Tag: La Trobe University

The battle for Hindi at La Trobe: Ball in the University’s court

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By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 27 November 2020: The decision of the La Trobe University to scrap its Hindi teaching has generated unprecedented opposition from all sections of society. Political parties, community groups, and members have called upon the University to rescind its decision. The ‘Hindi Action Group’ which spearheaded the opposition roped in political leaders and the community highlighting the issue.

A signature campaign that attracted 2,463 people has been submitted to the Vice-Chancellor of La Trobe University. Reports indicate the matter has been taken up by a Consultative Committee of the University. Earlier, Ian Woodford who teaches Hindi there submitted a proposal to help the university in this matter plagued by post COVID revenue shortfall and falling student numbers.

Saksham Katyal, volunteer ‘Hindi Action Group’ says, “A language is a bridge between two and supporting Hindi will become a bridge of prosperity for both India and Australia.”

“The response from all quarters has been positive and now the ball is in the court of the La Trobe University to take a positive decision, ” says Vikrant Kishore, filmmaker & academic, actively working on the issue.

Some suggestions made to the University are:

1.Alternatives that allow the university to maintain a Hindi program for less cost, while also attracting more students.
2.The university must take into account the overwhelming support that the Hindi program has received from the public, politicians, and community groups.
3.Since multiple federal ministers have indicated a willingness to explore funding options, thus, it would be premature to close the Hindi Program before the Vice Chancellor’s office has a chance to engage directly with these ministers.
4.The Review Committee at La Trobe must request the Vice Chancellor’s office to do engage with politicians, and the community to understand their sentiment/response, and how best they can utilize the support offered.
5.We hope that some arrangement can be made for 3 years of support for the Hindi Language Programme at La Trobe, to help us get through the crisis.
6.We would support any University campaign to raise awareness of the Hindi program among students from India.
7.If immediate commitment cannot be obtained from the government, in that case, one year delay on any decision, so that we continue to explore various possibilities.
8.In case if it is decided that the Hindi major must be eliminated, we would like to urge the University to keep a core number of Hindi subjects operating. These would be electives that operate as “service subjects” to other programs and departments in the university.

The ‘Hindi Action Group’ reveals Federal Labor’s Peter Khalil Member For Wills, Matthew Guy MP, Victoria, Senator Janet Rice, Australian Greens, Intaj Khan, former Councillor Wyndham City Council among others have raised the issue or written letters to concerned authorities.

Federal Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs has assured the ‘Hindi Action Group’ during a telephonic conference he will help the community stop the La Trobe University from scrapping the Hindi program. His assurance came after a telephonic discussion with the Group.

Meanwhile, the Indian Consul General Mr. Raj Kumar has assured all support and assistance to help the community retain the Hindi program at the University. Mr. Raj Kumar was talking to a delegation of community members who met him recently at the Indian Consulate briefing him about the latest in the issue and the background behind it.

He is likely to meet the La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor soon and is calling a community meeting to discuss the matter.

The ‘Hindi Action Group’ has been inundated with phone calls and emails of support for raising the issue and taking it to its possible logical conclusion.

Minister Jason Wood assures support to stop La Trobe scrapping Hindi program

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By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 23 November 2020: Federal Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs today assured the ‘Hindi Action Group’ during a telephonic conference that he will help the community stop the La Trobe University from scrapping it’s Hindi language program.

The university has decided to scrap the Hindi program saying it is facing a financial crunch along with dwindling student numbers.

The Minister listened to a brief on the subject from Ian Woolford, who teaches Hindi at the university and why it was essential to retain the same. Many others from the Hindi Action Group also expressed their views urging the Minister for Federal action on this issue.

The Minister has assured to talk to the Federal Education Minister and wait for the feedback he needs from the university which Ian will help obtain.

“I also want the Hindi language program to expand beyond its present reach.” the Minister said.

Campaign heats up to stop La Trobe University scrapping Hindi language program

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By Neeraj Nanda

La Trobe University is one of the two Universities, the other being the ANU which offers Hindi in its curriculum. A post-COVID financial crunch with collapsing revenues and funding cuts by the Federal Government, most universities are planning to cut many Humanities subjects. And, Hindi along with Greek and Indonesian are the ones likely to be scrapped by the La Trobe University. The planned axing of Hindi has created an uproar with a signature campaign against the move by supporters of the Hindi program, Hindi speakers in the Indian community, and academics gaining pace.

Renowned India expert Robin Jeffery (retired La Trobe Professor) has in a letter to the Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Education, and Penny Wong says is it not possible from the large sums committed to Australian overseas diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific to create a fund to support institutions to maintain strategic languages of the Indo-Pacific, particularly Hindi and Indonesian? (Chinese and Japanese are more widely taught and supported). The cost of a talented senior lecturer is about $160,000 a year, including on costs.

As news of La Trobe’s intention spreads in educational circles in India it will confirm the too-common attitude that ‘Australia doesn’t want our students; it wants their money.

I urge you in the national interest to make provision to support strategic languages of the Indo-Pacific, he says.

In his overview, Ian Woolford, who teaches Hindi at the La Trobe University says,” If Hindi is eliminated at the university. it will be very difficult to reinstate once the financial situation has improved. It is crucial that we maintain a Hindi presence in the curriculum.”

To overcome the situation, he says, “We propose to eliminate the Hindi major, but retain Hindi instruction in a slimmed-down form that is better situated within the university.” And,

- While it is sad to see the major go, there is also an exciting opportunity for Hindi here. Most students who want to study Hindi do not do so as Hindi majors. Rather, they want to add on some Hindi to their main degrees.

