Lifelong learning at this Victorian community university gets stuff done


In the absence of a formal university this far from Melbourne,  the residents of Lake Tyers are sharing their expertise and skills through a “Communiversity.”

Lake Tyers, East Gippsland is 327 kilometres from Melbourne and the locals started their Communiversity after conversations were held around a table at a pub, a breakfast cart and at local festivals.

“We’ve just made it up ourselves,” co-founder Andrea Lane said.

“It came about because of an arts project — we started gathering around a very long table at the local pub and it just kept evolving and growing.

“It became apparent there are experts among us and that this knowledge could be shared and could become a forum for learning.”

Communiversity was loosely structured and used the whole of the Lake Tyers Beach township and wider East Gippsland network.

Different groups with different interests have worked on projects at the community garden, the town hall, walking tracks, the pub and around the Lake Tyers estuary and beach.

“We are all developing new skills and reclaiming the buildings of the Lake Tyers town.”

So far the Communiversity has had workshops, discussions, exhibitions and festivals about the environment, weather, fine arts, dancing, first aid, bird watching, big ideas, food, literature, philosophy, astronomy, citizen science and more.

The Communiversity has supported the development of FLOAT, a floating art space that gives residency to artists, both local and from far and wide.

The people in residency at FLOAT, as well as getting time to work on their practice, have given back to the community and shared their skills with the town. FLOAT brought to Lake Tyers musicians, artists, writers, scientists and thinkers.

“Communiversity is an ephemeral concept that’s a work in process,” says Andrea Lane.

“It’s not a formal thing, it’s not a built thing, it responds to what we know and what we contribute.”

Caroline Crunden was part of Communiversity and said listening to locals was a key part.

“There’s plenty of culture here already, we just really have to find it and allow it to bubble up to the surface,” Ms Crunden said.

“Culture is everywhere, it’s not in museums only, it’s not in big populations only, it’s everywhere.

“We all bring something and it’s not until you sit with people from your community and listen you realise you all have something to share”.

“Lots of young people come along. Every community should have a Communiversity I think,” said a participant Karen Murdoch.

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Police seize millions in counterfeit money made at Bulgaria university


Police seized high-quality forged banknotes produced at a printing office at a university in Bulgaria”s capital, authorities said on Tuesday.

In a joint operation with the US Secret Service, Bulgarian police detained two people – employees at the university – and seized a printing machine and equipment for printing money, along with large amounts of counterfeit US dollars and euro notes.

“The value of the seized currency is impressive. The material evidence speaks of serious criminal activity,” Sofia police chief Georgi Hadzhiev said.

The prosecutor’s office said the amount of counterfeit money taken in was $4 million and €3.6 million.

Police believe that the two suspects are part of a larger criminal enterprise, dealing in the trafficking of counterfeit dollars to Ukraine, and euros to Western Europe.

The discovery “implies large-scale criminal activity,” Lubomir Yanev, director of the department for combating organised crime, told reporters.

The two suspects, a 48-year-old man and a 54-year-old woman, made the fake notes after work and during holidays.

They were paid 10% of the counterfeits they produced, which at first glance was of “relatively good quality”, according to Yanev.

They had no criminal record.

Sofia police said they had no proof that university officials were aware of the existence of the workshop on their premises.

According to the prosecutor’s office, this is one of the biggest seizures of counterfeit money in Bulgaria.

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Canberra researchers at the Australian National University find a protein that could stop allergic reactions and anaphylaxis


Thousands of people live with allergies and autoimmune diseases, and that number is only rising, for reasons that are not entirely clear to medical researchers.

For many, a sudden asthma attack, or a tiny amount of a seemingly harmless substance like peanuts, can be fatal without timely intervention from things like inhalers or EpiPens.

But researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra believe they are a significant step closer to creating better treatments for people with debilitating allergies.

They have made the “exciting” discovery of a protein they say prevents the human body from developing not just allergies, but autoimmune diseases and asthma as well.

And the next step is to use this important new information to help those in whom this protein is not performing its proper function.

Neuritin an ‘incredible discovery’ a decade in the making

ANU researchers Dr Paula Gonzalez Figueroa and Professor Carola Vinuesa are the team behind the discovery.(

Supplied: Australian National University

)

The ANU’s Dr Paula Gonzalez-Figueroa has spent the last ten years working towards understanding a single protein, called neuritin.

