Page 1452 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 6 May 2015

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Anti-war movement

DR BOURKE (Ginninderra) (5.57): In the wake of commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli, it is also important to recognise that the outbreak of war brought on a strong anti-war movement, and not just in Australia.

Madam Speaker, you may have seen the recent exhibition at the Canberra Museum and Gallery commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, a prominent organisation that over the century campaigned tirelessly to abolish the causes of war and violence and to promote disarmament and the peaceful resolution of international conflict.

The exhibition Women’s power to stop war echoes the centenary of campaigning and coincided with the league’s anniversary conference in Canberra. Women’s power to stop war is a global movement of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, with a strong presence in both the ACT and Australia as a whole, including campaigning for the establishment of the Canberra peace park.

The exhibition told the story of the Australian women of the league, and in particular the work of the ACT branch that formed in May 1982 with 12 members. The exhibition showed many interesting artefacts and documents, giving a great insight into the league’s history and its campaigns. While the exhibition highlighted the stories of eight individual women, the catalogue essay by Margaret Bearlin, the convenor of the history working committee, acknowledges that their work would not have been possible without all of the dedicated women who kept the league’s branches alive.

Originally formed in 1915, the league has continuously advocated the peaceful resolution of conflict, and the women’s power to stop war movement symbolises their great efforts and achievements. The Australian women who founded the league were driven by the view that the Australian Constitution established Australia on the foundation of social justice, universal education, democracy, freedom and the repudiation of war.

League members were bitterly disappointed with the conditions of the 1918 armistice and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles, whose punitive terms against Germany they said were “sowing the seeds of another world war”. After the Second World War the league continued to be a voice for peace and disarmament, opposing Australian involvement in the Vietnam War, conscription and French nuclear testing in the Pacific, for example. Along with other like-minded groups, the league campaigned in the 1950s and 60s for Aboriginal citizenship, land rights and social justice for Indigenous Australians.

The league have been influential on the global stage, actively participating in human rights bodies in the United Nations, and advocating greater engagement of civil society in areas of conflict such as Ukraine, Iraq and Syria. They highlight the importance of investing in peace and social justice and peace between genders rather than investing in war.

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