Students inspired by powerful voice for peace

Sydney Peace Prize recipient and actor Nazanin Boniadi inspired students at Cabramatta High School on Peace Day. Alyssa Terese reports.

Students in costume dancing on stage. Students in costume dancing on stage.
Image: Cabramatta High students perform dressed in traditional costume.

Lining the path to the school auditorium, 55 Cabramatta High students proudly adorned in diverse cultural attire welcomed Nazanin Boniadi, star of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Hotel Mumbai’, to the school’s annual Peace Day.

More than 2,000 students from Cabramatta High School and neighbouring schools assembled to absorb the wisdom and experiences of the Iranian-born human rights activist and renowned actor and participate in the day's festivities.

The day started with a student showcase featuring a vibrant lion dance and energetic drumming – a cherished school tradition to honour special guests and celebrate cultural diversity.

For more than two decades Cabramatta High School has dedicated 2 November to honour the recipient of the Sydney Peace Prize and share their messages of hope and peace.

The Sydney Peace Prize is Australia’s international prize for peace, recognising leading global voices who promote peace, justice and non-violence.

This year Ms Boniadi delivered a powerful speech to the students focusing on her decades-long commitment to advancing women's rights in Iran and her advocacy through the #WomanLifeFreedom movement.

“Stand up for what’s right in the pursuit of peace, justice and a better tomorrow,” she said.

“Peace is a way of life, and I can tell by your reception this morning that peace is part of this school’s being and who you all are, and this fills me with such hope.”

A large group of people. A large group of people.
Image: Staff and students at Cabramatta High School with human rights activist Nazanin Boniadi (centre, blue dress).

Ms Boniadi answered questions from students and unveiled the Peace Prize Portrait, painted by Cabramatta High School Year 11 student Carolyn Nguyen. The guest of honour was visually moved by the portrait of herself and embraced the artist on stage.

She also met students, including 15-year-old Cabramatta High School student Pania Hosseini who was born in Iran and still has family there.

Pania wants to pursue a career in acting or the music industry.

“Meeting Nazanin was amazing and having her talk about what’s happening in Iran at the moment, and that we need to take action was really inspiring,” Pania said.

“I know I have lots of opportunities living in Australia. Sometimes I think about if I grew up in Iran and how different things would be for me.”

Ms Boniadi was also shown around the school’s Peace Garden and the plaque created in her honour.

The second part of the day was a showcase of Cabramatta High School’s student talent and pride in culture.

Performances included a smoking ceremony and didgeridoo performance; Kapa Haka Maori performance; female-led Arabic drumming and dance; and Chinese, Congolese and Hawaiian dances.

Principal Lachlan Erskine moved the audience with a speech about unification and living together in harmony.

“Today is a day we as a school get to celebrate our multiculturalism, diversity and harmony, and showcase to the world that many cultures can live together, thrive together, and live in harmony,” Mr Erskine said.

“Here at Cabramatta High School, we value peace as many families have a history of escaping from places of war and conflict, and we have found here a place of safety to call home.

“Nazanin inspires us all to be the voice of freedom and peace, and it’s time to be champions for freedom and peace.”

To represent freedom and peace 100 white homing pigeons were released above the audience to close the event.

Birds flying over students on a stage dressed in traditional costume. Birds flying over students on a stage dressed in traditional costume.
Image: 100 white homing pigeons were released above the audience to close the event.
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