Contested spaces: the ‘long-grassers’, living private lives in public places

Image 20170314 10759 1jpsrhn
People have camped in the long grass since colonisation. From this perspective, bans on the practice are a denial of Indigenous agency, culture and rights to country. Photo: K. Pollard
Kellie Pollard, Flinders University; Claire Smith, Flinders University, and Jordan Ralph, Flinders University
This is the final article in our Contested Spaces series. These pieces look at the conflicting uses, expectations and norms that people bring to public spaces, the clashes that result and how we can resolve these.

The number of people in Australia who are homeless is increasing. They lead lives that are often hidden – either hidden from view or hidden from recognition.

Looking at the places they camp and the things they use gives us insights into these private lives in public places. In Darwin, Northern Territory, more than 90% of homeless people are Aboriginal. In contrast to perceptions of other homeless people sleeping rough, these “long-grassers” are applying a long cultural tradition to deal with the situation in which they find themselves.

Two recent films, Rolf de Heer’s Charlie’s Country and Jeremy Sims’ Last Cab to Darwin, succinctly – but accurately – encapsulate the ease with which people can end up living in the long grass. Many come to the city from remote communities. They may have been visiting someone in hospital, watching friends in an AFL game, or staying with relatives in the city.

After a time, these short-term stays come to an end. Often, these visitors move into the “long grass”, urban fringe areas where tall spear grass grows.

The long grass is shared space – parks, beaches, urban bushland. However, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people behave differently in these spaces. The agency of Aboriginal people can challenge mainstream expectations about the uses of shared public space.

Laws that deny Indigenous custom

The Aboriginal use of long grass spaces contravenes NT laws. Under Darwin City Council Bylaws Regulation 103, it is an offence to camp or sleep in public places. Other bylaws regulate behaviours ranging from the consumption of alcohol to leaving food scraps in public.

People who camp in the long grass risk fines they can’t pay. Sometimes, they are jailed for non-payment. As their disadvantage becomes criminalised, their capacity to improve their lives decreases.

Successive governments and city councils have engaged in campaigns against the long-grassers. George Brown, Darwin lord mayor from 1992 to 2002, said:

… harass, harass, harass … I reckon that if you keep shifting them around, constantly harass them so they can’t settle, they will get sick and tired of it and maybe some of them will go back to their own communities.

Continue reading Contested spaces: the ‘long-grassers’, living private lives in public places

The markers of everyday racism in Australia

The Conversation

Claire Smith, Flinders University; Jordan Ralph, Flinders University, and Kellie Pollard, Flinders University

Children representing the diversity of contemporary multicultural Australia stand near a sign depicting an ‘idealised’ white Australia. Blackwood Recreation Centre, South Australia, 2015. Photo: C. Smith

While Australians value equality, our multicultural nation contains markers of racial discrimination. Some are so innocuous we may not recognise them.

Experiencing racism is part of the everyday lives of many Australians. What is it like to negotiate daily life in a material world that often excludes you, or selectively seeks to control you?

Let’s try to understand the experience of everyday racism by negotiating the material world of an Aboriginal person in northern Australia. You have come into Katherine, Northern Territory, from a remote community. It might be say, Barunga, 80 kilometres away, or Bulman 300 kilometres away, or Lajamanu, 600 kilometres away. Continue reading The markers of everyday racism in Australia

Will the impact framework fix the problems the research audit found?


Claire Smith, Flinders University and Dawn Bennett, Curtin University

The results from the latest university research audit indicate that research in Australia is improving.

This suggests that the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) exercise is working: ERA has achieved its main aim of boosting the quality of Australian research.

However, this headline statement masks a plethora of concerns.

Under the government’s latest reform of research funding, academics will be assessed not only on their quality of research through the ERA, but also on the economic, social and environmental impacts of their research through a new impact framework

The impact and engagement measures herald a new era that rewards researchers for collaborating beyond their institutions.

It is timely, then, to reassess ERA’s utility. Is it fit for purpose? Will these two assessment systems complement or contradict one another?

What has gone well in ERA?

The ERA processes have recognised peer review alongside metrics.

Research efforts at universities are arguably now more focused towards areas of strength. There is a clearer (though contested and arguably narrower) understanding of scholarly research, particularly that which is non-traditional.

On paper, ERA has established a system whereby research can be compared nationally and against international benchmarks.

What isn’t working?

Individual researchers are not assessed by ERA per se. However, they are assessed in line with ERA at the institutional level — in a system that awards a single score for an entire discipline cohort.

