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History Highlights

One hundred years of making peace - highlights of Australian WILPF History.  

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On 25 March1915, against a background of opposition to government legislation for compulsory military training for schoolboys and involvement of Australia in a European conflict, 30 women met at the Australian Church in Melbourne. These women understood the Constitution of the Commonwealth 1901, to have laid the foundation of the new nation, Australia, on social justice, universal education, democracy and freedom and repudiation of war. They were enfranchised and had seen Vida Goldstein stand for election to parliament. Most were active members of more than one international peace organisation. They were confident that they as women had an important role to play in working for peace through negotiation. They named themselves the Sisterhood of International Peace. Soon afterwards the Womenʼs Peace Army was formed with Vida Goldstein as its driving force.

1919 Zurich Congress adopts name Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and Sisterhood of International Peace becomes its Australian Section. WILPF remonstrates with the victorious Powers, says the Versailles Treaty will create discords leading to future war.

1931 WILPF International President Jane Addams (US) is awarded Nobel Peace Prize.

1932 WILPF organises collection of millions of signatures world-wide, supporting Geneva Disarmament Conference (photo).

1940 - 1960

1940 – 1945 WILPF aids victims of fascism and works to end WWII.

1946 WILPF International President, Emily Greene Balch awarded Nobel Peace Prize.

1947 WILPF Australia opposes establishment of Woomera Rocket Range.

1950s WILPF works for easing of Cold War tensions, advocates recognition of People’s Republic of China.

1960 - 1990

1962 WILPF Australia holds conference attended by International President, Else Zeuthen (Denmark) and Vice-President, Agnes Stapleton (UK). Begins opposition to US Bases in Australia.

1963 Begins opposition to French nuclear tests in the Pacific, which still continues. A member of WILPF Australia flies to Paris to plead with President de Gaulle to stop the tests.

1964 WILPF Australia opposes Australia’s participation in the Vietnam War, with militant non-violent action, including dissemination of facts about the causes and conduct of the war, support for conscientious objectors to military service, and draft resisters. It holds vigils and demonstrations.

1965 WILPF’s 50th Anniversary Congress at The Hague launches a world drive for signatures from leading women asking women of the US to help stop the Vietnam war. A member of WILPF Australia coordinates this appeal.
1969 WILPF organises international conference on chemical and biological weapons (CBW) in London.

1971 WILPF delegation to Vietnam makes contact with women from both North and South.

1973 WILPF NSW holds seminar on disarmament at Sydney University, publishes booklet “Disarmament?”

1975 International Women’s Year sets Equality, Development and Peace as goals for UN Decade for Women. WILPF continues to stress prime importance of peace if equality and development are to be achieved.

1975 WILPF organises disarmament seminars in New York and (1978) Vienna. WILPF Australia prepares submission against uranium mining, testifies before Ranger Uranium Enquiry.

1979 International Year of the Child. WILPF Australia documents health, housing and education needs of Aboriginal children.

1980 - 2000

1980 WILPF Australia initiates Junior Media Peace Prize (JuMPP) to be awarded annually.

1981 WILPF organises conference, “Women of Europe in Action for Peace” in Amsterdam. WILPF Australia publishes “Alternative to War – The peaceful settlement of international disputes” by Dr Keith Suter.

1982 WILPF organises international women’s conference in New York prior to UN Second Special Session on Disarmament. Alva Myrdal, member of WILPF Sweden, is awarded Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the UN for disarmament.

1982 WILPF Australia holds its biennial meeting in Canberra for the fi rst time. ACT Branch formed. WILPF members participate in Palm Sunday Peace Rallies.

1983 WILPF’s STAR Campaign (Stop the Arms Race) culminates on International Women’s Day with rally of 10,000 women at NATO headquarters, Brussels. WILPF Australia supports visit of Drs Helen and Bill Caldicott. Organises “Women in Action for Peace” conference.

1983 Veteran WA WILPF member, Irene Greenwood, is honoured by having Stateline flagship named after her.

1984 WILPF International Consultant on disarmament, Inga Thorsson, visits Australia.

1985 WILPF Australia organises Australian Pacific Women’s Peace Conference in Sydney with significant input into the NGO Forum in Nairobi held in association with the UN World Conference at the end of the Decade for Women; inaugurates Peace Tent. WILPF’s 70th birthday celebrations.