Neuritin is the body’s natural defence against allergic reactions; without this protein, reactions can become life threatening.

When the immune system overreacts to allergens, it produces antibodies called Immunoglobulin E.

When the body produces excessive Immunoglobulin E in response to otherwise harmless substances like food, it leads to the release of histamine, that causes allergic reactions.

But the ANU’s researchers have found that neuritin serves as one of our immune system’s natural mechanisms to ward off these allergic reactions, by preventing the excessive formation of Immunoglobulin E.

They believe this greater understanding of neuritin could hold the key to better treatments and even prevention.

“It is an incredible discovery.”

The impact on autoimmune diseases

Close up of a forearm covered with red dots and pen markings.
It can take years to properly identify and treat allergies, using methods like the skin prick test.(

Flickr: Sneakerdog

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While allergies and autoimmune diseases are treated as being distinctly separate, Dr Gonzalez-Figueroa said they are linked in how they develop, which is why neuritin could help both.

“They have some underlying causes that are common to both, which are the production of these raw antibodies,” she said.

“In the case of allergies, the body will produce this type of antibody called [Immunoglobulin E] in excess.

“In the case of autoimmunity, the body will produce antibodies that are targeting our own tissues.

“We found neuritin supresses formation of rogue plasma cells, which are the cells that produce harmful antibodies.”

Dr Gonzalez-Figueroa said both asthma and autoimmune diseases could be targeted as a result of their discovery.

“Allergies and autoimmune diseases are both on the rise and we hope this will give us a new way to tackle them,” she said.

“There’s a huge potential to develop better therapies.”

Allergies and disease on the rise in children and adults

A line up of sesame, wheat, tree nuts, milk, peanut, fish, egg, crustacea, soy, lupin under the headline 'the usual suspects'
Food allergies are numerous and on the rise.(

Supplied: National Allergy Strategy

)

As the rates of people with allergies and autoimmune diseases rise, the battle to prevent or even cure them intensifies.

Dr Gonzalez-Figueroa said immunotherapy treatments had been developed, but they did not always work and often took years.

“You will be exposed to the allergen, a purified version of the allergen, in increasing doses, in the hopes that you will respond to it and stop being susceptible to it,” she said.

“But unfortunately not all patients will respond to this and it can take three to five years for the treatment to be completed, with no guarantees.

A child spreads peanut butter on toast with a spoon with a jar on a bench.
The breakthrough could lead to better treatments for allergy sufferers.(

www.shutterstock.com

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Clinical immunologist and allergy specialist Michaela Lucas said she was “very excited” when she heard about the new research.

“It’s a fantastic step forward of really understanding how anaphylaxis happens in the body,” Professor Lucas said.

“Until now there were a lot of blocks in our understanding of how somebody comes to develop a severe allergy.

Despite the breakthrough, medical researchers still don’t know why these often deadly conditions and diseases are on the rise in both children and adults.

“The overall thinking is that really is a product of our modern lifestyle, and modern medicine to some extent,” Professor Lucas said.

“The ultimate goal is really putting a stop to allergies and anaphylaxis emerging in the first place.”

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University of Queensland student developing AI-assisted robotic prosthetic


University of Queensland student Nat Marshall is developing a wearable device that will control robotic prosthetics with artificial intelligence (AI).

The engineering and physics major wants to smooth out the current user experience for people with upper-limb difference.

AI refers to a computer that can imitate a human mind by learning from experience and practice to recognise objects, solve problems or make decisions.

Using people with fully functional upper limbs, Mr Marshall’s device will be trained to understand how muscles and tendons inform hand movements.

The device will then be transferred to a person with an upper-limb deficit and, using its AI, best guess the movements they are trying to perform.

He has taken current industry standards to the next level by incorporating more electrodes into his device, meaning it can learn more movements and give wearers the ability to use fine motor skills.

Current technology features between eight and 16 electrodes, whereas Mr Marshall’s design has 256.

“With more electrodes, you can imagine [an object] as an image, and you have more pixels in that image,” he said.

Mr Marshall been working with teenager Connor Wyvill, who was born without most of his left arm.

“It’s not been easy, but once you get the hang of [doing] something, then you get that confidence boost,” Connor said.

“We’ve been doing some testing on some of the stuff he’s making to see how it’s going, what’s working, what’s not working.

The programming associated with current robotic prosthetics is difficult to use.

