particular focus with regard to asylum seekers. “It is the perfect example of the detrimental effects that current policy has on the health and wellbeing of those in detention and processing facilities,” he said.

AMSA members say the program has spurred them into action. Mr Martin said he’s been particularly moved by the experiences of his friend, who is currently in detention.

“He has tried to take his life on several occasions and ended up in psychiatric care more times than I can count,” he said.

AMSA claims it has 300 members signed up to be involved in the campaign. Their roles will involve petitioning and educating, as well as meeting with politicians to discuss AMSA’s concerns.

Mr Martin also says AMSA is open to working with other student groups.

This is not the first time AMSA has run a campaign on national issues or done work around asylum seeker issues.

This campaign follows AMSA’s “Crossing Borders for Health” program, in which medical students across the country visit detention centres and provide services.

Words by Zoe Efron, Kevin Hawkins, Michelle See-Tho, and Sean Watson

It’s easy to feel selfish when you’re a Farrago editor. Without meaning to boast, the four of us are lucky enough to be getting paid to do stuff we love—putting together a beautiful magazine, making up April Fools’ Day scams, and exchanging our favourite Sandy Cohen quotes. But sometimes it’s pertinent to stop and ask ourselves, “Is this job just a bit of a wank or are we actually doing something meaningful?”

We like to think that the third edition of Farrago for 2014 is a very meaningful publication. It draws attention to a range of important social issues, namely the harsh living conditions of asylum seekers and the struggles they face seeking refuge in Australia. The phenomenally talented (and ever-reliable) Cameron Baker has highlighted this issue with a thought-provoking front cover. We’re also proud to feature Gajan Thiyagarajah’s profile piece on Fawad Ahmed and Mohammad Ali Baqiri, two former refugees who are making significant contributions to their communities in Melbourne.

Our intention in publishing these pieces is not to push a political agenda, but to bring attention to the human side of this issue and add an important voice to the conversation. The same can be said about Christine Li’s feature on the university’s investment in fossil fuels, where she goes beyond the moral arguments to assess the financial feasibility of the university’s current approach.

But, in true Farrago styleedition three doesn’t just cover the serious topics; we like to think it’s a lot of fun, too. Over the following 60 pages, Simon Farley attempts to play muggle quidditch, Jeremy Nadel joins the secret Cave Clan, and Will Whiten takes us through Myanmar. Oh, and Mia Abrahams helps us fulfil our number one goal for the year: publishing a Sandy Cohen quote.

Here are five things the four of us have argued about while making edition three:

  1. The fine line between humour and racism: In celebration of the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, our original plan was to publish a piece arguing for and against being Asian. Kevin and Michelle, who between them are 150 per cent Chinese, thought the piece was hilarious. But Zoe and Sean (both white) vetoed that decision, fearing that some readers might find the piece racist.
  2. Being partisan: The four of us each have strong political views. The question is, is it appropriate for us to yell them at our readers? Half of us shouted ‘YES’. The other half whispered ‘no’.
  3. Letter of the month: Zoe wanted Z; Kevin wanted K; Michelle wanted M; and Sean wanted S. We settled with a happy medium: ö
  4. Advertorial: We weren’t sure whether it would be a conflict of interest for Kevin to commission a piece about Live Below the Line, the charity campaign that invites Australians to live on $2 a day for five days from 5-9 May. Kevin worked for the campaign last year. (Ed: and you can donate to his fundraising page at lbl.com.au/me/hihathawkins)
  5. Who should write the editorial? As writers with big egos, we each wanted to be the author of this page. We even toyed with the idea of writing an editorial each and printing all four of them. For those of you playing at home, Kevin won this round. But the sentiments are shared by all four of us. Guess that’s one thing we could actually agree on.

Zoe, Kevin, Michelle, and Sean

Words by Colleen Chen

Heated debate is continuing over the University of Melbourne’s internship programs, after an American university announced students would no longer receive academic credit for internships.

