How the death of Harambe killed our sense of compassion

Ohio’s Cincinnati Zoo has unwillingly entered the public spotlight after a four year old boy fell into the gorilla enclosure last Sunday.

The incident, which resulted in the shooting of the zoo’s 17-year old gorilla – Harambe – was tragic to say the least. However, even more tragic has been the public’s response to abuse and attack the parents of the four-year old child on social media.

First there were the memes that went viral, shared and liked by some hundreds of thousands of users. Plastered onto an enlarged photo of Harambe, the words “Not sure why they killed me, I was doing a better job of looking after that lady’s kid than she was” reads one meme. “I was killed because a b*tch wasn’t watching her child” reads another.

The main arguments fuelling the vilification of the boy’s parents are reflected in these two memes:

  1. The gorilla was protecting the child rather than posing any serious danger
  2. The gorilla was killed due to the inability of the parents to properly look after their own son

It is true that Harambe appeared to display affection akin to that of a mother through the tender and gentle way he handled the boy in portions of the video. However, other parts of the video (that were often filtered from the media coverage) left viewers’ in genuine concern and panic at seeing the boy being dragged through the enclosure like a rag doll. An Australian animal expert came out and solidified this theory by stating that the Silverback gorilla species are not aggressive creatures and that the gorilla was most likely protecting the young child from the pandemonium ignited by the onlooking crowd.

If the video proved anything at all it was the erratic nature of the whole situation. Yes the gorilla showed nonthreatening behaviour, but it also showed aggression too. But the fact of the matter is that it was an unpredictable situation where the safety of the young child was something the zoo authorities were not willing to gamble on. And rightly so.

Second, is the bashing of the parents competence to look after their son. The public is so outraged at the so-called negligence of the parents that a petition. has even been created. In what has probably been the most ridiculous petition ever to have circulated, the supporters argue that the carelessness of the parents have made them the sole cause of Harambe’s fate. And just when you think the petition couldn’t cross the line any further, readers come across:

“We believe that this negligence may be reflective of the child’s home situation. We the undersigned actively encourage an investigation of the child’s home environment in the interests of protecting the child and his siblings from further incidents of parental negligence that may result in serious bodily harm or even death.”

More than the futility of this Justice for Harambe petition, what has baffled me is the whopping 415,579 signatures it has gathered to date. That’s 415,579 who are adamant that the parents must be punished and that’s 415, 579 who have clearly never spent more than a few seconds with a child.

Children are mischievous. Children are stubborn. And children certainly don’t understand what is good and harmful to them. If that young boy really wanted to get into the gorilla enclosure, what could make anyone think that the forbiddance of his parents could ever quench that desire? The point is that this four year old tried – and succeeded! Does the fact that a child managed to get into an animal enclosure not raise huge security and safety concerns? I know many parents who would have been quick on their feet to demand compensation from the zoo to alleviate the mental and physical damage endured to their family. Instead, this family showed gratitude for the actions taken by the authorities to prevent their child from further harm (which also received backlash).

Do we attribute a parent losing their child in a busy shopping centre on their lack of parenting skills? Do we blame the parents of children who are kidnapped, with the “you should have looked after your child more attentively” attack? Or do we understand that tragedy can strike during the split seconds we become preoccupied and offer them sympathy for the unimaginable circumstances they have found themselves in? But somehow it’s a whole different ballgame for these parents who could have prevented this incident had they – as thousands out there believe – “kept a closer watch on their child.”

Unfortunate circumstances arise from our mistakes more often than we would like to. Right now, the parents are probably in a deep pool of self-loathing which has been well and truly been exacerbated by the public’s reaction. In a time where society has chosen to crucify the innocent, my thoughts are with the traumatised little boy, his vulnerable parents and the authoritarian who was forced to shoot down one of his beloved animals. I cannot imagine being made to feel like the perpetrator of a tragic occurrence that was out of my control.

Yes, the Silverback gorilla is an already endangered species that should be preserved. Yes, the gorilla was killed due to no fault of his own. And yes, Harambe did appear to protect the child in parts of the video. Yet none of these reasons could ever have been good enough to risk the life of this four-year old boy. And I hope those who vigorously support the attacking of these parents will soon find it within their conscience to divert this anger to empathy instead. What if it was your child?