Inter-disciplinary research has been disadvantaged. ERA’s 1,238 fields of research (FoR) codes make it problematic for researchers to publish outside their discipline or academic unit.

Publishing, performing or exhibiting internationally is perceived to be more prestigious than in Australia. This unjustified exoticism diminishes the importance of Australian research and puts local and Australian publication outlets at risk.

A lack of transparency and accountability remains a critical problem.

The process by which final rankings are calculated remains opaque. It is unclear how the peer review of evaluation units is moderated and benchmarked globally. The rationale for inclusion, exclusion and change in the list of journals recognised by ERA has not been made public.

Whole disciplines ranked “below world average” are reliant on empirical research to fathom what went wrong. There is no feedback other than the score.

Esteem measures are narrow. The category “prestigious work of reference”, for example, is strikingly limited. It has never been opened to public discussion. Why have some publications been chosen and others omitted?

The ERA journal rankings were abolished in 2011. However, their ghost influences decisions from journal selection to academic recruitment and promotion.

Universities still reward publication in high-ranking journals from the list; some institutions recognise only research published in A or A* journals, or those marked “quality” in the current list.

As predicted, the editorial boards of these journals are struggling to cope with the influx of submissions. Lower-ranked journals and those with lower impact factors are struggling to survive. Many Australian journals are disadvantaged by the bias towards international journals.

The audit culture most affects early career academics. They and others struggle to negotiate the system, juggle heavy teaching loads and manage the precarity of casual academic employment.

The international mobility of Australian academics is high and early career academics are the most likely to move overseas or leave higher education.

The loss of young academics from an ageing academic workforce risks Australia’s ability to meet future demand. Moreover, it impairs capacity for innovation.

What are the concerns?

Measuring engagement according to research income from industry is concerning.

How, for example, will collaborative research with not-for-profits and innovative start-up companies be measured? How will the new measures account for these organisations’ exemptions from a cash contribution for Australian Research Council Linkage proposals?

There is a contradiction between a new impact measure that encourages a culture of risk-taking and ERA, which promotes risk-avoidance behaviours and impacts upon academic freedom by directing research behaviour. This is particularly problematic for new researchers, blue-sky research and research with benefits that emerge only in the long term.

Both systems place professional service outside academic workloads. This raises new questions. Who will edit the journals, convene the conferences, become officers of professional associations, or write the handbooks and textbooks?

These activities are essential to the health of all disciplines. Increasingly, they are unrecognised and unrewarded. This has long-term ramifications for both research quality and impact.

Neither system recognises investments in partner communities that are critical to social licence to operate in many disciplines.

Improving ERA

Has ERA run its course? Perhaps. It certainly needs improvement.

The ERA process should be subject to external review. We need greater transparency about the criteria that inform assessment categories. We need discussion of categories not yet opened to consultation.

Given concerns over gaming the system, we need an audit of data that has been excluded from ERA submissions. There should be a review of disciplinary membership of the committees in terms of institutional representation through time.

We need ERA to cease peer reviews of outputs already subject to double-blind peer review.

There is a dire need to review the real cost of each ERA exercise, which runs approximately every three years. We need to consider whether the costs of assessing research excellence exceed the benefits.

While the ARC’s administrative and departmental costs are low, we also need to assess the costs of university compliance and of playing an effective strategic assessment game.

The new impact and engagement measures redress some of ERA’s deficiencies, but the challenges of cost, transparency, audit culture and external oversight remain. And teaching remains out in the cold.

The Conversation

Claire Smith, Professor of Archaeology, Flinders University and Dawn Bennett, Research Professor, Curtin University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Socially mediated terrorism poses devilish dilemma for social responses


Claire Smith, Flinders University; Gary Jackson, Flinders University, and Koji Mizoguchi, Kyushu University

The terrorist attacks in Paris have resonated around the world. In addition to physical violence, Islamic State (IS) is pursuing a strategy of socially mediated terrorism. The symbolic responses of its opponents can be predicted and may inadvertently further its aims.

In the emotion of the moment, we need to act. We need to be cautious, however, of symbolic reactions that divide Muslims and non-Muslims. We need emblems that act against the xenophobia that is a recruiting tool for jihadists.

Reactions from the West should not erode the Muslim leadership that is essential to overturning “Islamic State”. Queen Rania of Jordan points out:

What the extremists want is to divide our world along fault lines of religion and culture, and so a lot of people in the West may have stereotypes against Arabs and Muslims. But really this fight is a fight between the civilised world and a bunch of crazy people who want to take us back to medieval times. Once we see it that way, we realise that this is about all of us coming together to defend our way of life.

