Brief History of the Peace Foundation



To promote a climate of peace in Aotearoa/New Zealand and beyond, together with a public understanding of the mutual interdependence of all people (and countries). To this end the Foundation works to “provide practical tools for peaceful living” by:


The Foundation for Peace Studies Aotearoa/New Zealand (The Peace Foundation) was formed in 1975. The initiative came from a small group of people who were concerned about the growing levels of violence in the world. Some had experience in overseas posts and were sensitive to world issues. A number of the original group were members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) who had followed with interest the establishment of a Chair of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom. Many universities around the world now present peace studies courses but in 1975 they were rare.

Valuable advice was given by Dr Norman Alcock, Founder and President of the Canadian Peace Research Institute, who visited New Zealand for the Foundation's inauguration, and gave the first of its Annual Peace Lectures. Patrons over the years have included U Thant, then General Secretary of the United Nations, Sir Guy Powles, New Zealand's first Ombudsman, Archbishop Sir Paul Reeves, Dame Catherine Tizard, Cardinal Thomas Williams, Dame Miraka Szaszy, Judge Mick Brown, and other distinguished New Zealanders. Current patrons are Dame Silvia Cartwright, Professor Noam Chomsky, Dr John Hinchcliff, Sir Paul Reeves, Dame Laurie Salas, Susan Satyanand, Jack Shallcrass, Pauline Tangiora and Dr Marilyn Waring.

Presidents over the years have included John Male (founding President), Reverend Leslie Clements, Prof Brian Davis, Reverend Ron O’Grady, Joan Macdonald, Kim Tay, Dr Peter O’Connor, Alan Webb, and Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey. The past President is Yvonne Duncan and the current President is Dr John Hinchcliff.

The Peace Foundation now has only an office in Auckland. It has recently closed the Wellington Office. The activities of the Auckland office of the Peace Foundation is overseen by the Foundation's Council, which comprises members from Auckland and Wellington and meets bi-monthly to deal with governance and policy issues. The Foundation's Auckland office employs 8 staff members and is supported by a number of volunteers. The majority of its work is focussed on delivering programmes in schools, running Schools’ Peace Week, the education resource centre and the Media Peace Awards.

The Peace Foundation’s South Island office was run as a branch, mainly voluntarily, in the home of Kate Dewes, from 1980 onwards. When it became the Disarmament and Security Centre in 1998 it stayed under the governance of the Peace Foundation Council until 2004 when it became a separate legal entity with its own Council and financial accounts.

The Foundation delivers school programmes under contract to a number of Government ministries, but also depends on subscriptions, grants, contracts, fundraising and donations from its members for funding. From 1988 onwards it has received grants from the Peace and Disarmament Education Trust which was established with compensation money from the French government following the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour in 1985. Since 2004 it has received grants from the Disarmament Education UN Implementation Fund.

An original aim of the Peace Foundation was to sponsor a Chair of Peace Studies at one of New Zealand's universities. Until recently, the most significant contribution towards this was the key role played by Kate Dewes in helping to establish and then coordinating a Peace Studies course up to Stage III level at the University of Canterbury from 1987-98. The Stage I course began again in 2003 and finished after 20 years in November 2006. More recently Kate, and other Peace Foundation personnel, have assisted with the establishment of the Aotearoa/New Zealand Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago.

From the outset, the Foundation concentrated on providing resources and stimulus for peace education in educational institutes, as well as servicing community groups. It also acted as a catalyst for the formation and/or maintenance of a number of groups around the country including Students and Teachers Educating for Peace (STEP), Media Aware and the World Court Project. During the 1980s STEP made a significant contribution to disseminating resources, information and knowledge about peace education amongst the teaching profession. The Peace Foundation also participated in a series of conferences arranged by Russell Marshall, during his term as Minister of Education from 1987-1990, and made a major contribution to the development of the Peace Studies Guidelines for schools. Media Aware formed in 1988 as a result of Continuing Education courses based on Peter Watkins' film, The Journey, which the Foundation brought to New Zealand.

The World Court Project grew out of an initiative by Foundation member and retired District Court Judge Harold Evans. It followed meetings Evans had had with international lawyer Richard Falk in Christchurch in 1986. Evans campaigned with Kate Dewes, Alyn Ware and others for nearly a decade to convince governments to request the United Nations General Assembly to ask for an advisory opinion on the legal status of nuclear weapons. New Zealand doctors, lawyers and peace activists played a key role in convincing many citizen groups, diplomats and finally governments, to support the Project. In 1993 and 1994 respectively, the World Health Assembly and the UN General Assembly requested separate advisory opinions. In 1996 the World Court judges decided that:

... a threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law,
... there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to complete nuclear disarmament under strict and effective international control.