The Rio Olympics, Zika virus and the pressing questions Brazil must consider

In the past few weeks, two words in particular have been saturating our media coverage: Zika Virus. As many as 46 countries have reported some level of Zika infection and with 130 countries operating as a home to the Aedes Aegypti mosquito (the carrier of the Zika infection) – it can only be concluded that the rapid spread of the noxious virus will intensify in the weeks to come.

The Zika virus was first discovered in monkeys in 1947, with the first human contraction recorded in 1952. Just like the resurfacing of the Ebola virus which rocked the Africas up until late last year, the Second Coming of the Zika virus has proven to be far more intense and transmissible than previously prognosticated. Though in early 2016 it was reported that the Zika virus allegedly only infected expecting mothers, new developments are being made nearly everyday which continues to ignite alarm over the severity of the disease on a global scale.

Though unable to be verified with evidence, babies born to Zika-affected mothers are thought to be born with a congenital condition pertinent to a deficiency in brain development. France reported what the country thought to be the first sexually transmitted case of the Zika virus in Europe  less than a week ago. Most recently, a group of scientists’ in Paris claimed to have gathered the “strongest evidence yet” between the Zika virus and the Guillain-Barre syndrome – a neurological condition that can cause paralysis.

With more than 1.5 million cases of active Zika transmission, Brazil remains the hardest hit nation. Thrust under a global spotlight, it is evident that the country has acted as swiftly as possible to find ways to contain the tumult that has unexpectedly come its way. Yet following the abortion debate that reignited following the country’s inundation with microcephaly cases, another pressing conversation must be opened.

Brazil was handed down the baton to host the 2016 Summer Olympic and Paralympic games – beating huge competitors like Tokyo, Doha and Prague for the top spot. With over one million tourists from 203 countries flocking to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the Rio Olympics were anticipated to bring in a mountain of glory to a country suffering its worst recession in the past century. Yet with many countries issuing travel warnings to those planning a trip to Brazil and with a series of airlines issuing refunds for pregnant mothers wanting to cancel their bookings, it comes as no surprise that Brazil’s tourism industry has already started to feel the effects of the global panic the Zika virus has provoked.

Even with news of a woman contracting the Zika virus from within a 2-mile radius of the Olympic Park, the Brazilian government remains adamant that the Rio Olympics will carry on. So far, Brazil has reached 74 percent of the target income it is expecting from ticket sales, though the sale of tickets to Paralympian events has been slower than expected.

According to the World Health Organisation, the most important preventive measures at the moment is the need for mosquito populations and mosquito bites to be controlled. Around 220,000 navy and air-force personnel are participating in a government-run task force aimed at the prevention and fight against the mosquito transmitting the disease to combat breeding grounds in every house. Top medical experts from across the globe are also working with Brazil to research a possible vaccine to tackle this contagious disease. Yet with Brazil still unable to verify a link between the Zika virus and microcephaly thousands of cases later, concerns about whether the country is doing enough has been echoed by many.

If the International Olympic Committee does decide to somehow cancel the Olympics, it would be the sixth time in history the Games have been scrapped (and the only time in history they’ve been changed because of health reasons). Previous cancellations, like Berlin in 1916, were due to international violence. However, that the Zika virus has, in a way, declared war on the globe in a health sense should also be considered. Though the decision to can the Games is an arduous one to say the least, history has shown that in the face of global controversy – it is one that can be made.

With August 5th slowly but surely approaching, the question as whether these preventative measures will be enough to protect the athletes, tourists and citizens who will flock to the Olympics this year needs to be considered. With an estimated $1 trillion dollars being spent on infrastructure planning alone, it is no surprise that Brazil has remained so optimistic in such a tragic time. But the hard questions must be asked and they must truthfully be answered. And the safety of the Olympic athletes and the people of the world must be prioritised in the face of this debilitating disease.

With under 5 months to go and with the eyes of the globe vigorously watching their every move, that Brazil is in a difficult situation is not up for dispute. Yet with the lives of so many in their hands, Brazil without a doubt has some tough questions to face. And whether the country can afford to carry on with the Rio Olympics with the backdrop of the Zika commotion is one that must definitely be considered.

