18 women from 4 states and 1 territory came together as one CoP group to share on the various projects and initiatives happening around Australia. From the Peace Culture Café to Creators of Peace Community of Practice, from film nights to partnerships with an interfaith network or with a migrant and refugee centre to deliver Peace Circles in high schools… Bek Brown tells us more.
Australia is a huge country. 7,692 million km² to be precise. Although we may be one country we often operate very separately as states, as is the case for Creators of Peace in Australia. So it was a wonderful opportunity to come together as one united group. We were 18 women in total from 4 states and 1 territory. We gathered at Greenhills Conference Centre, situated 20kms from Canberra city centre and nestled among the lovely Cotter Valley.
The purpose for us being together was multi-faceted. We met to connect and reconnect - with new friends and old friends and in doing so, strengthen the bonds of our CoP network; to listen and learn from each other; to celebrate our achievements and successes, and share our learnings and challenges over the past 12 months; to identify where the gaps are and things that we would like to develop; and very importantly to "fill our cups" so that we can return to our lives and our work with CoP feeling recharged.
As always, the best part of the weekend was the sharing. There was a deep sense of trust and vulnerability as we shared our struggles and challenges with each other. It was also wonderful to share in each other’s joys and successes and be inspired by the various projects and initiatives happening around Australia.
One of our sessions was "Beyond Peace Circles" and it was exciting to hear about all that is going on. In New South Wales there are opportunities to keep the energy going after a Peace Circle, with initiatives such as Creators of Peace Community of Practice (CoP CoP), Peace in Practice groups and family picnics. There are also opportunities for women to connect with CoP without having done a Peace Circle such as the Peace Culture Café or the monthly meetings in Galston and Auburn. In Queensland there have been several film nights with invited guest speakers, which have led on to collaboration with other groups in Community Trustbuilding and Australians Sharing a New Story events this year; in Australian Capital Territory a strong relationship is being built with the Women’s Interfaith Network; and in South Australia there are regular Peace Focus Gatherings and at a recent fundraiser the team raised over $2,000 for CoP in Nepal.
We were particularly impressed by reports from the Victorian team about the South East project. This is a partnership with the Southern Migrant and Refugee Centre (SMRC), in which Creators of Peace was chosen to deliver Peace Circles with high school students in the South East of Victoria. The project runs for two years and they received a considerable grant from the Victorian Government to deliver it. So there is a lot going on and much to be grateful for!
As we looked ahead at what 2020 might bring, we were asked to spend some time reflecting on our own capacity and what we were willing and able to commit to. We then broke into our state teams and asked those same questions. For the team in South Australia this process has been invaluable and helped them to set intentions and goals for the year that they felt capable of achieving.
In our final session, we quietly reflected on the question: "What has this weekend meant for you?" The responses were varied but all had a similar thread. One woman shared that for her it had been, "a meeting of minds and hearts to explore the wisdom of women in connecting to peace, insights and actions". There was much gratitude expressed for each other and the sense of being part of something bigger; and there were many who shared a recommitment - not only to the work of CoP but their place in it.