Queen Rania’s statement characterises the Paris attacks as part of a wider conflict around cultural values. How are these values playing out symbolically across the globe?

Propaganda seeks predictable responses

IS’s socially mediated propaganda is sophisticated and planned. This supports an argument that the Paris attacks are the beginning of a global campaign. Symbolic materials characterise IS as invincible. However, other evidence may indicate that it is weak.

The IS representation of the Eiffel Tower.
SITE Intelligence Group

The spontaneous celebration on Twitter by IS supporters was predictable. Its representational coverage of the Paris attacks, however, suggests deep planning.

This planning is embedded in professionally designed images. A reworked image depicts the Eiffel Tower as a triumphal arch with the IS flag flying victoriously on top.

The tower is illuminated and points to the heavens and a God-given victory. The inclusion of a road running through the Eiffel Tower provides a sense of speed, change, even progress. In Arabic, the text states, “We are coming, France” and “The state of Khilafa”.

IS is using symbolic representations of the Paris attacks to garner new recruits.

A sophisticated pre-prepared image of an intrepid fighter walking away from a Paris engulfed in flames was quickly distributed. It is inscribed with the word “France under fire” in Arabic and French.

IS had its ‘France under fire’ image ready to post immediately after the attacks.
INSITE on Terrorism
IGN Entertainment Games

This image keys into the heroic tropes of online video gaming, such as prototype and inFAMOUS. Chillingly, it is designed to turn virtual warriors into actual warriors.

The five million young Muslims in France are particular targets. Among online recruitment materials are videos calling them to join other young French nationals who are with IS.


Support for the victims in Paris and for the democratic values of liberty, equality and fraternity are embedded in the blue, white and red lights movement. These lights shone in major cities in the US, Britain, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, Taiwan and South America. The blue, white and red lights also were displayed in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Malaysia.

However, the light displays were seen in few countries with Muslim majorities overall. Such countries are in an invidious position. Display the lights and you may be characterized as a lackey of the West. Don’t display the lights and appear unsympathetic to the victims.

Facebook blue white and red Paris
author provided/courtesy J. Smith

Support also is embedded in a parallel Facebook function that allows members to activate a tri-colour filter. Adapted from a rainbow filter used to support same-sex marriage, this filter attracts those with liberal sentiments.

The question of whether to use the French flag to show sympathy for the victims is invidious at a personal level. Many people find themselves exploited and condemned to poverty by neoliberal economic models. They are put in a difficult position. They feel sympathy for the victims. However, they are bitter about how they are being treated by “the West”, including France.

Perils of an ‘us and them’ mindset

As the blue, white and red activism plays out around the globe, there is a potential for this to transform into a symbolic manifestation of an “us and them” mentality. Such a division would support xenophobic forces, which steer recruits towards IS.

The global impact of the attacks can be related to the iconic status of Paris. The attacks hold a personal dimension for millions of people who have visited this city. They have a sense of “there but for the grace of God, go I”. This emotion echoes responses to the destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001.

The Japanese and Italian cafes included in the attacks are symbolic targets for their countries. In March 2015, IS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnan stated that the group would attack “Paris, before Rome”. Rome is a target because of its symbolic role as the centre of Christianity. Japan is a target because of its role in coalition forces. It has already suffered the execution of Japanese hostages early in 2015.

In Japan, the cultural reaction has been relatively low key, as part of a strategy of minimising terrorist attention. The blue, white and red lights solidarity received minimal press coverage. There have been few reports of the Japanese restaurant that was one of the targets. In addition to factual coverage of the attacks, Japanese reports have concentrated on implications for security at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Are there any symbols indicating good news? The Syrian passport found near the body of one of the attackers could be a sign of weakness. It could have been “planted” there – why carry a passport on a suicide mission?

If so, its purpose is to increase European xenophobia and encourage the closing of borders to Syrian refugees. This suggests the mass exodus of Muslim refugees from Syria is hurting IS. The propaganda could be a sign of alarm in IS leadership ranks.

In our responses to the Paris attacks, the grief of the West should not be allowed to overshadow the opprobrium of Muslim countries. Muslims are best placed to challenge the Islamic identity of this self-declared state.

As Queen Rania states, the war against IS must be led by Muslims and Arabs. To ensure success, the international community needs to support, not lead, Muslim efforts.

