A significant number of New Zealanders overestimate sea-level rise — and that could stop them from taking action

Originally published on theconversation.com

Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Following a recent storm surge in Wellington, some media coverage expressed surprise that 30cm of sea-level rise – an unavoidable amount projected to happen by the middle of this century – would turn a one-in-100-year coastal flood into an annual event.

Our research survey, published last week, confirms that many New Zealanders (38.2%) indeed underestimate current and projected sea-level rise. But it also shows a similar proportion (35%) overestimate it, and only about about a quarter (26.9%) are in line with current understanding of sea-level rise.

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Our study is part of the public engagement research of the NZ SeaRise programme, which is co-led by Richard Levy and Tim Naish. We surveyed a representative sample of New Zealand adults. The finding that a significant number of New Zealanders overestimate sea-level rise might seem positive at first, as it could lead people to be more prepared, but the evidence indicates that’s not the case.

Overestimating the risk of sea-level rise can be as much a problem as underestimating it, because it can lead to public anxiety and feelings of helplessness, rather than motivation to take action to mitigate and adapt.

Confusion about sea-level rise projections

In 2019, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that between 1902 and 2015, global sea level rose by 16cm on average. The process has been accelerating in recent decades, as ice loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets has increased.

According to the IPCC, the planet will likely experience 0.24-0.32m of sea-level rise by 2050. What happens beyond 2050 depends on how successful we are at reducing carbon emissions.

In 2017, the Ministry for the Environment published projections for New Zealand of 0.46–1.05m of sea-level rise by 2100, depending on how quickly global carbon emissions are reduced.

The NZ SeaRise programme is working to finetune projections because the sea doesn’t rise universally along the coastline.

Rising seas exacerbate coastal erosion.
Shutterstock/S Curtis

But before we start sharing these new projections, we wanted to find out what people already knew. The survey asked New Zealanders to indicate what they knew about the amount, rate and causes of sea-level rise.

Apart from the question about current sea-level rise, we asked about projections to 2100. Nearly 75% of respondents selected options that were in line with scientifically plausible projections, from “up to 40cm” to “up to 2m”. But 19% of respondents overestimated sea-level rise projections to 2100, selecting “up to 5m” (10.7%) or “more than 5m” (8.2%).

When asked how much global sea levels could rise by 2100 under “a scientifically credible worst-case scenario”, only 33.1% of respondents gave an answer in line with current science, answering “1m or more” (16.7%) or “2m or more” (16.4%).

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Another 22.5% of respondents underestimated the worst-case scenario by selecting “up to 1m”, while 37.4% overestimated it, selecting “5m or more” (18%) or higher (19.4%). In fact, “15m or more” by 2100 (selected by 6.8%) would defy physical laws around how fast ice can melt, even under extreme temperature forcing.

Respondents were also asked to identify and rank the major causes of sea-level rise from a list of ten items. Here, 28.7% of respondents erroneously identified melting sea ice (which does not directly contribute to sea-level rise) as their top ranked cause.

While Arctic sea ice is reducing, the melting of floating ice doesn’t directly contribute to sea-level rise.
Vincent LECOMTE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

The public’s association of melting sea ice with sea-level rise may be due to the significant media coverage given to melting sea ice in the Arctic, rather than the factors contributing to sea-level rise, such as melting of land-based ice sheets and glaciers, the expansion of the ocean as it warms, and land subsidence.

Katy Kelly/GNS Science/NZ SeaRise porgramme, CC BY-ND

Respondents who overestimated the amount and speed of sea-level rise were more likely to express greater concern. But concern is not always helpful. A focus on extreme (and often unsound) projections of sea-level rise can lead to more anxiety instead of greater motivation to act.

Nevertheless, our research shows New Zealanders are aware of, and concerned about, 21st-century sea-level rise, which is already affecting coastal communities and infrastructure.

Site specific projections

The NZ SeaRise programme is preparing a set of location-specific sea-level rise projections, taking into account global and regional projections of sea-level changes and new knowledge of local vertical land movements, including subsidence and earthquake uplift.

New Zealand straddles a tectonic plate boundary and the land moves up and down as a result. This movement can be large and rapid during major earthquakes, but is relatively continuous along most coastal regions between earthquakes.

For example, measurements from satellites show that today, regions of the lower east coast of the North Island are going down at rates up to 8mm per year and areas along the central Bay of Plenty coast are rising at rates over 10mm per year. Sea-level rise is amplified in places where land is subsiding and dampened where it is going up.

Adding continuous estimates of vertical land movement to our sea-level projections shows future increases in the frequency of coastal flooding due to global sea-level rise will happen decades sooner than expected in areas that are going down, and vice versa.

Criticisms of the “deficit model” of science communication show that encouraging action on an issue – such as sea-level rise – is not as simple as ensuring that people are fully informed. But it is essential they have access to reliable scientific information that can inform their decisions.

Our goal is to provide location-specific projections so all New Zealanders have the information they need to help with decisions and discussions about how we manage life on the coast.

Rebecca Priestley receives funding from the NZ Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment through the NZ SeaRise Programme

Richard Levy receives funding from the NZ Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment through the NZ SeaRise Programme

Taciano L. Milfont receives funding from the Biological Heritage National Science.

Timothy Naish receives funding from the NZ Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment through the NZ SeaRise Programme.

Zoë Heine receives funding from the NZ Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment through the NZ SeaRise Programme

What is Bastille Day and why is it celebrated?

Originally published on theconversation.com
The Fête de la Fédération at Champ de Mars on July 14, 1790. Woodcut by Helman, from a picture by C. Monet, Painter of the King Bibliothèque nationale de France

French people travelling to or living in English-speaking countries are sometimes surprised when asked about their plans for “Bastille Day”: they refer to the day as Quatorze Juillet (14 July).

France’s National Day is not really about the storming of the Bastille, and the day’s English language name conveys a misleading image. But it gives us an interesting glimpse into how the English-speaking world imagines France’s revolutionary past.

The most common misconceptions about the French National Day are that it is a celebration of the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on July 14 1789, and commemorates the official beginning of the French Revolution.

It is, in fact, a far more complex story.

