Launch of ICON Australia on 27 February 2013 at the New South Wales Parliament House in presence of Federal and State Ministers, diplomats and a host of academic, community and religious luminaries.
Ela Gandhi graciously agreed to come from South Africa for the launch and visited a number of schools and institutions in Melbourne and Sydney over 6 days and was engaged extensively with the Media ABC TV and Radio, SBS and a number of community Radios and TVs.
The schools, institutions and workshops included: Ashbury Primary School and Fort Street High School and Workshops at Parliament House conducted by Sylvania High School and Parliament House conducted by Kingsgrove North High School. Schools program and workshops organised by Dr Phil Lambert PSM, Sydney Regional Director with the Department of Education and Communities.
Ela Gandhi gave a brief background to the formation of ICON in South Africa said that inspired by Gandhiji’s work in South Africa and his nonviolent movement a group of volunteers began to look at how to address the rising violence in the country and globally. Ela Gandhi said that while the tendency is to look for solutions in a stringent justice system approach we look for solutions in Gandhiji’s ideas. Clearly his approach to nonviolence was much broader than the strategy to be used in certain situations.
For Gandhiji nonviolence was a way of life. What end is the composition of this way of life and how can we promote it? We brainstormed and came up with many issues and I know Professor Rees has talked about many of them already but among them access to basic needs, universal access to basic needs such as housing, work, education, healthcare, equity, learning universal values, nonviolent communication, all of nonviolent language and a less consumer society. Those were some of the issues brought up at this brainstorming session.
ICON positioned itself for a new and holistic approach because we found that a lot of the peace education programs look at study of values, we also looked at our history syllabus and everybody knows about Hitler, very few people studied about Gandhi or studied about Martin Luther King or any of the peace movements, and there have been many peace movements before and after Gandhiji we heard about them but our history books don’t reflect on those. Gandhiji also emphasized the need for learning about other cultures and other languages to broaden the perspective.
In her concluding words, Ela Gandhi said: we look forward to a long and healthy relationship with ICON Australia, a relationship which will share ideas, which will share information and knowledge, and grow from that networking and that relationship.