- A slimmed-down Hindi program better meets this need of students.

- By reducing the number of Hindi subjects, and rebranding Latrobe Hindi as a series of electives targeted at students in other disciplines (such as International Relations, Archaeology, and Health fields), we are in a position to grow Hindi enrolment numbers and create better synergy with other courses of study at the university.

- It will not cost the university money to pursue this plan. This is a very important point! The Hindi lecturer also teaches heavily in the Asian Studies program. Those Asian Studies subjects need to be covered. As we are proposing to reduce Hindi subject offerings, the Hindi lecturer can cover both the Asian Studies subjects and the Asian Studies subjects.

“Yes this is a difficult time, but this challenge presents a good opportunity to reshape the Hindi curriculum, reduce cost, and set Latrobe Hindi up in a much stronger position as a service area for multiple disciplines within the university. This proposal has little or no cost attached, given the realities of staffing needs within Asian Studies, Ian says.

Melbourne each year celebrates ‘Hindi Diwas’ with speeches, poetry recital, and a pledge to enhance Hindi. Is that all rhetoric? There are only three Hindi students in La Trobe this year but the urge to retain Hindi at the University is strong.

Last year Bollywood mega-star Shah Rukh Khan was honored with an honorary doctorate last year, and the La Trobe chancellor gave a speech during the ceremony highlighting our commitment to Hindi. What kind of message does this send to cancel Hindi a year later?

Migrating increases diabetes risk for South Asians: La Trobe Univ. research

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MELBOURNE, 14 October: The stress of migrating to a new country can take its toll on an individual. There is the need to adapt to a new society and culture, and many struggles to establish links within their own ethnic community. The strain can have a detrimental effect on mental and physical health and impair the management of conditions such as type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Dr. Sabrina Gupta, a lecturer in the School of Psychology and Public Health at La Trobe University, has been researching the effects of migration stress when it comes to the development of lifestyle diseases. Her work has focused on South Asian populations that have migrated to Australia, primarily Indian and Sri Lankan.

Working with Dr. Rosalie Aroni of the Australian National University and Professor Helena Teede of Monash University, Dr. Gupta’s recent study focused on the experience and perception of physical exercise amongst South Asian migrants in managing these diseases.

“Researchers studying the physical activity levels amongst South Asian migrant groups in developed nations have found that they take part in less structured exercise,” says Dr. Gupta. “It’s important to work out why this is the case, not just for their individual health and well-being, but for the potential impact on the healthcare system.”

Dr. Gupta interviewed South Asian individuals with either type 2 diabetes or CVD and compared the results with those of a similar cohort of Anglo-Australian participants that she also interviewed. Designing the study this way allowed a direct comparison between participation and attitudes towards physical activity, diet, and lifestyle choices associated with disease management.

The researchers found different practices and attitudes when it came to approaching physical activity, despite both groups showing awareness and acknowledgment of its benefits. Anglo-Australian participants reported dedicating time for exercise, while South Asians largely described their physical activity as ‘unplanned’.

“South Asian migrants do not prioritize physical exercise, and their approach is to treat it as a social experience,” says Dr. Gupta. “When they migrate to Australia the social aspect of their life can suffer. Their diet can change dramatically, and they undertake worryingly low levels of physical activity when compared with Anglo-Australians with type 2 diabetes and/or cardiovascular disease (CVD).”

Anglo-Australians perceived exercise and organized sport as the primary forms of physical activity to be undertaken to prevent disease and maintain health. It was often a planned event, with dedicated time, and at times a solitary practice.

In contrast, South Asians sought little dedicated time for exercise. They construed all movement as physical activity and viewed taking “time out” to exercise as selfish as it was viewed as taking time away from the family which did not accord with their cultural norms.

“The data showed clear divides between perceptions of exercise and socio-cultural priorities,” says Dr. Gupta. “South Asians considered themselves more family-oriented than Anglo-Australians, with many commenting that they had less time for personal pursuits and felt guilty about taking their time away from family if they exercised.”

“For South Asians exercise is very much tied to their ethnic identities, through communities and families setting group goals,” says Dr. Gupta. “Once they come to Australia they desire to retain these cultural norms but can have trouble making connections in the community. Their diet is also adapted to some extent to accommodate what is available domestically.”

Similar studies about South Asians have been carried out in the United Kingdom and Canada and participants in those studies reported similar levels of exercise and attitudes to physical activity, but a very different level of knowledge regarding benefits. South Asians in Australia were aware of the need for sufficient physical activity in maintaining health with type-2 diabetes and CVD, but this had little impact on the levels of activity undertaken.

“The differences in knowledge levels between migrants to Australia and other countries could be explained by the effectiveness of health promotion campaigns and the strong presence of exercise as an Australian cultural value,” says Dr. Gupta. “Despite this exercise levels among South Asians remain unchanged and this is a matter of significant concern.”

Respondents to Dr. Gupta’s study expressed a desire for more detailed advice from healthcare providers, with culturally tailored programs specifying the type, duration, and intensity of physical activities presented in appropriate formats for different ethnic groups.

“A number of South Asian respondents acknowledged a general lack of motivation to be active or eat healthily,” says Dr. Gupta. “Clinicians need to provide advice that recognizes the need to conduct physical activity with the family. If there is greater alignment between exercise and cultural values it may make health promotion activities more successful. This could be an area for future research.”

Source: La Trobe University Newsletter, October 2019.