Jean-Pierre Houël (1735–1813), The Storming of the Bastille, 1789.
Bibliothèque nationale de France

While English speakers refer to Bastille Day, in France the day is intimately related to a different historical event: the Fête de la Fédération (Festival of the Federation), a mass gathering held on July 14 1790.

In 1789, the people of Paris attacked the Bastille: a political prison, a symbol of the monarchy and an armoury. The citizens aimed to seize weapons, ammunition and powder to fight the royal troops stationed in the vicinity of Paris.

1790’s Fête de la Fédération was designed to inaugurate a new era which abolished absolutism and gave birth to a French constitutional monarchy.

Tens of thousands of people from all provinces converged on the Champ-de-Mars in Paris to attend a military parade led by Lafayette, a mass celebrated by Talleyrand, and a collective oath-taking culminating in short but rousing speeches from King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.

Oath of La Fayaette at the Fête de la Fédération, 14 July 1790, painter unknown, c1790-1791.
musée de la Révolution française

It was not an annual event: simply a day to herald in a period of national unity.

Less than three years later, the king and queen’s heads would meet the guillotine’s blade and the constitutional monarchy was replaced with the French First Republic.

An ever-moving date

France has had many days of national celebration, each reflecting the politics of its time.

Napoleon I (Emperor from 1804 to 1814) declared citizens should celebrate August 15: the date of his name day and of the Assumption of Mary.

The imperial decree that proclaimed August 15 (Napoleon’s name day) as National Day.
Bibliothèque nationale de France

Under the Restoration (1814-1830), the regime celebrated its kings on their name days: Louis XVIII (1814-1824) on August 25 and Charles X (1824-1830) on May 24.

The July Monarchy (1830-1848) under Louis-Philippe I celebrated its birth in the heat of the “Three Glorious Days” of July 27 to 29 1830.

The Second Republic (1848-1852) adopted May 4, the first meeting of the National Constituent Assembly in 1848. Another new political regime celebrated itself once again.

Under the Second Empire (1852-1870), Napoleon III returned France’s national day to August 15: his name day.

In a little less than a century, France changed its national day half a dozen times.

New symbols for a new era

The disastrous and humiliating defeat France suffered against Prussia in 1871 led to the fall of Napoleon III and the advent of the French Third Republic, which needed its own new symbols.

For almost 15 years, there was fierce conflict between partisans of a monarchy and those in favour of a republican regime. The memory of the French Revolution became one of their main battlegrounds, and the choice of a national day an object of dispute.

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Some advocated for July 15, the name day of the last Bourbon pretender, Henri, Count of Chambord, in the hopes of an imminent restoration.

Left-wing radicals pushed for January 21, the anniversary of Louis XVI’s beheading in 1793.

Others wanted to celebrate the Tennis Court Oath, which signalled France’s rupture with feudalism on June 20 1789.

In the spring of 1880, politician Benjamin Raspail submitted a motion to declare July 14 the national day: a date shared between the Fête de la Fédération — a symbol of unity for the right — and the left-oriented image of the storming of the Bastille.

Bastille Day military parade photographed at Longchamp in 1880.
Collection of Jean Davray

Thanks to the ambiguity of the date, the motion was passed into law — without specifying which Quatorze Juillet was to be commemorated. Raspail’s motion received the parliament’s approval based on the connection to the Fête, but the question of meaning was left open.

Bastille Day Today

Quatorze Juillet inextricably embodies the curious and divisive legacy the French Revolution carries for the French. Beneath the veneer of celebrations, the question of the intrinsic nature of the Revolution and whether its goals — Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité — have been achieved is often relegated to the background.

It isn’t a day for reflection or politics. It is a day of leisurely family activities and celebrations, adorned with a lavish military parade displaying French power on the Champs-Elysées. In the evening, fireworks and popular dances known as Bal des pompiers (the Firemen’s Ball) take place throughout the country.

It is a time for fraternal celebrations, very much the ambition of the original Fête de la Fédération. References to the storming of the Bastille are invisible or near-invisible. The Revolution is seldom mentioned in the presidential interview.

Symbols of the 1789 Revolution are still the subject of contradictory interpretations and public controversy, as the recent Yellow Vests movement has shown. It is precisely this carefully maintained ambiguity in Quatorze Juillet which has enabled its endurance as France’s National Day: it can mean many things to many people.

The French can project their own understanding of what is being celebrated. They can choose between the storming of the Bastille and the people; the Fête de la Fédération and national unity; and everything in between.

Or they can simply enjoy a day off and admire the fireworks with their friends and family, oblivious to the complex story behind July 14.

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Why the federal government’s COVID-19 fear appeal to Sydney residents won’t work

Originally published on theconversation.com

Australian Government

On Sunday July 11, the federal government released two new COVID-19 campaigns.

The first, shared across Australia, is a call to “arm yourself” (and others) against the virus by getting vaccinated as soon as you’re eligible.

The second is a graphic fear appeal, broadcast only in New South Wales, which shows a young woman in a hospital bed struggling to breathe. The advert has the caption: “COVID-19 can affect anyone. Stay home. Get tested. Book your vaccination”.

It’s clearly intended to leave the NSW audience shaken by the severity of the virus, and with the knowledge that residents, particularly younger people, are susceptible to the virus.

It’s easy to see why fear-based campaigns are appealing. Some may even think focusing the public’s attention on the severity of COVID is necessary to combat complacency in the wake of the low number of deaths in Australia overall.

Unfortunately, a fear appeal about COVID, particularly in NSW at this point in time, is highly unlikely to be effective, and certainly not as effective as some other approaches could be.

Fear appeals can have unintended consequences

The underlying assumption of fear appeals is that, when people are confronted emotionally with the potential severity of a threat, they will act accordingly to prevent it. The reasoning is simple enough, but it’s only true when certain other conditions are met.

This COVID vaccine advert addresses motivation, but it ignores other key elements of behaviour change. That is, do people have the capability and opportunity to make the change(s)?

When one or both are absent, people are likely to react defensively. They tend to become more, not less, distressed, and this doesn’t necessarily translate to behaviour change.

Indeed, increasing fear may actually be unhelpful. Fear drives panic, stigma and further fears. It acts as a barrier to an effective community response.

