UNE Peace Studies presents inaugural Peace Festival

Published 10 May 2012

orange1The University of New England’s inaugural Peace Festival, incorporating the annual Nonviolence Film Festival and a new Peacebuilding Conference, got under way this week with public forums and an exhibition in the Dixson Library.

Dr Marty Branagan, a lecturer in Peace Studies at UNE, said the festival had “grown organically” out of the film festival, which is now in its third year. “It’s complementing our teaching program by allowing people to engage in more informal discussions about nonviolence,” he said.

The exhibition, Transforming the Human Spirit, presented by the international Buddhist peace organisation Soka Gakkai, was opened on Monday 7 May and will continue till Friday 18 May. It is complemented by a display titled Ain’t Gonna Study War No More, featuring books, posters, buttons t-shirts and other protest movement ephemera. The display includes one of Dr Branagan’s paintings inspired by his aspirations for social and environmental regeneration.

The Peace Festival program this week has included public forums on “Creating value in activism” (with a panel including Dr Rebecca Spence, a UNE-based peace worker, Adam Blakester, a board member of Greenpeace Australia, and Greg Johns, the General Director of Soka Gakkai International Australia), and “Nonviolence: how most revolutions really occur” (with Dr Marty Branagan). A public forum on “Grassroots activism: activism and the democratic process”, with Angela Gates, will be in the Dixson Library’s Letters Room at 11.30 am on Monday 14 May.

Nonviolence Film Festival

The Nonviolence Film Festival will open in UNE’s Lewis Lecture Theatre at 1 pm on Monday 14 May. The film festival, which will continue till Friday 18 May in the Lewis Lecture Theatre at 1 pm (except for a 2 pm start on Thursday), aims to show the effectiveness of nonviolence against injustice and oppression through a public series of free lunchtime documentaries about significant nonviolent campaigns in Australia and abroad. These include the rescue of the majority of Danish Jews from the Nazi Holocaust (Monday 14 May), the first major strike held by Indigenous Australian workers in Western Australia (Tuesday 15 May), the overthrow of the Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos after 20 years of rule (Wednesday 16 May), logging blockades in the subtropical forests of northern NSW (Thursday 17 May), and a satirical take on global free trade (Friday 18 May).

Amnesty International will mount a stall at the film festival, and discussions with Peace Studies staff members will follow each screening. Dr Branagan said that the week-long festival of free films presented by UNE Peace Studies could help people to understand the potential of what he called “the world’s most powerful philosophy of social change”.

Peacebuilding Conference

A major component of the Peace Festival is the conference, Cultivating Peace: Context, Practices and Multidimensional Models, that will begin on Thursday 17 May and continue till Saturday 19 May. Members of the public are welcome to attend the conference sessions (entry by donation) in the UNE Arts Theatre. A keynote address by UNE’s Professor of Peace Studies, Helen Ware, will be at 1.20 pm on the first day of the conference, and that afternoon, starting at 2.30 pm, there will be talks about peace building and conflict resolution in the Solomon Islands, China, Zimbabwe, and India/Nepal.

The conference sessions on Friday 18 May, when the countries under discussion will include East Timor, Ivory Coast, Pakistan and Kenya, will begin at 9 am with a keynote address by Dr Tony Lynch, a UNE philosopher, and continue till 5 pm. Saturday’s sessions, starting at 9 am and continuing till 1.30 pm, will include critical discussion around current theories and practices in peace building.

The conferences speakers – mainly international postgraduate students – are from countries including Kenya, Bangladesh, Japan, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, China, Hungary, and Yap State. One speaker is travelling  to  Armidale  from the University of Peace in Costa Rica.

For more information on the Peace Festival, contact Dr Marty Branagan at marty.branagan@une.edu.au, or phone him on (02) 6771 4948 or (02) 6773 3951.