Peace bell poised to peal across the lake

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For whom the bell tolls… In the foreground, Rotary’s Michael Rabey, left, and architect Fred Kasparek with the group who have been helping with the project… “I feel there’s been a guiding hand throughout the process, says Michael.” Photo by Andrew Campbell

CANBERRA’S Rotary World Peace Bell has been erected on the shore of Lake Burley Griffin and will be unveiled in a ceremony on February 23, says Michael Rabey, Canberra Rotary Peace Bell project co-ordinator.

The bronze bell is located in a specially designed pavilion at Lennox Gardens, home of the Beijing Gardens in the Nara Peace Park, and will be opened at 10.30am on Friday, February 23.

“It’s been four years of hard work, and I feel there’s been a guiding hand throughout the process,” says Michael.

“Whenever things have been needed they have just turned up, it’s been wonderful.”

Michael says the process of bringing the 23rd World Peace Bell to Canberra started in 2014 when he visited Christchurch with his wife in the midst of the devastation following the earthquake.

“We saw the Christchurch Peace Bell in the Botanic Gardens there, which had been donated 10 years ago. It was in a magnificent location and I immediately thought of Lennox Gardens in Canberra.

“On our return, I went to my Rotary club, the Rotary Club of Canberra Burley Griffin, who agreed to support the project.”

Michael approached architect Fred Kasparek for the pavilion design, without whom he says the project wouldn’t have got off the ground.

“Fred was instrumental in the process, having provided us with the model that his daughter Lauren had created in her architectural studies at UC, based on a Japanese fan,” Michael says.

Major sponsors include the Canberra Centre, LJ Hooker, RAM Constructions and Canberra Decks, and Michael says Adam Baines at Modinex Group and Urbanline donated the special timbers for the deck on the Pavilion.

Michael says he’d been touched to receive congratulations on the completion of the Canberra Rotary Peace Bell project from Seiko Takase, administrative director of the Association for the Preservation of the UN Peace Bell and daughter of Chiyoji Nakagawa, who donated the first World Peace Bell to the UN in 1954.

“Mr Nakagawa had appealed for the spirit of ‘One World’ to be realised and called on every human being to work together, hand in hand, for peace,” Michael says.

“Seiko wrote that Chiyoji wanted to create a peaceful and secure world – a world free of war and discrimination, and a world that rises above the conflict that can come about as a result of different principles, opinions, races, nations, countries, religions and so on.

“Sixteen years after Chiyoji died, Tomijiro Yoshida carried on the work and began to make his World Peace Bells, presenting them to more than 20 countries.

“I hate to think what’s occurred in the world since 2014, and it’s only getting worse with the threat of nuclear war hanging over us like it did in the 1960s.”

The Peace Bell weighs 365kg and is cast from melted coins from UN member countries. It’s a physical reminder for a peaceful world, from large-scale conflicts to domestic violence, and Michael says that while the bell will always ring on World Peace Day he wants the community to be involved in creating ringing events.

Upcoming events include a commemoration of the Japanese tsunami on March 11, a Harmony Day picnic, March 18, and Anzac Day on April 25.

“We’re issuing an open invitation to cultural, ethnic and religious groups to book in ringing events.

“We’d also love to see Canberra schools coming here, as they have helped to raise money for the project, too, and it’s meant as much to us as the major sponsors.

“This is the end of the beginning now, with a very exciting period ahead.”

More information at To book a ringing event, email

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Kathryn Vukovljak
Kathryn Vukovljak is a "CityNews" journalist.

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