1986 International Year of Peace Government appoints WILPF vice-president Stella Cornelius as Director of Australia’s IYP Secretariat. WILPF ACT members serve on ACT IYP Committee. WILPF WA organises Indian Ocean Zone of Peace Conference. WILPF SA initiates “twinning” of Adelaide with Minsk and St Louis. JuMPP entries are made into videos for use in schools.

1986 The Great Peace Journey, originating in Scandinavia, is brought to Australia by Elizabeth Gerle (WILPF Sweden).

1986 WILPF Australia co-ordinates its deputations to Australia and Pacific UN member governments. WILPF International receives a UN Peace Messenger award and WILPF Australia receives one of the nine awards that came to Australia.

1987 WILPF Australia sends Aboriginal member to World Congress of Women in Moscow. WILPF ACT members help organise peace conference in February.

1988 WILPF joins in nation-wide opposition to visits of nuclear-armed and/or powered warships during the Australian Bicentennial celebrations and Aboriginal non-violent protests.

1988 WILPF continues to support Aboriginal claims for land rights and self-determination, and acknowledges Aboriginal sovereignty

1989 WILPF joins in protests against the arms trade embodied in AIDEX Arms Trade Fair, Canberra. WlLPF Australia hosts 24th International Triennial Congress of WILPF in Sydney, a first for the Southern Hemisphere.

1990-91 WILPF joins in worldwide efforts to prevent war in the Middle East; campaigns against Australia’s involvement in the global arms trade.

1993 WILPF Australia involved in creating CAPOW (Coalition of Participating Organisations of Women), a national NGO network

1994 WILPF sends a mission to monitor elections in South Africa.

1995 WILPF sponsors a Peace Train journey from Helsinki to Beijing. China tries to discourage Peace Train but it arrives on time for UN 4th World Conference and Forum on Women. WILPF hosts Peace Tent at Forum

1997 WILPF participates in Australian Reconciliation Convention.

1998 WILPF continues to work for peace and justice in the Balkan States, speaks out against sanctions in Iraq and participates in the UN Conference on Disarmament. WILPF Australia participates in Women’s Constitutional Convention, Canberra

2000 - current

2000 WILPF takes a prominent role in organising the World March of Women.

2000 WILPF participates in UN Security Council hearings on women’s experience of war and takes significant role in facilitating adoption of Resolution 1325 “Women, Peace and Security”, establishes peacewomen website. WILPF(ACT) initiates NGO network for submissions to Defence 2000 for Australia to prioritise security of people and planet.
2001 WILPF participates in the World Conference on Racism in South Africa.

2002 The WILPF peace train travels from Kenya to Johannesburg.

2003 Children of the Gulf War photographic exhibition purchased by WILPF Australia and tours major centres in Australia.

2004 WILPF (ACT) launches 1325 Australia website in Parliament House Canberra, to further implementation of 1325 in our region.

2005 WILPF celebrates 90th anniversary.

2006 WILPF Triennial Conference held in Adelaide May 2006 with keynote speech “Women’s wellbeing, peace and care: challenges for government economic policy”. WILPF women involved in the Shoalwater Upgrade Inquiry Report opposing the Shoalwater Bay Training Area joint military training exercises held in this fragile environment in Qld.

2007 WILPF members participate in Talisman Sabre 2007 Peace Convergence (Shoalwater Bay joint military training exercises) with WILPF Children of the Gulf War photographic exhibition held in Rockhampton during the Convergence.

2008 Federal Office for Women awards WILPF $100,000 grant to provide the research for developing an Australian National Action Plan for UNSCR1325.

2009 WILPF focuses on Women and Armed Conflict as part of the Beijing+15 international campaign. WILPF Australia makes submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties’ Inquiry into Nuclear Non-proliferation.

2010 WILPF’s 95th birthday celebrations in all Branches with Inaugural WILPF Queensland Peacewomen Awards announced at a gala annual event.

2011 WILPF campaign for 16 Days of Activism is Blow the Whistle to redefine security. YWILPF begins in Australia.

2012 United Nations Association presents Community Award to WILPF Qld branch.

2013 WILPF International launches its centenary campaign Women Stop War 

2015 WILPF's Centenary!  

WILPF logo
 "There is no way to peace; peace is the way."  
Edith Greene Balch, founding member of WILPF and Nobel Peace Prize winner, 1946.