ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University


Our researchers regularly write Opinion Pieces and Articles for on-line news services such as The Conversation, The Policy Space and more.

  • 2019
  • 2018
  • 2017


"Why Should I Go to School if You Won't Listen to the Educated" - why letting ignorance trump knowledge is a big problem for democracy.

Privileging ignorance over knowledge, rash opinion over reasoned debate, and sectional self-interest over the common good are signs of democratic failure. This means that in liberal democracies like Australia, climate strikes were as much about a political system not working as it should, as they were about the details of environment policy, says Associate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan inThe Policy Space, October 9.

There are differences between free speech, hate speech and academic freedom – and they matter

It is the right to hold opinions and to challenge the opinions of others... There are differences between what is wrong and what is intolerably wrong. There are some views that a free society can’t tolerate explains Associate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan in The Conversation, October 8.

Indigenous people no longer have the legal right to say no to the Adani mine - here’s what it means for equality

The Conversation: Native Title Act and the Adani MineNative title is regulated under the Commonwealth Native Title Act 1993. But the commercial interests of Adani prevailing over the rights of the Wangan and Jagalingou people shows just how fragile the act is, writes  Associate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan in The Conversation, September 5.

Australian democracy demands a proper debate

Openfourm: Australina democracy demands a proper debateEffective government requires an engaged and informed public. It requires serious public debate where people are expected to have well thought out reasons for believing whatever they believe, and a willingness to defend those reasons, listen seriously to the reasons of others and, sometimes, re-think their own views. Yet, presidential style election campaigns grounded in slogans – ‘the top end of town’, ‘have a go, get a go’ – and Tony Abbott’s election winning ‘stop the boats’ in 2013 show that reason is not how politics works. Says Associate Professor Dominic O’Sullivan in his article in Open Forum, August 20.

Forests: Natural capital or exploitable resources

Forests Keunsel OnlineIn this latest article for Kuensel, ILWS PhD student Sangay Wangchuk outlines outline some of the intricate contributions forests make and concludes "Forest is abundant resources Bhutan has, and the domestic demand for wood could be met from the country. However, Bhutan is geographically located in one of the fragile landscapes on earth, prone to climate hazards. The potential use of protection forests to combat shallow slope instabilities is increasingly important and relevant and should be seriously considered," in Keunsel Online, August 10.

Remembering our Rangers on the World Ranger Day

Remembering our RangersILWS PhD student Sangay Wangchuk says "As pressures on nature grow, the survival of endangered animals and their habitats depends, largely, on these men and women. Illegal logging and violent poaching crisis are at an all-time high. The work of rangers has never been more critical. Today, our world stands at a crossroads, with so many of its most emblematic places and biodiversity under immense threat. Thus, on World Ranger Day 2019, let’s all take a moment to remember all rangers, known and unknown, who have paid the ultimate price during the past years," in Kuensal, July 27.

Meet the endangered Bunyip bird living in Australia's rice paddies 

The Conversation - Endangered bunyip birdDr Wayne Robinson is co-author of an article in The Conversation, July 16, based on research done on the endangered Bunyip bird, also called the Australasian bittern, in the Riverina which says the need to incorporate wildlife conservation on farms has never been greater.

Bhutan and global top 10 biodiversity hotspots - A "Fact" check

Bhutan and global top 10 biodiversity hotspotsILWS PhD student Sangay Wangchuk looks at the issue of biodiversity in Bhutan in Kuensal, July 13.

How to improve health outcomes for Indigenous people by making space for self-determination

The Conversation - Improve health outcomes for indigenous peopleAssociate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan writes "Indigenous public policy fails consistently. The research evidence is compelling. Across post-settler colonial societies like New Zealand, Australia and Canada, schooling is not as effective for Indigenous citizens, employment and housing outcomes are not as good, and health outcomes are worse” in an Opinion Piece in The Conversation, July 11.

Can we question our food self-sufficiency wish?

Kuensel - Can we question our food self sufficiency wish?ILWS PhD student Sangay Wangchuk discusses food security in Bhutan in Kuensel, July 6.

Memo to the environment minister: A river does need all its water

River needs waterDrs Paul Humphries and Keller Kopf write an open memo to Sussan Ley, Federal Environment Minister emphasising it is her role to protect rivers in response to her comment "Sometimes the environment doesn’t need all its water but farmers desperately do need water," in The Conversation, June 20.

