World Beyond War is a global peace organisation that advocates for the eradication of war. And not just the conflict of the day, but “the institution itself”. And while there are those who shake their heads at such a notion, there were those who couldn’t see past slavery in centuries past.
The nonviolent movement puts its agenda like this, “finding a way to transition to a global security system that is supported by international law, diplomacy, collaboration, and human rights”.
And as part of its annual awards, this year World Beyond War presented Wage Peace Australia with the Organisational War Abolisher Award 2023.
“This organisation is a leading global inspiration to many peace-related campaigns, including those working to close down giant arms fairs,” said World Beyond War executive director David Swanson.
“Wage Peace Australia accurately describes its approach: ‘We jump on tanks, blockade weapons factories, occupy arms dealers’ offices and reclaim military bases, as well as engaging in public discourse and other more conventional campaign methods.’”
And while much of its mobilising mysteriously doesn’t make the mainstream media, the activists making up Wage Peace are persistently protesting, giving up their time to the cause, while various state police forces liberally subject them to extreme brutality for their troubles.
In receiving the award on behalf of Wage Peace Australia, activist educator Margie Pestorius said that whilst she was accepting it, the honour belonged to the entire organisational team, including Zelda Grimshaw, David Bradbury, Miriam Torzillo and Lilli Barto, amongst others.
The long-time peace campaigner added that there’s also the Wage Peace action crews, strategy teams and broader community of activists, including climate defenders. And she acknowledged First Nations peoples and their resistance, as they’ve borne the brunt of militarism on this continent.
Pestorius further explained that it’s all about “location-based storytelling” on the part of the grassroots network of peace activists operating throughout the country.
And this sharing of local knowledge has resulted in it coming to Wage Peace’s attention that “weapons factories are springing up” in every “industrial suburb in Australia”.
“A lot of them are connected to the US weapons factories,” Pestorius made clear. “And they’ve started to build this electoral connection that keeps them rooted for a very long time.”
“So, our program goes to bold, strategic, direct and discursive action to disrupt militarism in Australia and our region,” the activist continued. “It’s important that we organise and mobilise to end war culture.”
Land Forces is Australia’s largest war industry exhibition, which has been held in Brisbane. And Wage Peace is the organisation of activists that consistently disrupts the event. And so successful has its campaign against the expo been that Wage Peace has successfully run the event out of that city.
Wage Peace Australia also has a focus on stopping the weapons industry infiltrating local education systems, seeing Indonesia stop its brutal occupation of West Papua, blockading weapons producers like NIOA and Thales, and it also annually recognises the Frontier Wars on this continent.
Having been working with Wage Peace Australia for the last 18 months now, Lilli Barto said, during the award ceremony, that one of the reasons that the organisation stands out is that it’s serious about “relational organising”.
The activist outlined that it’s about “prioritising the relationships and the networks that sit behind action that sustain it”, along with a “festival approach” to mobilising, whereby the organisers aren’t directing but are more like producers, setting up a stage for activists to create their own scene.
The road to war
World Beyond War board member Dr Alison Broinowski also presented Australian documentary maker David Bradbury with the David Hartsough Individual Lifetime War Abolisher Award 2023.
The renowned filmmaker’s latest piece The Road to War is about our nation’s rush to follow the US into war against China, which is a conflict that’s likely to be the most destructive the globe has ever seen, with the potential to spiral into nuclear annihilation.
A former Australia diplomat, Broinowski is also the president of Australians for War Powers Reform (AWPR), which has been campaigning for the decision to enter into a foreign conflict become a parliamentary choice and not one simply left up to the National Security Committee.
Currently, the committee is made up of prime minister Anthony Albanese and eight senior ministers he selected. And despite federal Labor having promised to hold an inquiry to consider this change, when it actually undertook it, senior ministers headed off any reforms before the review was over.
So, right now, actions like those taken by Wage Peace Australia and its network of grassroots activists are the only thing holding the nation back from the coming war with China, as Albanese is allowing the US to turn the continent into a frontline base for its war machine.
Sydney Criminal Lawyers recently remarked to Pestorius that her having broken through the boundary of the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap to enter its grounds in 2017, with a group of fellow activists, to draw attention to its participation in drone strikes, must have been frightening.
Pestorius replied rather casually that it’s not scary at all when you’re conducting such an action accompanied by friends.