Fear can discourage people from adopting protective behaviours, such as hand hygiene, physical distancing or self-isolation; from seeking health-care for screening or treatment; and from disclosing their illness, to avoid discrimination and/or abuse. There are also numerous accounts of people panic-buying in supermarkets.

Psychological theory and evidence do not support fear appeals overall.

Threatening communications are effective only when people have high “self-efficacy” to undertake the behaviours. This means the target audience needs to be confident they can actually change their behaviours.

Can people change their behaviour in this context?

When we examine the three behaviours the federal government promotes in this campaign, it’s clear that capability and opportunity are, at best, variable across the community.

Let’s take a look:

1. “Stay home”

People’s ability to stay home is based not only on their perception of threat, but also on their personal, economic and social circumstances.

For example, it has been evident during the pandemic that some people cannot or do not stay at home because they have insecure or low-paid work with no sick leave entitlements.

Read more:
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2. “Get tested”

When people know they have engaged in potentially risky behaviours, like shopping or visiting family and friends, they are likely to be anxious about what a COVID test will reveal. This can lead to avoidance of the test.

They may well also be concerned about the potential consequences beyond the threat to their health. They might wonder whether they will be punished with fines they cannot afford, or shamed by the media for their behaviour.

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10am brunch, 1pm Kmart: when the media pokes fun at someone’s lifestyle, it’s harder for the next person to get COVID tested

3. “Book your vaccination”

Australia’s problem with vaccine hesitancy is well-documented. But, we need strategies to encourage people to make the right decisions, not beat them into submission.

Especially so, given the federal government’s vaccine supply and rollout program, which is currently an international embarrassment. According to the latest figures, Australia has delivered 35 vaccine doses per 100 people. That compares to 126 in Israel, 118 in the UK, 99 in the USA, and 44 worldwide.

Read more:
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In many ways, this campaign is unethical

It’s also unethical to use distressing campaigns when many people, particularly younger people, are already experiencing considerable mental health impacts due to the pandemic. When many don’t have the financial security to stay at home. When they are genuinely confused by the risks associated with the vaccines, and many remain unable to access the vaccine. When the reality is the Australian health-care system has the capacity (currently) to ensure no-one would be left alone in hospital gasping for breath.

And when the NSW government itself has done a 180-degree turnaround in its messaging in a single day from: we may need to give up on lockdown and live with the Delta variant to NSW “can’t live reasonably” with the Delta variant — and now expects a similarly rapid U-turn from the public.

It’s not surprising young people (and many others) are already expressing their outrage at this government advert.

We need the government to leave behind the draconian fear appeals of the 1980s, and instead embrace the lessons learned about “gain-framing” from multiple, evidence-based mass communication campaigns.

Gain-framed messages focus on the positive consequences of adopting the behaviour rather than on the losses associated with not doing the behaviour.

Recent COVID vaccine campaigns in Europe have been uplifting. Some dare us to dream of a COVID-free future, for example one French campaign.

And some, like one UK campaign, even use a little humour.

At this point in the pandemic, we don’t need scare tactics. What we need is for everyone to feel encouraged, empowered and supported to do the right thing to protect their own health and that of the wider NSW and Australian community.

And we need governments to understand and use the theory and evidence supporting an effective approach.

Jane Speight is funded by and affiliated with, Diabetes Victoria, which supports, empowers and campaigns for people affected by diabetes in Victoria.
Throughout the world, people with diabetes and other chronic conditions have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Sydney’s lockdown continues, what support is available — and needed — for people losing income?

Originally published on theconversation.com

Mick Tsikas/AAP

Greater Sydney is in its third week of lockdown, with no clear end in sight. The situation calls for support both for businesses and households suffering severe income loss in the weeks ahead.

Greater Sydney makes up about one-fifth of the Australian population, so is a significant chunk of our economy and community.

It’s worth noting when the (now extinct) Coronavirus Supplement was announced on March 22 2020, there were 179 new cases per day for all of Australia. When the (also now extinct) JobKeeper Payment was announced a week later, there were 383 new cases per day.

There were 112 new cases announced in NSW alone on Monday.

A federal government responsibility

In June, Prime Minister Scott Morrison indicated business support was a state government responsibility. But income support for households is a federal government responsibility.

In 2020, the Morrison government showed great flexibility. JobKeeper supported employers to maintain part-wages for workers who would otherwise be stood down, and the Coronavirus Supplement gave additional support to those who lost their jobs.

Sydney had been in lockdown since June 26.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

These programs went a long way towards addressing a weakness of Australia’s social security system — the lack of insurance against sudden income loss when workers are laid off (for whatever reason). Indeed, for a while, the Coronavirus Supplement also worked to address another major weakness, the below-poverty line income for the long-term unemployed.

JobKeeper and the Coronavirus Supplement ended earlier this year. Most recently, the federal government has built on existing schemes to assist people during natural disasters, to support those during lockdowns or quarantine.

The last few months in Melbourne and Sydney show the COVID crisis is far from finished. Morrison has flagged that further financial support is being considered by the government. Treasury is reportedly working on options.

There are currently two main forms of support.

The COVID-19 Disaster Payment

The first main support is the COVID-19 Disaster Payment. This kicks in once a lockdown has gone on for more than a week. For those losing under 20 hours work, the payment is $325 per week, and for those losing 20 hours or more of work, the payment is $500 per week.

Read more:
There’s a new temporary COVID disaster payment – who can get it? Who is missing out?

There are several eligibility criteria: recipients must be unable to attend work and have lost income, they can’t have access to appropriate paid leave and they can’t be receiving an income support payment, a state pandemic payment or the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment for the same period.

Last week, Morrison announced the liquid assets limit of $10,000 would be waived from the third week of a lockdown.

Pandemic leave payment

The second key support is the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment, where an appropriate local health authority has told people to self-isolate or quarantine, or for those who need to care for someone with COVID-19. This includes Australian residents and those with a working visa.

The payment is $1,500 for each 14-day period someone needs to self-isolate or quarantine. A new claim must be made each 14-day period and Services Australia has set up accelerated application processes.

As with the COVID disaster payment, those with any income from paid work or other leave entitlements, or on income support payments, are not eligible.

How adequate are these measures?