Budget lessons in the politics of Indigenous self-determination

budget lessons in the politics of Indigenous self-determination"Policymakers’ values influence decisions about how and why money is spent. It is equally important for Māori people and values to hold influence when policy decisions are made" says Associate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan in The Conversation, June 5.

Racism alleged as Indigenous children taken from families – even though state care often fails them

Racism allegedIn 2018, the rate at which Māori babies were removed from their families was four times the rate for the rest of the New Zealand population. Dominic O'Sullivan discusses a case where the New Zealand state tried to remove a newborn Māori baby from his family last week in The Conversation, May 14.

Preventing more fish deaths in the lower Darling

Fish deaths in the Lower DarlingOur final report for the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud, examines the causes of these events summarises what we found and what we recommend to mitigate the potential for repeat events in the future in an article in Open Forum coauthored by Associate Research Professor Lee Baumgartner et al, April 15.

We wrote the report for the minister on fish deaths in the lower Darling – here’s why it could happen again

The Conversation - Fish deaths in the DarlingThe report examines the causes of these events and recommended actions to mitigate the potential for repeat events in the future. The final report, co-authored by Associate Research Professor Lee Baumgartner et al summarises what they found and what they recommend in The Conversation, April 10.

NZ journalists arrested in Fiji have been released but a new era of press freedom is yet to arrive

The Conversation - NZ Journalists arrested in FijiWhat is unusual is Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s decisive intervention in favour of three New Zealand journalists, who were arrested last week as they investigated environmental degradation by a Chinese property developer building a new resort.  Commentary on press freedom in Fiji in the latest article by Associate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan, The Conversation, April 9.

Indigenous Peoples and the UN Sustainable Development Goals

ImpakterAssociate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan writes "Each of the United Nations’ (UN) 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has special relevance for the world’s 500 million indigenous people. They are among the world’s poorest and most alienated from public decision-making. Yet, they are increasingly using international forums like the UN to exercise an assertive and decisive political voice," appearing in Impakter, March 28.

White supremacy and the Australian politics of race

Open Forum March 28Associate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan discusses how white supremacism, the ideology driving the Christchurch killer, is prominent and influential in our politics and says racism’s pervasive influence is a deeper problem for which decisive and unequivocal national leadership is required, in The Open Forum, March 28.

Feral cat cull: why the 2 million target is on scientifically shaky ground

Feral Cat CullAssociate Professor Dale Nimmo et al write that the Australian government’s target of killing 2 million feral cats by 2020 attracted significant public interest and media attention when it was unveiled in 2015. But in their new research, published Feb 19 in Conservation Letters, they explain why it has a shaky scientific foundation in The Conversation, February 20.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: An Eightieth Anniversary Reflection

The Universal Declaration’s inference that everybody is entitled to share public sovereignty exists alongside the UNDRIPs presumption that there is also an extant independent indigenous sovereignty. Recognising co-existence of different though overlapping spheres of authority provides a possible path towards substantive human equality for indigenous peoples as much as for anybody else, writes Associate Prof Dominic O'Sullivan, in The Oxford Human Rights Hub, February 11.

The crown is Māori too - citizenship, sovereignty, and the Treaty of Waitangi  

The Conversation - The crown is Maori tooWhat is the Crown, what is sovereignty and how do these relate to citizenship as it has developed from the British subjecthood that the treaty promised? asks Associate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan in The Conversation, February 8.

We asked five experts: is it safe to run while pregnant?

The Conversation - Running while pregnantMany women love the alone time pounding the pavement for a nice run out in nature, but is this too strenuous? We asked five experts, including the Institute's Professor Rylee Dionigi, if it’s safe to run while pregnant, The Conversation, January 28.

A good plan to help Darling River fish recover exists, so let’s get on with it

The Conversation - Darling River FishDr Lee Baumgartner and Professor Max Finlayson continue the Institute’s input into discussions around the fish kill in the Darling River and remind us the Native Fish Strategy lays out a plan for helping the basin’s fish communities recover from where they are now, at 10% of pre-European levels (0% in some parts), back to 60% over 50 years in The Conversation, January 21.


Lessons from New Zealand on the 'duty to consult' First Nations

The Conversation - Lessons from New ZealandThe complexities and limits of the Crown's "duty to consult" over decisions affecting First Nations' rights is discussed in A/Prof Dominic O'Sullivan's latest Conversation article, November 30.

