no-one has asked me to stand down

Essendon coach James Hird and the Bombers remain adamant he has not been asked to stand down as D-Day draws near in the AFL club’s supplements scandal.


While AFL legal counsel Andrew Dillon continues to review the interim Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) report into the Bombers, league chief executive Andrew Demetriou will return from the United States on Wednesday.

It is understood Hird’s legal team has also now received a copy of the report.

Dillon is deciding whether Essendon face AFL punishment over the saga.

Carlton coach Mick Malthouse weighed into the hot issue on Tuesday, warning the league against being “wishy-washy” if it decides Essendon should be punished.

The Blues are two games outside the top eight with four rounds left, but will be finals-bound if the AFL decides to strip fifth-placed Essendon of their premiership points as punishment for the scandal.

Former Adelaide captain Mark Ricciuto added the latest twist on Monday when he claimed that Hird had been issued an ultimatum to resign by Thursday or “someone else might make the decision for him”.

Ricciuto hopes he is wrong, but is not backing away from his statement.

Essendon issued a statement on Monday night saying they categorically denied what they termed a baseless rumour.

Hird on Tuesday repeated that denial.

“I think if you read the Essendon statement, they’re all untrue,” Hird told reporters at Windy Hill.

But Ricciuto told Adelaide’s Triple M radio on Tuesday that he had received the information from someone he regarded as a credible source.

He said it was not unknown for AFL clubs to deny things that turned out to be true, although he stressed he wasn’t accusing the Bombers of lying.

“They could (be). I’m not saying they are,” Ricciuto said.

“And I’m not saying James is guilty here and I never said that last night.

“Of course that (issuing a denial) is what they’re going to come out and do.

“A lot of people do come out and make statements at times.

“I’m not going to make another statement saying that they’re lying here either.

“But it’s not unusual for them to come out and defend themselves, but time will tell.”

Hird said he hadn’t been shocked or frustrated by Ricciuto’s initial claim, as he had become used to hearing allegations he regarded as false throughout the six-month saga.

“I’m not shocked by anything in this investigation or this process,” he said.

“There seems to be a lot of rumour and innuendo that has no fact to it.”

The AFL on Friday received the ASADA report into the Bombers, which was also handed to the club on Sunday.

Hird also said on Tuesday that what he most wanted to see was the players absolved of blame.

“Hopefully very soon, our players get a chance to come out and say that they’re clear,” he said.”

Malthouse told 3AW that the league must send a strong statement with its decisions about Essendon.

“We will not tolerate this game being put down in any manner or brought back to a certain standard in any manner,” he said.

“That means strong governance at the expense of names, clubs, anything – because then you make a great statement.”

Family weep at murder sentencing

Margaret White can’t get a knife out to prepare a meal without thinking of the last moments of her two brothers, who were viciously stabbed to death by a man dressed in women’s clothing.


Giuseppe Di Cianni, 66, was found guilty earlier this year of the double murders of Albert and Mario Frisoli in 2009.

His former lover Josephine Pintabona, 54, has been found guilty of being an accessary after the fact.

During the pair’s sentencing hearing on Friday, Frisoli family members broke down as they remembered the brothers.

“There is a permanent void that exists within me,” Ms White told the Supreme Court.

“Each day is a struggle and I am unable to be a contributing member of society.

“Every time I draw a knife from the kitchen to cook a meal I am reminded of their last moments.”

Mario’s daughter Shannon Frisoli told the court she wonders every day why she has to live her life without a dad.

“Dad, I miss you everyday and I hurt everyday.”

The courtroom was packed with family and friends of the victims as the crown prosecutor Mark Hobart SC recommended a life sentence for Di Cianni and described the murder as “savage in the extreme”.

The trial, which began last April, has heard there was a history of animosity and violence between Di Cianni and Albert Frisoli, whose once-friendly business relationship began deteriorating in 2000 and became marred by court disputes and restraining orders.

