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FEATURES

 


Wagga Wagga hosts "Peace Communities" International Conference

“Communicating Today For A Peaceful Tomorrow”

“Putting Peace Into Perspective”

PDG Wal Breust Chairman of Committee
Rotary District Peace Communities Project (RDPCP)
(Revised by Dean of Ambassadors PP Geoffrey B.W.Little)


UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan presided over the Millennial Summit 2000 which was attended by 149 heads of state and governments

The celebration of the Millennial Summit was an extraordinary opportunity to evaluate the work of the UN and other international organizations such as the Rotary networks. The United Nations conference was held in NYC from Sept 6-8 to evaluate the work of the UN in its fifty-fifth year and the challenges it faces in the upcoming years. 149 heads of states and of government from 189 member countries met to analyze the central topics in the world agenda and to suggest ways to handle them,. They adopted the Millennium Declaration which reaffirms the commitment of states to multilateralism and to the letter and spirit of the UN Charter. It also reaffirms the values and principles that guide the action of the Organization: freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature and shared responsibility.  Concrete commitments and goals were established in matter of peace, security and disarmament; development and the eradication of poverty; protection of the shared environment; sound public administration, protection of vulnerable persons, attention to special need of Africa and the means to strengthen the UN.

On March 27, 2000, the Secretary general Kofi Annan presented a report entitled "We the peoples: the role of the UN in the 21st century." This document served as basis of discussion since it analyzes the international context and states that the UN must adopt a new approach which places individuals in the center of action, of governments and of international organization.

The report articulated around three freedoms which all peoples must have in the 21st century: eradication of misery, living without fear, and seeking a sustainable future. They also discussed how to strengthen the UN reform programs.

Despite the seemingly successful outcome of the Millennial Summit, world events may not have turned out the way they should have at the end of the Cold War, but a World War III has not happened and is seen as mutually assured destruction. The number of conflicts has dropped dramatically, environmental degradation is being recognized as the canker leading to conflict and more people realize there is much more to the culture of peace than getting rid of weaponry.

International Rotary groups have been spearheading the peace-building within communities worldwide.  On such occasion that allows for dialogue on the creation and sustenance of Peace communities is the Rotary Peace Communities International Conferences; the first of which was held in the city of Los Angeles, California, USA, and organized by PP Paul Warner in June 1996.


Source: CIA Factbook

The 2000 Conference was held in the beautiful city of Wagga Wagga of New South Wales, Australia was attended by numerous key Rotarians including RDPC Special Ambassadors Tony Quinlivan, Geoffrey Little, Moto Nishimura and Peter Dale (Mayor 1996) who represented the Rotary Peace Cities of Wagga Wagga, Australia, and Kobe, Ibaraki and East Hiroshima, in Japan.

The Second Rotary District Peace Communities International Conference was acclaimed by all attendees as a very successful peace-oriented conference since it had the support of two Past Rotary International Presidents Royce Abbey and Glen Kinross, Past Rotary International Director Barry Thompson, and a number of Past District Governors including Dick White and Ken Nicholls D9690, Peter Williams 9750, Sydney, Jack Olsson and John Louttit D9710 Canberra, DGE Ed Chenery, DGN Ian Tooke as well as PDG’s from D9700, Rotary Down Under Associate Editor Jerry Carroll, and RDPC Dean of Ambassadors PPGeoffrey B.W.Little, Sydney, RDPC Special Ambassadors Moto Nishimura, Osaka, Japan, Emelinda Ortiz, Quezon City, Philippines, Patricia M. Baigros, Punta Chica, Argentina, and Shanti S. Eddy, Chennai City, Tamil Nadu, India. National Chairman of MUNA (Rotary Model United Nations Assemblies for Youth) Special Ambassador PP Dominic Williams from Forbes was also in attendance to conduct the MUNA portion of the Conference.  Other visiting Rotarians and Special Ambassadors represented their Rotary Clubs from Grovedale, Geelong and Shepparton Victoria, Bathurst, Coolamon, Griffith, Tumut, Penrith Mollymook, Blayney, Grenfell, Forbes and Lockhart in New South Wales,

'Peace begins with us'

These keynote speakers all covered different aspects of "Putting Peace In Perspective" challenging all who attended to become actively involved in acting through their individual Rotary Club’s Community Service Committees to work with local authorities and service organizations towards making their communities more peaceful, by accepting the fact that “Peace Begins With Us.”