For the first time we've looked at every threatened bird in Australia side-by-side

The Conversation - Threatened BirdsHow do you measure the success of conservation efforts? Professor Dave Watson and 17 colleagues from a dozen Australian universities along with scientists and private researchers have created a metrics of progress to understand how to manage threats of different intensity and how well that management has been implemented, they describe their analysis of Australian birds in this new article in The Conversation, November 27.

Bainimarama wins again in Fiji, helped by muzzling the media, unions and the church

The Conversation - Fijian election winAssociate Professor Dominic O’Sullivan’s analysis of the results of the Fijian election argues that restrictions on free speech mean that there is no way of testing popular Fijian opinion.  He says “It may have been a free vote. But the conditions for an informed vote – scrutiny and robust debate - were not present” in his piece appearing in The Conversation, November 20.

Two past coup leaders face off in Fiji general election

The Conversation - Fijian electionAssociate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan explores the issues as Fiji faces a general election on Wednesday, just as Australia’s main political parties devote more attention to the western Pacific, driven by worries about China’s growing influence in his opinion piece in The Conversation November 12.

Re-imagining the sovereign: An Indigenous case study in citizenship, self-determination and democratic inclusivity.

Reimagining the sovereignIn his recent article, Associate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan says “Sovereignty is the embodiment of real political power. People should not feel perpetually excluded from it and there are ways in which public authority can be distributed more fairly and to recognise Maori self-determination.” in the Discover Society, November 6.

Dingo dinners: what's on the menu for Australia's top predator?

The Conversation - Dingo DinnersThe dingo is Australia’s largest land-based predator, occurring across most of the mainland and on many nearshore islands. Associate Professor Dale Nimmo et al's new research has found what dingoes eat depends on where they live. A new paper published in the journal Mammal Review, reveals the breadth and diversity of dingo diets across the continent and the dingo's varied diet is

Why a separate holiday for Indigenous Australians misses the point

The Conversation - A separate holiday for Indigenous AustraliansAssociate Professor Dominic O’Sullivan says “The only moral defence in favour of celebrating Australia Day on 26 January is to somehow find a way to make it genuinely inclusive. Proponents of the day, particularly Morrison, need to show the political vision that takes the country beyond the dispossession and exclusion that Australia Day represents for some people.” in the Conversation on September 27.

What the world needs now to fight climate change: More swamps

the Conversation - Drain thw swamp“Drain the swamp” has long meant getting rid of something distasteful. Actually, the world needs more swamps – and bogs, fens, marshes and other types of wetlands. A new article by Professor Max Finalyson et al in The Conversation, September 12.

Planned closures of charter schools in New Zealand prompt debate about Māori self-determination

The Conversation - Closure of charter schools in NZThe New Zealand government’s decision to close charter schools has prompted criticism from Māori leaders because some of the schools have predominantly Māori rolls. Professor Dominic O'Sullivan discusses the complexity of the politics of Maori policy issues which are larger than just the charter schools in The Conversation, August 30.

Expunging the criminal records of kids in care does not absolve the state’s injustices against them

Dr Katherine McFarlane says "the Victorian proposal fails to acknowledge the ongoing harm that state practices had on thousands of people. It is also silent on the ongoing criminalisation of children in care today," in The Conversation, July 30.

Racism, citizenship and schooling: why we still have some way to go

The Conversation - Racism, citizenship and schoolingRacism means people experience citizenship differently. It means opportunities and capacities are not equally available to every citizen and egalitarian justice, the idea of a “fair go” for everyone, doesn’t work as it’s intended.  Associate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan explores the why some people don't get a fair go at school in The Conversation, July 6.

Victoria’s treaty with Indigenous peoples must address vexed questions of sovereignty

The Conversation - Indigenous TreatySovereignty is a type political authority. But it is relative and relational to the political authority of others. Associate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan discusses the challenges and constraints to be faced in the treaty negotiations with Indigenous people in The Conversation, June 25.

Feeding frenzy: public accuse the media of deliberately fueling shark fear

The Conversation - Feeding Frenzy

Are you scared of sharks? If you never read or watched the news, would you still be?  Associate Professor Peter Simmons and Dr Michael Mehmet discuss their findings from a running series of focus groups in coastal communities in New South Wales last year in their article in The Conversation, June 22.

Australia relies on volunteers to monitor its endangered species

The Conversation - volunteers monitoring engangered speciesThe efforts of unpaid volunteers to monitor Australia's threatened species and the threats posed by the cutting of funding for biodiversity conservation and protection by Professor Dave Watson, with co-authors Dr Matthew Webb and Dr Dejan Stojanovic from the Australian National University, The Conservation, June 11.