In 1979, collaboration with the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF), and in consultation with the Curriculum Development Unit of the former Department of Education, the Foundation published a resource book for teachers at the primary/intermediate level entitled Learning Peaceful Relationships. This became almost a standard resource and some 12,000 copies have sold both in New Zealand and overseas. In 1986, as part of the activities of the United Nations International Year of Peace, the Foundation commissioned a similar book for use in secondary schools entitled Extending Peaceful Relationships. Subsequently a number of other educational resources have been produced to assist teachers, parents, and the wider community to resolve conflicts non-violently, including A Volcano in My Tummy Adolescent Volcanoes, Little Volcanoes (for pre-schools), Thanks not Spanks, Happier Parenting, Happier Children, and the CDrom -Volcanoes -Handling Anger.

In 1989, when the School Charters were being drawn up, the Foundation produced a pamphlet to provide all Boards of Trustee members with specific information about the implementation of peace education.

The Foundation established the "Cool Schools" Peer Mediation Programme in 1991. It was written and launched in collaboration with Alyn Ware (Mobile Peace Van) and Yvonne Duncan (Students and Teachers Educating for Peace - STEP). The programme has now been introduced to over half the schools in New Zealand, and is supported by part-time trainers in a number of centres around the country. The programme is available for both primary and secondary schools, and the Cool Schools' Parents Programme has subsequently been developed to extend the peer mediation skills into the home and community. In 2007 a two year trial began in Fiji.

In 2002 the Foundation began to investigate the possibility of bringing the Canadian Roots of Empathy programme to schools in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Following three visits to this country by its founder, Mary Gordon, and extensive championing of the programme here by Marion Hancock, a three year trial commenced in 10 Auckland schools in 2007. Over the course of the three years 100 classrooms will be involved.


The Foundation's day-to-day activities have been based on the provision of peace and disarmament education material - teaching units, books and booklets, posters, CDs, videos and films. It operates New Zealand's largest peace and disarmament education resource centres in Auckland and Christchurch. In addition other activities and projects have included:


The Foundation organised Annual Peace Lectures from 1975. Lecturers included Dr Norman Alcock, Dr Homer Jack, Professor Johan Galtung, Professor Adam Curle, Hon Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan, Dr Wira Gardiner, Dr Helen Caldicott, Charlotte Waterlow, Professor Richard Falk, Dr Marilyn Waring, Dr Elsie Locke, Peter Watkins and Senator Jo Vallentine.

Other guests of the Peace Foundation have included John Pilger and Noam Chomsky. E. P. Thompson and Anita McNaught who have been keynote speakers at the annual Media Peace Awards Ceremony.


The Foundation came into being at a time when peace was far from fashionable and it worked with enthusiasm to promote peace education, the role of the United Nations and nuclear disarmament when there were very few other groups active in New Zealand. It can pride itself in pioneering a concern for the issue of peace at all levels - global, national, racial, group and individual. It can, with justification, feel some responsibility for the increasing concern for peace in all sectors of the population.

The Foundation's role in providing resources and information to other peace and peace-related groups as they developed during the 1980s was vital. The decision, in 1983, to bring Dr Helen Caldicott to New Zealand can be pinpointed as a crucial turning point in the history of both the peace movement and the country as a whole. She helped spark a tremendous awakening and upsurge in anti-nuclear and peace activities. This expansion carried through, enabling sufficient energy to be focussed on the various types of activities that led to New Zealand passing the Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act in 1987.

Such occurrences happen only rarely in the life of any organisation. Although less spectacular, it can nevertheless be fairly claimed that the Foundation’s everyday 'spadework' for over a decade played an equally important role in New Zealand's crucial decision to take the stand against nuclear weapons. This stand was hailed by many around the world as a sane step in an insane world, and a beacon of hope.

The Foundation has also played a major role in the provision of peace education resources for schools from its inception in 1975 and especially since the directive from the Minister of Education of the then Labour Government in 1985 that 'peace studies' be integrated into the school curriculum. The Foundation has been able to bridge the gap between supply and demand for many teachers and educationalists, and continues to be the only organisation capable of fulfilling this role. Its work in the schools with Cool Schools and Roots of Empathy means that it is also a key provider of programmes that enable students to acquire the essential skills and attitudes to support peaceful and non-violent living, to ensure a peaceful future.

For a comprehensive history of the first 20 years of the Peace Foundation, click here.