Australia 14 February: Stanthorpe, Qld - Glen Innes, NSW
A Cool Respite in Bushfire Season
Today we had an early start, getting on the road at 5.30am. We had 27km to run before our first meeting in Tenterfield, NSW. Queensland does not practise daylight savings in Summer, while NSW does, meaning we would lose an hour as we crossed the Queensland/NSW State border. However we were all keen to get on the road early after our hot hot day of running yesterday.
... and a little smoke. With two bush fires close by we could smell the smoke as we ran and see a haze around us. They were far enough away for us not to be in any danger, but close enough to envelope us and remind us of the ever-present reality and danger of bushfires in Australia.
The men’s team met up with the women’s team just as we ran the last few km into Tenterfield to meet with some wonderful members of the Community outside the Tenterfield Amphitheatre.
Two Peace Run Torch-Bearer Awards were presented to Julia and Phillip Harpham, an event which was covered in the following day's "Tenterfield Star."
Julia, a school teacher and Phillip, a veterinarian, run a cattle property in the rural area of Mingoola, NSW. In this area, like so many other tiny rural communities across Australia, many of the younger generation have moved to larger towns or cities, resulting in a declining and ageing population.
In 2013 the Mingoola Progress Association (of which Julia and Philip are Active members) came up with the idea of resettling refugee families in the unused farm houses in the district. This would lead to enough children enrolling in the school to enable the school to remain open; a pool of labour for seasonal farm work; and revitalising the ageing community with young blood. Julia and Philip embraced this idea wholeheartedly and worked tirelessly with refugee advocacy groups and government organisations to locate refugee families who wanted to settle in Mingoola.
In 2016 the first 3 families of African descent arrived and were found housing, and helped in numerous ways to integrate into the community by Julia and Philip. Today it is obvious that these new families feel very much like an extension of the Harpman's own family. The acceptance and support for these vibrant young refugee families in the Mingoola community had led to a new understanding of refugee issues amongst the adults. The children at the reopened Mingoola Primary School, and at the district high school at Tenterfield, have benefited from knowing their new African classmates.
In 2017 Julia was awarded the Regional Woman of the year (NSW) and they both featured in an episode of the ABC’s “Australian Story”. This publicity has inspired many other small communities in rural areas to also resettle their own refugee families. This will no doubt mean that more people across Australia will have a more tolerant world view and understanding of the way of life in Africa, bringing us closer to world peace.
Following the Torch-Bearer Award presentations, the full international running team ran 500 metres to St Joseph’s School in Tenterfield ...
Our team captain, Devashishu Torpy from England presented an eloquent summary of the purpose of the Peace Run and spoke of the visionary leadership of the founder, Sri Chinmoy.
The students were able to deduce all the countries represented by the members of the running team – some of them not in the least easy!
Following the team’s rendition of Sri Chinmoy’s Peace Run song, the World-Harmony Run song was taught to the students, with accompanying illustrative actions which they learned instantly and performed with aplomb.
The School Captains, Sophie and Hinata, accepted the Certificate of Appreciation on behalf of the school, followed by Sophie offering a vote of thanks from the students.
While the women's team drove ahead to prepare for their next running stint, the men's team hit the road again through the "Granite Belt."
Because of the extreme fire danger at present, we are running with a flower in place of a flame atop the Torch, another beautiful symbol of peace.
While gathering outside Deepwater Public School (instituted in 1884), local enthusiast Mark Phillips greeted the team to offer his wholehearted support for the journey.
The entire school community of 15 students across all the Primary School ages, were seated in formation and gave their entire attention as Devashishu, Peace Run Team Captain, introduced the Southern Hemisphere round-the-world Peace Run torch relay taking place throughout this year.
While the students were guessing the countries of the team members, Devashishu observed: “We are all part of the same human family.” The Peace Run song was again followed by the singing with actions of the World-Harmony Run song, this time with all of the teachers and students enthusiastically joining in together.
It was agreed by all that peace starts in the heart, and we would now commence a “scientific experiment” in which we feel peace as a reality inside our hearts. “Are you ready?” Immediately one child confirmed: “Ready is my middle name!!”
The Certificate and an artwork on the theme of world harmony by Sri Chinmoy were presented to the student representatives.
The kids switched instantly to hi-energy mode when the Peace Torch appeared for a run around the oval, with several match races ensuing between some of the faster children and a few of the Peace Run team members.
After the school in Tenterfield the women's team had driven forward to Deepwater and continued to run the Peace Torch into Glenn Innes. Local Peace Run coordinator, Constance Attard joined us for today, so we split the team into two and were able to finished out km for the day a little early.
As we ran the final distance into Glen Innes we were met by Annette who had meet the Peace Run’s founder Sri Chinmoy in Perth in 1976 and was just thrilled to see his name on the side of our van bringing back so many great memories.
... before running into the Town Hall to meet the Mayor of Glen Innes who wholeheartedly embraced the Peace Run.
Mayor Carol Sparks welcomed the Peace Torch to the town, having only just returned from taking lunch to the firefighters who had just contained one of the bush fires in the area. She spoke so highly of their tireless and selfless work to protect the region. Her and her councillors and staff greeted us outside the Town Hall, kindly offering the Peace Run a small gift from the town of Glen Innes.
... followed by a group photo and then a few convivial minutes to chat with everyone about the goodness we see and feel all around us as we travel around the world.
The men's team were first to arrive at Oakhurst Cottage Farmstay, a few km outside Deepwater, where hosts Robyn and Steve Johnston could not possibly have given us a more wholehearted welcome!
For many members of our team who have grown up in European cities, this was a unique opportunity to experience a glimpse of life on a typical Aussie farm!
The team enjoyed a remarkable evening at beautiful Oakhurst Cottage enjoying the farm life. Many thanks to our gracious hosts!