The etiquette lesson Australia’s females didn’t ask for

The ‘I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!’ ad campaigns were ubiquitous to say the least.

It got to a point where I couldn’t sit through some of The Bold & The Beautiful or a bit of Judge Judy without having to watch Dr Chris Brown bring in celebrities from across the globe to the feet of an authoritative Jungle Queen Morris (“not good enough darl – feed her to the crocks!”). But regardless of how overly saturated the IAC ad campaigns were, they were far from unsuccessful because surely enough when the first episode of the show went to air, there I was on my couch, eagerly waiting for the names of the celebrities who would be competing in the African jungle this season to unfold.

And as you could probably conclude from my avid interests in the B&B and Judge Judy, I’m a sucker for this type of television. Trash TV is kind of like junk food as they say – no matter how unhealthy we know it to be, we are still tempted just as much anyway.

So every night at 7.30pm, there I am in front of the telly with my snacks and pillow, ready to watch the celebrities tackle gut-wrenching and vomit inducing challenges for the sake of their camp fellows and ultimately, their chosen charities. I was watching when the little cat-fight between Anthony Callea, Havana Brown and Laurina Fleure took place. I was watching when the first contestant, Courtney Hanocock was evicted. And I was also watching when Shane Warne expressed that ridiculous comment that turned the heads of everyone who heard it.

During dinner preparation time Laurina discussed beans, enzymes and their affect on the human body as she cooked them over the campfire with Havana.

“See the bubbles, that’s what makes you fart, the more you soak them, the less you fart,” she explained.

This prompted an immediate head shaking from Shane because “I don’t normally expect girls to talk about farting.”

Though Prisoner actress, Val Lehman, laughed it off with a ‘That’s very old fashioned of you,’ I couldn’t chuckle along with her because I was still trying to digest Shane Warne’s absurd attack on Laurina.

But it got worse when the scene changed to one with Laurina discussing with Havana about how Shane “likes his women submissive”.

“I find that if I’m talking loudly he refuses to let me enter the conversation. I actually have to lower my voice”, Laurina said. If her statements are true, then Laurina should call out on this type of double standard and disgusting behaviour more often because it has long outlived its days of being tolerated.

Perhaps Warnie hasn’t heard of how we should make sure our own hands are clean before trying to outline the faults of others. Because if I’m not mistaken, this is the same man who lost his Australian vice-captaincy as a result of being caught out sending erotic text messages to a British nurse? And the same man who has been labelled a “sex-maniac” by various tabloids? Is this really the guy who has begun to call out a fellow female contestant for her apparent lack of etiquette?

It’s quite a shame, really, because until last night’s episode – I had grown to be quite fond of Shane. He was turning out to be a pretty good camp leader and his performances in the challenges and willingness to shove rank cocktails down his throat in the hopes of winning some extra meals for the camp have so far been pretty impressive. But funny how some hypocritical and sexist and comments can wash all those good impressions away.

If Shane Warne really wanted to give out lessons on etiquette, he should begin with his daughter. Brooke Warne, 18, was last weekend blasted on social media for an Instagram post she made from a dress up party she attended. Brooke and her friends were dressed up as Jews from the Holocaust (striped pyjamas and all). So start with your own daughter, Shane – because as far as I’m concerned, misappropriating the Holocaust for themed-party purposes calls for a larger outcry than a female who was simply making a comment about natural gas.

And on a final note, here’s a little reality check for you Mr Shane Warne. Women burp, women fart and women will certainly talk in whatever pitch of tone they desire. And if that makes you uncomfortable, then you should think twice before agreeing to go on a so-called reality TV show when your own perception of society is so distorted.

A reflection on January 26

Today is the day we celebrate, expressing our gratitude to this great nation, full of dreams and wealth, which we are privileged to call home. Yet despite the splendid celebrations today, my thoughts will be fixated with those on the other side of this history’s page –  a more sinister and perhaps a conveniently forgotten one.