The Conversation

Claire Smith, Professor of Archaeology, Flinders University; Gary Jackson, Research Associate in Archaeology, Flinders University, and Koji Mizoguchi, Professor of Archaeology, Kyushu University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Social media helps make cultural icons a new target for terrorism


Claire Smith, Flinders University; Gary Jackson, Flinders University, and Kevin McDonald, Middlesex University

Recent postings on social media of the destruction of 3,000 year-old Assyrian sculptures by ISIS highlights a new threat to cultural heritage in times of conflict.

Read symbolically, these actions can be interpreted as “cultural payback” for irreverent cartoons of the prophet Mohammad as a dog or with bombs hidden in his turban, themselves likely motivation for recent killings in Copenhagen and at the offices of the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

While the symbolic function of cultural icons has made them a target for destruction throughout history, recent changes in the nature of warfare and the media landscape have increased their vulnerability in times of conflict.

Taken together, recent changes in the nature of conflict and in the communication environment have created a new context in which the destruction of cultural icons by one of two individuals can be a relatively low-risk choice for extremists seeking maximum impact for their political agendas.

A modern form of terrorism

The modern communications environment provides extremist groups with the chance to garner unprecedented public attention for their cause. An increasing reliance on the global communication of extreme acts to convey a political message is apparent in videos of radical acts, such as internet videos of beheading prisoners or the multi-angled videoing of the execution of the Jordanian pilot, Muath al-Kaseasbeh.

Moreover, recent transformations of the media landscape have opened up new global channels of user-led communication. The pro-active media strategies of terrorist groups reach massive numbers of people. There is no chain of command and no membership roll—only a shared philosophy and a message to take action individually.

This new trend of “sequestered action”, in which individuals act without direction from an organisation but as part of a general ideological movement, protects terrorists from detection and widens the net of their potential effect.

It can be linked to an increase in terrorist attacks by one or two individuals working alone, such as the Boston Marathon bombings by two brothers in March 2013; the siege at the Lindt Café, Sydney by a single individual in December 2014; twin shootings in Paris at the Charlie Hebdo offices and a kosher market in Paris; and the twin shootings in Copenhagen at the central synagogue and Krudttønden café.

A protest against the Charlie Hebdo attack in Strasbourg on 11 January 2015.
Claude Truong-Ngoc/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

The critical point here is the shift from the elaborate plots that have previously characterised jihadism to independent action by individuals.

While few people are willing to kill, many more would be willing to destroy a cultural monument. The centrality of visual images in the contemporary media environment provides new opportunities for, and increased impact from, the destruction of cultural icons, both locally and globally.

As the gap between rich and poor grows, both internationally and within nations, there are increased numbers of people who feel disenfranchised. A percentage of these will wish to take some form of action.

What can be done?

Firstly, we need to be more aware of the role that cultural icons play in conflict situations.

Robert Bevan argues that:

Cultural genocide is inextricably linked to human genocide and ethnic cleansing. Attacks on a community’s history —- its cultural identity and the ancient monuments that bear witness to centuries of presence —- are calculated.

Secondly, we should use networked media to diminish cultural myopia. A failure on the part of the West to seek understanding is exemplified in criticism of the sympathy that one quarter of Muslim people in Britain feel for the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo killings and in puzzled questioning about the 500 people who attended the funeral of Omar El-Hussein in Copenhagen.

In contrast, the capacity of social media to engender cross-cultural understandings is demonstrated in the twitter conversation that took place on January 30, 2015 between Eleanor Robson, “Vicious Assyrian” and “Dread Muslim”:

Dread Muslim: Walls are all you people care about.

Eleanor Robson: I have several dear friends & colleagues in Mosul, worked with them for 25 years to help protect their cultural heritage. You?

Dread Muslim: I have several brothers and sisters in Syria worked with them to save their future from dying. Saved many years of their life.

Eleanor Robson: We’re not so different; I use my professional skills to support life & work of Iraqi friends who care about its past & future.

Eleanor Robson: I agree that too many people care more about the past than the present but I’m not one of them.

Vicious Assyrian: Thank you.

Dread Muslim: May Allah guide You. Please forgive me if what I said sounded rude to you.

Eleanor Robson: That’s very generous; thank you. There’s nothing to forgive though 🙂 I’ve been feeling the same way today …

Cultural crime

An emergent irony is that many sites of World Heritage significance are in the hands of people who do not adhere to the same notions of heritage.

Consequently, a cultural crime inflicted in the West, such as an offensive caricature, can be met by a cultural crime in another part of the world, such as the destruction of ancient sculptures.