The Conference program commenced with an Aboriginal “Wiradjuri Welcome Ceremony” starting with a Wiradjuri Welcome dance by a number of local Wiradjuri children, which was a great spectacle. This was followed by an interesting address by Wiradjuri Elder, Pastor Cec Grant relating some historical events of his people, who had inhabited much of inland New South Wales covering the large inland river system of the State of New South Wales, including the fertile Murrumbidgee River which runs through the City of Wagga Wagga. He also spoke of the need to continue to work for reconciliation.

Federal Member of the Parliament House for Riverina, Mrs. Kay Hull MP, officially opened the Peace Conference. Mrs. Hull gave an interesting address outlining the history of Tony Quinlivan’s efforts with the support of the members of the Wagga Wagga Kooringal Rotary Club to have the City of Wagga Wagga declared the First Peace City in the World on the 23rd February 1993.

Dr Keith Suter, Past Chairman of the United Nations Association of Australia, New South Wales Division, Social Commentator, Strategic Planner, recipient of the 1996 Federal Peace Medal, PHF, Rostrum Communicator of the year 1995, Member of the Club of Rome and Honorary Member of the Rotary Club of Sydney D9750, and active in many other Health and Welfare organizations, spoke on the “Culture of Peace” outlining the role of the United Nations Association and the United Nations Organization's first role is to bring countries together, through Economic and Social activities, its' second role is to keep countries apart through its peacekeeping activities and its' third role to move countries forward to meet the needs of an ageing population taking place. These roles need a sense of vision, always looking at different ways of doing things.


(L-R) Dean of the Peace Ambassadors, Past President Geoffrey Little, Mayor of Wagga Wagga, Councilor Kevin Wales, Patricia Balgros of Argentina, Emmy Ortiz of the Philippines, Shanti Eddy of India, Australian Chief of Army Lt.-Gen. Peter Cosgrove, and Motonubu Nishimura of Japan.

Dr. Suter described how we have lived as a civilization within a culture of violence and that civilization was now moving into a new Welfare State. He commented that global anger is increasing as a new threat to our communities with more pressure to divide us, than to unite us. Civilization must become more involved in working for a better world by encouraging through education `Conflict Resolution Studies' for our students and youth organizations to help improve the resolution process to settle disputes and discourage violence within our homes and our communities.

PDG Barry Thompson then spoke on the Rotary Report Card, outlining the great Rotary Humanitarian Programs that are helping to bring some relief to disadvantaged people in Third World Countries, like PolioPlus, 3H, World Community Service and Rotary Foundation Programs. Hunger, Literacy and Numeracy programs have a strong link to help us achieve peace in communities and to build World Understanding and Peace.

Mr. Paul O’Sullivan, Executive Director of the Australian Red Cross (NSW) served in the Australian Army for 35 years and was promoted to Army Chief of Staff. He was involved in peace keeping and humanitarian assistance activities before joining the Australian Red Cross. He spoke on ‘Humanitarian Movements’, giving us an outline of the history of the Red Cross Organization from the early European Wars, outlining the great work that it has carried out and is currently involved in globally, in the name of peace.

Sister Joan Westblade presented a very inspirational talk of her experiences as a Catholic nun working in educating and looking after the welfare of the East Timorese people prior to and after the East Timor Crisis which erupted on 4th September 1999 when the vote for independence was won by them as a nation. This crisis erupted with great loss of lives and utter destruction of the city, towns and villages by the local rebel army force until the Australian Army Interfed force arrived and brought peace to East Timor.

Sister Westblade spoke of the total lack of infrastructure and the problems she and the other sisters had in handling goods and food supplies sent to East Timor from Australia, and from other agencies from around the world. She applauded the generosity of these supplies however much of the well intentioned assistance was lost or perished through of lack of facilities to handle these goods.