Columbia University, New York will limit student exposure to unpaid university-managed work placements. The decision comes after pressure from American student group Intern Labor Rights, which “aims to raise awareness to the exploitation of unpaid laborers,” according it its website.

Timothy Lynch, Director of the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, says the university will not follow Columbia’s move. He describes the decision as “highly retrograde”.

“The idea that the University of Melbourne would discontinue one of its most successful engagements with the outside world—one of the key reasons why the students come to us—would undermine what we do as a public institution,” he said.

The last few years have seen an educational movement towards Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) programs such as managed internships. This has been met with growing ethical concerns from students over being charged tuition fees to do productive work for an organisation without remuneration.

On average, an internship subject at the University of Melbourne involves 80 to 110 hours of work with an external organisation and costs the student $3000 to $7000 per semester.

Many students are dissatisfied because they believe the university is using fewer resources for their work placement outside of class time.

“I worked for free for three months, found the internship myself, and the university charged me $7000-plus for the experience. Open theft,” says Executive Master of Arts student, Lauren*.

However, Lynch says internship subject fees should not be lowered. He argues that it is fair for students to pay similar amounts for every course component.

“We provide space for students to reach their potential. They have to fill that space, whether in a classroom setting or in the workplace,” he says.

What the law says

Under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), unpaid work placement arrangements are permitted only if they are a mandatory part of an education or training course. They must be authorised by a state or federal statutory body or under delegated powers to peak bodies such as the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) or Universities Australia.

Under the Act, unpaid internships outside of coursework are technically illegal.

The university’s internship subjects fit this to an extent. If the subject is compulsory for the course, it’s legal. However, if it is an elective, it’s in a grey area according to the Act. For example, a compulsory internship tied in with a medical degree is permitted but an elective subject as part of an arts degree is not.

Currently, most internship subjects at the University of Melbourne are offered as an option for a final year capstone subject. Students in many faculties are not required to do an internship, but must choose a capstone subject of which an internship is an option.

An alternative model

Other parts of the university are doing things differently.

Tin Alley Beta, a summer internship program for IT students led by Miguel Wood, reflects a different approach taken by the Melbourne School of Information. The school launched their start-up internship program last year, aiming to grow technical talent in the Melbourne start-up environment.

The application process to the Tin Alley Beta program is competitive for both students and host organisations. Host organisations are selected based on their ability to remunerate students and to attract applicants during a pitch night held on campus. Students are selected via an online application process and an interview before a selection panel.

Interns participating in Tin Alley Beta are paid by their host organisations. The internship is also not considered a part of the academic curriculum.

“If you want to explore entrepreneurship, you should do it independent of your studies. Start-ups are about survival. If you’re doing it as an assignment, you see the driver as finishing the subject or assignment,” Wood says.

*Name has been changed.

Words by Nathan Fioritti

1,200 Australian academics have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, calling for the closure of offshore detention centres. The letter claims that the offshore processing on both Manus Island and Nauru is “seriously flawed and unsustainable”.

Professor Philomena Murray, of the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, coordinated the letter. According to Professor Murray, the letter itself is a symbol of deep unease by academic staff across the country.

“Basically what you see is 1,200 academics who are so passionate and so concerned—really concerned, I think that’s the most important word to use—that they have written to me and to other people to talk about this concern.”

“When the letter got to 500 signatures in about three days, I sent it to the Prime Minister.”

After posting the letter online, there was an overwhelming reaction, leading to a national response, according to Professor Murray. It gained signatures and support from academics from every university in the country.

The idea for the letter came following a discussion with members of the group Academics for Refugees. The collaborative effort began after attending a vigil at Federation Square, following the death of 23-year-old asylum seeker Reza Berati on 17 February.

The Prime Minister has not responded to the open letter.

Words by Michelle See-Tho

Students, staff and members of the public have gathered to watch the launch of the university’s involvement in a national campaign against racism.

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s “Racism. It Stops With Me” launch took place in North Court on Monday 7 April at 1pm, and featured an appearance from Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane.