Less then a month before the brothers were murdered, Di Cianni’s court case against Mr Frisoli collapsed, leaving him with hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Di Cianni dressed up in women’s clothes and entered the Frisoli brothers’ home in Rozelle on May 6, 2009 where he first stabbed 52-year-old Mario Frisoli 21 times.

He waited for Albert Frisoli, 56 – stabbing him 27 times when he arrived home two hours later.

The sentencing hearing continues.

Comment: Hypnosis gives insight into psychiatric disorders

By Peter Halligan, Cardiff University

Despite long standing associations with mysticism and stage hypnotism, hypnosis has also been used for medical and scientific purposes.


For well over a century, hypnosis has been used to treat a wide range of conditions. These have included pain, irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress, phobias and eating disorders.

More recently, hypnosis has began to attract notice from cognitive neuroscientists. They have become interested in understanding hypnosis, and using it to simulate unusual states of consciousness in the lab.

Hypnotic suggestion allows one to harness the effect of attention in the brain. This allows the enhancement, and even production, of a wide range of experiences. In many people, hypnotic suggestion can produce compelling changes in perception and cognition, including temporary paralysis, anaesthesia and blindness.

Hypnosis produces a highly focused state which allows “suggestions” – simple statements communicating changes in a person’s experience or behaviour – to take place, such as “your leg is becoming so stiff that you cannot move it”. It has also been long recognised that suggestions can be effective without a hypnotic induction procedure, but this is rare, only occuring in highly suggestible individuals.

In the lab

The ability to experimentally manipulate subjective awareness in the laboratory could have major potential, as I describe in the latest issue of Nature Neuroscience Review.

Current interest in the area can be divided into two types of research. Some are looking to acquire a better understanding of the nature of hypnosis. Others are interested in using hypnotic suggestion to investigate certain aspects of normal and abnormal psychological functioning.

Employing a range of brain imaging technologies, both approaches are using hypnosis to explore the nature of consciousness. They are also gaining insight into the brain mechanisms underlying visual perception, pain, and the putative origins of some clinical symptoms. These include medically unexplained paralysis as seen in hysteria, hallucinations, delusions and alterations in control over thought and actions in schizophrenia.

Understandably, scepticism remains regarding the credibility of reports involving hypnotic suggestion. Participants, however, typically describe the perceptual and behavioural changes experienced as “real”, and beyond voluntary control.

Recent experimental studies support the case for hypnosis being a physiologically credible experience. This is particularly seen where suggestions disrupt well-established automatic, unconscious processes, such as reading.

The findings

There is a now a growing literature which shows how hypnotic suggestion can be used to create temporary functional changes in a range of ways.

Hypnosis has also been used instrumentally to develop and test models for a number of specific psycho-pathologies including delusions, auditory hallucinations, functional paralysis and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

It can also be used to suggest subjective experiences that are similar to symptoms observed in neurological and psychiatric disturbances. These have included chronic pain conditions, and disorders of volition and motor control.

Hypnotic suggestions have been used to induce “synaesthetic” experiences – where one sense triggers the involuntary use of another. In colour-number synaesthesia, people experience colours associated with specific numbers. The reliable effects reported in naturally occurring synaesthesia are commonly considered to be outside a subject’s control. However, one study showed that hypnotic suggestion could be effective in abolishing the apparently automatic experience of synaesthesia.

There is clearly great future potential in this growing field. In addition to scientific advances, the ability to produce neurological symptoms of “virtual patients” in normal volunteers also provides a potential training value. Practitioners could have the possibility of experiencing these symptoms for themselves: through hypnotic suggestion.

Over the past 25 years Peter Halligan has received funding from MRC and other UK research councils and charities, although none specifically for research on hypnosis.

Birds sense speed limits on roads: study

Birds sense posted speed limits on roads and react to avoid collisions, a study suggests.


Researchers say birds appear to have adapted to the local speed limits as a feature of their environment, such as the risk of predators.

Strict enforcement of speed limits could therefore significantly help with conservation, especially for endangered species in populated areas, Pierre Legagneux, a behavioural ecologist at the University of Quebec in Rimouski, told AFP.

