The World Peace Flame (WPF) has had an influential role within Australia over the last several years, touching many individuals, manifesting its presence in a variety of forms and participating in numerous events for peace.
One of the seven flames that came together to create the WPF in 1999 was the Australian Flame. Patricia Brown (now co-director of Dru Australia), was a keen supporter of the team that would become the WPF Foundation and eager to help establish their work in Australia, she happily accepted their request to arrange for a flame to be lit and sent to the UK, not really knowing what would be involved and where it would lead her. The awesome story of the lighting and sending of the Australian Flame can be read in the book The Flame That Transforms. However, a significant component of the story of the Australian Flame from the beginning has been its connection with the Australian Indigenous people and at the time of lighting the Olympics, which were held in Sydney in 2000.
After the WPF was lit and installed in Wales the Australian Flame and miners lamp was returned to Australia where is has been involved in numerous events and presented to a number of dignitaries in both Australia and New Zealand.
The WPF has had a significant presence at Australia’s National Folk Festival over many years, one year over 2000 people received a WPF of their own after a presentation given by the team.
In the year 2000 a significant Aboriginal event known as Corroboree 2000, was held in Sydney, the WPF was part of the opening ceremony at the Opera House and alongside Aboriginal Elders led a march with 250,000 people over Sydney Harbour Bridge.
It has been involved in numerous events for UN International Day of Peace as well as the Infinity Walkin the lead up to the Sydney Olympics which traversed the country and had the WPF alight in every camp along the way.
There are also a few permanent monuments of the WPF in Australia:
- In 2001 a Peace Pole was installed in Glebe Park, Canberra. In a beautiful ceremony attended by the Nnunagwal people, local parliamentarians, dignitiaries, school children, and over 100 guests, pigeons were released and a school choir sang as Mansukh Patel and Chris Barrington unveiled the Peace Pole. Since its installation groups have met at the Pole to discuss peace, share food and practice yoga. In a lovely, unplanned, turn of events, a statue of Gandhi was installed opposite the Peace Pole within a year.
- A permanent WPF burns at the Nature Care College in Sydney
- A permanent WPF burns at the community centre in Byron Bay
The WPF has inspired 1000s of people in Australia and New Zealand, with countless events of gifting the Flame, information, and presentations to parliamentarians, schools, indigenous groups, festivals, community groups, churches etc. Of particular note is the work of Victoria Sharp of the Southern Highlands and Maggie Baker and her Albury-Wodonga WPF Committee.
Victoria has been working with the WPF for many years, taking it into schools and parliament. She has been instrumental in the presentation of the Flame to many MPs as well as groups like the Parliamentary Wives group and the Sydney Peace Committee.
Maggie and the Albury-Wodonga WPF Committee have in the last 2 years organized for the WPF to be installed into 24 schools in the local region. Garnering the support of local councils, a rotary group and individual donors to make it possible for each school to have its own miners lamp flame as well as the Peace In Your Hands education package. Albury and Wodonga are twin towns straddling the state borders of New South Wales and Victoria, the committee’s work is symbolic of overcoming political border divides by bringing together the schools via the WPF. All the schools recently came together in an event called “Ribbons of Peace” which was attended by Mansukh Patel and Savitri MacCuish. The event included the young school students walking two strings of ribbons, upon which the children had written a message of peace each, across the border and tying them together. There was also the unveiling of a WPF sculpture created by a local artist with students from a secondary college. The ribbons were eventually tied to the sculpture and it now tours from school to school as a feature of their WPF projects. A lot of the schools have started to award a Peace Prize at the end of year assemblies and further work is being is being planned for a website and facebook page, also with the involvement of students from the secondary college.
A beautiful success story from one of the schools in the region is that of Brydee Smith. Brydee was a student at Eskdale Primary School, a small country school in the Mitta Mitta Valley, Victoria. Brydee has been so taken by the WPF that she has taken it on as her own personal project. She has made a short film about the WPF as part of a school project, given presentations and been involved with the Ribbons of Peace program. In the summer of 2015 Brydee raised over $500 for the WPF by walking up the highest mountain in Victoria, Mt Bogong. Brydee became a WPF Youth Ambassador when Savitri and Mansukh visited the area in 2014.