Whether support is adequate depends on the spread of the virus and its economic impact in coming weeks. But there are already gaps in support.

It is confusing to have two payments at different levels, with people required to quarantine receiving greater support than those locked down, even when financial losses may be similar.

The Delta variant has turned the Sydney CBD into a ghost town.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

The Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment is comparable to JobKeeper, but the Covid-19 Disaster Payment is considerably less (although higher than JobSeeker Payment for the unemployed).

As we have already noted, both payments have significant exclusions. With the COVID-19 payment, apart from being unavailable for the first week, people must submit a new claim for each additional week of lockdown.

What about those already on welfare?

While the government increased the base rate of JobSeeker Payment earlier this year, Australia still has the second lowest “replacement rate” (relative to wages) for the unemployed in all OECD countries.

Another significant gap is most of the current help cannot go to people already receiving income support, although many of them may lose income in lockdown.

Read more:
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Welfare recipients who have to go into isolation or quarantine can access a one-off crisis payment (equal to a week’s pay at the maximum basic rate of their payment), but this is only available twice in a six month period.

According to Australian government data, in May, nearly one in four people receiving Youth Allowance (Other) and more than 20% of those receiving JobSeeker had part-time earnings, which is crucial to help people paying rent and bills. If they lose earnings, their benefits will increase, but by less than half the earnings lost.

Business support

We keep hearing reports about how small business is suffering badly.

Small businesses have many fixed costs — most notably rent — that will not be supported. More generally, so far, most of the costs of the lockdowns have been borne by either employees, employers in locked down industries, or government.

But a wider sharing of the costs via rent and interest moratoriums for affected businesses and households should be considered. This requires co-ordinated action by the state and federal governments.

Importantly, state governments are looking at their own measures. Last week, Victoria announced it would trial up to five days of sick or carer’s leave, at minimum wage rates, to workers in high-risk industries, including aged care, cleaners, supermarket workers, hospitality workers and security guards. However, this will not start until early 2022.

NSW has been pushing the federal government to jointly devise a new scheme to save jobs. An announcement is expected imminently.

Whatever this is, governments need to be realistic about what businesses and households are facing. The longer lockdown lasts, the more people will need longer-term solutions to costs they can’t get away from, like mortages, rents and basic living expenses.

Peter Whiteford has received funding from the Australian Research Council and the Department of Social Services. He is a Policy Advisor to the Australian Council of Social Service and a Fellow of the Centre for Policy Development.

Bruce Bradbury has received funding from the Australian Research Council as well as from a number of government bodies and non-profit research foundations. He is currently participating in the Poverty and Inequality research partnership between UNSW and the Australian Council of Social Service.

First Nations people urgently need to get vaccinated, but are not being consulted on the rollout strategy

Originally published on theconversation.com
A senior Aboriginal man is being vaccinated against COVID-19. PR Handout Image/AAP

This year, just five cases of COVID-19 have been recorded among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia. This good result is due to both significant government support measures and prompt and effective action by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and organisations.

As the highly contagious Delta variant spreads in Australia, the task of ensuring all Australians are vaccinated becomes even more urgent. But since the vaccine rollout began in late February, only about 9% of Australians have been fully vaccinated.

The Delta variant is a particular concern for higher-risk populations, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Vaccinations of First Nations people must be carried out more quickly.

And in light of the elite Sydney private school erroneously giving all Year 12 students vaccines that were intended only for First Nations students, there’s also a need for stricter guidelines and better oversight.

When questioned about the mistake this week, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard demanded that critics “move on”. But authorities should not dismiss public concern that vaccines are not being distributed to those who need them most.

To ensure this, the vaccination rollout for First Nations people needs to involve Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations in the planning and implementation. We have already seen that when community-controlled organisations take control, vaccine delivery is successful and communities feel safer.

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How many First Nations people have been vaccinated

Vaccine supply is a concern across the country, but the issue is most urgent at the moment in New South Wales, where a third of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live, and where case numbers are growing.

Australia is now predominantly reliant on the 300,000 to 350,000 Pfizer vaccines coming into the country each week. Thankfully, this number is due to increase substantially in coming months.

In March, a vaccine implementation plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was published by the federal health department. The publication iterated the urgent need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be a high priority in the rollout.

First Nations people over the age of 55 have been able to get vaccinated since March. It’s also been a little over a month since Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged between 16 to 49 years have been eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.

However, there is currently limited publicly available data on just how many vaccines have actually been distributed to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people so far.

Western Australia had completely vaccinated just over 2% of its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population as of June 21.

In Queensland, about 5,277 total vaccines have been distributed in the Torres Strait and Cape York, where just under two-thirds of the population is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.

In the Northern Territory, 17% of the total population was fully vaccinated as of July 7. In remote areas, 26% of residents had received their first dose at the start of the month.

This is good news for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the territory, who make up just under a third of the total population.

Community-controlled organisations addressing vaccine hesitancy

While the media has reported on vaccine hesitancy in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, there is anecdotal evidence that hesitancy is actually decreasing and that remote community clinics are vaccinating many First Nations people.

This includes the Mala’la clinic at Maningrida in Arnhem Land where media reports say 50 people were vaccinated across three days in July. The clinic became community-run in March of this year after 45 years of government oversight.

This success highlights the importance of having Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations involved in the rollout. This involves recognising that self-determination, as well as health information being delivered in first languages, results in improved uptake of services and better health outcomes.

For example, in Pitjantjatjara, community worker Frank Dixon provided the men of his community with information about the vaccine and accompanied them to their vaccinations. Mala’la Health Service’s chairman, Charlie Gunabarra, has also delivered information about the vaccine to his community and was the first among them to get vaccinated.

Read more:
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Despite this, there is evidence First Nations people are not being sufficiently included in planning and implementation of the rollout.

For example, a meeting of the national COVID vaccine taskforce last week excluded the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19 was also excluded from the discussion.

Pat Turner, the head of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, said the lack of First Nations inclusion was “deeply concerning”.

The vaccine rollout must be managed so First Nations people and other vulnerable groups are prioritised. This means securing better vaccine supplies and putting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at the heart of decision-making.

Kalinda Griffiths receives funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Research Council and the Ramaciotti Foundations. She is also ‘Thinker in Residence’ for the Australian Health Promotion Association of Australia.