Never before has the world has so much capacity to communicate, so much need to communicate and so little success in people understanding each other.

We need to do better. We have the tools to do better. If we do not do better the destruction of ancient sculptures that are important to people in the west will become as commonplace as the destruction of human beings in the east.

Claire Smith, Professor of Archaeology, Flinders University; Gary Jackson, Anthropologist, Flinders University, and Kevin McDonald, Professor of Sociology and Head of the Department of Criminology and Sociology, Middlesex University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
The Conversation

Load up Adelaidia when you visit Adelaide – and step into the past


Jordan Ralph, Flinders University

Interpretive signage may be a thing of the past in Adelaide thanks to a new interactive mobile app and website from History SA. Launched in early 2014, Adelaidia puts the history of Adelaide’s CBD at the fingertips of anyone with a computer or a smart phone.

Adelaidia allows users to discover the history of people, places, events and organisations that have contributed to the story of Adelaide since European settlement. Users can access biographies uploaded by History SA and Adelaidia’s content partners.

Adelaidia promotes the tangible heritage of Adelaide – that is, the things we can see and touch, such as buildings, places, objects, and so on. It also promotes the intangible heritage of the city – the things we cannot see or touch, such as cultural traditions, events and themes.

The real strength of Adelaidia is the interactive features that allow users to contribute their own personal stories and experiences. From a cultural heritage preservation and research point-of-view, recording the experiences of individuals and groups is imperative; these stories give places and objects meaning. Unfortunately, because the stories are typically “siloed memories” rather than public histories, they are among the first sources of historical information to disappear.

The basics

When accessing Adelaidia on both web and mobile platforms (and its South Australia-wide partner website, SA History Hub), users can choose a topic from the main menu: people, places, events, organisations. Selecting any one of these items will load a list of entries pertaining to the history of Adelaide. Each entry contains at least a biographical account and the option for users to view and upload media and personal stories relating to the entry.

Adelaidia mobile app main menu.
Jordan Ralph

So far, not many users have contributed their oral histories – or in this case digital histories – to Adelaidia. As far as I can see from the “stories” option on the main menu, only two have been uploaded since the launch of the system.

The lack of willingness to engage, on the part of the residents of Adelaide, might be for any combination of reasons. Among them, these might include simply not knowing that the option is there, people thinking that their story might be too mundane to contribute, that it might be perceived as too difficult. Or, of course, they may legitimately have nothing to write.

One way for this issue to be rectified is for History SA to continue to upload its own content – and to form partnerships with additional content partners. That way, more entries will be submitted, including the noticeably absent Victoria Square and Adelaide Oval, allowing people to share their experiences about these places.

Camera and GPS integration with mobile app

Augmented reality in action. Adelaidia displaying direction and distance to Adelaide General Post Office from Victoria Square.
Jordan Ralph

For the most part, the mobile app is a “lite” version of the Adelaidia website; it contains basically the same content in a more streamlined design suitable for a handheld device. The app makes use of the smart phone’s in-built camera and GPS system for users to find out about places near to them and go on themed tours.

When activated, the augmented reality view displays the direction and distance of entries featured in Adelaidia, overlayed on real-time images captured by the phone’s camera.

Similarly, the map view uses the device’s GPS system to display a plan view of Adelaide’s CBD with Adelaidia entries marked by grey pinpoints. Clicking on the pinpoints in both views will load the biographical information of that entry.

Screen shot of Adelaidia web site.

When I road-tested the augmented-reality feature, the system clearly struggled to work in the CBD, supposedly due to interference caused by lack of satellite reception. This meant that, until I used it in the open space of Victoria Square, the direction and distance markers for most entries were inaccurate. This is a small bug in otherwise great software, especially considering this is meant to be a fun extra. On the other hand, the map feature works perfectly.

One option for History SA to consider is to add a check-in feature that may boost the number of users who interact with the software. This could be done by adding the feature locally or by integrating a Swarm or Yelp check-in option.

The future

Adelaidia, along with the SA History Hub, brings interpretive signage into the 21st century. It has the potential to be a valuable, accessible resource to tourists, researchers and even those who are just looking for some entertainment.

History SA has made a revolutionary step in preserving and celebrating the cultural heritage of Adelaide. For this software to reach its full potential, it must continue promoting the valuable user contribution features and engage with more experts to contribute content – especially regarding Adelaide’s Indigenous past. Following that, Adelaidia will mature from its infancy and help turn siloed memories into public histories.

For this review the Adelaidia mobile app was accessed on both a Samsung Galaxy S5 with high accuracy GPS feature enabled and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 8.0, with the GPS feature enabled.

