Peace doveQuakers in NSW have for many months been preparing an exhibition illustrating the Australian Quaker response to WW1.  We were inspired by the initiatives of Friends, and others, in the UK to take on this project.

Contributions have been made by Quakers throughout Australia and we want to acknowledge the valuable assistance, in the form of images, that has been received from Friends House Library, the Northern Friends Peace Board, the Quaker Arts Network, Pax Christi UK, Swarthmore College in the US and elsewhere.  The Quakers in Britain, Quakers in the World and Peace Pledge Union websites, amongst others, have been valuable sources of information.

The following extract from our media release describes the focus of the exhibition.

Quakers highlight dissent, courage and conscience in WW1 centenary exhibition

Dissent and opposition to the war, and to preparations for war, are highlighted in a WW1 centenary exhibition at the Quaker Meeting House, 119 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills, Sydney.

Quakers are presenting the exhibition, entitled “World War 1: Quaker witness to peace and non-violence”, as part of NSW History Week, 6–14 September.

Australian historian, Professor Emerita Jill Roe, who will open the exhibition, says:

Quakers have been vital to the peace tradition since the 17th century, and never more so than during and after World War 1.  Their advocacy of peace and non-violence, and their work for post-war relief, is as relevant today as it was then, and rightfully highlighted in this valuable contribution to History Week 2014.

The emphasis on peacemaking provides a counterpoint to the centenary’s focus on the commemoration of military engagement, the appropriation of the memory of war, and the myth that our national identity was forged at Gallipoli and other WW1 military actions.

The exhibition tells the story of Quakers’ commitment to peacemaking, their opposition to militarism, and their active role in the provision of relief to the victims of war in Europe during and after WW1.

Quakers joined with many other people, some of faith and some not, who advocated for peace and opposed war and preparations for war. When compulsory military

Friends' Ambulance Unit badge

Friends’ Ambulance Unit badge

training for boys aged 14–18 years was introduced in Australia under the Defence Act from 1911, Quakers were among those who refused training and were prosecuted, fined, and in some cases imprisoned in military barracks.  At the time Quakers held that:  children ought not to be taught the necessity of war, much less its glory.

During WW1, Quakers were influential in opposing conscription. Despite considerable local and British propaganda, Australians rejected conscription for overseas military service at two referendums.

The exhibition draws attention to the terrible consequences of war and illustrates Quakers’ continuing commitment to peace-making, nuclear disarmament, and non-violent methods of solving conflict within and between nations.

The exhibition will later travel within NSW and to other States and Territories.  More information at:

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