ACU (Australian Catholic University)


Issue 7, Summer 2012

Research Bites

Research bites_THUMB

Youth gambling online

As worldwide use of the Internet has increased, so too has the prevalence of online gambling among adolescents and young adults. 

ACU’s Dr Kirsty Balog is seeking to determine the implications of easier Internet access for this group, which has a predisposed vulnerability to problem gambling.

“There are well-established associations between problem non-online gambling and both mental health and substance use problems,” she said. “However it is not clear whether the differences between online and non-online gambling have any real impact on the associations between gambling and these detrimental outcomes.”  

Dr Balog said that gambling has an extremely high social cost - approximately $4.7 billion in Australia in 2012 - and that cost is not just limited to the individual involved in problem gambling.  

“It is estimated that the behaviour of one problem gambler negatively impacts on the lives of between five and 10 others. This means that there are up to five million Australians who could be affected by problem gambling each year, including friends, family and employers of problem gamblers.”

The project will examine at least 400 young adults aged 18-26, and explore the relationships between online gambling, mental health symptoms and substance use, and compare these to outcomes from non-online gambling. 

“Given that online gamblers have been shown to be at greater risk of developing problem gambling, further understanding of the implications of problem gambling is crucial,” Dr Balog said. “The results will have wider implications in terms of health expenditure, burden of disease and decreasing the long-term financial hardship associated with problematic gambling.”

Indigenous cultural identity in music 

Australian composers have a history of using Indigenous melodies, instruments and language to manufacture a sense of Australian identity. This attempt at creating a distinct sense of cultural identity has occurred over many decades without any regard for the religious and social significance of the musical material in question.  

The study, conducted by ACU Senior Lecturer Dr Timothy McKenry, examines the gradually changing face of Australian music and highlights the emergence of an ethical framework that now informs musical collaborations with Indigenous peoples and the materials of their cultures. 

“Australian composers were looking at Indigenous music without any awareness of the subtleties of how that music operates within Indigenous culture,” he said. 

“Over the last 30 years, Australian composers have begun to change their music and do things differently on the basis of being aware of the sensitivities that Indigenous music has.” 

Dr McKenry said that his research shows that increasingly, Australian composers prefer collaboration to appropriation, both as a means of forgiveness and reconciliation between Australians, and as standard ethical practice. 

“We can’t respond to the historically unethical behaviour in Australian music by crawling into a shell.  Reconciliation is something that has to happen together, that we have to do together and to do that we need to continue to look at positive forms of making music.”

Sea urchins expose ocean’s risk 

Research has found that future populations of sea urchins could be at risk from climate change and pollution. The project, led by ACU’s Cliff Seery, has found that in warmer waters with registered levels of pollution, fertilisation rates of sea urchins are decreased.  

“Climate change is having an impact on oceans worldwide, with both water temperatures and acidity increasing” said Dr Seery. “When pollution is added to the mix, the impact on oceans is amplified.”                            

While this study focused on just one species of marine animal, this decrease in fertilisation can have potentially serious consequences for marine environments with the reduction of sea urchins having a flow on effect for many marine species.  

Dr Seery warns that based on projections of pollution levels and climate change, the current safe copper levels in water may no longer be sufficient.

“Areas of populated coasts such as Sydney and other metropolitan coastlines may be impacted to a larger extent than rural or cleaner areas. This research has clearly shown that we cannot treat climate change and pollution as standalone issues; these factors certainly interact. What we now deem as a safe level of pollution may no longer be safe once climate change has altered ocean chemistry.”    

“Climate change is already known to be impacting marine ecosystems, and marine pollution continues to exert impacts along metropolitan coastlines. If we are to ensure the sustainability of marine biodiversity in the world's oceans, there is an urgent need for information on how multiple stressors will interact and then move towards environmental management that incorporates such interactions.”

To further determine the impact that climate change and pollution will have on oceans, Dr Seery will collaborate with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to look at the risk in more detail.  

Support the key to uni success

For many students, their time at university presents a greater challenge than simply worrying about grades or exams. 

A recent study by ACU’s Office of Student Success has found that self-determination, support from loved ones, and making use of university support services were all key in helping individuals through significant challenges during their time at university.  

The Determined to Succeed research project was conducted to explore whether students who faced significant challenges while studying would view their experience as ‘resilience’. The undertaking also sought to validate the experiences of these individuals, and compile their stories and advice to inspire other students facing similar situations.  

“University counsellors hold a privileged position to witness what can be seen as student stories of resilience,” said principal researcher Judy Wright.

“Counsellors see many examples of students continuing to study despite having experienced significant challenges.”

On the completion of the project, an ebook containing 28 individual stories was compiled.

“We thought it was important to document these stories to avoid losing these valuable student stories of resilience and achievement, given that often these stories leave with students after graduation,” said Judy.

Since mid-November 2011, the Determined to Succeed ebook has exceeded 2,300 views on the ACU website and online evaluations have shown that reading the book has had a positive influence on student retention.

More information about the Determined to Succeed project, including the book of student stories, can be found at

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