In 1934, at the request of the Rotary Club of Melbourne, the City of Melbourne Council made available a small area in the King's Domain for a Rotary "Grove of Friendship" where trees could be planted or ‘dedicated’ to honour distinguished Rotarians or mark significant Rotary occasions.
The Park was inaugurated in March 1935 when Paul Harris, founder of Rotary, planted a Brush Box (Lophostemon confertus) that is today a fine specimen of this species.
His wife, Mrs Jean Harris, also planted a tree on that occasion as did Angus Mitchell, the then District Governor and later first Australian President of Rotary International, and his wife, Mrs Teena Mitchell. Professor William Osborne, the Foundation President of the Rotary Club of Melbourne, and Alfred Holtz, a past President of the Club and past District Governor were other notables who planted trees on that occasion.
Not all the trees survived the ravages of time and vandals, but replacements have been made, and the Park has become a much loved and used venue for walking, jogging, reading and sylvan contemplation.
The Park later became known as the Rotary Park of Remembrance and in 2023 with the installation of the Peace Bells, the Park was renamed the Rotary Melbourne Peace Park.
Over the 90 years since Paul Harris and other notables planted those first six trees, a red granite seat has been erected as a memorial to the work of Paul Harris and Angus Mitchell, and additional trees have been planted or dedicated by:
Click below for more information about those commemorated at the Park.
In 1953, a massive and beautiful red granite seat, designed by Past President Percy Oakley was placed in the Park to acknowledge the work of friends Paul Harris and Angus Mitchell. The seat bears the inscription:
Erected by the Rotary Club of Melbourne
to commemorate the work of Rotary's Founder
and of Angus S. Mitchell
the first Australian President of Rotary International
Sir Angus Mitchell (seated); the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Councill R. Solly (centre); and Sir John Reid at the presentation of the Granite Seat to the Rotary Park of Remembrance, 1953.
Carl-Wilhelm Stenhammer, President Rotary International 2005-06, 2004
K.R. 'Ravi' Ravindran, President of Rotary International, 2015-16 (left); and Rotary Melbourne President Kevin Sheehan, 2019.
The City of Melbourne Council continues to manage and protect the Park, providing another example of the enduring and supportive relationship between the Rotary Club of Melbourne and the City of Melbourne. The Rotary Park Committee hopes that Melburnians will long continue to enjoy and respect this living piece of Rotary history.
On Wednesday 26th May 2023, the End Polio Walk started at Federation Square, past the Rotary Melbourne flower bed, ending up at the Rotary Melbourne Peace Park, during the Rotary International Convention.
Hundreds of local and international Rotarians enjoyed the walk around the Tan, Shrine of Remembrance, and Botanic Gardens.
At the Park, many Rotarians investigated the trees and plaques, taking many photos.
Special guests arrived later - a trio of past Rotary International Presidents: Holger Knaack, Mark Moloney and Ravi Ravindran. They sat on the Paul Harris bench surrounded by a group of Rotaracters from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, before Ravi and Mark tracked down their trees and plaques.
The Peace Bells are ringing! Officially opened on Wednesday 24 May 2023 at Rotary Melbourne Peace Park with Lord Mayor Sally Capp, Nobel Prize Peace Laureate Tilman Ruff, designer Neil McLachlan, Rotary Melbourne President Adrian Nelson, and Project Leader Rob McGuirk. An historic day for peace and Rotary in Melbourne.
The idea for this project began to develop during discussions in 2019 between Rotary Melbourne and the City of Melbourne. We were looking for a way to recognize Rotary’s 100 years of work in Melbourne with a public interface or connection with the city.
In 2020, due to COVID these discussions were put on hold, but committees including our District Peace Committee, continued to work via zoom meetings throughout this time and we were discussing ways and possible projects to build peace.
I think COVID made us all realize the significance of our individual responsibilities and the responsibilities we had to our community which required us all to work together to help prevent the spread of the disease. There was the same realization about peacebuilding, that we could all individually even while locked up in our homes, commit to steps to help to build peace in a collective way. Hence the idea of the four steps towards peace was born based on this principle that “Peace is a collective responsibility”.When we began to reopen after COVID, Neil and I turned these ideas into this project of the four peace bells. This was then adopted by Rotary Melbourne with the goal for them to be produced in time for the Rotary International Convention. The project caught the attention of Rotary International President Jennifer Jones, Rotary International then agreed to support the project and President Jennifer designated it as the first legacy project from an international convention......
So here today we have the four peace bells. Each bell representing a step towards peace that we can all take. The base of each bell is inscribed with the step and the ringing of the bell serves to signify a personal commitment to take it.
You can read Rob's full speech HERE.
Following is an extract from President Adrian Nelson's speech at the opening.
Today is a momentous day in the history of Rotary in Australia. Today, as we officially launch these beautiful Peace Bells, we officially rename the park the Rotary Melbourne Peace Park.Peace and Conflict Resolution is one of Rotary International’s 7 Areas of Focus. Rotary holds the highest status offered to a nongovernmental organization at the United Nations, and annually holds a Rotary Day there to highlight our shared vision for Peace.Rotary Melbourne has a history of involvement in Peace Initiatives. Following World War II Sir Angus Mitchell led the negotiation and re-admission of Rotary Clubs in Germany and Japan to Rotary International. In 1989, Rotary Melbourne hosted and organised the sixth ever Rotary Peace Forum, and the first in Australasia.In recent years, Rotary Melbourne is unmatched in the world, sponsoring a record number of Peace Scholars, with Bob Fels recognised internationally by the Rotary Foundation for his development of Rotary Peace Centres. Ours is a club of promoting peace. With the installation of the Peace Bells, we will now hold an annual event here at the Peace Park to celebrate the International Day of Peace each September.You can read Adrian's full speech HERE
Our Rotary Melbourne Peace Park volunteers were busy on Saturday 13th May 2023 readying the park for all our incoming visitors in less than 2 weeks for the Rotary International Convention. We want it looking its best for the launch of the new Peace Bells.