Mr. Dick Green from Charles Sturt University spoke on `Grounds for Reconciliation' and outlined a plan for the development of a Wiradjuri Walking Track and Sighting Place on a natural granite hill with 360 degree view of the city and surrounding countryside at the CSU Campus.

"New Approaches to Peace'

Dr Keith Suter returned to the podium for his address on “New Approaches to Peace” He spoke of the great work of Dr Stella Cornelius formerly of the United Nations Association of Australia, in setting up Conflict Resolution Clinics and studies that can be taken by our students, our youth and in fact anyone of us who are interested in learning about this powerful ‘peace building’ activity of Conflict Resolution practice.

Dr. Suter spoke about the “Triangle of Peace”, forming one side of the triangle the word: ‘DISARMAMENT’. He listed nuclear, chemical, bio-chemical, small arms and land mines as all threats to human life. Forming the another side of the triangle he indicated the words: ‘PEACEFUL SETTLEMENT OF INTERNATIONAL DISPUTES BY CONFLICT RESOLUTION’ referring to the handling the problem of disputes in a peaceful manner. This action can often be more successful and less costly than through litigation through the court system. Forming the last side of the triangle was the word ‘JUSTICE’ to embrace the environment, debt and human rights. Dr Suter then asked the Conference delegates to look at the paradigm of the word `Peace'.

"PEACE"

The word `Peace' has different expectations of meaning to each person so people should use `Scenario Planning' and “Think about the unthinkable” and “Think of alternate outcomes”

Future motives and actions

The final session was conducted as an Open Forum by members of the Rotary District Peace Committee to seek out opinions and ideas from those attending on `ways and means' to expand the project to the other five hundred and fifteen (515) Rotary Countries around the globe and have the project accepted as a Rotary International endorsed program.

One of the suggestions was made by PRIP Royce Abbey for the committee to continue with the current format and to set a target to have the program initiated in all Rotary Districts around the world commencing with the preparation of a report of this very successful conference to be sent the Rotary Clubs of the thirty Peace Communities around the world encouraging them to take up the challenge of promoting the Peace Communities concept in their own Rotary Districts as well as their respective adjoining Districts. It was considered this action would create a larger lobby group to request some recognition from Rotary International, maybe as an expansion of the World Community Service Program.

DEAN OF AMBASSADORS PP GEOFFREY B.W.LITTLE JP. PHF was recognized and confirmed in office of dean of the Ambassadorial chair of the Rotary District Peace Communities Project (RDPCP) Past President and Special Ambassador Geoffrey B.W.Little JP.PHF of the Rotary Club of Wollstonecraft D9680 on Sydney Northern Harbour Shores, and Honorary Member of the Rotary Club of Wagga Wagga-Kooringal, and recipient of the First `Los Angeles Peace Conference Peace Ambassador Award' was presented by District Governor Ray King and Past District Governor and RDPCP Committee Chairman with an attractively framed certificate in confirmation as Dean of the Ambassadorial Chair of the Project and in recognition of his ongoing invaluable contribution to the work of the Rotary District Peace Communities Project (RDPCP).

The Rotary Model United Nations Assembly for Youth (MUNA) featured teams of high school students representing a variety of countries which make up the United Nations Organization and debating on matters of world political and social concern. Participating students were wearing colorful national dress of the countries they were representing at the Assembly. This was a great International program which was initiated by the Rotary Club of Forbes in District 9700.

Former Wagga Wagga Police Inspector Mayor Kevin Wales presented City Council Plaques and Certificates to Special Guests and Speakers participating in the conference in recognition for their contribution to the success of the RDPC International Conference.

Ms. Annette Laurie and Ms. Karen MacLean of Tumut spoke on ‘Strategies to Reduce Violence Against Women’, describing achievements made to date in increasing the knowledge of the nature and extent of violence against women in the communities of the Greater Murray Region of New South Wales and where they spoke of enhancing linkages between key service providers and agencies responsible for addressing the issues of domestic violence..

