'Peace Unveiled' public screening with panelist Kay Danes OAM

Published 16 August 2016

Dr Natalia Szablewska will showcase a war-time documentary about the women of Afghanistan at Southern Cross University's Gold Coast campus on August 19.

However, the international human rights lawyer and SCU lecturer has asked her high-calibre panel of speakers including Kay Danes OAM, humanitarian worker Katrina Elliot, former Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court Dr Melanie O'Brien, and Australian Army Red Cross Service Award recipient David Freeman, to not watch Peace Unveiled until the public screening.

"I want us to all watch it together at the screening and for everyone on the panel to have organic reactions rather than something prepared," Dr Szablewska said.

"Each panel member has a very different background but all have experience of working in Afghanistan, and will be able to reflect on what they've just seen and draw from their own experiences."

The film will be screened at the Gold Coast, Lismore and Coffs Harbour campuses on Friday, August 19 at 2.30pm, followed by a video-link to the panel as part of the Women, War and Peace series at the Gold Coast campus.

Panel member Kay Danes OAM said her role on the panel would highlight the plight of women who live in conflict zones and would help further the message she and other humanitarian workers are trying to relay to the western world.

"I feel most honoured to be part of this event as it provides an important opportunity to participate in a conversation that is necessary to women all over the world and particularly, to connect the story of those trapped in conflict with those who are far removed from it," Ms Danes said.

"I really hope this film will bring Australians closer to understanding that 'war' brings considerable personal and devastating consequences, particularly for women and children."

Ms Danes and her husband Kerry made international news when they were imprisoned in Laos in 2000 and forced to endure 10 months of arbitrary detention, torture and mock executions when they lived in one of the world's most secretive communist prisons before diplomatic efforts secured their release.

After the ordeal, Kay became a human rights advocate and embarked on a humanitarian aid mission into war-torn Afghanistan. She was named an Australian of the Year state finalist in 2012 and awarded the prestigious Medal of the Order of Australia in 2014.

Alongside her social justice and humanitarian work, Kay is undertaking a PhD at Southern Cross University where she is "Analysing long-term local and international strategies for the protection of humanitarians working in global conflict zones".

Peace Unveiled is the fourth film in the Women, War and Peace series, and follows three women who organised meetings to ensure women's rights didn't get traded away in peace talks with the Taliban when the US troop surge was announced in late 2009. The film explores and exposes the changing and powerful roles of women in peace-building, and in conflict.

Dr Szablewska, from the School of Law and Justice, said it was the first time the student-led initiative would be held at the Gold Coast campus, with hopes to attract an even greater audience from the Gold Coast and Tweed area for the free screening.

"We want the public to understand what happens behind the scenes during conflict which we never hear about through the media," she said.

"These films show how women who were once voiceless, become empowered and push for change using a grass-roots bottom-up approach."

Event details: The film and panel will be held on Friday, August 19, 2.30pm-4.30pm at Southern Cross University Gold Coast campus A Block, Room A2.20 Southern Cross Drive, Bilinga, and video-linked to Lismore and Coffs Harbour campuses. Photo caption: Kay Danes OAM visits a female prison officer and the daughter of a female prisoner in Afghanistan's Nangarhar Province. The prison wardens are paid $40 a month salary.

Media contact: Jessica Huxley media officer, Southern Cross University Gold Coast, 07 5589 3024 or 0417 288 794.