The Conversation

Jordan Ralph, Research assistant in archaeology, Flinders University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Tackle fast-tracking of approvals to close nexus between politicians and developers


Claire Smith, Flinders University

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s planned repeal of 9500 redundant regulations and 1000 Acts of Parliament could loosen dangerously close ties between politicians and developers. While such ties are problematic in many parts of Australia, the recent investigation of the Obeid family by NSW’s Independent Commission Against Corruption has brought this issue to the forefront.

Research that I undertook when I was leading a 2011 bid for a Cooperative Research Centre in Heritage demonstrates that the nexus between politicians and developers in Australia has become perilously close. Over the last decade, red tape involved in the heritage approvals process has resulted in a dramatic increase in direct ministerial approvals for developments.

In New South Wales, for example, the use of ministerial approvals for major projects or infrastructure rocketed from a total of nine during 2001-2005 to 457 in 2010. Forty-three were approved in the two weeks prior to the state government going into caretaker mode.

Red tape is needed to reduce risk and to ensure transparent and equitable processes. However, too much red tape stifles investment. Moreover, frustrated developers seek greater use of ministerial “call in” powers to circumvent slow approvals.

Australia’s current heritage approvals process is fragmented across jurisdictions, between agencies and between Indigenous and non-Indigenous heritage. This has produced mountains of uncoordinated, non-standardised data. This data is inaccessible, often redundant and usually incomplete.

Decision-making power is dispersed across numerous agencies. Decisions depend on the interpretation and knowledge of individuals rather than on a solid evidence base. We need integrated data-sets that make it possible to determine what is common from what is rare or unique. Common approaches to data collection, storage and use should produce consistent decision-making.

The escalation of ministerial approvals for major developments in NSW emerged in 2005. The Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979 was amended to include Part 3A for major projects of state and regional significance. Part 3A determined that the only planning approval required was that of the NSW planning minister. Each project had a spend in excess of $50 million.

With Part 3A, both concept and project approval from the minister had statutory force. Part 3A projects circumvented local council approval and both state heritage acts. These projects did not need approvals under either the Heritage Act, 1977 or the National Parks and Wildlife Act, 1974. Moreover, Part 3A projects were protected from emergency protection orders and third party legal challenges under State environmental or planning statutes.

While the aim of Part 3A was to provide up-front certainty for long-term or complex projects, this provision was abused. When the Liberal government came to power in NSW Part 3A was replaced by two separate assessment frameworks. One is for state significant development. The other is for state significant infrastructure. Importantly, the new system constrains the “call-in” powers of the Minister.

It was anticipated that the number of applications designated as state significant would drop by half. Nevertheless, the level of ministerial approvals for major development projects is still way beyond what it was a decade ago.

Throughout Australia fast-tracking major projects through ministerial approval has become a viable alternative to following due process. Occasional exemptions have become routine and the nexus between politicians and developers has grown murkier.

A sustainable alternative to relying on ministerial approvals for large developments is to lessen delays in heritage approvals. Reducing red tape is one part of this.

Developers need access to sound information. A standardised, integrated and coordinated information system would support sound decision-making. A comprehensive database would make it possible to assess if a cultural heritage place is unique, or one of thousands. Such a system would make it possible to classify and rank heritage assets. It would provide an evidence base for determining what can go and what needs protection.

Uncertainty over heritage approvals is costing investment and jobs throughout Australia. In the resource sector, for example, The Fraser Institute’s annual Global Survey of Mining Companies consistently identifies uncertainty over the protection of wilderness, parks and archaeological sites as a strong deterrent to investment across Australia.

There is an economic need for a streamlined information system that reduces the approvals delay and provides certainty for developers. Such certainty needs to be based on good, irrefutable data. In addition, decision-making should be informed by community values in order to pre-empt conflict and provide long-term confidence.

Australia’s cultural heritage is recognised globally as unique. It includes the world’s oldest continuous cultural traditions, some of the first evidence for modern human behaviours and rich rock art complexes. In addition, it includes the histories of more than 200 migrant groups.

This important heritage needs to be protected. However, we need to grow Australia’s economy and we can’t keep everything. Decisions have to be made about what we pass on to the next generation as heritage and what we let go. These decisions need to be transparent, fair and consistent.

Reliance on ministerial approvals raises concerns about transparency and challenges the integrity of the system. It is possible that the current corruption cases in NSW are only the tip of the iceberg.

