Home' InDaily : June 16th 2011 Contents 4|Vol22No4May2011
Shopping simulator aids stroke sufferers
A virtual reality system that will enable
occupational therapists at the Repatriation
General Hospital to better assess stroke
victims has been launched by the Minister for
Ageing Jennifer Rankine.
The Shopping Simulator was developed by the
Medical Device Partnering Program (MDPP)
at Flinders University in collaboration with the
Department of Rehabilitation and Aged Care.
It allows patients to move through a virtual
supermarket, selecting groceries and adding
them to a trolley, to demonstrate whether
they are capable of making logical decisions.
MDPP Director, Professor Karen Reynolds, said
the focus on cognitive assessment through the
simulator enables an occupational therapist to
determine a patient’s ability to undertake the
everyday task of supermarket shopping.
“Our simulation software recreates the grocery
shopping experience with the aid of a simple
touch-screen computer and a ‘trolley handle’,”
Professor Reynolds said.
“The level of complexity can be adjusted by
occupational therapists, who can specify
certain groceries or set a shopping budget to
ascertain the cognitive ability of each patient,”
Associate Professor Craig Whitehead, Regional
Clinical Director for Rehabilitation and Aged
Care in the Southern Adelaide Health Service,
said the Shopping Simulator was created in
response to requests from hospital clinicians.
“The Shopping Simulator is an effective and
efficient way of testing a stroke patient’s
alertness, ability to scan both sides of the
environment and logical processing ,”
Associate Professor Whitehead said.
“Particularly for older people and people
with disability, technological interfaces
such as the Shopping Simulator represent
the brave new frontier for clinical medicine,”
Minister for Ageing Jennifer Rankine said
the State Government was proud to
support research projects that have a real
impact on people’s quality of life.
“The South Australian Government has
provided more than $1 million in funding to
the Medical Device Partnering Program at
Flinders University to help develop important
research that assists South Australians in their
everyday lives. I am pleased to see one of the
significant projects funded through this
program in action,” Minister Rankine said.
The Medical Device Partnering Program
supports the development of cutting-edge
medical devices and assistive technologies,
through unique collaborations between
researchers, industry, clinical end-users and
‘Don’t shoot the messenger’ on abortion research
Abortion information can be hard to get into
the public domain and sometimes comes at
a high personal cost for the messenger.
Media stories can result in misinformation,
even hate mail according to research
associate at the School of Law at Flinders
University, Dr Ea Mulligan.
Dr Mulligan, who is also a general practitioner,
recently co-authored a South Australian study
that found that the so called ‘abortion drug’
mifepristone, also known as RU486, resulted
in slightly more complications than standard
Mifepristone was introduced into Australia
five years ago and although it is still
unlicensed by the Therapeutic Goods
Administration it has been used widely
around the world. Its supporters claim it is a
safe and cost effective alternative to surgery,
and offers women the choice of an induced
abortion in their own home.
Following the release of the new findings,
one media headline stated ‘the abortion is
pill is less safe than surgery’ and the report
speculated it could undermine the
commonly held view that complications
arising from medical abortion are less or
equivalent to the surgical option. However,
Dr Mulligan challenges those perceptions.
“This was not a controlled trial. It was an
audit of data from the real world,” Dr
In Australia one in two pregnancies are
unplanned and one in five is terminated.
South Australia is one of the few places in
the world that captures information about
everyone who has been admitted or
received treatment at a public hospital and
this allowed Dr Mulligan and Dr Hayley
Messenger, a registrar from Flinders Medical
Centre, to look at the cases of every woman
who came to an emergency department
following an abortion in 2009-2010.
This new study, published in the journal,
Australian Family Physician, is not the first
time Dr Mulligan has entered the abortion
debate and received unwanted attention as a
result. A previous media article also prompted
substantial hate mail. She says it is an
unsavoury side of this emotional public
debate that affects her personally.
