Google Unaipon

Every once in a while, Google looks a bit different when you access the search engine’s main page.

Sometimes the “Google Doodle” reflects the independence days of countries around the world. At other times, birthdays of legends in art and politics are celebrated.

Today, 28th of September (in Australia), reveals this doodle:

Upon clicking the doodle, you are taken to this page:,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.&fp=71c328421847cc95&biw=1083&bih=931

Jennifer, the lecturer for the ASC class on Aboriginal cultures and history, excitedly informed us that this Google Doodle is in remembrance of a famous Aboriginal Australian named David Unaipon (featured on the AUS $50 note).

A renaissance man from South Australia and an important figure in the development of Australia in the areas of culture and science, David Unaipon was also a preacher who traveled Australia codifying Aboriginal myths, stories and legends from many of the nations in southeastern Australia.

His life’s work didn’t end there. David continued to pursue an understanding of the laws of perpetual motion and developed many ideas that led to the centrifugal motor and a multi-radial wheel. Based off of the flight design of boomerangs, used by Aboriginal hunters for thousands of years, Unaipon predicted the invention of the helicopter (whose propeller blades mimic the same aerodynamics).

Unaipon, though a brilliant inventor, often found difficulty in finding investments for his ideas. Of course, living where he did, the consistent barriers to his work were based upon his ethnic heritage. This led to an involvement in government where he presented his works on Aboriginal culture and history, having an influence on government policy for his people.

You can bet, had the ASC program existed back then, or if David Unaipon were still alive today, he’d be a guest speaker in the ASC class every semester.

The Greatest Commandments

by Tim Cha

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating.  Noticing that Jesus had given

them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the greatest?”

Jesus answered, “The greatest and most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: 

The Lord our God, the Lord is One.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” 

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied.  “You are right in saying that God is One and there is no other but him.  To love him with all your heart, all your understanding, and all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him,

You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”

-Mark 12:28-34

Love God, love neighbors—simple enough, right?  But who exactly are our “neighbors,” and how should we love them?  For Australia, the matter of defining “the neighbor” has increasingly become an issue of heated debate as growing numbers of asylum seekers from all over the world seek refuge underneath the Southern Cross.

The Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship defines an asylum seeker as someone who “is seeking international protection … whose claim for protection has not been decided by the country in which he or she has submitted their claim.  Not every asylum seeker will ultimately be recognized as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker.”  Asylum seekers are people seeking to escape the unstable and threatening conditions  in their country (e.g. war, persecution) by fleeing to another country for protection.  Very broadly speaking, Australians generally view the topic of asylum seekers and immigration negatively from what I have been able to research and from those I have spoken to.  Australia has implemented strict regulations on asylum seekers and immigrants concerning processing and detainment, with a detainment period for refugees that is currently the longest and possibly the most controversial of refugee-accepting nations.  Claims to justify these policies are understandable—possible overpopulation, cultural and social clash that would ensue, national security being threatened, economic and political inability to sustain the increased population, unfair use of taxpayers’ dollars, authenticity of asylum seekers’ conditions,  a deteriorated national identity, among countless other claims.

Even though these claims are understandable, some are not completely justifiable when Australia’s refugee intake is considered on a larger scale.  Australia is a continent roughly the same size as the United States, however with a population of only 15% of the United States’ population, at 20 million.  Given that most of Australia’s land is desert and virtually uninhabitable, overpopulation still seems quite unlikely.  The possibility of invasion also seems small, as 84-97% of all asylum seekers are genuinely seeking safety from real threats and risk their own lives travelling to Australia.

Australia is ranked 13th in the global economy, 32nd of the 71 refugee-accepting nations, and 14th of the 29 developed refugee-accepting nations—per capita, the U.S. accepts twice the amount of refugees as Australia.  Australia hosts one refugee for every 1583 Australian people, whereas Britain hosts 1 for every 530 people, Tanzania hosts 1for every 76 people, and the poorest nations are the ones taking in the most refugees.

It is impossible to ascertain all the levels at which asylum seekers affect the Australian world, but these few statistics seem to prove otherwise to the general claims against asylum seekers.  Facts and logistics aside, I believe God’s command to love our neighbors should still take precedence.  Australia has a responsibility to give refuge to its asylum seekers, and realize that they are not strangers or enemies, but they are in fact neighbors, families with children, our brothers and sisters who bear the image of the living God.

However, my personal opinions are, I have to admit, utterly and completely biased.  In the early 1970s, a young girl and her family living in the mountains of Laos began their dangerous journey to flee the war-torn country.  Her shocking stories detail how she and her family had to escape from soldiers ordered to shoot at sight, cross the rushing Mekong River that had notoriously claimed many lives of those before her, struggle against the fears of rape, captivity and persecution, witness the loss of friends and family, and endure sickness, hunger, weariness, and death.  As an asylum seeker herself, she finally gained refugee status and citizenship in the USA where she met her husband, who had faced a similar struggle, and was able to begin her life anew.  Forty years later, her youngest son is writing the very blog post that you are reading.  If they had been denied, I most likely would not be where I am today.  It is impossible for me to choose otherwise when my entire life is a product of my parents being asylum seekers themselves who were given refuge and safety.  How can I deny to others what I have been given?

