In summary

  • Swinburne experts share their top tips on what to watch and read, and how to stay healthy and active during the cooler months

As we enter another winter affected by the ongoing presence of COVID-19, it’s important that we continue to take care of ourselves.

We’ve got you covered, with some of our Swinburne experts sharing their top tips for staying entertained and active throughout the colder months.

Top five TV shows

Cosy up on the couch with these shows recommended by Deputy Chair and Senior Lecturer, Media and Communication, Dr Dan Golding:

The Underground Railroad (Amazon Prime) This is an impressive bit of storytelling and technical craft from director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk) that tells a fictionalised, and at times fantasy-imbued, story of the real-life underground railroad that helped enslaved African Americans escape to freedom during the 19th century. This is beautiful, moving stuff. 

Small Axe (Binge) Steve McQueen (Shame, Twelve Years a Slave) directs five short, semi-related instalments that feel like movies, but act like a television series, all centred around the West Indian migrant community in West London in the 1970s. There’s everything from a sure-fire classic courtroom drama to an episode centred around a house party that’s so immersive and fun that you’ll feel like you’re there.

The Bureau (SBS On Demand) All five gripping seasons of this French spy drama are now available for free on SBS, and you’ll have sped through each episode before you notice. Supposedly based on real-life contemporary spy tales, The Bureau follows beloved French star Mathieu Kassovitz as the conflicted – and possibly compromised - undercover DGSE agent returning from a years-long mission.

Superstore (Netflix, Binge, Prime) What looked to all the world like a cheap riff on The Office turned out to be so much more, as this totally frictionless sitcom follows the employees of a Best Buy/Target- style store in the United States. Though the final season wrapped this year, it’s the sitcom people will still be talking about in years to come. Funny, sweet, and with something important to say.

You Can’t Ask That (ABC iView) One of the best home-grown formats for a television series just got a new season, as everyday Australians sit down to answer crowdsourced and sometimes uncomfortable questions. Every episode will move you, no matter the topic, and every episode helps illustrate the commonalities we all share. It’s one of the most human television series Australia has ever produced.

Top five reads

Winter is meant for curling up with a hot drink and a good book. Senior Lecturer in Writing and Literature Dr Julia Prendergast offers her top  reads.

Revenge: Murder in Three Parts by S L Lim (Transit Lounge)

Yannie is the force at the centre of this gut-wrenching tale about the cost of fortitude and self-sufficiency. Yannie lives in Malaysia and her life is largely devoted to caring for her parents. Despite her intellectual feats, which exceed her brother’s exponentially, Yannie’s parents tell her they can’t afford to send her to university. In this Stella Prize-shortlisted novel, Lim invites us to consider the cost of duty and sacrifice the slow seep of unused energy, deep inequity, and unrequited longing. 

The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld (Penguin Random House) 

The Bass Rock focuses the lives of Viviane, Ruth and Sarah across three distinct temporal frames spanning the 21st century, post-World War II, and the 18th century. The setting for each of the stories is the coast of Scotland and, more specifically, the Bass Rock. Wyld does not shy away from rigorous analysis of dark themes, including violence inflicted upon women, mental illness and grief. The grace of this novel, winner of the 2021 Miles Franklin award, lies in the handling of three acutely observed registers of intelligence. The voices of Viviane, Ruth and Sarah make claims on the reader’s sensibilities: calling us to consider the implications of loss, secrets, manipulative behaviour and violence. 

The White Girl by Tony Birch (University of Queensland Press) 

Birch’s Miles Franklin-shortlisted novel focuses on Australia’s shameful history: the inhumane government policy of stealing Indigenous children from their families. White-skinned Sissy was conceived in rape; her mother, Lila, skips town abruptly, leaving Sissy in the care of her grandmother, Odette. Through astutely crafted characters, Birch investigates our capacity for brutality as well as empathy. The tender relationship between Odette and Sissy is captured with mesmerising precision and lingers well beyond the final pages.

Infinite Splendours by Sofie Laguna (Allen & Unwin)

Through the focalising register of 10-year-old Lawrence Loman, we witness the coming to expression of a highly intelligent child with broad artistic sensibilities, including a gift for painting. Lawrence’s father died in the war when he was very young. His mother was pregnant with his younger brother. For the first decade of Lawrence’s life, it is only the three of them: Lawrence, his mother, and his brother. Lawrence’s world is undone when he becomes the victim of sexual violence. Laguna’s Miles Franklin-longlisted novel is rattling and uplifting, in equal measures. Her poised handling of the ramifications of trauma, across the decades, is utterly gutting. Her deft portrayal of the capacity for love in brokenness is unforgettable. 

This Taste for Silence by Amanda O’Callaghan (University of Queensland Press)

O’Callaghan’s short stories range from one-page to traditional-length short stories. The language is restrained and controlled, earthed and poetic. The stories capture 'behind-closed-doors' moments, focusing the mystery, conundrum and contradiction of human emotion through carefully crafted narrative detail, tiny telling detail. O’Callaghan brings us to the very edge, juxtaposing the profound and mundane in the everyday. She leaves us there, wrangling with the mystery of lived experience.

Top 5 tips for staying healthy

In between watching and reading, Distinguished Professor in Health Sciences Professor Neville Owen encourages getting off the couch and offers these tips for staying healthy:

  • Sit less and move more.
  • Do a minimum of 30 minutes of recreational physical activity or exercise every day (this can be accumulated across the day) .
  • Avoid sugary and ultra-processed foods and drinks.
  • Find foods consistent with a mainly plant-based/Mediterranean eating pattern.
  • Sit down to plates of food that are varied and colourful. 

‘We all have to do our best to be kind to ourselves, as well as prudent in our selection of healthy choices. We also have to do our best to be socially responsible, personally considerate, helpful and friendly to other people. We need not only to look after ourselves as best we can, but also to look out for others and to have them look out for us,’ Professor Owen says.

To keep you moving, Course Director for Exercise and Sport Science, Associate Professor Amanda Benson offers these exercise tips. 

Looking after yourself

It’s more important than ever that we continue to look after ourselves. 

Stay home if you are feeling unwell, even with mild symptoms, and take sick days to give yourself a chance to recover and recharge. 

It’s okay to not feel okay. Professor Susan Rossell and the COLLATE team from Swinburne’s Centre for Mental Health offer tips for developing positive coping strategies to build our mental resilience.