“I realised that the birds were not reacting to the actual speed of my car, but to the average speed of cars on these roads, to the posted speed limits,” the lead researcher said in an interview.

The birds “associate road sections with speed limits as a way to assess collision risk”, he added in the study published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

“So strictly enforcing speed limits could reduce bird collisions.”

Legagneux said he was tracking ducks in western France for other research when he came across a bird on a road that forced him to stop to avoid it, and caused him to wonder how birds think about cars and avoid collisions.

Legagneux began studying bird responses during the long drive home from his laboratory in a small white Peugeot 205, a route that took him through croplands, forests and small villages between November 2006 and November 2007.

With colleague Simon Ducatez, he monitored and analysed the responses of 21 species of birds on roads with posted speed limits of 20, 50, 90 and 110km/h.

The process involved noting when a bird took off to avoid his approaching car and how long it took the bird to reach its final position on the ground.

Recognising the role of Indigenous and Maori soldiers

There’s growing recognition of the role indigenous soldiers from Australia and New Zealand played in the two World Wars.



Ceremonies will be held on ANZAC Day in both countries to honour the indigenous soldiers who served.


But how do the experiences of Australian Aboriginal soldiers during, between and after the wars, compare with those of New Zealand Maori?


Kerri Worthington explores.


Substantial numbers of Australian Aboriginal and New Zealand Maori young men signed up for the two world wars – many going to fight far from home.


Monty Soutar is a historian and co-ordinator of the 28 Maori Battalion Project — which promotes the feats of New Zealand’s most highly-decorated battalion of the second world war.


Mr Soutar says World War One began barely 50 years after the New Zealand government confiscated Maori tribal lands in punishment for a rebellion in the country’s north.


He says that incident was still a living memory when Maori were being called upon to serve their country in the war, and posed a genuine dilemma for many.


“Some saw that they had a patriotic duty to go and fight with Britain, and others felt that they didn’t because of what had happened to their lands. Realising the difference between the Australian Aborigines and the New Zealand Maori is that we signed a treaty here in 1840 that gave us the rights of British citizenship. And inherent in those rights is when Britain calls that you man up (act in a ‘manly’ way) and you go and fight in the defence of Britain.”


In contrast, Australian Aboriginal men wanting to join the army were hindered by the Defence Act of 1903 which specifically excluded indigenous Australians from serving.


Despite this, a large number of indigenous men signed up to the Australian Imperial Force.


War Memorial indigenous liaison Gary Oakley says he has figures showing about one thousand of the Force’s 80-thousand recruits were indigenous.


Mr Oakley says ten per cent of those indigenous servicemen were killed in World War One.


But he also says life in the army was good for indigenous men.


“When you’re in the Defence Force and you’re indigenous, and especially in the First World War, people didn’t see you as Aboriginal or whatever your background was, all they saw was another soldier. For the first time in your life you were treated as an equal, you fought as an equal, you were paid as an equal. You had all those chances as an equal, you served in the trenches with your mates. Then you came back to society where you weren’t equal again, and you were back to basically either shunted back to the reservation or community or settlement, or if your complexion let you move around in society as a non-indigenous person, things might have been a little bit better.”


In a strange twist, there are several recorded instances of Aboriginal men telling Army recruiters they were New Zealand Maori, allowing them to serve in the First World War with no more questions asked.


But Monty Soutar says being able enlist openly as indigenous New Zealanders in their own army at that time did not necessarily do Maori soldiers any favours.


“Maori ended up serving at Gallipoli for a while as front line troops, but they were decimated like all the other units there. And I guess the government was thinking about a race with such small numbers — we were 63-thousand at the time — that they ought not to risk the Maori contingent further, and so pulled them back and converted them to a pioneer battalion.”


Pioneer units dug trenches and laid communication lines — risky work that led to substantial casualties.


The change in role also had the unintended consequence of casting the Maori soldiers as labourers rather than soldiers.


Monty Soutar says when World War Two came along, Maori leaders insisted Maori serve in a front-line infantry role.