Connor’s mum Amanda said prosthetics could be time-consuming to learn and they were not actually useful.

“The prosthetics that he has used in the past have been so heavy, he hurt himself, so then he didn’t want to use them again,” Ms Wyvill said.

“They didn’t do anything; there was a thumb bit that you physically had to touch for it to open.”

Prosthetics can also cost upwards of $150,000.

“Because, as I said, they’re expensive. And for the average person it’s not affordable.”

Mr Marshall would also like the devices to be more affordable for end users.

“A lot of that cost comes from the medical certification and the whole commercialisation process for medical devices,” he said.

“So we’re hoping to initially start out just as a consumer and commercial product and develop all the technology through that strain.

“Then that’ll reduce the cost when it transfers over to the medical space.”

Mr Marshall has many goals for his invention, including venturing into the virtual reality (VR) realm.

“From here the immediate target is a VR application, because that might be quite valuable to someone who’s lost a limb, just to see how much function they could get from a device using our wearables,” he said.

He also hopes to connect with manufacturers of robotic prosthetics.

“Our diagnostic device can be worked in operation with some of the current robotic prosthetics on the market,” he said.

“That’s a few years down the track from now [and] requires going down the medical-certification pathway.

“I would need to have clinical trials performed and validate that my device can work in conjunction with these other devices to provide a better outcome for the patient.”

Mr Marshall impressed judges at last year’s Bionics Queensland Challenge, winning $5,000 towards building his prototype.

His mentor and Bionics Queensland CEO, Robyn Stokes, said the industry needed innovative solutions like Mr Marshall’s.

“It’s absolutely life changing if you can find the next-level treatment that will extend the functionality of those people for much longer,” Dr Stokes said.

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COVID-19 and lower fees help drive rise in demand for university agriculture degrees


Universities across Australia are enjoying a big spike in enrolments in agricultural science courses, as young people take advantage of lower fees and good job prospects.

While COVID-19 trampled on most sectors of the economy last year, agriculture has thrived and young people are looking at the industry with fresh enthusiasm.

Demand has more than doubled for the University of Queensland’s Bachelor of Agricultural Science degree this year, with 50 places offered compared to 22 offers in 2019.

The university says, due to a smaller year 12 cohort in 2020, it has been comparing 2019 enrolments to the current year’s intake.

At Longerenong College in western Victoria, the number of first-year students enrolled is up by 66 per cent compared to last year.

“I’ve worked at Longerenong for 30 years and this is the biggest intake we’ve had in my time here,” principal John Goldsmith said.

Mr Goldsmith said he thought there were several factors behind the increase.

“Also, when we start talking about ag technology and the way of the future, young people get really excited.

“Certainly it depends which state you’re in, and there are highs and lows, but on the whole, ag is going really well.”

In June, the federal government announced agriculture students would pay 62 per cent less for their degrees.

The proposed student contribution for 2021 is $3,700 — nearly $6,000 cheaper than it was in 2020.

But Longerenong College student Connor Eastwood said his motivation to study agriculture this year went beyond the money.

“All things considered, it’s been a pretty good year for ag,” he said.

“COVID’s done a lot of things, but it hasn’t slowed ag up a great deal.”

Etira Seehusen is also enrolled at Longerenong this year and on her path to becoming a livestock agent.

“I’ve got the love there for it,” she said.

Australian Council of Deans of Agriculture secretary Jim Pratley said the rise in enrolments was across the board.

“Almost without exception, numbers are up from preliminary indications and that varies from 5 per cent to over 50 per cent,” Professor Pratley said.

He said there were three to four jobs available per graduate, and working in the food and textile production industry was the way to go for a positive career.

“I’m really confident. It’s really exciting to be part of agriculture and where it’s going, and I look forward to seeing it prosper even more than it is now.”

At the University of Adelaide, more than 100 new students are settling into their agricultural science degree — an increase in enrolments of 36 per cent.

Jason Able, the university’s head of agriculture, said enrolments were expected to jump again next year.

“Quite simply across the country whatever university teaches agriculture, we simply don’t graduate enough graduates year on year,” he said.

“Our graduates from last year, over 95 per cent of them are in full-time employment.”

Professor Able said the students were starting to see how they could impact society in terms of food production.

“It is wonderful news,” he said.

“We have been pretty steady for the past three years, but to see this magnificent jump it is certainly exciting.”