It seems so simple when Jesus puts it in that profound way that he does so well—(1) love God, (2) love neighbors … check, set, done, and off to heaven we go!  But if we briefly take a moment to look at our lives, it quickly becomes apparent that these two simple commands are much easier said than done.  I wish I could love God more than I do with all that I am, enough for me to give up my life in its entirety to him; and I wish I could love my neighbors purely without any trace of prejudice or selfishness.  But even though this may be the current condition of our hearts, I believe that as Christians, each day we should strive to live up to the standard that we are called to.  If it is in fact our prayer that the Kingdom of heaven come and that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10), then I believe our actions, indeed our lives, should be invested in a world where people from every tribe, nation, and tongue are standing in complete brotherhood before the Lamb (Revelation 7:9).  I recognize that it’s definitely not easy, that it may seem idealistic and naïve, that it even risks our own safety!  I admit that I don’t fully understand the economic, cultural, and political ramifications of what such a precarious lifestyle may have, but I do believe that God calls us to take a risk by living up to his call for loving Him and loving our neighbors as ourselves.  Perhaps when it is the Kingdom of God that we seek first, then all other things will be given as well (Matthew 6:33).  When our response can finally echo the simple, bold truth that “to love God with all your heart, all your understanding, and all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices,” then maybe Jesus will too reply: “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”


Our Giving Tree

By Sarah Omer

“And the boy loved the tree…” The Giving Tree, a Shel Silverstein classic, is a story of the relationship between a boy and a tree. The tree would give the boy anything it could; it provided shade on a hot day, its apples to sell, its branches to build a house, its trunk to make a boat, and in all of this the tree was happy, and the boy loved it. Among many things, such as God’s love for his children, or a parent’s love for their newborn, this story illustrates a selfless giving, one that can be seen as our own environment around us. Some times, as the human race, we can seem to be that boy who takes everything from the tree to make a better life for him. But do we “love the tree?”

Within my first couple of days here in Australia, I could see a difference in how most feel about what they need to do to help their environment. My host family went over the rules more than twice about leaving the lights on, taking faster showers, and drying laundry on a line outside instead of using the dryer. At first I thought it was just my family, but then I noticed Australia as a whole has been cracking down on the environmental issues such as energy consumption, water usage, and recycling. As of the first of July this year, a Carbon tax was put into place that makes the big energy spenders pay a tax for how much Carbon pollution they have. This in turn will increase the prices on some goods and services. Everyone in a way is paying now to help the environment from what they were doing to it with pollution from the beginning. Australia is among the top 20 biggest polluters in the world with about 500 million tons of pollution each year.

Australians in general have a certain connection to their land. They might call it hostile at times but it is a part of them. I can see the efforts of giving back to the environment by the lifestyles and attitudes of Australians. In the United States over the past 20 years you can see a change in environmental concerns. About half of Americans (48%) don’t really know what is in the future for environmental problems but say that their concern for the environment is somewhat serious. Also, in the past 20 years, twice as many Americans recycle and have become more environmentally friendly. However, even with the good number of recyclers, you don’t really find Americans that will take the next step and go without certain conveniences as Australian’s do, such as the use of the dryer. Can it really be that difficult to make a change in your own household in order to give back? As I talked with my host mom, she told me that as a parent, she thinks about the future and what kind of world her children will be in when she is gone. As a Christian, she thinks about how God put us in charge of the earth and how we are to look after it, take care of it, and be good stewards of it. This makes her more aware of her environment and what she and her family can do to help it.

Many people have different views on their environment and how they should treat it. We can see that those views are affected by where someone grows up and lives. Such as the Australians, who are use to the rough land and lack of water, and the Americans who are use to the land of plenty where taking from it is easy and giving back is inconvenient. Personally I think we can learn from the story The Giving Tree, and love the tree (our giving tree) back.


A Day At The Movies

A good day in class is watching the newest Australian motion picture musical to hit cinemas. The Sapphires premiered in Brisbane earlier this year now reaching a nation-wide release since August 9th.

The film reinterprets the true story of four Aboriginal Australian women who entertained US troops in Vietnam in 1968. Drawing on themes of Aboriginal connection to land, ideas of kinship and home, the story offers something unique among movie musicals.

Featuring voices from Australian singers, such as Australian Idol runner-up Jessica Mauboy, the soundtrack has made it to the #1 spot on the ARIA Album Chart. This makes it the first Australian-produced soundtrack to make the top of the Australian charts since Moulin Rouge in 2001.

As well as featuring a star cast including Chris O’Dowd, the film was helmed by first-time-feature director Wayne Blair. Working with fellow Aboriginal filmmaker Warrick Thornton (cinematographer/director of Samson and Delilah 2009) Blair brought a uniquely Aboriginal touch to an international film.

Of course there are fantastic filmmakers here in Australia who are rarely seen outside the desert island and the barrier is often the box office. Australian films have a tendency to not do very well in their own cinemas.

This theme was overturned this past week as The Sapphires took the #2 box office spot (behind Dark Knight Rises) bringing in $2.32 million in its opening weekend. The total international gross up to this point has reach over $8 million, a fantastic early box office figure for a sub $10 million budget.

With a heartwarming story, beautiful cinematography and soul-wrenching soundtrack, The Sapphires is worth seeking out, not to mention a great method for ASC students to learn about Australian cinema, culture and people.


The Weinstein Company has bought limited international distribution rights to The Sapphires, so you can expect it to be playing soon in a cinema near you.