Cowra Festival of International Understanding — a unique event celebrating our diversity
The official program for the 2017 Festival of International Understanding is now available at Cowra Council at 116 Kendal St or click here.
Belarus is the 2017 guest nation for this unique 10-day event which celebrates Cowra's commitment to world peace and the community of nations.
Cowra Festival of International Understanding (originally the Festival of the Lachlan Valley) is a community-based event focusing on Cowra's unique place as the home of reconciliation. Proudly hosting Australia's World Peace Bell — this honour derived from Cowra's first-hand experience of war with the POW Breakout of Japanese prisoners in 1944.
The Festival originated in the mid-1960s at a time when the town was coming to recognise the benefits of promoting understanding between nations. It is a credit to the local community — and recognition of their support for this first event — that the Festival immediately grabbed the public's attention.
This annual Festival was first conceived in 1964 as Cowra Shire approached the 150th anniversary of Surveyor George William Evans' exploration of the Lachlan River in May 1815. It was suggested that some form of celebration be held to mark this historic occasion.
A committee was subsequently formed to organise a celebration — "Cowra's Festival of the Lachlan Valley" — after a community competition had been held to name the event. Theme of the first Festival was the historical importance to the town and district of the first European exploration of the Lachlan Valley; and included a full-week of celebrations in April 1965. As a special guest, New Zealand's High Commissioner performed the official opening with more than £5400 ($10,800) raised from the inaugural Festival which was donated towards development of the Wyangala Waters foreshores area.
Following this success; it was decided to hold this unique celebration annually with the idea of featuring a guest nation strongly-supported. The theme of "International Understanding" was also embraced at this time and — because of our unique historical links — Japan was invited to be the first Guest Nation. Succeeding years have seen a number of variations and additions to the Festival but the basic format and aim of the event has remained constant.
With Cowra bestowed world recognition as the site of Australia's replica of the World Peace Bell in 1992, the celebration's name was changed to the "Festival of International Understanding"; an alteration that also incorporated the Festival's main theme that all the peoples of the world are one.
A Guest Nation has subsequently featured and been celebrated at each Festival; with the exception of 2002 which focused on Cowra's cultural diversity and 2014 which featured the United Nations.
The Festival continues to be a major event in the Cowra Shire calendar and plays a significant role in building a sense of pride and identity in the Cowra Community.
In 1999, a book about the Festival of International Understanding was produced by former Cowra Council Shire President Cyril Treasure that tells, through programs and newspaper articles, the Festival's history for its first 33-years.
The Festival of International Understanding celebrated the 50th Anniversary in 2014 with the United Nations Information Centre in Australia the special guest in recognition of this world-body's international focus.
1965 New Zealand
1970 Great Britain
1971 United States of America
1973 Federal Republic of Germany
1984 The Philippines
1993 Western Samoa
1994 New Zealand
1996 Papua New Guinea
2002 Celebrating Cowra's Cultural Diversity
2007 South Africa
2013 Sri Lanka
2014 United Nations
2015 Republic of Korea
2016 Kingdom of Tonga