“They have a long history of warrior tradition in this country and to serve as anything less than frontline troops is kind of below them. And the whole point of going to war, too, was yes they were fighting for Britain half a world away but also they were fighting for equality in their own country. And that was in both wars. The Maori leaders argued that if we don’t go to this war how can we effect change when the finger is pointed to us after the war that you weren’t there? And so they realised that in order to be the equal of their Pakeha (white NZ) brothers they had to serve in the same way, and they were frontline troops.”


Maori suffered huge casualties as their reputation as fine soldiers ensured they were sent to World War Two hotspots.

Monty Soutar says their contribution was made more visible because most served together in Maori units.


The Australian War Memorial’s Gary Oakley says such public recognition was denied to indigenous Australian soldiers, because almost all served in ordinary units.


It was when they returned home that Australian Indigenous soldiers received less-than-equal treatment – being denied, for example, involvement in a scheme that gave cheap farmland to former servicemen.


Gary Oakley says sometimes indigenous soldiers also faced the denial they’d ever played a part in Australia’s war effort.


“Some men came home and put on their military medal to go to a service and people said to them ‘where did you steal that from?’ They did not believe that they were capable of winning these awards. I mean, how do you feel when your mates in the Defence Force say to you what a great man you are, give you a medal for it, you come home and the white population at home thinks that you’re pulling a shifty (doing something illegal).”


Across the Tasman, Maori returned soldiers were finding post-war life a lot more rewarding.


“Race relations were never better than when Maori and Pakeha soldiers were overseas serving in a common cause and experiencing the same dangers. And there’s a camaraderie that’s gained by being at the seat of war in the heat of battle, when you’ve experienced what others have experienced. Certainly there’s many accounts of attitudes changed by European or Pakeha servicemen when they came home towards Maori, because they hadn’t had — especially around World War One — hadn’t had a lot of engagement together in New Zealand.”


Still, the significant presence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander* soldiers in the Second World War was noted.


John Schnaars, who runs the organisation Honouring Indigenous War Graves, says their contribution ultimately led to the successful 1967 referendum to alter the constitution and give the federal government responsibility for Aboriginal affairs.


“That’s where it all started was from these old blokes going away, and the women, some of the women too, showing the rest of Australia that these people loved this country as well, which was their ancestors’. They wanted to fight for it as well as anybody and show the rest of Australia their pride in the country. And I think once the rest of Australia had seen what was going on on, they realised that these people should be able to vote, should be a part of this country. And I think that was why, in 1967 at the referendum, why it was such a resounding result.”


Mr Schnaars is himself a war veteran, having served Australia in the Vietnam War.


He says the lack of recognition of the war service of indigenous soldiers continued after that US-led war, but this time it was the same for all the Vietnam veterans.


“When we came home from Vietnam because the people in Australia — well not all people but a lot of the people — treated us all the same, abused us and called us child killers and what have you, So we were all treated much the same. And one of my mates, he said we know a little bit about what it’s like because we’ve been through all this sort of thing before, whereas it’s a bit harder for the white fella.”


Projects by the Australian War Memorial aim to increase recognition of the contribution of Indigenous soldiers.


But the families of indigenous soldiers say compared with the respect New Zealand indigenous veterans receive, Australia could do better.


Maori historian Monty Soutar says he’s seen for himself the difference in attitudes towards indigenous servicemen, and their families.


He tells a story about being in Australia in the 1990s with Maori veterans and taking a young Aboriginal man whose father had been an Australian Defence Force soldier with them to a Returned and Services League club.


“We were with our veterans and they were talking to other World War Two veterans, you know, made welcome, no colour bar or anything. But when he walked in we noticed that he stood at the door unsure about whether to come in, and one of the Maori Battalion veterans waved him over. But it was the comment by the Australian servicemen about him, derogatory remarks. The Maori Battalion veteran said to this guy ‘hey, his dad served in World War Two just like us. He has every right to come in here as we do.’ But you know, for us New Zealanders and Maori, you’d never see that here.”


* Torres Strait Islanders joined the Australian armed forces for the first time in WWII