Dr Soutphommasane told Farrago the campaign has been actively engaging universities for over a year. He believes universities have a strong role to play in addressing racism. “When it comes to combating racism, the task is fundamentally educational,” he said.

He wants conversations to be a major part of the movement, saying, “The challenge is just to get people talking about racism in a mature way. Often you get knee-jerk responses, or very emotional responses, but the message is quite simple: there’s always something you can do about prejudice and discrimination.”

Provost Professor Margaret Sheil was at the event as acting Vice Chancellor. International students will soon be included in her Provost portfolio.

“With our really diverse student body here—with students from 160 countries—it’s really critical that we model behaviours we want our students to model when they go out into the workplace,” she said.

Senior Consultant for Fairness and Diversity at the university Ms Catherine Gow said she was happy with how the campaign was progressing.

“[Racism] has this direct impact to our staff and our students: international academics, international students, local students who are perceived to be from overseas.”

On the issue of repealing the Racial Discrimination Act, Dr Soutphommasane said he was “concerned”. “It’s important to have strong and effective protections against racism and to send an unambiguous signal about civility and tolerance in Australian society.”

Dr Soutphommasane began his appointment as Race Discrimination Commissioner for the Australian Human Rights Commission in August 2013.

The launch was part of the student union’s Diversity Week, which aims to celebrate cultural diversity and help prevent discrimination.

The University of Melbourne will be a founding partner in a $100 million scholarship program. The Westpac Bicentennial Foundation launched the program on Wednesday 2 April. It aims to fund 100 scholarships every year from 2015 onwards.

Melbourne is one of three universities to receive the initial scholarships, along with the University of Sydney and the University of Wollongong. The foundation aims to expand to other universities over time.

The university will offer three scholarships entitled Future Leaders, Best and Brightest, and Asian Exchange. They are expected to be finalised by 2017.

Westpac is yet to announce details about funding arrangements for the scholarship program.

Welcome to episode two of Farradio.

Farradio is a monthly podcast, where the articles and issues of each edition of Farrago are dissected. Each episode will feature interviews and conversations with Farrago contributors, as well as some lighthearted banter and games.

In this month’s episode…

MEDIA_tim_640x360Timothy McDonald opens up the long-lost Farrago fax machine



MEDIA_anasha_640x300Sarah Dalton, Adriane Reardon, and Sean Mantesso discuss Scout Boxall’s piece on heroin use and celebrities.



MEDIA_mantesso_640x360Sean Mantesso and Simon Farley chat about Ned Kelly and other Australian “heroes”.



Farradio episode two

Produced by Ash Qama
Hosted by Adriane Reardon
Featuring Sarah Dalton, Simon FarleySean Mantesso, Timothy McDonald, and Emily Weir
Video edited by Kevin Hawkins
Music by destinazione_altrove (ccmixter)

Welcome to episode one of Farradio, the radio show… on camera… for Farrago.

Farradio is a monthly podcast, where the articles and issues of each edition of Farrago are dissected. Each episode will feature interviews and conversations with Farrago contributors, as well as some lighthearted banter and games.

In this month’s episode…

MEDIA_lesh_640x360Adriane Reardon chats to Matthew Lesh about his edition one opinion piece on the University of Melbourne’s new smoking restrictions.



MEDIA_tim_640x360Timothy McDonald offers his three best tips for saving money at university.



MEDIA_mantesso_640x360Sean Mantesso chats to Simon Farley about his edition one Declassified piece about Vietnam draft dodgers.




Timothy McDonald tests the other presenters on how closely they read edition one.

Farradio episode one

Produced by Ash Qama
Hosted by Timothy McDonald
Featuring Sarah Dalton, Simon FarleyMatthew Lesh, Sean Mantesso, Adriane Reardon
Video edited by Kevin Hawkins
Music by destinazione_altrove (ccmixter)

Words by Caity Hall

The City of Melbourne is a foodie’s dream. No matter what your taste buds are craving, you will find it. You will not, however, find it cheaply.  You can be damn sure it’s going to cost you. A lot. In a city like ours, good and wholesome food comes at a price. But how would Melburnians cope with eating and drinking on just $2 a day? How would they handle living with the hardship that is a daily reality for 1.2 billion people around the world?