‘Environmental accounting’ could revolutionise nature conservation, but Australia has squandered its potential

Originally published on theconversation.com


Let’s say a new irrigation scheme is proposed and all the land it’ll take up needs to be cleared — trees felled, soil upturned, and habitats destroyed. Water will also have to be allocated. Would the economic gain of the scheme outweigh the damage to the environment?

This is the kind of question so-called “land accounts” grapple with. Land accounts are a type of “environmental account”, which measures our interactions with the environment by recording them as transactions. They help us understand the environmental and economic outcomes of land use decisions.

Environmental accounting, for which Australia has a national strategy, seeks to integrate environmental and economic data to ensure sustainable decision making. Last month, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the country’s first national land account under the strategy, describing it as “experimental”.

Environmental accounting could be a game changer for conserving nature, but the account released by the ABS falls flat. It’s yet another example of Australia’s environmental policy culture: we develop or adopt good ideas, but then just tinker with them, or even discard them.

A (really) long time coming

Environmental accounting has been a long time coming and dates back to the 1980s. It’s closely related to sustainable development, and in fact, the two ideas developed in parallel.

In 1992, the Rio Earth Summit endorsed both, and nations agreed to develop an international system of environmental accounting.

But it took the UN 20 years to endorse the System of Environmental Economic Accounting (SEEA) — the rules for developing accounts — as an international statistical standard. This endorsement means they’re authoritative and compatible with national accounts.

Then, in March this year, the international standard was finally extended to cover ecosystem accounting.

So, how are environmental accounts used?

“National accounts” are a way to measure the economic activity of Australia and they tell us our gross domestic product (GDP). Linking existing national accounts to environmental accounts means important decisions can capture environmental and economic outcomes, obviously making for better decisions.

For example, the case for orienting a stimulus package towards investing in renewable energy and land restoration will be much stronger if it can quantify not only economic benefits, but gains to natural assets, such as through revegetation.

Gains to natural assets, such as revegetation, should be measured alongside economic gains.

Stuck in ‘experimental’ mode

Australia, through the ABS, was an early mover in developing environmental accounting. It has produced experimental accounts since the mid-1990s.

Some countries are now taking significant steps to produce and apply accounts. And a communiqué issued by the G7 in May endorses the UN’s SEEA and encourages making nature a regular part of all decision-making – in other words, “mainstreaming nature”. This is something for which SEEA is ideal.

Read more:
You probably missed the latest national environmental-economic accounts – but why?

It’s no accident this communiqué emerged from London. The UK is a leader in the field of applying accounting to environmental and economic management. It had a Natural Capital Committee for some years and its 25-year environmental plan provides for further account development, including for urban areas, fisheries and forestry.

Australian governments, on the other hand, have been slow to use environmental accounts. They took until 2018 to agree on an unambitious national strategy, which specified “intermediate” outcomes, only to 2023.

These targets include such policy basics as making environmental information for accounts “findable” and “accessible”. This is not far removed from what federal and state governments first signed up to in an agreement 30 years ago.

And the strategy places the holy grail of policy integration “into the future” beyond 2023 — for example, off into the never-never. As a result, we are on a slow track and seemingly stuck in “experimental” mode.

So, what’s the problem with the new land account?

The new land account is a very small step. While it has gathered a lot of information in one place, it tells us little, and essentially repackages old information (the newest data is for 2016).

It’s also in a format that cannot be integrated with national accounts, or even with other environmental accounts so far produced in Australia, such as those covering waste, water, energy and greenhouse gas emissions.

Integration of environmental and economic information is the raison d’etre for the international system. So how did this happen?

The new land account from the ABS can’t be integrated with other environmental accounts, such as accounts for greenhouse gas emissions. So what’s the point of it?

For accounts produced outside the ABS (such as for greenhouse gas emissions), different accounting frameworks were used, so this is understandable, though unfortunate. For the land accounts, it is less understandable and we can only speculate.

Not being able to integrate the land, water and national accounts means the environmental-economic trade-offs cannot be assessed. It seems the government is struggling to integrate an exercise of integration!

Governments fiddle while the planet burns

Australia’s 2021 intergenerational report, released last month, shows how far we are from producing good environmental information.

The environment section of the report acknowledges climate change and biodiversity loss as major problems, and the need to account for and maintain natural capital. But it goes on to do little more than make general observations and recite standard government talking points about existing policies.

Read more:
Intergenerational reports ought to do more than scare us — they ought to spark action

If the report was informed by comprehensive environmental accounts, it could support the modelling of environmental trends going forward. This would give us a real sense of likely changes to natural capital and its impact on the economy.

But there are no plans for such an approach. In fact, this kind of “high potential, low ambition” approach to environmental policy is something of a trademark for this government. Another example is the recent cherry picking of recommendations from an independent review of Australia’s environment law.

While such an approach may deliver a successful political placebo, it is a formula for policy failure.

Just how loud will the wake-up call have to be? Recently, a climate-change-induced “heat dome” hit western North America. Lytton, Canada, which is closer to the North Pole than the equator, shattered temperature records with a staggering 49.6℃, before being decimated by wildfire.

If only such disasters, including our own Black Summer, would raise policy ambition more than the temperature.

Read more:
The government’s idea of ‘national environment standards’ would entrench Australia’s global pariah status

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Studying social media can give us insight into human behaviour. It can also give us nonsense

Originally published on theconversation.com


Since the early days of social media, there has been excitement about how data traces left behind by users can be exploited for the study of human behaviour. Nowadays, reseachers who were once restricted to surveys or experiments in laboratory settings have access to huge amounts of “real-world” data from social media.

The research opportunities enabled by social media data are undeniable. However, researchers often analyse this data with tools that were not designed to manage the kind of large, noisy observational sets of data you find on social media.

We explored problems that researchers might encounter due to this mismatch between data and methods.

What we found is that the methods and statistics commonly used to provide evidence for seemingly significant scientific findings can also seem to support nonsensical claims.

Absurd science

The motivation for our paper comes from a series of research studies that deliberately present absurd scientific results.