Feral horses are incompatible with a world heritage area.  It is one or the other

Feral Horses in World Heritage AreasIn his opinion piece in The Guardian, Professor Dave Watson explains his reasoning behind the decision to resign from the NSW Government’s Threatened Species Scientific Committee following that Government’s passing of its “brumby bill” which gives horses special dispensation to roam freely in the Kosciuszko National Park.  He outlines why that the decision showed a willful disregard for science, The Guardian June 11.

Liberal citizenship, sovereignty, democracy and the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous people

UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peopleThe Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was drafted by an indigenous working group and adopted by the United Nations in 2007. Only four member-states were opposed – Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America. While these states subsequently reversed their positions, it was only after ‘reading down’ the Declaration’s significance to view it as merely aspirational’.  Associate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan discusses current implications for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in his article in Discover Society, June 5.

The female tradie shortage: why real change requires a major cultural shift

The Conversation - Female Tradie ShortageILWS researchers Dr Donna Bridges, A/Prof Branka Krivokapic-Skoko, Dr Larissa Bamberry and CSU researchers Dr Elizabeth Wulff and Ms Stacey Jenkins have been leading a research project that has shown that boosting the number of women in the manual trades requires cultural shifts in society as much as within the industries themselves in The Conversation, June 1.

University funding debates should be broadened to reflect their democratic purpose

The Conversation - University Funding"The university’s most important strength is its intellectual independence and the academic freedom that assures that independence. Research for government or for industry is not independent"  A/Prof Dominic O'Sullivan argues that the funding is too narrowly focused and needs also to consider the university’s democratic purpose in his latest article in The Conversation, May 29.

It will take decades, but the Murray Darling Basin Plan is delivering environmental improvements

The Conversation - Murray-Darling Basin Plan"Our main reason for writing this article was to try to let people know that within the operating environment we’ve got (the volume of water, restrictions on release rates, limited ability to get water onto floodplains, etc.) good things ARE being achieved for the environment. That seems to be a message being lost in much of the media."  An article in The Conversation co-authored by LTIM leaders including ILWS's Prof Robyn Watts, A/Prof Skye Wassens, May 1.

Media reporting on women in the military is preserving a male dominated culture

The Conversation - Women in the Millitary"Given the power of the media in influencing and shaping public opinion, how gendered power and gender inequality are discussed in the media is critical to how women are perceived in society," says Dr Donna Bridges in the co-authored The Conversation article, April 23,  "How the media represent men’s sexual violence and women’s struggles to participate in a male-dominated institution enhances or inhibits the potential for real change."

The Nursing and Midwifery Codes of Conduct: Privilege, Prejudice and the Indigenous Citizen

A/Prof Dominic O'Sullivan argues a society that needs to debate the merits of a professional body instructing its members to avoid biased, discriminatory or racist practice is likely to have wide differentials in health outcomes across population groups in his article in The Policy Space, April 4.

I've always wondered: can two chickens hatch out of a double-yolk?

Dr Maggie Watson answers the double-yolk to chicken question in the Conversation series "I've always wondered...." where readers send in questions they would like an expert to answer, March 30.

Nine Ways to fix

The Conversation - Nine ways to fix Great little article: Australia's draft 'Strategy for nature' doesn't cut it. Here are nine ways to fix it.  The Conversation article has been co-authored by ILWS ecologist A/Prof Dale Nimmo, March 16.

Child Protection

The Conversation - Child ProtectionDr Katherine McFarlane's comments in her article in the Conversation on the child protection report  "amidst all the statistics, tables and figures, one crucial measure for benchmarking, identifying and acting on child abuse is missing, March 9.

Australia could look to New Zealand

Associate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan writes about the role that universities might play in Indigenous people’s education and research as part of a series in The Conversation exploring ideas for reforming higher education in Australia, March 2.

Indigenous health

The Conversation - Indigenous HealthA model for self-determination in health policy proposed by A/Prof Dominic O'Sullivan in Open Forum Feb 21.

New Zealand vote on euthanasia

Associate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan's 50th published opinion piece was in The Conversation, January 31. It was about New Zealand's conscience vote on euthanasia which Dominic says exposes the democratic weakness of New Zealand's voting system.

Citizenship, democracy and the political determinants of indigenous health

Associate Professor Dominic O’Sullivan says that while Indigenous health receives significant public expenditure, it remains a matter of public policy failure. Solutions require a philosophical reconsideration of the meaning of Indigenous citizenship and opportunities for Indigenous policy deliberation. Published in The Policy Space, Jan 30.