Oaktree and its Live Below the Line campaign are back for another year to push the question, and will be hitting the city of Melbourne this week to urge people to find the answer.

The Live Below the Line campaign will take place this year from 5-9 May and will challenge participants to live on $2 of food and drink a day for five days—the Australian equivalent of the extreme poverty line. Live Below the Line Events Manager Katie Morris says the campaign has two main outcomes. “Participants gain a small insight into what its like to live in poverty,” Morris explains. “And they’ll have an experience they’ll talk to their friends about, so they’re actually raising a lot of awareness [for extreme poverty] in the community… and fundraising at the same time”.

With the campaign looming near, the Oaktree team are hoping to make an impact this week with numerous events happening in Melbourne and throughout Australia.

Today, the Melbourne University Oaktree Club will be hosting an event on North Court that will feature a jumping castle. And not just any old jumping castle, but a jumping castle designed to reflect the logo of the Live Below the Line campaign; a giant rice bowl. “It will be a fun opportunity to engage with people and chat about the campaign,” Morris explains.

The rice bowl jumping castle will also be appearing at Federation Square tomorrow for Oaktree’s next event, ‘Lunch Below the Line’. While the focal event will be hosted in Federation Square, this publicity stunt will be running in all capital cities and many smaller communities throughout Australia. The aim of the event is to invite large numbers of Australians to lunch together for under $2. “It will spark thousands of conversations about the issue of extreme poverty around the country,” campaign director and Oaktree CEO Viv Benjamin says.

Oaktree hopes these events will encourage more Australians to participate in this years Live Below the Line campaign. Money raised will go towards projects focusing on education in Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste. With a work force compromised entirely of volunteers under the age of 26, Oaktree boasts the ability to put the large majority of 90.1 per cent of public donations towards both its international projects abroad, and its Australia-based educational projects. A further 3.1 per cent and 6.7 per cent goes towards fundraising, and basic administration and accountability costs respectively.

While those figures may be pleasing to the ears of donors and sponsors, they may be surprised to hear that none of that 90.1 per cent goes towards combating the poverty experienced here in our own country. Morris defended Oaktree’s decision to focus primarily on international projects; “We are working on overseas development because we’re working in partnership [with international-based NGOs]”. “Because [Oaktree] is a volunteer organisation and we’re not all completely qualified, that’s probably where we can have the most impact and where the money we raise can go the furthest in helping people”.

Students from the University of Melbourne can sign up to do Live Below the Line at www.livebelowtheline.com.au. The campaign runs from 5-9 May.

Secret documents obtained by Farrago reveal that administrators of The University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) have agreed to an official merger.

The backroom deal is believed to have taken place in early March 2014, and will see the two Melbourne-based universities combine to become The Melbourne City University by the start of 2016. This agreement was supposed to remain secret until 1 July 2014, but was leaked to Farrago by an anonymous source .

“Both the University of Melbourne and the RMIT have strong academic reputations. Rather than competing with one another for students and research, it makes practical sense for these two institutions to become united,” the executive summary of the report reveals.

“With our powers combined, the Melbourne City University will be one of the world’s most prestigious tertiary education bodies,” the report continues.

“Comparisons to Monash will no longer be relevant,” one of the footnotes reads.

Glyn Davis, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, and his wife Margaret Gardner, Vice-Chancellor of RMIT, declined to comment to Farrago. It is believed that discussions pertaining to the future of these two universities have been going on behind closed doors for years.

The Parkville campus of the University of Melbourne and the city campus of RMIT have been encroaching on each other for the past few years, with Melbourne shifting south and RMIT shifting north. It is believed that planning disputes between the two academic bodies was a key reasons behind the merger decision.

More to come…