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Veteran Peace Activists Win UN Agency Awards


Media Release

MONDAY NOVEMBER 13

VETERAN PEACE ACTIVISTS WIN UNITED NATIONS AGENCY AWARDS

Mother and daughter longtime peace campaigners Elsie Locke and Marie Leadbeater have been honoured with UNESCO Peacebuilder Awards at a ceremony in Christchurch today.

The awards were presented by Christchurch Mayor, Gary Moore.

Eighty-eight-year old author and historian Elsie Locke has been at the forefront of the New Zealand peace movement since the 1930’s. She continues active peace work - in August she gave a Hiroshima Day address on the banks of the Avon River in Christchurch.

Her daughter, Auckland City Councilor Marie Leadbeater, was a leading light in the “Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament” during the seventies and eighties. Since then she has worked extensively to highlight international human rights issues.

The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO has established the Peacebuilder Award to draw attention to the United Nations International Year for the Culture of Peace. Chairman of the New Zealand Steering Committee for the International Year, Pat Lynch, says the two women have shown a deep commitment to peacemaking and peacebuilding.

“People who promote peace are special people in our society. Those who have a vision for a more peaceful and more just society and act on that vision should be applauded by all New Zealanders.”

Elsie Locke’s concern for peace began as a child at an ANZAC parade. When she moved to Wellington in the early 1930’s she became involved in anti-fascist protest movements and became an editor of the magazine “Woman Today” which had the motto “Peace, Freedom and Progress.”

The atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the Second World War prompted Locke to fight for nuclear disarmament and she helpead establish the lobby group “Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament” in Christchurch in the 1950’s.

“I think the peace movement has got to be alert indefinitely to the dangers posed by nuclear weapons,” she says. “It’s an atrocity and it’s been cooked up with the possibility of being used. And we tolerate it!”

In 1992 Elsie Locke published the well-regarded book “Peace People” – a social history of the peace movement in New Zealand. Her wealth of children’s writing is also known for its social themes promoting non-violence and peacemaking between Maori and Pakeha.

The other Peacebuilder Award winner, Marie Leadbeater, became a familiar face on our television screens during the seventies and eighties. She was the Auckland spokesperson for the “Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament” and was involved in protests against the entry of nuclear warships into New Zealand ports.

She says a personal highlight was leading the Auckland protest march against the proposed visit of the American warship USS Buchanan. She believes the pressure applied to the Labour Government at that time was pivotal to the implementation of New Zealand’s nuclear-free legislation.

Marie Leadbeater has continued her peace work by becoming involved in international human rights issues in East Timor, the Philippines and Fiji. She was the Auckland spokesperson for the “East Timor Independence Committee” which worked for many years to get the Indonesian military regime out of that country. Since East Timor’s independence Marie Leadbeater continues to contribute as the Auckland spokesperson of the “Indonesia Human Rights Committee.”

Marie Leadbetter says she’s delighted to be honoured with her mother who has given her children a sense of the importance of being actively involved in the international community.

UNESCO’s Peacebuilder Award is being presented every month until the end of the year to show the diverse ways in which people contribute to building peace in our society. Recipients include Andrew Ladley for his work with the UN in East Timor, the New Zealand branch of Amnesty International and former All-Black Michael Jones for his work in the “Fair Play in Sport” campaign.

UNESCO is a United Nations agency dedicated to the advancement of peace and international understanding through the exchange of information and ideas.

NOTE -THE AWARD CEREMONY WILL TAKE PLCE IN THE CHRISTCHURCH MAYORAL CHAMBERS AT 3PM, MONDAY NOVEMBER 13.

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