Today’s the day of Invasion our Indigenous communities are forced to painfully remember. The day the majority of Australians applaud as the day our nation was founded – sealed with a public holiday for extra celebrations – is the same day that marks the beginning of the centuries of suffering inflicted upon our Indigenous counterparts, that is still continuing today. 228 years ago, this same land of dreams and wealth that the Indigenous were privileged to call home was snatched from them. The same land that they built their own families and hopes on was seized, in one of the largest injustices committed by white privilege.

Today’s the day that highlights the need for our governments to do more to close the gap. The laws that were enforced under the British colonisation, that enabled the Stolen Generation, mass genocide against the Indigenous, and the prevention of this community gaining employment or access to basic services became the catalyst to a generation of suffering and disadvantage within the Indigenous communities. To date, our Indigenous population are statistically recorded to have a shorter life expectancy (33% of the male Indigenous population will be dead before they reach the age of 60 compared to 8% of the average non-Indigenous Australian), limited education access (only about 38% of Indigenous students complete year 12, but 76% of non-Indigenous kids do) and poorer health (80% of Aboriginal children have some form of hearing problem by the age of 5). My thoughts will be with the Indigenous communities today, who are lamenting on what life could have been, had their human rights not been completely obliterated by the British invasion centuries ago.

Today’s the day I ponder, why we celebrate a day the Indigenous people lost. Instead of remembering these minorities with the utmost compassion and apologies, we dismiss their ongoing grief with grand celebrations that are insensitive to say the least. I question why the sufferings of these communities, their involuntary sacrifice of their land which we now call our own, is not given due acknowledgement today. Most importantly though, I will explore every nook and cranny of my mind to determine why, for all these years, we have and continue to celebrate this day of Invasion rather than another day – public opinion favours the day we federated – as Australia Day. Today’s a day many of us successfully foil a dark day of our history with opulent celebration. Yet, the truth should not be forgotten. January 26 marks the day the British invaded Australia and destroyed the lives of Indigenous communities. It’s a day that, as I grow older, I cannot understand the logic behind celebrating. I can only hope that someday in our near future, we will be able to celebrate a day that all Australians can partake in, and not one that brings the deepest sorrow and distress to a community that rightfully should be celebrating this land as their own.

4 classic revision mistakes and the statistics behind them

There’s much to look forward to in Spring, but if you’re a student, the season can also bring a lot of added stress. October is the month students have to face the dreaded word of ‘exams’ and get lost amongst the piles of textbooks they are required to study. The Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) exams have already commenced, and University students across Melbourne are buckling down in preparation for their heavily weighted exams that are set to begin in a matter of weeks.  Before sitting down for a whole night of study, pay attention to these four classic revision mistakes which may be hindering the effectiveness of your exam preparation.

  1. Not taking breaks – Talking amongst friends about how much you studied for your upcoming assessment can often spur a panic attack.

    Take frequent breaks to give your brain enough rest to get through the study session.

    If the number of hours which they studied for far exceeds yours, feelings of inadequacy can stir within, as you question how sufficient your preparation really was. If so and so studied for x number of hours more than me, that must obviously mean they studied better than me, right? Wrong. Study sessions that go beyond 7 hours more often than not point to a breach of the first cardinal rule of revising: take frequent breaks. Without breaks, the point where none of the content is actually sinking in will always arise. Sure, you may have been reading for 10 hours straight, but can you actually remember what you read 6 hours ago? In fact, psychologists now believe that the time that you spend between sessions is key to remembering that all-important information: the longer, the better!


  2.  Getting distracted too easily – Whether it be our iPhones, tablets or PCs – we all are guilty of being glued to a digital device of some sort. In

    Don’t study with your technological devices!

    fact, there is a palpable emptiness that we feel with the absence of the ‘ting tings’ of our phones and the sounds of the TV making its way around the house. However, though this may prove to be the hardest thing to do, getting rid of all the technological distractions is definitely the most effective way of studying. Social media is a particular problem: a recent study has shown that belonging to a social network may increase stress by around 15%!



  3. Cutting back on sleep – The days leading up to an assessment are often extremely stressful. You might think that constant revision right up until your exam is the task that needs your utmost attention; however, there’s something far more important. Multiple sources quote 8 – 8.5 hours of
    Adults ideally require 8-8.5 hours of sleep per night to function during their daily lives.