Claire Smith, Professor of Archaeology, Flinders University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


How hackers turned online gaming into a real-life fiasco


Claire Smith, Flinders University

A spate of internet hacking during the New Year period – including an attack on Skype by hacker group the Syrian Electronic Army, and another on social media photo sharing app Snapchat by website SnapchatDB – demonstrates the emergence of a new phase in hacking wars: corporate greed and hubris as the target, with a dose of social disruption.

One such incident occurred on December 30, when hacker group DERP targeted games played by Twitch live streamer James Varga, who goes by the handle PhantomL0rd.

(Twitch allows the gaming community to broadcast live video of games they are playing, to watch others play and to chat in real time. Watching the streaming of games is not so different from watching sport on television.)

James Varga, aka PhantomL0rd.
Wikimedia Commons

DERP targeted PhantomL0rd, the most popular gamer streaming at that moment in time, so they could gain instant public exposure.

In a display of technological prowess, they serially brought down the online servers of games that he was playing, including League of Legends,, EA.Com and Disney’s Club Penguin.

Creating a game within a game

PhantomL0rd engaged in the play, acting as a conduit between the hackers and the gaming community. As he changed games he participated in a contest with the hackers, in a sense egging them on, while impacting hundreds of thousands of other players.

He passed on questions from his audience about DERP’s intentions and capacity to shut down big companies such as Google and Facebook. The reply from DERP indicated they wanted to frustrate “money-hungry” companies such as Electronic Arts (better known as EA Games).

In a modern-day technological twist, the streaming audience became participants in a game within a game when the hackers challenged PhantomL0rd to win the multiplayer online Defense of the Ancients (DOTA 2) match he was playing at that time, or they would bring down the server.

Eventually, DERP took down the Defense of the Ancients server by distributed denial of server (DDOS) attack (bombarding the server with information and eventually disabling it), while tweeting to PhantomL0rd:


This was a win-win situation for the hackers and PhantomL0rd. The hackers had direct access to an international audience and their presence grew this audience exponentially. In three hours, PhantomL0rd’s personal stream increased from his usual numbers of between 5,000 to 15,000 viewers to a record 155,000 – the largest personal streaming audience recorded.

For PhantomL0rd there was financial reward as well as recognition. As the audience grew, so did the US$4.99 monthly subscriptions for PhantomL0rd’s stream.

Capitalising on the situation, PhantomL0rd turned on the subscriber-only mode, which meant that the only way to participate in the conversation via chat was to pay the subscription fee. This enraged someone in the audience, who retaliated by hacking and releasing PhantomL0rd’s personal information, leaving him vulnerable to payback from disgruntled would-be players.

And then …

Less than an hour later, PhantomL0rd was erroneously denounced as abducting five people and subsequently arrested at gunpoint during a police raid on his home. See PhantomL0rd’s video about his arrest below:

From DERP’s point of view PhantomL0rd’s experience was collateral damage – DERP’s targets were game companies with millions of subscribers. The comraderie between DERP and PhantomL0rd is revealed the following tweet:


Both PhantomL0rd and DERP benefited through increased public exposure. According to the metric monitoring site SocialBlade PhantomL0rd’s followers increased by 50,000 since this event, and is now approaching 400,000.

PhantomL0rd on the rise after Dec 30.

In contrast, DERP is treated with more caution. Though some 450,000 people have watched PhantomL0rd’s video describing the hacking by DERP and his arrest by police, only 60,000 people follow DERP on Twitter. Clearly, the online community sees an element of danger in being linked to DERP or in attracting DERP’s attention.

At the moment, groups such as DERP are simply demonstrating their power. In the process they are attracting new members with IT and hacking abilities and broadening their skills base. The question that arises is: what targets will attract the attention of these new, strengthened organisations?

The Conversation

Claire Smith, Professor of Archaeology, Flinders University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Not just cricket: protecting heritage at the Adelaide Oval


Jordan Ralph, Flinders University

Mitchell Johnson lines up to bowl at the Cathedral end of the new-look Adelaide Oval. A slow clap resounds from the western grandstand of the partially redeveloped complex, in support of the Australian fast bowler. English captain Alastair Cook responds to Johnson’s head-high bouncer with a hook shot, but is caught by Ryan Harris at fine leg.

The crowd’s applause quickly turns to a roar as Harris tumbles, recovering from his catch. Eyes move to the historic scoreboard where the numbers are rotated manually to show that England is now one-for-one, chasing 531 in its second innings of the second Ashes test.

