Cairns – for peace?

Does Cairns measure up for peace?

For October, Cairns becomes a mini vortex of global peace making.

Showing for the first time ever in Australia, the A-Bomb exhibition of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial museum will be at the Tanks Arts Centre.  Mr Hiromi Hasai, a survivor of the Hiroshima A-Bomb will be in Cairns to open the exhibition and participate in a public forum on 21 October 2011.


This is one of a series of events and exhibitions the Tanks is calling “War in Profile” which has been initiated as part of the global Mayors for Peace campaign.  Mayors for peace has 4,800 members around the world.  Cairns Regional Council joined in 2010.

Also in October Cairns Peace by Peace is hosting a key global peace activist from the USA.  Kathy Kelly is coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and has been internationally recognised for her humanitarian and nonviolence work in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza.  Kathy has been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Kathy will be giving a public address at the Civic Reception Rooms of Cairns Regional Council, at 6.00 pm on Thursday 20 October, entitled “The Cost of War: the Price of Peace”.  Kathy will be joined by Dr Hakim, a medical doctor who has been working in Afghanistan.

Kathy Kelly learning from women in Afghanistan July 2011

It will be a privilege to meet and hear from these distinguished international guests.  We’ll hear from the past and the present, from Asia and America, from the mainstream and the radical core of peace activism on our planet.  What could be better than that?

Well… now that you ask,

let’s have a look at some of the things going on in Cairns.

Advance Cairns, the Cairns Chamber of Commerce, and the Cairns Regional Council are all hard at work lobbying for an expansion of HMAS Cairns, and an increased rate of recreational visits by US warships to Cairns. The “Cairns Business Leaders forum” has endorsed the military expansion of our port.

Essex group July 2009 Gulf of Thailand

The context of this lobbying is a “force posture review” by the Australian government.  The Australian review is being carried out in parallel to a US “force posture review”.

The US has decided to increase its military presence in Australia, particularly northern and western Australia to meet a number of objectives:

Australia is a convenient location for naval and marine forces preparing to fight in either East Asia (against China) or the Indian Ocean (key to the middle east).  Australia is said to be “out of range” of the initiating missile exchange that is expected in the event of armed conflict with China (Goodbye Japan, goodbye Guam).  Thus Australia can help maintain a forward deployed US military “counter strike” force.

Australia is a convenient location for training air, naval, marine and army forces in a variety of terrains and conditions.

Exercise Talisman Sabre 11
Exercise Talisman Sabre 11

Australia is a politically convenient location for R&R to naval crews plying the Pacific and Indian Oceans.  The US Navy can no longer source these services securely in SE Asia.

The political formula already announced by Canberra is that US forces will have full access to Australian bases in northern Australia.  This the same formula used between the US and Afghanistan.

ADF bases in Townsville and Darwin have already been tagged for direct expansion to accommodate increasing US forces, and Cairns will see more US warships making port visits.

So the Cairns Regional Council is joining Mayors for Peace on the one hand, and directly supporting US military adventurism on the other.  Mayors for Peace gets an art exhibition.  Cairns for War gets a professional lobbying exercise and the full support of our civic leadership.

Does Cairns measure up as a city for peace?   No.

Should it?

The Community Development Branch of the Cairns Regional Council is organising a “Mayors for Peace” workshop to “explore the way forward for our city in its role as a city for peace”.

Peace by Peace will participate in ALL the forums made available by Mayor Schier and Cairns Regional Council. We’ll suggest the best thing Cairns could do immediately as a city of peace is to question US militarism and facilitate public discussion every time a US warship comes to town.

Are we able to use the Mayors for Peace project to improve the performance of Cairns Regional Council?

That will depend on how the citizens of Cairns think, talk and act for peace.

Margaret Pestorius & Tricia Gates

One thought on “Cairns – for peace?”

  1. Hi,
    I can’t find any contact details, I would be interested in knowing more!

    bryan at

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