    Adults ideally require 8-8.5 hours of sleep per night to function during their daily lives.

    sleep per night as the ideal number of sleep hours for adults. These hours are even more crucial when high levels of concentration are required of you. This is because sleep deprivation can seriously impair your sense of judgement and decrease your reaction times. Therefore, even though you may think that revising your notes from the break of dawn until the night sky is brightly lit is what needs to be prioritised, you should remember that you cannot function at your best without a good, balanced night’s sleep. This is a real problem beyond the sphere of exams: according to a study at Harvard University, sleep deprivation costs the American economy $63.2bn a year.

  4. Leaving it all to the last minute – The human brain is, by far, the most fascinating body part:
    Leave at least a month for exam preparation

    Leave at least a month for exam preparation

    the amount of information it can hold is truly amazing. However, this does not mean that it is an unlimited storage centre without any constraints. Though cramming information is veryeffective for some, feeding your brain too much information at the last minute can cause your brain – like a computer – to overheat, resulting in only parts of the content consolidating in your head. Some interesting stats for you: the human short-term memory can only hold between 7-9 facts, and even those typically tend to decay after 30 seconds. Even if you do manage to turn some of your last-minute cramming into more durable memories, your chances here don’t look great! Once you’ve got your exam/test date, you should be aiming to give yourself at least a month’s worth of revision in the run up.

    Exam study can be quite daunting, but in sticking to the four cardinal rules of study in mind, your revision will definitely be more worthwhile. Remember to take breaks, give yourself plenty of sleep, and keep those phones tucked away! Good luck!

    This post was first published on

Vanity Fair warns females not to Tinker with Tinder

Photo: Hashela Kumarawansa

Photo: Hashela Kumarawansa

Two weeks shy of reaching the half-year mark since she became single, Mia decided to celebrate by signing up for Tinder. Having called it off with her long-term partner of three years, Mia knew that Tinder and its offering of a platform for casual, fun “hook-ups” was exactly what she was after. So on the ubiquitous hype of Tinder, Mia decided to get swiping.

But that all changed when news of a Tinder gang rape broke out. The decision by a 28-year-old woman to go on a Tinder date while in New Zealand for business sent

alarm bells ringing across the globe, calling for women Tinder users to err on the side of caution. One minute the woman was enjoying a drink with her companion, the next, she woke up in an unfamiliar location and a victim of a savage gang rape. In another case last year, Warriena Wright, 26, fell to her death on a Tinder date on the Gold Coast.

This event sparked many women members to shift the way they used Tinder, and for people like Mia (whose name has been changed for this article) to rethink using the app altogether.

“It really hit me how dangerous Tinder had the potential to be. I thought about the worst scenarios, like getting stalked, assaulted and scared myself into staying away from the app,” Mia said.

However, are women suffering beyond these haunting thoughts of having their personal safety compromised?

According to Vanity Fair‘s Nancy Jo Sales – yes. Sales’ feature in this month’s issue of the magazine, provided a lengthy piece on how the abolition of the “traditional dating scene” is affecting women the most, claiming the app did nothing for feminism as has been argued before.

However, Melbourne feminist, Sum Ambepitiya, claims that to label Tinder as a “feminist’s ideal” in the first place is to bark up the wrong tree.

“I think that statements about Tinder being inherently ‘feminist’ or ‘anti feminist’ are in themselves misogynist because they perpetuate the stereotype of men seeking quick, no-strings-attached sex, and women seeking long-term love relationships, with no room in between.”

Ambepitiya said Tinder is used for a wide range of purposes by its 50 million users –  and they’re all gender neutral.

“Saying that Tinder causes heartbreak in women because they have unrealistic expectations of the men who use it denies women’s very real desires for casual sex, and men’s very real desires for serious relationships.”

And Tinder had a lot to say in response to Sales’ article as well, even boasting in a tweet to its almost 54,000 followers on how Tinder is the first dating app that puts women in control this morning.

If you want to try to tear us down with one-sided journalism, well, that’s your prerogative.