Indigenous recognition matters

Associate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan says that the Australian Constitution does not mention Indigenous people and that while Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten appointed a Referendum Council to consider options for constitutional recognition of Australia's First People in 2015, this is a symbolic, though politically inconsequential, amendment. Opinion Piece in The Conversation, Jan 18, 2018.


Exaggerating the value of wetlands

Prof M FinlaysonA new article by ILWS Adjunct Dr Matthew McCartney and ILWS Director Prof Max Finlayson 'Exaggerating the value of wetlands for natural disaster mitigation is a risky business' has been published on February 2 in The Conversation.It was picked up by the online news environment guru, Feb 3.

Benefits of being outside

Institute Adjunct Assistant Professor Dr Shelby Gull Laird and CSU lecturer in Early Childhood Studies Dr Laura McFarland are co-authors of a piece in The Conversation titled "Five way kids can benefit from being outside this summer break, published January 10.

Remembering a rock god

Dr Emma Rush, a lecturer in Philosophy & Ethics, is one of the authors of a piece in The Conversation commenting on the life (and death) of Chuck Berry, March 20.

Guaranteed Indigenous seats in parliament

Associate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan shares his views on NSW Greens MP Dawn Walker's inaugural speech on why guaranteed Indigenous seats in parliament could ease inequality in an article in The Conversation

Impact of domestic dogs

Associate Professor Dale Nimmo on "The bark side: domestic dogs threaten endangered species world-wide," May 2

Widespread invasive species control is a risky business

Widespread riskWhile projects to remove invasive species may yield great benefits, we must be aware of the potential risk of unexpected and undesirable outcomes say Drs R. Keller Kopf, Dale Nimmo and Paul Humphries in the Conversation, May 24.

Indigenous people and a liberal politics of potential

Indigeneity is a politics of potential; a theory of human agency that provides an indigenous framework for thinking about how to engage liberal societies in discourses of reconciliation, self-determination and sovereignty. Associate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan writes for Policy Press, University of Bristol, June 7.

Why we need more than just extra water to save the Murray-Darling Basin Plan

Institute Director Professor Max Finlayson and Dr Lee Baumgartner, together with Professor Peter Gell from Federation University, Ballarat, have written an Opinion Piece titled "More than just extra water needed".  The Conversation on June 30

Language and the right to identity

Associate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan wrote a blog for Open Forum, July 3, during NAIDOC 2017 Week's theme Our languages matter.  His opinion piece suggests that languages matter because they allow people to think in ways that are culturally contextualised for

Nurses participation in murder

Professor Linda Shields has written a post about the participation of nurses in tens of thousands state sanctioned murders in Nazi era Europe in Croakey, July 17

I Have Always Wondered…

The Conversation have begun a new series where readers send in questions they'd like an expert to answer.  Drs Maggie Watson and James Van Dyke answered the question "When do baby birds begin to breathe?"  on August 27

Opinion piece in the Canadian Conversation

Associate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan has had an opinion piece titled "What New Zealand's vote means for Maori -- and potentially First Nations in Canada" which has had more than 15,000 reads and was the Conversation's most read article in the week it was published on September 26.

Australia's species need an independent champion

Drs Geoffrey Heard and Dale Nimmo were among the seven authors of an article in The Conversation, Oct 12,  calling for the role of the Federal Government's Threatened Species Commissioner to be strengthened and made independent. It was picked up by, Oct 12

Why the Indigenous in New Zealand have fared better than those in Canada

Indigenous peoples of Canada and New Zealand share similar experiences as subjects of British colonialism yet the Maori have fared better says Associate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan in his piece in Conversation Canada, Oct 16

Why chickens don't look down

Dr Maggie Watson, as part of the "I've Always Wondered" series in The Conversation has answered the question to "I've always wondered: why don't chickens look down when they scratch? October 21

Economics of prison

Dr Katherine McFarlane was among a group of academics interviewed for a Business Briefing: questioning the economics of prison, in a piece for The Conversation, Oct 31.

Australia Denies Political Participation as an Indigenous Human Right

Associate Professor Dominic O'Sullivan explores lack of political will and other challenges for the national Parliament to hear representative indigenous perspectives on policy priorities in his piece for the Oxford Human Rights Hub on November 15.

World first continental acoustic observatory 

Professor Dave Watson explains why Australia is the perfect candidate for a continent-wide recording array in his article in The Conversation, November 30