Mr. Clive Murphy then gave a highly motivational address on the subject of ‘Inner Peace’ outlining the point that inner peace does not just happen, it has to be continually worked upon to keep levels of self-esteem and self confidence uppermost in a person's outlook to promote peace in our communities. His message was that if a person is in total control of themselves then no one can be hurt emotionally.

REAL JUSTICE AND JUVENILE CONFERENCING

The next speaker was former Senior Sergeant Terry O’Connell AM (Order of Australia) who had been appointed Director of `Real Justice Australia.' During his previous police service in Wagga Wagga then Sergeant O'Connell developed the `Wagga Wagga Restorative Justice Model', otherwise known as the `Wagga Wagga Model', and which is now been replicated in four Australian States, a number of North American States, Canada, the United Kingdom and South Africa as well as in some schools in New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

Mr. O'Connell spoke on the subject of Juvenile Conferencing, outlining the great successes which have been achieved through Conflict Resolution and Justice Conferencing conducted with an independent adjudicator between perpetrators and victims of crime, especially with Youth First Offenders. This once again highlighted the need for Justice Conferencing and Conflict Resolution programs to be supported within the local communities and the need for studies to be expanded into the Education System in the future to help promote ‘Communities of Peace’.

PDG Peter Williams conducted an interesting program promoting the important work being carried out by the “Hope For The Children Foundation”, which was very enlightening on how this great foundation is working for the underprivileged children in our communities.

STEVE PRATT OF CARE AUSTRALIA

Mr. Steve Pratt, author of the book ‘A Duty Of Care’ outlined his work heading Care Australia’s duty of care in the battle torn country of Yugoslavia, and the ordeals that he and his two colleagues encountered in their arrest and imprisonment in Kosovo at the hands of the Yugoslav Regime. He gave an informative address on his humanitarian role for 6 years in charge of Care Australia, following his 23 years service in the Australian Army and retiring with the rank of Major. He was interrogated for hours on end and sometimes brutalized and was forced to sign an admission that he had acted as a spy for the United Nations. He spoke of his final release and acquittal after many months in prison.


Australian Chief of Army, Lieutenant-General Peter Cosgrove, was a keynote speaker at the Rotary Peace Communities International Conference held in Wagga Wagga, NSW. He is pictured being congratulated by District Governor 9700 Ray King after being named an honorary Peace Ambassador.

Lieutenant General Peter Cosgrove, Chief of Army Australia gave the closing keynote address. He offered an outline of the great work of Interfet Force (International Forces in East Timor) he had commanded after the shocking destruction of human life, cities, towns and villages in East Timor by the local rebel army after the results of the vote of independence was announced on the 4th September 1999. Major General Cosgrove as he was then, in his role as then Land Commander Australian Army, commanded the occupation force sent to East Timor by the Federal Government to protect the East Timorese people. He told a rapt audience of his visit to East Timor to quickly assess the situation and then how he came back to Australia to make plans to set up infrastructure and logistics to ensure a smooth and powerful impact on the situation with the least delay as possible. He treated the occupation as a Peace-Building Operation rather than as a Peace-Keeping Operation, and as the infrastructure of Dili and East Timor in general had been destroyed by the rebels, the full assistance of the Australian Air Force and the Navy had to be mustered.

TWO THOUSAND REFUGEES SHIPPED OUT OF EAST TIMOR TO AUSTRALIA

Over two thousand (2000) refugees had to be air lifted out to Australia immediately. A flotilla of warships and transport ships were used to encircle the area, set up as fuel depots, warehouses, motels, food supply stores, and a hospital to service the large contingent of troops and local people until the Coalition Armies could be deployed and then the United Nations Peace Keeping Force would take over.

Lieutenant General Cosgrove remarked that this was a new venture for the Australian Armed Forces and that they would be much better prepared if ever another crisis like East Timor should ever happen again. Finally, he was commissioned as an Honorary Ambassador to the Rotary District Peace Communities Project

Past Rotary International President Glen Kinross delivered and address at the Wagga Wagga Leagues Club that outlined the importance of the humanitarian programs supported by Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation. PRIP Glen Kinross highlighted the fact the there would never be world peace whilst there was abject poverty, illiteracy and numeracy problems in the poor countries around the world. He stated that Rotary is working to relieve hunger with other aid agencies, and has initiated valuable literacy and numeracy programs in many parts of the Third World, however he felt there was much more to be done to relieve this horrible situation.