One brain imaging study appeared to show the neural activity of a dead salmon tasked with identifying emotions in photos. An analysis of longitudinal statistics from public health records suggested that acne, height, and headaches are contagious. And an analysis of human decision-making seemingly indicated people can accurately judge the population size of different cities by ranking them in alphabetical order.

Read more:
One reason so many scientific studies may be wrong

Why would a researcher go out of their way to explore such ridiculous ideas? The value of these studies is not in presenting a new substantive finding. No serious researcher would argue, for example, that a dead salmon has a perspective on emotions in photos.

Rather, the nonsensical results highlight problems with the methods used to achieve them. Our research explores whether the same problems can afflict studies that use data from social media. And we discovered that indeed they do.

Positive and negative results

When a researcher seeks to address a research question, the method they use should be able to do two things:

reveal an effect, when there is indeed a meaningful effect

show no effect, when there is no meaningful effect.

For example, imagine you have chronic back pain and you take a medical test to find its cause. The test identifies a misaligned disc in your spine. This finding might be important and inform a treatment plan.

However, if you then discover the same test identifies this misaligned disc in a large proportion of the population who do not have chronic back pain, the finding becomes far less informative for you.

Like a spinal test that can’t tell the difference between people with back pain and people without, much social media research isn’t using the right tools for the job.

The fact the test fails to identify a relevant, distinguishing feature of negative cases (no back pain) from positive cases (back pain) does not mean the misaligned disc in your spine is non-existent. This part of the finding is as “real” as any finding. Yet the failure means the result is not useful: “evidence” that is as likely to be found when there is a meaningful effect (in this case, back pain) as when there is none is simply not diagnostic, and, as result, such evidence is uninformative.

XYZ contagion

Using the same rationale, we evaluated commonly used methods for analysing social media data — called “null hypothesis significance testing” and “correlational statistics” — by asking an absurd research question.

Past and current studies have tried to identify what factors influence Twitter users’ decisions to retweet other tweets. This is interesting both as a window into human thought and because resharing posts is a key mechanism by which messages are amplified or spread on social media.

So we decided to analyse Twitter data using the above standard methods to see whether a nonsensical effect we call “XYZ contagion” influences retweets. Specifically, we asked

Does the number of Xs, Ys, and Zs in a tweet increase the probability of it being spread?

Upon analysing six datasets containing hundreds of thousands of tweets, the “answer” we found was yes. For example, in a dataset of 172,697 tweets about COVID-19, the presence of an X, Y, or Z in a tweet appeared to increase the message’s reach by a factor of 8%.

Needless to say, we do not believe the presence of Xs, Ys, and Zs is a central factor in whether people choose to retweet a message on Twitter.

However, like the medical test for diagnosing back pain, our finding shows that sometimes, methods for social media data analysis can “reveal” effects where there should be none. This raises questions about how meaningful and informative results obtained by applying current social science methods to social media data really are.

As researchers continue to analyse social media data and identify factors that shape the evolution of public opinion, hijack our attention, or otherwise explain our behaviour, we should think critically about the methods underlying such findings and reconsider what we can learn from them.

What is a ‘meaningful’ finding?

The issues raised in our paper are not new, and there are indeed many research practices that have been developed to ensure results are meaningful and robust.

For example, researchers are encouraged to pre-register their hypotheses and analysis plans before starting a study to prevent a kind of data cherry-picking called “p-hacking”. Another helpful practice is to check whether results are stable after removing outliers and controlling for covariates. Also important are replication studies, which assess whether the results obtained in an experiment can be found again when the experiment is repeated under similar conditions.

These practices are important, but they alone are not sufficient to deal with the problem we identify. While developing standardised research practices is needed, the research community must first think critically about what makes a finding in social media data meaningful.

Read more:
Predicting research results can mean better science and better advice

Ulrike Hahn has received funding from the Economic and Social Research Council, NESTA, The Australian Research Council, IARPA, the Leverhulme Trust, the Nuffield Foundation, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and the European Research Council.

Jason Burton and Nicole Cruz do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Are the Nationals now the party for mining, not farming? If so, Barnaby Joyce must tread carefully

Originally published on theconversation.com

Perry Duffin/AAP

The return of Barnaby Joyce to the federal National Party’s top job has highlighted tensions within, and dilemmas for, the broader party – particularly on climate change policy and coal.

Joyce and some of his Queensland colleagues unashamedly support the coal industry, and the federal party appears broadly opposed to Australia adopting a target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

These are positions at odds with progressive quarters of the party, particularly in Victoria. The divisions came to a head earlier this month when, in response to Joyce’s ascension, Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh and deputy Steph Ryan sought to split the state party from its federal counterpart.

The move was unsuccessful. But Walsh later called for the party to have “a constructive discussion about the transition of our energy supplies and how we reduce our impact on the Earth we live on”.

So are the federal Nationals the latter-day party for mining, not farming? If so, what does this mean for the party’s political positioning and prospects? To address this question, we must examine the Nationals’ evolution over the past century.

Barnaby Joyce’s support for coal has troubled the Victorian Nationals.
Mick Tsikas/AAP

Coal as nation-builder

The National Party began federally in 1920 as the Australian Country Party, and traditionally represented farmers and rural communities. But over time, the party evolved to represent and advocate for the broader interests of regional Australia.

Economic nationalism has underpinned the party, especially since the 1950s. Under this ethos, farming, mining and basic manufacturing were considered key foundations for nation-building – a view which persists today. As the Nationals’ Senator Matt Canavan wrote in an opinion piece last month:

The restoration of Barnaby Joyce as deputy prime minister restores a strong advocate for the economically nationalist, Australia-first approach that has always served us well.

Most Nationals candidates come from rural small businesses, finance organisations and social and community services – though many have farming roots or some involvement in farming activities.

Rural communities are under pressure from dwindling populations and limited employment opportunities. In that sense, the mining industry is an important source of jobs and economic activity in Australia’s regions.

Read more:
Net zero by 2050? Even if Scott Morrison gets the Nationals on board, hold the applause

Mining is an important source of jobs in regional Australia.
Dean Lewins/AAP

The federal party’s vociferous support for mining and opposition to emissions reduction is, in part, values signalling. For many in the Nationals, coal helped build the nation, while climate change action and renewable energy represent a moral and material threat.