Local students make up the 50 per cent higher intake for the agricultural science degree at the University of Tasmania.

Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture associate professor Alistair Gracie said it was the highest intake he had seen from domestic students.

“We’ve currently got about 45 students admitted to that degree,” Dr Gracie said.

“That’s new students coming into the offering, and we’ve got about 30 students coming into our associate degree in agribusiness.”

But he said international student numbers were down.

“It’s a tricky one because of the COVID issues and the pandemic,” Dr Gracie said.

“It means that it’s hard for international students to get here.”

Mr Gracie attributed some of the rise in local enrolments to a drop in the cost of the agricultural science degree.

But, he said, more awareness of the food supply chain and the importance of agriculture could also be a factor.

One of the students taking up an agricultural degree this year is Molly Giddings from Wangary on the Lower Eyre Peninsula in South Australia.

She received her offer to study agriculture in Adelaide for 2021.

Ms Giddings said she wanted to study livestock, and the change in the fee structure made the degree more attractive, but she said she would have picked agriculture anyway.

“I felt pretty excited, a bit overwhelmed, and ready to start the next chapter in my life,” she said.

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Australian university study hubs keep students engaged in China


A UNSW spokeswoman said 100 science and engineering students were attending in Yixing and another 50 students from non-STEM disciplines are starting in Shanghai.

“Both centres are designed for students to build a sense of community, and work on collaborative projects while international borders remain closed,” the spokeswoman said.

UNSW Offshore study hub in China.

The University of Sydney and Study Group Australia have set up in Shanghai for Chinese students enrolled in the University of Sydney Foundation Program.

Study Group Australia managing director Alex Chevrolle said students studying online in China were keen for more opportunities for interaction.

“Our online teaching and learning allows students to experience and engage with course content and lecturers, and our new centre in Shanghai means students can also experience invaluable face-to-face engagement with peers to work on course work, assignments and projects,” he said.

Mr Chevrolle said the Shanghai centre allowed 60 students at a time to study virtually in a campus environment under the supervision of an on-site manager. The centre provided high speed internet, large screens and audiovisual technology.

Students were also provided with other support services including welfare, administration, accommodation, English language and social activities. The centre was housed in a facility with a library, gym and canteen.

UTS said its offshore learning centres (OLCs) provide a physical learning space and extra support for course work students enrolled at UTS who are studying remotely in China and Vietnam. A UTS spokeswoman said about 700 students have attended the centres which opened last year on the campuses of Chinese university partners in Qinhuangdao, Chongqing and Nanjing.

“Our students live on campus at the OLC host university, study in physical groups or independently at their will, and obtain support for both academic and non-academic aspects of learning,” the spokeswoman said.

“OLC students use UTS’s online learning portals to take their UTS classes, consistent with their peers studying remotely in Australia and in other overseas locations.”

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Venice Yun from IDP Connect which is partnering with universities to provide the pop-up centres said they had provided an opportunity for students to gather locally in China and “feel more connected to their institution and studies, while also using the space for social gatherings”. “The hubs show a positive attitude from Australian institutions to provide additional solutions and services to those who are banned by the travel restrictions,” she said.

Monash University said it offers programs in Suzhou, China. A Monash spokeswoman said it opened a joint graduate school, partnered with China-based Southeast University, in November.

“Feedback from these students has been very positive,” the spokeswoman said.

“In China, this will continue in 2021 until borders in Australia have opened. Once borders are opened these students can transfer to Australia when it is safe to do so.

“We are also looking at using our other international campuses in Prato, Jakarta and Malaysia to offer similar on campus options in the future.”

An ANU spokesman said more than 100 students have regularly used the Shanghai hub since it opened last year. Up to 300 students have attended events including an Australian-themed barbecue and Australian Rules football training.

“ANU has just doubled the space for the hub in anticipation of increased demand and use in 2021,” the spokesman said.

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Call racism out to stamp it out, says Melbourne University Professor of Sociology Karen Farquharson


“If someone is experiencing racism and want to stop it and make a complaint. It does not go well for them usually,” Farquharson said.

People’s claims are often denied or they were made to feel bad for raising the issue which caused them to either stop complaining or quit.

“The onus should not be on the players who are the victims of these things to make the complaint … everyone else should be making the complaint on their behalf and say what are you doing, we don’t do this around here,” Farquharson said.