Two major presentations were made by District Governor Ray King on behalf of District 9700, Mr. Terry O’Connell was presented with a Paul Harris Recognition Pin and Certificate and Chief of Army Lieutenant General Peter Cosgrove was presented with a Paul Harris Sapphire Pin in recognition of their great achievements in working for peace and contributions to the success of the Rotary District Peace Communities Second International Peace Conference.

Past District Governor and RDPCP Committee Chairman Wal Breust presented an outline of the progress of the Rotary District Peace Communities Project (RDPCP) now active in thirteen (13) countries around the world with thirty (30) Peace Communities declared with Cowra in New South Wales D9700 having declared as the thirty first (31st) Peace Community on 12th October 2000. The cities of Tigre in Argentina, and the Islands of Samoa will be declared Rotary `Islands of Peace' by 23rd February 2001, Rotary Peace and Understanding Day and the traditional date of the beginning of Rotary in 1905 with the inauguration of the Rotary Club of Chicago.

TWO WHITE DOVES RELEASED BY FOUNDER PP TONY QUINLIVAN

Founder Special Ambassador and Past President Tony Quinlivan released two white doves and buried a time capsule at the base of the Peace Monument to be opened on 23rd February 2025. He also read the Prayer of St Francis. A hymn was played by the Band, followed by a reading on Peace by Kapooka Army Padre Kendall and a wreath laid by Past Rotary International President Royce Abbey. The band played the second hymn followed by an enlightening Peace address by Bishop Brennan followed by Reverend Main delivering a suitable prayer and Mayor Kevin Wales delivering a vote of thanks.

In the final session PRIP Royce Abbey delivered the Inaugural Royce Abbey Peace Address which was both enlightening and inspirational to lead us on in our objects of the Rotary District Peace Communities Project:

  • Respect for the life and dignity of every person, without discrimination or prejudice
  • Rejection of violence, in all of its forms and towards all people
  • Resolution of conflict among people within local and global communities
  • Reconciliation of differences and the pursuit of harmony
  • Freedom of expression and cultural diversity

RDPC Special Ambassador Moto Nishimura representing the sponsor for the Student Peace Art and Essay Competition E.C.C Osaka, Japan, presented prizes and certificates to students in attendance on behalf of his employers E.C.C Osaka, Japan, and DG Ray King and Conference Coordinator Ken Stone were presented with their RDPC Special Ambassadors Certificates at the close of the session.

The following is a list of RDPC Honorary Ambassador and Special Ambassador Certificates presented during the conference. A special welcome was and IS issued to them all in recognition for their dedication and contribution to the Conference and to the Rotary District Peace Communities Project.

Recipients include: Lieut/General Peter Cosgrove, Terry O’Connell PHF, Steve Pratt, Kay Hull, Sister Joan Westblade, Dr Keith Suter, Moto Nishimura, Paul O’Sullivan, PRIP Royce Abbey, PRIP Glen Kinross, PDG Barry Thompson, DG Ray King, Stephen Sweet, Shanti Samuel Eddy, PP Geoffrey B.W.Little,

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, it is the Rotary District Peace Communities Project Committee's view that whilst we must acknowledge the great work that is being carried out by organizations like the United Nations Association, International Aid Groups, and Rotary International through its World Community Service, PolioPlus, Youth and 3 H Programs which provide help to the needy through necessary literacy and numeracy program assistance internationally, there is much more that can be done locally by Rotary Clubs through the Rotary District Peace Communities Project.

We must look at our local communities, starting with ourselves and our families, using our Peace Community Objectives to find ways to curb the growing incidence of urban violence, petty crime, vandalism through tolerance and peace and help to resolve arguments and prejudices through conflict resolution practices, negotiation and reconciliation.

We must ask ourselves, are we using our Community Service resources to the best advantage? Are we truly serving our local communities by helping and working with our local community service and civic authorities to make our communities more peaceful places for us all to live?

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