Regional differences also exist. Nationals’ support for mining is particularly strong in Queensland – traditionally a mining-dependent state where resource investment has long been considered a means of rural development. At both the Queensland and federal levels, strong political connections exist between mining companies and the Liberal-National Party.

In another sign of the federal party’s contemporary priorities, Joyce’s close party ally Matt Canavan recently told the Guardian:

About 5% of our voters are farmers. It’s about 2% of the overall population. So 95% of our voters don’t farm, aren’t farmers or don’t own farmland.

The Nationals’ apparent support for mining above farming exists partly because because they can get away with it. In many regions, farming and mining co-exist in reasonable harmony, both sectors enjoying the benefits of strong regional centres.

In some cases conflict does arise, such as with gas exploration in cropping country. But in those regions, disenfranchised Nationals voters typically direct their votes to micro-parties rather than Labor or the Greens. These votes often flow back to the Nationals via preferences.

Pro-coal Nationals senator Matt Canavan has downplayed the importance of farmers to the party’s constituency.
Lukas Coch/AAP

A questionable strategy

The federal Nationals’ pro-mining, anti-renewables stance may not, however, benefit the party over the long term.

First, mining is at best a very patchy contributor to rural development. Overall, net employment in agriculture is still higher than for mining and is more evenly distributed across the regions. Mining investment can ebb and flow quickly with commodity prices and the stage of project development, leaving communities with falling real estate values and an altered social fabric.

The anti-emissions control stance could also trigger conflict with major farm organisations. Many, such as the National Farmers Federation and Meat and Livestock Association, want to see a strong national emissions reduction plan, under which landowners can benefit financially by participating in land carbon schemes.

Many farmers are also interested in renewable energy as both a source of income and cheaper power. Renewables projects are proliferating in regional areas and even Joyce has been known to turn up in a hard hat to get behind them. So we can look forward to some interesting management of that cognitive dissonance.

Read more:
Renewables need land – and lots of it. That poses tricky questions for regional Australia

Many farmers are interested in hosting renewables projects.

Trouble ahead

Following Joyce’s return to the federal party leadership, Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh said he’s had “a very frank discussion with him about the policy differences on climate change”.

But discontent on climate policy is not confined to Victoria. Across the party, Young Nationals organisations are generally far more open to climate action than their older party colleagues.

And the hardline mining stance will not help the Nationals regain or even retain seats in areas such as Ballina in NSW, where demographic changes have eroded the party’s support.

But the biggest test of the Nationals’ farming-vs-mining rift is perhaps yet to come. The European Union and other jurisdictions are considering imposing tariffs on goods – including agricultural products – from nations such as Australia which lack strong emissions reduction policies.

While helping drive global climate action, such moves would partly be motivated by economic nationalism – boosting the international competitiveness of industries in the country/s applying the tariff. The sight of the Nationals impotently arguing for free trade in this instance will be fascinating political theatre.

Read more:
No point complaining about it, Australia will face carbon levies unless it changes course

Geoff Cockfield does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Unpacking In The Heights’ choreographic film references, from Busby Berkley to West Side Story

Originally published on theconversation.com
Macall Polay © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Part of the joy of a musical is that song and dance can occur anywhere and everywhere. Not just on the stage but in the bedroom, to the Wild West and on the streets of New York.

Classic musicals set in New York often take dancing to the streets.

In On The Town (1949, based on the 1944 stage musical), Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly (who also choreographed the movie) play sailors on shore leave in the big city. In West Side Story (1961, based on the 1957 stage show) two rival gangs, the white American Jets and the Peurto-Rican Sharks play out the story of Romeo and Juliet on the Upper West Side, dancing to Jerome Robbins’ choreography.

This is also the case with In The Heights, an adaptation of the 2008 stage show written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (the creator of the Broadway-smash Hamilton) and Quiara Alegría Hudes.

Set in the largely working class Latinx neighbourhood of Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan, all the characters wish for a better life: Usnavi plans to move to the Dominican Republic to set up his dad’s old beachside bar; Vanessa dreams of becoming a high-end fashion designer downtown; Nina carries the weight of the neighbourhood expectations at Stanford University in California.

And throughout all of this, they dance and sing.

Miranda’s songbook draws on references from Latin, to hip-hop and rap, and Christopher Scott’s choreography also traverses a wide range of styles from breakdancing and popping, to ballet and Jamaican dancehall.

They both extensively reference classical musicals, too.

Busby Berkley’s water ballet

Spontaneous song and dance is the most enjoyable part of many movie musicals, and a defining element of early examples of the genre.

In the classical Hollywood period from the 1930s to the 1950s, the film musical was in its prime. Musicals brought large crowds to the cinema, drawing on stage musicals, vaudeville, cabaret and operettas, melding them together with camerawork and editing to wow audiences.

The energy of Broadway choreography was enhanced by camerawork that allowed the audience to get up close with the dancers. One of the major choreographers and directors of this era was Busby Berkeley.

Berkeley’s work was designed to be filmed from above, with his dancers creating beautiful kaleidoscopic choreography.

During In The Heights’ number “96,000”, the whole block performs in a water ballet at the local pool, reminiscent of Berkeley’ Million Dollar Mermaid (1952).

“96,000” is quite the technical feat. It took director Jon M. Chu three days to shoot with 700 extras in New York’s public Highbridge Pool. He also had to deal with thunderstorms and New York City restrictions on drone photography which required the use of a crane.

The $96,000 mermaid..
© 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Jerome Robbins’ choreographic storytelling

West Side Story won ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture — the most of any film musical — and was lauded for Robbins’ incredible choreography.

Robbins used dance as an integral part of the storytelling to express the simmering tensions between characters. In In The Heights, choreography is again used to express the excitement of budding romance, frustration and grief.

During “The Club”, Usnavi competes for Vanessa’s attention with male club-goers who all want to dance with her. Scott’s snappy Latin choreography echoes “Dance at the Gym (Mambo)” from West Side Story, where building tension between the two gangs is expressed through their fight over space on the dance floor.

Fred Astaire’s defiance of gravity

Nina and Benny’s final emotional farewell number, “When the Sun Goes Down” takes them up the side of a building in a nod to Astaire dancing on the walls in Royal Wedding (1951).

