23 February 2024

Wagga's Rotary clubs recognise the unsung heroes that work for peace in our community

| Chris Roe
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The 31st Rotary Clubs of Wagga Wagga Peace Day Ceremony will kick off this Sunday.

The 31st Rotary Clubs of Wagga Wagga Peace Day Ceremony will kick off this Sunday. Photo: Chris Roe.

With news reports of war, violence and global unrest blazing across our televisions night after night, it can be easy to take for granted the peace we enjoy here in the Riverina and to overlook the quiet achievers who work hard to make it so.

This Sunday, Wagga’s combined Rotary clubs are inviting the community to join the annual Peace Day Ceremony at Victory Memorial Park to recognise the ones who make the world a better place.

“You’d have to say, it’s about those local unsung heroes that do community service without any fanfare and go about their business very humbly,” said Rotary Club of Wagga Wagga president Peter Olson.

“Some of them, when they’ve been told they’ve been nominated, they don’t even consider what they’ve been doing as worthy of being recognised.”

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This weekend’s event will be the 31st awards ceremony and reflects Wagga’s unique place in history as the first city in the world to be proclaimed as a Rotary Peace City, in 1993.

“It was a project of the president of the Kooringal Rotary Club at the time, the late Tony Quinlivan, who came up with this brilliant idea,” explained Rotary Peace Officer David Payne.

“It’s now spread all around the world and there are more than 50 ‘Peace Communities’ in about 20 different countries and it all started here in Wagga.”

Peace Communities are founded on community service, the rejection of violence, respect for life and human dignity, and the idea that peace is more than just the absence of war.

“Peace begins with me and you making a difference from our hearts, with others, and it spreads in people’s lives,” David said.

Aside from a brief COVID interruption, Wagga’s Rotary clubs have continued to host the ceremony on the Sunday closest to the 23 February anniversary.

The moment is memorialised in the form of the distinctive granite monolith that stands as a symbol of peace on the corner of The Esplanade and Best Street, at the Wollundry Lagoon.

Representatives from Wagga’s seven Rotary clubs gathered at the city’s peace monument. Photo: Chris Roe.

Individuals and groups that have delivered outstanding community benefits, through voluntary activities will be recognised at the ceremony and David explained that they have been working to connect with schools, Indigenous leaders and multicultural groups.

“All seven of Wagga’s Rotary clubs will be represented and we’ve also got Aunty Joyce Williams coming along to give a Welcome to Country and we have the Mt Austin High School Aboriginal dance group performing an emu dance,” David said.

“And in terms of groups like the Multicultural Council, from a peace perspective, they represent over 100 different countries and many have come here to escape violence.”

Kooringal Rotary’s Peter Keith said the annual event was a good way for the local clubs to stay connected.

“As a long-term Rotarian, this is one of the few things that brings all the local Rotary clubs together in a meaningful way,” he said.

“Many other events are run by one Rotary club with the support of the others, but this one’s a combined event and I think that’s very important.”

The 31st Rotary Clubs of Wagga Wagga, Peace Day Ceremony will kick off this Sunday (25 Feb) from 10 am in the Victory Memorial Gardens.

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