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Flowers cover Sydney’s Martin Place, where two hostages were killed on Tuesday morning. AAP/Nikki Short

Public mourning: a brief history

The sea of flowers and messages of condolence in Sydney’s Martin Place is reminiscent of public mourning in the Victorian era. At that time, it was common for over a thousand people to attend a public…
A woman views the floral memorial outside the fenced off Lindt Chocolate cafe in Martin Place in Sydney. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

Could the Sydney siege have been predicted and prevented?

It’s the question everyone is asking – could the Sydney siege have been predicted and therefore prevented based on the past behaviour of gunman Man Haron Monis. Monis' troubled history was well known to…
The science of astronomy has existed for thousands of years and forms a vital part of Indigenous Australian culture. Ben Ashmole/flickr

Speaking with: Duane Hamacher on Indigenous astronomy

Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people have between 40,000 and 60,000 years of pre-colonial history that includes stories of constellations they observed in the night sky and traditions that align…
There are ways for the media to cover stories such as the Sydney siege without committing gross ethical violations. AAP/Joel Carrett

News Corp’s siege coverage built on a ‘take-no-prisoners’ culture

AUST gets wake-call with Sydney terror. Only Daily Telegraph caught the bloody outcome at 2.00 am. Congrats.— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) December 15, 2014 In one brutally insensitive tweet, Rupert…
In the dark? Ignoring revenue has stymied Australia’s budget debate. Shutterstock

Without revenue, Australia can only have half a budget debate

The missing element in this week’s mid-year economic and fiscal outlook, and more broadly, in current government policy, stares Australians in the face. Revenue needs to be increased. Increasing taxes…
The Great Southern case was Victoria’s largest ever class action and involved 22,000 group members and individual plaintiffs. David Crosling/AAP

Great Southern class action calls for debate on lawyers fees

The failed Great Southern class action, which saw lawyers receive substantially more compensation than victims, could be seen as making the case for contingency fees. The Productivity Commission recently…
Large numbers of people who do not normally attend church still go there to celebrate Christmas. ManImMac

The church has left Christmas Day to the heathen … maybe

In my home city of Melbourne, an extraordinary cultural and religious drama is played out on Christmas Eve each year at the intersection of Flinders and Swanston Streets. Thousands of people mill around…
Prime Minister Tony Abbott needs to contain the backbiting and discontent in the higher reaches of his government. AAP/Lukas Coch

Grattan on Friday: Being a ‘better government’ will be a big job

After getting a serious bollocking from Ray Hadley on Thursday, Tony Abbott told the Sydney shock jock that he’s determined to be “a better prime minister with a better government and a more effective…
There is tension between the need for governments to be trusted to govern and the public’s right to know. AAP/Mal Fairclough

FOI reform needed in Victoria amid East West Link fallout

The disclosure of the full business case for the East West road link in Melbourne confirmed what many had suspected – the project is a dud. The release also unequivocally shows that the Victorian Freedom…
Along with governments, doctors, and infectious disease experts, the media have a duty to help halt the spread of Ebola with responsible reporting. EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET

A tale of two epidemics: media reporting on Ebola

Time magazine has named health workers caring for Ebola victims in West Africa as its “Person of the Year 2014” and compared them to “military special forces who volunteered to fight the epidemic when…
There’s a balance between service providers' responsiveness and responsibility when it comes to online abuse. Stefan/Flickr

Facebook and Google have a moral duty to stop online abuse

It’s the stuff of nightmares: your intimate images are leaked and posted online by somebody you thought you could trust. But in Australia, victims often have no real legal remedy for this kind of abuse…
Artist’s impression of New Horizons as it swings past the dwarf planet Pluto, in July 2015. NASA

Rise and shine! New Horizons awakes ahead of a date with Pluto

While the Mars Rovers and the Rosetta spacecraft will continue to make headlines in 2015, the stage is set for the solar system’s next great mission – the Pluto-bound New Horizons. Discovered in 1930…
‘Plates of the Outback’ - A supercell thunderstorm near Urana, NSW drifts over the landscape. John Allen

Australia faces a stormier future thanks to climate change

The supercell that hit Brisbane on November 27 this year caused more than A$500 million worth of damage, produced hail up to 7.5 cm in diameter, and lashed the city with winds of more than 140 km an hour…
Many have argued that exams are pointless, especially in higher education where deep learning is the aim. But they still have their uses. ZELIG SCHOOL

Exams might be stressful, but they improve learning

In recent weeks, students across high school and university classrooms have been breathing sighs of relief. Exams are officially over, and celebrations have begun. For many students, exams seem a necessary…
A$1.8 billion is no longer available to help populations in our neighbouring countries achieve a decent standard of health. Gates Foundation/Flickr

How cuts to foreign aid will reduce health care in the region

The federal government’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook announcement this week to cut the foreign aid budget by a further A$3.7 billion over three years is unprecedented. The current government has…
It seems we’ll never produce the evidence to eliminate faith – or doubt. Jerry Worster

Examine what we know and choose your own personal Jesus

Christmas is bound to produce a few questions about Jesus Christ – as was the case with a recent article on The Conversation on the lack of evidence for a “historical Jesus”. Such questions bleed in to…
Something to ponder – how to teach critical thinking. Brittany Randolph/Flickr

How to teach all students to think critically

All first year students at the University of Technology Sydney could soon be required to take a compulsory maths course in an attempt to give them some numerical thinking skills. The new course would be…
Real and sustained engagement with Aboriginal people should be the starting point in rethinking Indigenous welfare policy. AAP/Marianna Massey

Income management doesn’t work, so let’s look at what does

In recent years, Tangentyere Council Research Hub has undertaken data collection in Alice Springs town camps as part of a longitudinal study of income management. The final report of around 300 pages was…
Pilots have the privilege of a birds-eye view, but should they resist the temptation to snap from the cockpit? Frans Zwart/Flickr

When ‘selfies’ extend to plane cockpits, pilots could land themselves in trouble

Last week, Quartz published an article showcasing photographs pilots have taken from the cockpit of aircraft to post on Instagram. As explained in the story, by taking these photos – many of which appear…
The government has foreshadowed they’ll announce a “families package” next year, what form should it take? AAP

What do Australians need in a ‘families package’?

There are a lot of babies around, and the numbers are increasing. However, Australia does not have coherent policies that recognise the effect of parenting on workforce participation and vice versa. Parenting…
It’s time for The Conversation quiz. Don’t let Dicky win. DuMont Television/Wikimedia Commons

The Conversation’s super summer quiz

Been paying attention this year? Or has 2014 passed you by in a blur? Find out, with our summer quiz looking back at some of the memorable – some preferably forgettable? – moments of the year. Answers…