Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Dissent and opposition to the war, and to preparations for war, are highlighted in a World War 1 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 postwar 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 World War 1. 

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 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 peacemaking, 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.

Opening hours at Quaker Meeting House, 119 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills, Sydney:

Saturdays 6, 13 September: 10.30am–3.00pm

Monday 8 September: 10.30am–3.00pm

Tuesday 9 September: 1.00pm–8.00pm

Wednesday 10 September: 1.00pm–8.00pm

Thursday 11 September: 10.30am–3.00pm

Further information: Jenny Madeline, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in NSW

[email protected]; 0424 286 582

Contact Profile

Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in NSW

Around 2,000 people in Australia identify as Quakers, a religion that emerged in northern England in the mid-1600s and is now practised worldwide.

Quakers believe everyone is endowed with something of the divine; and one can strengthen awareness of it and obedience to it by silent worship, mutual support and activity together, and by trying to live according to our testimonies. Our testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community and equality guide our personal and corporate behaviour.

The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Australia is a member of the National Council of Churches of Australia.

Jenny Madeline
P: 0424 286 582
M: 0424 286 582

Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Australia

Around 2000 Australians identify as Quakers. The Society began in Britain in the 17th century and has taken root worldwide. Quakers believe in personal experience of the Spirit; that there is 'that of God' in everyone; that all of life is sacred; and aim to put their faith in action by resisting injustice and working to improve social institutions. Quakers are best known for their stand against war. In Australia Quakers' faith in action includes support for the Alternatives to Violence Project in prisons and in communities, and Quaker Service Australia, an international aid organisation. The Society is a member of the National Council of Churches of Australia. The Quaker form of worship is based on silence, in the belief that silence gives us greater opportunity to move closer to God.

Susan Addison
P: 07 3201 2685
M: 0434 037755


Quakers dissent conscience WW1 exhibition




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