Australia 21 February: Bungendore - Canberra

A Capital Day

This morning, a small team of runners began running before dawn to bring the torch into the capital city of Canberra.

At St Vincent's Primary School we were warmly welcomed by the staff and children. This school was very enthusiastic to receive the Peace Run - the team were here two years ago.

Luke has spent some time preparing the children for our visit. Here they are standing with poems and drawings made especially for this occasion.

This class sing the World Harmony Run song for us with their own actions that go with the words.

The children are such fast runners at St Vincent's, they appear as only a blur in this picture!

Our next visit is to Canberra Montessori.

The staff explain to us the Montessori approach to teaching.

The official welcome and reception for the international running team to Canberra and the ACT was held today at 12.30pm in the Reception Room of the ACT Legislative Assembly building.

Once inside, Mr Warren Daly, an elder of the Ngunnawal people, offered the “Welcome to Country” for the international team, wishing them the very best during their stay on Ngunnawal land and beyond.

Prachar Stegemann, ACT Coordinator of the Peace Run, introduced the round-the-world Southern Hemisphere relay taking place this year, showing a brief video outlining the route spanning 44 countries across 5 continents, after which the team showed off their singing skills with Sri Chinmoy’s Peace Run song.

Host for the occasion, Shane Rattenbury MLA, ACT Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability; Minister for Justice, Consumer Affairs and Road Safety; Minister for Corrections; and Minister for Mental Health, has been a long-time supporter and participant in the Peace Run. Shane thanked Warren Daly for his Welcome to Country, and offered a heartfelt welcome to the international team on behalf of the ACT Government. He spoke of the significance of running as means of bringing peace to the soul, and from there to the world around us; and applauded the team for their dedication to this great cause.

Several Diplomatic Corps representatives of the various Southern Hemisphere countries where the Peace Run will be visiting this year had gathered for the occasion, including the Ambassador for ZIMBABWE, His Excellency Mr George Tsaurai Mudzviti Vengesa; the High Commissioner for ZAMBIA, His Excellency Mr Frank Bwalya; Minister Mr Luciano Mazza, second in charge at the Embassy of BRAZIL; Mr Gregorio Acerbi Hernandez, representing the Ambassador for ARGENTINA; a representative from the Embassy of SOUTH AFRICA; and First Secretary of the Embassy of TIMOR LESTE, Mr Samuel Soares. Each one spoke from the heart, expressing their appreciation and enthusiasm for the message of the Peace Run and its relevance in their own country. Mr Soares – who has only been posted in Canberra for 2 weeks – remarked on the significance of the statue of the Peace Run founder, Sri Chinmoy, in the forecourt of the National Parliament of Timor Leste.

Minister Mr Luciano Mazza, second in charge at the Embassy of BRAZIL, offers kind words of support for the Peace Run.

First Secretary of the Embassy of TIMOR LESTE, Mr Samuel Soares.

The Peace Run Torch-Bearer Award was presented by the Speaker of the ACT Legislative Assembly, Joy Burch MLA, to Paul Collis.

Paul Collis is a Barkindji person from Bourke, on the Darling River in north-west New South Wales.  His novel Dancing Home (University of Queensland Press, 2017) won both the David Unaipon Award and the ACT Book of the Year Award. He teaches creative writing at the University of Canberra, where he earned a PhD in Communications and was the winner of the Herbert Burton Medal, its most prestigious award. 

As well as publishing fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction, Paul is a lead researcher on the Story Ground project, which finds ways of bringing together the living practices of Indigenous story and the teaching of creative writing in universities and schools. His work as a mentor and creative leader reaches across communities, inspiring individuals and provoking institutions to more creative and inclusive ways of being. 

Paul’s life’s work mirrors the philosophy of the Peace Run – that change comes from within, and we each have a unique role to play in fostering a better world. Even Paul’s email address – “paulforpeace” – speaks to the purpose and goal of his aspiration. Paul sees and feels a more noble, truer, purer, wider and more sympathetic humanity. With humility and dignity, Paul speaks from the heart and to the heart, inspiring all he meets in person and through his writing and teaching, to be true to ourselves and thus step by step, brings closer our dream of a world united in peace.

Following Paul’s remarks, several MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) gathered to hold the Peace Torch, a welcome respite for all leading into the famously combative Question Time, looming at 2.30pm. Speaker Joy Burch was joined by Government Whip Tara Cheyne, ACT Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur and Shane Rattenbury for a moment of peace and harmony before returning to the fray.

Finally, as refreshments were served, a 5-minute video collage was shown from the first 10 days of the adventure from Brisbane compiled by Natabara Rollosson, our team member from New York, USA, with highlights of life on the road and some heart-touching moments with children at schools along the way.

Two members of the international team – Katharina Broetzner from Salzburg, Austria and Devashishu Torpy from London, England offered their impressions of running in Australia, remarking on the vastness of the landscape and openness of the hearts of everyone they have encountered along their journey.

The team enjoyed a picnic lunch by the Statue of Sri Chinmoy, unveiled at the conclusion of the Peace Run from Uluru to Canberra in November 2014.

The runners visited Telstra Tower which had been dedicated as a Sri Chinmoy Peace Tower in June 1995.

Vananiya from Mongolia, holding the torch, has joined the team.

Our day finished with a sumptuous feast at My Rainbow-Dreams Cafe.