Heritier Lumumba. Credit:Fairfax Media

“It actually needs to be the whole club making a decision that we have zero tolerance for this and we are just not going to tolerate it and it is not up to the person being victimised to actually make a complaint about it. If you see it call it out and there is good evidence that bystanders are more effective at stopping racism than people who ae victims of it.

“The [AFL and clubs] should at least trialling a zero tolerance approach where all the players are expected to call it out.”

She also said when people heard a racist nickname or comment, leaders needed to take responsibility to stop them and stamp such behaviour out of an organisation.

Farquharson, who is also the head of the School of Social and Political Sciences at Melbourne University, said there was a reason why leagues, clubs and individuals did not put in place zero tolerance policies and thought complaints policies were sufficient.

“The reason is because it’s hard to do and it also involves giving up a bit of power, so it requires some bravery to actually come out and say ‘we are going to make this change and we are not going to tolerate that’,” Farquharson said.

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She said under such a policy, action could have been taken when Swans champion Adam Goodes was being booed by fans, an action that the AFL eventually conceded was motivated by racism.

“The players on both teams could have said as long as he is getting booed we are not playing. We don’t tolerate that kind of abuse and as long as that is happening we are not playing,” Farquharson said.

Farquharson’s research into managing diversity in junior sport found that taking such action was hard but effective in tackling situations where a player was vilified in junior sport.

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Bond University QAFLW 2021 Leadership Group announced


AFL Queensland has today announced the 2021 Bond University QAFLW leadership group, ahead of this weekend’s opening match between Wilston Grange and University of Queensland at Hickey Park.

QAFLW Club

Captain / Leadership Group Member

Bond Uni

Paris Lightfoot and Shannon Danckert

Coolangatta

Kitara Whap-Farrar

Yeronga

Mia Walsh

UQ

Megan Hunt

Wilston Grange

Jess Matthews and Kristen Tyquin

Coorparoo

Emma McKenzie

Aspley

Courtney Daniec and Ange Lingard

Maroochydore

Rachel Crack

 

The 2021 QAFLW season will kick off on Saturday, February 27th, overlapping with the NAB AFL Women’s competition.

Download 2021 fixture here – Please note; times and venues are subject to change.



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University of Queensland to determine how clownfish see in new research


“Our fish are trained to poke the UV dots that display and get a food reward, but they only get it when they accurately poke the right dot.”

Of 416 trials, 360 saw the fish correctly peck the UV target.

Dr Powell said they can then measure exactly what wavelengths the fish can see, which gives them an idea about what they use that vision for in the wild.

“There seems to be indications, and we’re still researching this, that their white stripes can be more and less reflective of UV light,” he said.

“That seems to be something to do with dominance signalling, so that’s what we’re looking into with them.”

The researchers came up with the relatively simple experiment design almost out of necessity, needing a simple way to measure UV interaction that could be immersed in a fish tank.

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They used commercially available UV-emitting LEDs, which are more commonly used at the dentist to harden dental resin.

Although Dr Powell said it was unlikely the tech would make the jump to human televisions any time soon.

“You’d have to wear sunglasses and sunscreen while watching it, and the resolution is quite low – eight by 12 pixels in a four- by five-centimetre area – so don’t expect to be watching Netflix in ultraviolet anytime soon,” he said.

Dr Karen Cheney said the technology will now allow researchers to expand their knowledge about a range of animals which are known or suspected to see UV light.

“Bees use UV patterns on flowers to locate nectar, for example, and fish can recognise individuals using UV facial patterns,” she said.

“This technology is allowing us to understand how animals see the world, helping answer significant questions about animal behaviour.”

The research has been published in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

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Bush food, native plant products to be developed by Indigenous community and University of Queensland


Dale Chapman, an Indigenous chef and adjunct professor at UQ, is spearheading the project.

“When I first started my apprenticeship, there was nothing like bush food on the menu,” Ms Chapman said.

“It wasn’t until I was head chef at Cafe Le Monde [in Noosa], where I really got introduced to bush foods — and that was 35 years ago.

To do that, Ms Chapman has joined forces with Melissa Fitzgerald, a professor of food science at UQ, who will bring western science into the equation.

“The project is about empowering Indigenous communities to have more say about their businesses, to grow businesses in both bush foods and horticultural plants,” Professor Fitzgerald said.

“For the communities that we’re working with, they have some bush foods that are not in the mainstream market at the moment and they are interested in developing bush food products from those plants.”

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