— Tinder (@Tinder) August 11, 2015

Or you could have talked about how everyone on Tinder is on an equal playing field.

— Tinder (@Tinder) August 11, 2015

Users can’t message each other unless BOTH people are interested in one another.

— Tinder (@Tinder) August 11, 2015

This all creates social accountability so that Tinder users treat each other well.

— Tinder (@Tinder) August 11, 2015

This post originally appeared RMIT’s City Journal .

70 years on, Hiroshima stands as a symbol of peace

After much divided public opinion, the citizens of Hiroshima agreed to rebuild this building to look as it did instantly after the bomb struck. It is now known as the Atomic - or A-bomb Dome
When 8.15am struck in Hiroshima this morning, tens of thousands stood united in silence, paying tribute to those who lost their lives when the first atomic bomb was dropped in Japan 70 years ago.

On August 9, 1945, the U.S. Army Air Force dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Three days later, the city of Nagasaki was struck.  The two bombings, which killed at least 129,000 people, remain the only use of nuclear weapons for warfare in history.

When I visited Japan earlier this year, I was able to visit the

The entrance to the Peace Park where a large statue depicting Sadako (from the famous Japanese folk tale) holding a paper crane above her shoulders.

The entrance to the Peace Park where a large statue depicting Sadako (from the famous Japanese folk tale) holding a paper crane above her shoulders. / Photo: Hashela Kumarawansa

HiroshimaPeace Park and War Memorial. This experience was, by far, the most memorable of my two-month journey in Japan and I consider myself very lucky to such an eye-opening experience at the age of 20.

I was aware that Japan was severely damaged as a result of the bombings and the thought of all the innocent lives lost in the poorly veiled name of war was saddening. When I came second place in the United Nations Poetry Competition devoted to the Hibakusha – the Japanese term coined for the bombing survivors – I thought I held a well-rounded grasp of what it was like to live through 1945. Howver, it was only when I visited the Peace Museum that I understood just how unaware I was about the implications of the attacks and the toll they took on the two cities and its people. I was confronted with things that could never be learnt through reading.

Walking through the serenity of the Peace Park, you could very well find yourself momentarily forgetting the atrocities that took place there. R

Peace Park, Hiroshima / Photo: Hashela Kumarawansa

Peace Park, Hiroshima / Photo: Hashela Kumarawansa

Families were often left with miscellaneous items like a piece of uniform and a sandal as the only fragment left to link to their loved ones. These personal belongings remain gently preserved in their original, fragile state behind glass displays to remind the world of the empty families that remain in Hiroshima.

Heat in the hypo centre raised surface temperatures to between 3000 and 4000 and blasts blew 440 metres per second. Heatrays, blasts and radiation instantly destroyed the city and wax figures of school students’ fleeing to safety in tattered uniforms and vicious burns to their bodies depict this well. Amongst all the moving displays, there was one that affected me the most: Shin and his tricycle. The caption read:


Photo: Hashela Kumarawansa

Shinichi Tetsutani (then 3 years and 11 months) loved to ride this tricycle. That morning, he was riding in front of his house when, in a sudden flash, he and his tricycle were badly burned. He died that night. His father felt he was too young to be buried in a lonely grave away from home, and thinking he could still play with the tricycle, he buried Shinichi with the tricycle in the backyard. In the summer of 1985, forty years later, his father dug up Shinichi’s remains and transferred them to the family grave. This tricycle, Shinichi’s best friend, was donated to the Peace Memorial Museum.

The Peace Memorial Park and Museum aim to spread the truth about the Atomic bombings throughout the world to prevent further tragedies from occurring and to help promote a better future, away from nuclear weapons. I learnt and felt a lot during this visit due to the deeper understanding of this part of history I gradually came to possess. Something that resonated with me the most was when my tour guide explained that every family lost at least one loved one, so that at the end of it all, there were no complete families in Hiroshima. Though far from the typical touristy vibe, this visit has been the highlight of my Japan trip and has been a real eye opener to the types of atrocities that can be inflicted by human-kind in the name of war.

All administrative agencies were so badly destroyed that the number of lives taken away by this barbaric act remains unknown. On the eve of the 70th anniversary, the total stood at 292,325.