NEWS FROM THE DIRECTOR
We’re nearly at the end of our seminar series and I think you’ll agree we have had some fascinating topics and excellent speakers. It’s good to see many “regulars” attending and enjoying the opportunity to learn from the different perspectives on the topics, and participating in the discussions afterwards. The final seminar – “Caring for an ageing population” – will be of interest to many who may be looking after aged parents or grandparents, or planning for their own old age.Professor Neville Bruce
Director, Centre for Integrated Human Studies
NEXT SEMINAR: CARING FOR AN AGEING POPULATION, OCTOBER 7
“The great secret that all old people share is that you really haven't changed in seventy or eighty years. Your body changes, but you don't change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion.” Doris Lessing
A fast growing demographic is people in their nineties, but these people are the least likely to be happy with their quality of life. What values do Australians hold about caring for our elders? What can we look forward to, as an ageing community, and as individuals?
Professor of Geriatric Medicine Leon Flicker dispels some myths about ageing; physiotherapist Faye Bastow shares professional and personal insights into aged care; and actor and writer Jenny Davis speaks about tapping a rich vein of wisdom and story through Agelink Theatre.
Chaired by Professor Matthew Tonts.
The seminar is in Seminar room 1.81 at the School of Anatomy and Human Biology, UWA, at the usual time of 5:30 – 7 pm.
NOTES FROM THE LAST SEMINAR, FAMILY
Steve Johnson, chairing the seminar, said that Integrated Human Studies bridged science and the humanities, and that people understood the term “family” in different ways. While there is a scientific understanding derived from biology, family is also a cultural notion which is interpreted in the practice of family law.
Asst Professor Debra Judge began her career as an evolutionary biologist with a study of ospreys, which reproduce in monogamous pairs. Later she studied human families; here she showed a slide of the fenced cemetery plot of a family that defined its boundaries even after death. The concept of families – individuals sharing home range, labor and related genetically or through mutual relatedness to descendants – exists in many animals other than humans.
Families may be matrilineal (males disperse from natal group), patrilineal (females disperse), demonstrate indeterminant dispersal (either or both disperse), or cooperative (adult pair and mature offspring). In evolutionary terms, the family displays constant tension between conflicting drives. Conflict as well as cooperation is an inherent part of family life. “To mate (again) or to parent – that is the question” expresses the dilemma about allocation of reproductive effort.
Characteristics of the family – “Offspring continue to interact regularly into adulthood with their parents … delayed dispersal; prolonged co-residence with one or both parents beyond sexual maturity” (Emlen) – were evident in many animals such as the naked mole rat and the marmoset as well as humans.
Mating and marriage systems (Debra made it clear that these are not the same thing) in humans are strongly influenced by the availability and distribution of resources, with human stature suggesting a polygynous (having a number of female mates) history, in common with most mammals. Other systems were monogamy, both serial and perennial, and polyandry, with the last being the least common. Hunter gatherers were most likely to be serially monogamous, while settlement and the raising of animals and growing food enabled polygyny. Monogamy is associated with more even distribution of resources.
Debra was interested in how resources were transferred in wills, to test whether this reflected biological imperatives, and researched records in the US. She found that people favour close kin, but men and women behave differently. Men left their estate to their wife and would favour a current wife over the children of a previous wife), while women were more likely to favour all their children over their husband.
Julie Jackson, Solicitor in Charge, Family Court Services, said that it is important for the different disciplines to work together to achieve the best outcomes for children, and this is the focus she brings to family dispute resolution. She felt that family had never been so broadly interpreted in our culture as it is now, with issues of remarriage, reproductive technology, surrogacy, and same sex partners making the traditional nuclear family less and less the norm.