“Abortion is the most common operation in
Australia so it’s no wonder women need
information. Our study helps fill the
knowledge gaps. We’re not gatekeepers so I
would say to those individuals and groups that
feel compelled to abuse me and my colleagues,
‘don’t shoot the messenger’,” Dr Mulligan said.
Debate continues over abortion pill
Designer Dr Fabian Lim demonstrates the simulator
War gaming adapted to real life learning
Two Australians missing at sea in mysterious
circumstances and a US Navy ship harassed by
Chinese vessels provided the backdrop for an
international crisis at a recent student
hypothetical at Flinders University.
At the event Australian foreign policy students
became government policy officers and were
given only 60 minutes to analyse the rapidly
evolving situation, provide advice for the Prime
Minister and write a media statement.
On hand were high profile international
relations experts Dr Sam Bateman, a South
China Sea specialist who flew in from
Singapore, and Captain Lee Goddard, a Royal
Australian Navy strategist. They joined Dean of
the School of International Studies, Professor
Malcolm Cook in offering advice and
commenting on the student presentations.
“Hypotheticals are valuable for students,”
Professor Cook said.
“They learn time management in a high
pressure situation and can apply knowledge
acquired in lectures and through reading , at a
real world pace,” he said.
The events were developed for foreign policy
students because there are limited
opportunities for workplace learning. They are
based on war gaming principles and Captain
Goddard says similar situations are routinely
used to apply a ‘whole of government’
approach to real crisis situations.
“It replicates what happens in Canberra,”
Captain Goddard said.
“It’s obvious some of these students are
the senior officials of 15 years time that I
deal with all the time,” he said.
Ben Hine is in his fifth year studying
Bachelor of Laws and Legal Practice
(Honours) and Bachelor of Arts, and he
presented at the hypothetical.
“It’s a steep learning curve for us,” Mr Hine
“I came to Flinders because skills are
integrated with learning and events like
these mean graduates are equipped to
make the transfer to the professional
context,” he said.
The hypothetical explored security issues
in the Asia Pacific region, the nature of
which will be an integral part of the new
security major in Flinders’ Bachelor of
International Studies from next year.
Singapore elections herald political change
Singapore went to the polls in May and
delivered the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP)
Government its worst result since 1963, an
outcome that has changed the nature of
the island nation’s politics, according to
senior lecturer in international relations at
Flinders University, Dr Michael Barr.
And, as with other recent political
upheavals around the world, the Internet
played a part.
Despite assistance from all the institutional
advantages that guaranteed a PAP victory,
the party’s vote went down to 60.14 per
cent, from 66.6 per cent in 2006 and 75 per
cent in 2001. The Opposition captured six
seats, up from two in 2006 and 2001.
“There should be no doubt that the little
world of Singapore politics has changed,”
Dr Barr said.
“The world’s most successful marriage of
modern capitalism and electoral
authoritarianism has just been tripped up,”
“The main problem for the government was
that it was being challenged on its own
preferred terms and found wanting. It has
set up an education and social system
based on ruthless competition, but argues
that competition is bad in politics.
“It proudly sets the pay scales for ministers
by the standards of the CEOs of
multinational companies, but then argues
that neither individual ministers nor the
Cabinet as a whole should be held to
account when they make mistakes. And
this was an election where government
mistakes and its mishandling of issues
were the main items on the agenda.
“In the past these challenges would not
have been a problem for the government
because information was being controlled
assiduously at the centre and opposition
activists did not have the professional
credentials or the political skills to mount
“All this has changed, in part because the
Government has lost control of the flow of
information because of the rise of the
“But the Internet is just a facilitator. These
developments have been driven by real
people and by the opposition’s capacity
building in terms of members, activists,
leaders, candidates, money, ideas, causes,
and outreach structures.
“From my in-country research before the
elections it is clear that the opposition has
none of these things in abundance, and
yet it is now obvious that they have all of
them to a sufficient extent to make a real
impact and provide a base for further
“Don’t expect a change of government or
anything like serious democratisation in
Singapore anytime soon, but nevertheless,
the Lion City has changed, and there is no
Political storm clouds gather over Singapore
Flinders students in their situation room
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