Benalla’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr Tilman Ruff hosted a unique event at BPACC on Friday evening.
Dr Ruff was in town as part of a 900km bike ride between Melbourne and Canberra aimed at raising awareness of issues around nuclear disarmament.
He was part of a team involved with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.
On Friday he brought the prize to BPACC as part of a free public presentation, which featured high-profile keynote speakers and hard-hitting clips, which included first-hand stories from survivors of nuclear attacks.
The evening was opened by Benalla Mayor Don Firth, who introduced Nancy Atkin from the Medical Association for the Prevention of War.
She talked about key issues surrounding the history of nuclear disarmament before handing over to Dr Ruff.
‘‘It’s almost half a century since a number of states made a legally binding commitment to eliminate nuclear arsenals, but they’re still there’’ Dr Ruff said.
‘‘(And), in spite of renewed confidence in that treaty, nothing has ever been agreed.
‘‘At a world summit... the largest meeting of heads of states ever held could agree nothing on disarmament.’’
‘‘It was clear that it was business as usual. But at the same time we had this extraordinary inspiration from the Government of Canada, a civil society coalition that dealt lots of different organisations in together, working for a treaty to ban anti-personal landmines,’’ Dr Ruff said.
‘‘Working with the Red Cross and UN partners could achieve a treaty in less than a decade despite the opposition of the major users and producers from powerful states like Russia and China who opposed it.
‘‘That was a real inspiration for us. So, in Melbourne a group of us thought this (nuclear disarmament) is a global issue, the ultimate globalised issue.
‘‘We need to take it personally and we can organise an international campaign from Melbourne as well as anywhere else.
‘‘I think the principals we established then have stood us in good stead.
‘‘The idea was not setting up a new organisation, but dealing with many existing organisations to find an effective way to work together for a very clear goal of a treaty to prohibit and provide for the elimination of the world’s worst nuclear weapons.
‘‘And to do so based on their unacceptable humanitarian consequences.
‘‘The world has banned biological weapons, chemical weapons, anti-personal landmines and cluster munitions.
‘‘All of which are inhumane and indiscriminate.
‘‘All of them currently used in ways that comply with international law.
‘‘Especially International Humanitarian Law.
‘‘All of them nowhere near as bad as nuclear weapons.
‘‘They’re the only weapons that pose an existential threat to all of us every day that they exist.
‘‘A treaty based on their unacceptable humanitarian consequences, that was the goal.
‘‘If you agreed with that then you could join ICAN.
‘‘We needed young and old, it needed to be a global campaign.
‘‘It needed to work with governments, but it also needed to reach out to communities around the world.
‘‘That was clearly the right idea at the right time.
‘‘I think we proved our worth for the governments that were really keen to progress disarmament, but were as frustrated as we were.’’
Dr Ruff and his fellow riders are now back on the road completing their mammoth journey to Canberra.
They will arrive on September 20 where they will be escorted by a fire engine and ICAN flags flying on Commonwealth Avenue, thanks to the support of the ACT Chief Minister.
●For more information on ICAN and the Nobel Peace Ride, visit www.icanw.org/au/nobelpeaceride