In a time where built heritage is too often neglected in preference of development, the century-old scoreboard stood earlier this week as a reminder of the Oval’s tremendous antiquity and the cultural significance of this place.

The century-old Adelaide Oval scoreboard remains standing amongst the 21st century development and technology.
Adriano of Adelaide


As part of a A$535 million collaboration between the Government of South Australia and the Adelaide Oval Stadium Management Authority (AOSMA), the Adelaide Oval has been undergoing a major facelift since 2010 to bring its facilities into the 21st century. The Oval will once again be the home of sport in South Australia: international and local cricket matches will be fought on the same turf as AFL, which is leaving AAMI Stadium behind in 2014 in favour of the modernised ground.

The redevelopment has had its share of opponents – most notably from the peak body of heritage protection in South Australia, the National Trust (SA), who threatened to delist the heritage-listed features of Adelaide Oval from the South Australian Heritage Register since many features had been demolished. They claimed:

the ground is no longer an iconic cricket ground, it’s turning into a generic universal stadium that could be anywhere in the world.

The new western grandstand. You can see part of the original George Giffen stand in yellow directly between the upper and lower levels.

What has been removed and what remains?

All pre-2010 stands at the Adelaide Oval have been demolished, including most of the George Giffen, Sir Edwin Smith and Mostyn Evan stands, which are listed on the SA Heritage Register. Parts of those stands remain, including the red brick archways and the centre of the George Giffen stand, which make up a portion of the new western grandstand.

The heritage-listed manual scoreboard, designed by renowned South Australian architect Kenneth Milne and erected in 1911, remains standing at the northern end of the complex, flanked by the famous grassed northern mound and Moreton Bay figs.

Pacifying those with a desire to have the most up-to-date technology, the old scoreboard is complemented by a new video screen that has been erected directly beside it. The heritage features of the Oval sit effectively within the newer structures to create a scene that is both contemporary, yet uniquely Adelaide.

Major features removed:

  • All pre-2010 grandstands (some were listed on the SA Heritage Register).

Major features remaining:

  • Victor Richardson Gates (local heritage listing, to be re-installed after construction work has ceased).
  • Scoreboard (constructed 1911, confirmed as a State Heritage Place in the SA Heritage Register, 1986).
  • Parts of the George Giffen (constructed 1882, redeveloped 1889, 1929), Sir Edwin Smith (constructed 1929) and Mostyn Evan (constructed 1929) grandstands (collectively confirmed as a State Heritage Place in the SA Heritage Register, 1986).
  • Northern mound and Moreton Bay Fig trees.
From this …
Simon Lieschke
To this.

Development vs heritage

Has Adelaide Oval lost its cultural significance, as feared by the National Trust (SA) and Oliver Brown at The Telegraph? Or should the oval go one step further, as proposed by Bernard Humphreys at The Advertiser, and remove the old scoreboard?

In my view, the scoreboard must stay at the Adelaide Oval. Removing it from this place will mean that it loses all of its cultural significance, even if it is moved to another venue, such as the Thebarton Oval.

Structures of this sort do not become culturally significant and “mean” something by themselves. People give them meaning; stakeholders give them meaning. Our collective experiences at Adelaide Oval, such as the one illustrated in the first paragraph of this article, make such structures significant.

Removing the scoreboard will mean the intangible heritage of Adelaide Oval will be lost and so too will the meaning we give to it. Only when features such as the scoreboard, the Moreton Bay figs and the remainder of the historic grandstands are removed will Adelaide Oval become a “generic universal stadium”. That does not look like happening any time soon.

Development and heritage

“Development” has become synonymous with “destruction” in conversations about heritage in recent years. But there is an opportunity to harmonise heritage and development, and AOSMA has demonstrated this successfully.

As well as retaining the heritage features of the Oval, AOSMA has managed to create a state-of-the-art sporting and entertainment venue that will allow South Australia to attract major international events and, in effect, boost the state’s economy.

Save for cricket season, over the summer, and the odd concert, Adelaide Oval was underused and neglected. This was to be its future and its legacy had this redevelopment not taken place.

Now, with stands that will be able to accommodate up to 50,000 people once the project is completed, greater parking and public transport facilities, and the AFL moving back, AOSMA and the South Australian government have breathed A$535 million of life into Adelaide Oval and the state of South Australia.

The example that AOSMA has set can be put to use at other historic heritage places – so long as the needs of the key stakeholders are met, heritage experts are consulted and the cultural significance of the place is not compromised.

The Conversation

Jordan Ralph, Research assistant in archaeology, Flinders University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.