The couple start on the balcony looking at the George Washington Bridge dominating the skyline. As the song swells, their love for each other helps them defy gravity to spin and twirl up the apartment block to the roof thanks to special effects.

Astaire’s original number, “You’re All the World to Me”, required the set to be built in a revolving barrel with the camera mounted in place.

The whole neighbourhood in joy

There is a sense of spontaneity to the musical numbers in In The Heights. They appear to be immediate, unfiltered outbursts of emotion.

In the opening eight minutes, the sounds of the block — gates closing, Usnavi jangling his keys, a man hosing the streets — is all rhythm and music for the opening number. Even the piragua man selling his shaved ice dessert on the street (played by Miranda himself) joins the chorus.

An entire neighbourhood joining in on a number is a typical gimmick of the film musical. It is such a trope it is often referenced in non-musical films, like when Joseph Gordon Levitt’s good mood inspires a crowded park of people to dance with him through the streets in 500 Days of Summer (2009).

In In The Heights, during a heat wave at the height of a neighbourhood blackout, Daniela gets the block back up on its feet and celebrating their culture. Everyone joins in on “Carnaval del Barrio”, in joyous community celebration.

The spectacular energy and vibrancy of this number is what musicals ultimately aim for in the audience: to get them up and dancing on the street.

Phoebe Macrossan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

‘The stars aligned’: Ash Barty’s Wimbledon win is an historic moment for Indigenous people and women in sport

Originally published on theconversation.com

Neil Hall/EPA/AAP

Over the weekend in London, the stars aligned in the most remarkable way. On the 50th anniversary of Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s first Wimbledon win, Ashleigh Barty claimed her first Wimbledon title.

I just hope I made Evonne proud.

The 25-year old becomes just the second Indigenous women to win Wimbledon and breaks a long drought for Australia at what is widely regarded as the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world.

To put it in context, Australia hasn’t won a singles title at the All England Club since 2002, when Lleyton Hewitt became the men’s champion. The last time an Australian woman took out the title was over 40 years ago, when Goolagong Cawley won her second title in 1980 (this time also becoming the first mother to win Wimbledon in 66 years).

But the win is also an historic moment for First Nations people and for Australian women in sport. It presents an opportunity to both celebrate and learn from this achievement.

Barty breaks the mould

Barty’s success is a particularly significant one for First Nations Australians. She is one of only a handful of Indigenous women who are both sporting champions and household names — such as Goolagong Cawley, Cathy Freeman and fellow Olympic medallists Nova Peris and Sam Riley.

Australia has always seemed to struggle with celebrating Indigenous sporting success, particularly when it happens overseas. Achievements like Patty Mills’ magic 17 points to help secure the 2014 NBA championship for the San Antonio Spurs, Chad Reed’s legendary status in motocross and Jesse Williams’ 2014 Super Bowl ring have largely flown under the radar.

But Barty breaks this mould. She has long cited her Indigenous heritage and relationship with Goolagong Cawley as an inspiration. Yes, it is Barty’s tennis success that has made her famous. But it is her grace negotiating Australia’s uneasiness with its past and present relationship with our Indigenous peoples that makes her a true champion.

Her victory also followed by a significant hip injury in June. Although seeded number one for the tournament, even those in Barty’s camp were nervous about her chances.

Barty said,

The stars aligned for me over the past fortnight. It’s incredible that it happened to fall on the 50th anniversary of Evonne’s [Goolagong Cawley] first title here too.

As First Nations people would say “the Old People” — her Ancestors — had intervened.

A NAIDOC week victory

Apart from the parallels with Goolagong Cawley’s win, the timing is also special as it comes at the end of NAIDOC week. This year’s theme has been “Heal Country”. As Indigenous people continue to be marginalised in so many areas of Australian life, Barty’s success is all the more a powerful testament to her strength and talent.

We know there are high barriers to Indigenous women participating in sport and exercise, at both grassroots and elite levels. These include racism and the high costs of participating. A frequently cited statistic (based on 2012 data) is about 23% of Indigenous women were physically active or played sport in the past 12 months, compared to 67% of non-Indigenous women.

Jemma Mi Mi is the Super Netball league’s only Indigenous player.
Albert Perez/AAP

Even in sports with high Indigenous participation, such as netball (where about 4% of participants are Indigenous), this still hasn’t flowed through to the professional level. There have only ever been two Indigenous players to represent the national team — and none since 2000.

Last year, Queensland Firebirds midcourter Jemma Mi Mi, a proud Wakka Wakka woman, sat on the bench during Super Netball’s Indigenous round. Netball Australia says it is working to improve the culture but change is slow.

Sexism and Australian sport

Sport is a significant part of our national identity, and we have a deep love for our sporting heroes. Yet for women in sport, we know the road is harder than for men. It wasn’t that long ago that champion race horse Black Caviar was named Australian sportswoman of the year by the Daily Telegraph.

In my recent research with female AFL players, women talked of their gratitude for being included in the sport at a professional level. This is despite low pay and the high pressures and workloads. As I argued, this attitude is a double-edged sword for professional sportswomen, as it can make them vulnerable to exploitation.

Read more:
Sport can be an important part of Aboriginal culture for women – but many barriers remain

Looking at professional elite athletes in Australia, the top earners are predominantly men. For example, in the 2019 AFR sports rich list, Barty ranked eight and was the only woman in the top 20. A top seven rich list compiled by Fox Sports in June 2021 only featured men.

We also know that women in sport also cop abuse, sexism and harassment — as well as discrimination in terms of how seriously their involvement is taken.

Uneven playing field

So while we celebrate #YesAsh and enjoy the #BartyParty, we must also be honest about the realities for women in sport, and in particular for Indigenous women in sport.

Read more:
‘Although we didn’t produce these problems, we suffer them’: 3 ways you can help in NAIDOC’s call to Heal Country

For those of us who have enjoyed the pride and excitement of Barty’s win, let’s pledge to work harder on removing structural barriers to participation at grassroots and elite levels. It is time to acknowledge how uneven Australian sporting fields can be.

Adele Pavlidis receives funding from the Australian Research Council.

Marcus Woolombi Waters does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.