While one Kiwi has been honoured for fighting in Afghanistan, another has been honoured for attempting to undermine NZ’s military effectiveness.
Leading Christchurch “peace” activist, Katie Dewes is to be the subject of a documentary/profile to be screened on Qatar based network, Al Jazeera.
The film is to made by Christchurch based production company, Raconteur.
Raconteur was founded in 1996 by Veronica McCarthy and Bill de Friez, the company has established itself as a leading film and television production company in the South Island – and New Zealand.
Raconteur has a strong social conscience, aiming to present meticulously researched, high production value, quality stories to an international standard.
The documentary is to “mark the 20th anniversary of NZ’s nuclear free policy“, but there are no plans to screen it in this country.
Educated in Hamilton, Dewes first became involved in “peace” work in the ’70s when she helped organise the Auckland Peace Squadron protesting against the visits of US nuclear armed ships.
In 1977 she went with her first husband, John Boanas, to study Peace Studies at Bradford, England.
“In 1979 I had my first child and began to run the Peace Foundation office from home in Christchurch. I worked with Fr John Curnow and other church people at that time.”
The late John Curnow was of course, a Marxist and the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ NZ support group.
Boanas/Dewes initiated the visits of Dr Helen Caldicott, an Australian peace activist to NZ.
“Those early years were very important for building up peace groups and preparing to take our case to the World Court. I become involved with the Quakers, many of whom were strongly involved in the peace movement. We worked with the churches – to reach people who had not been challenged about these issues. There was a women’s spirituality group I belonged to, who were very creative and looking for change. I started teaching Peace Studies at Canterbury University.”
“There was a backlash to Peace Studies in the mid-’80s. I was called a communist because I was pushing peace education in schools. I received abusive phone calls. They weren’t easy times before we got the antinuclear legislation through.”
Boanas/Dewes was active in pushing “peace studies” in schools, through “Students and Teachers organising for Peace” (STOP).
Another leading STOP activist Alan Marston was a delegate to the first peace education conference organised by the Deptartment of Education in 1985.
“Alan described the peace studies development at the conference as “very embryonic” and one that would become part of the overall review of the school cirriculum.” PPTA News April 1985.
Marston was at the time a member of the pro Soviet, Socialist Unity Party’s Peace and Solidarity Commission. He was also active in the , an SUP front and affiliate of the Soviet Front World Peace Council.
In 1987 Boanas/Dewes joined a delegation to Red China as a guest of the Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament, an “NGO” also affiliated to the World peace Council. Another member of the 5 man delegation was well known Workers Communist League member, , the late Ron Smith.
In the early ’90s Boanas was a leading light in the World Court Project-designed to make nuclear weapons illegal.
Even though she was possibly “being watched” she was not deterred;
“In the 1990s when we were taking the case to the World Court, David Lange warned me I was possibly being watched by operatives of the British and US governments. However, we have not let that put us off.”
Dewes is vice President of the International Peace Bureau where she worked alongside the notorious socialist Cora Weiss, daughter of US communist Sam Rubin. She is also a member of the NZ Public Advisory Committee on Disarmament and Arms Control and has represented this country on the UN Expert Study on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education.
Last month Dewes designed an exhibition at the Canterbury Museum to mark the 20th anniversary of the Nuclear Free legislation and the beginning of the World Court Project.
With a team of keen young people, they are working closely with the City Council to implement recommendations adopted by the Council when Christchurch became a Peace City in 2002. These include teaching Peace Studies at Canterbury University; promoting the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Exhibition and a Gandhi exhibition to museums and schools; a World Peace Bell in the Botanic Gardens; hosting Mayors for Peace meetings; and organising a sculpture from New Zealand for the Nagasaki Peace Park.
Meanwhile, real “peace activists” like Corporal Bill Apiata, continue to risk their lives in Afghanistan.