Scroll down to read more about the Threshold Foundation and the Bremen Peace Awards, and interview with Sue Gilbey, recipient of the "Unknown Peace Worker" Award
The Threshold Foundation has announced the winners of the fourth international Bremen Peace Award: the Australian Susan Jennifer Gilbey wins in the category “Unknown Peace Worker” for her tireless efforts advocating for the rights and concerns of asylum seekers. Susan Gilbey has helped numerous refugees of war and political refugees to lead a more secure and peaceful life. After a serious accident, which caused her to suffer disability and from severe chronic pain, Susan Gilbey took on a new life-task: she became a determined and successful advocate – without being a lawyer by profession – for the rights of asylum seekers threatened by deportation under the restrictive Australian immigration laws.
The Bulgarian organizations Animus and PULSE Foundation will be awarded in the category of “Exemplary Organisations” due to their commitment in supporting women who became victims of trafficking and forced prostitution in Western European countries. After returning back to Bulgaria, many of them are discriminated against and become victims of domestic violence. Both organizations provide shelter as well as necessary medical and psychosocial support. The workers of Animus and PULSE are courageously, unpretentiously fighting for the rights of these victims and are persistently working towards a change in Bulgarian society, which is still strongly dominated by patriarchal relations and perceptions.
The Anglican bishop Rubin Phillip from KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, will be awarded with the Bremen Peace Prize in the Category Public Engagement towards justice and peace. In the 1970s, Phillip was put under house arrest for three years because of his protest and work against the apartheid regime in South Africa. Nowadays, he supports those who are still marginalized and are not benefitting from democracy in South Africa: displaced persons, victims of persecution, detainees. Phillip visits them in prisons and hospitals and offers legal support. In April 2008, when a wave of xenophobic violence unleashed in South Africa, Phillip campaigned for the protection of refugees, which came mainly from Zimbabwe. Due to his strong efforts, these refugees received shelter and support from South African churches. Together with another peace activist, Phillip successfully prevented the shipment and delivery of weapons to Zimbabwe. Furthermore, education on HIV/AIDS is also of primary concern to Rubin Phillip.
The international Bremen Peace Prize is endowed with 15,000 euro and is awarded by the Threshold Foundation every two years since 2003. It is divided into three categories: Unknown Peace Worker, Exemplary Organisation and Public Engagement. This year’s award ceremony will be held on October 30th 2009 and attended by the mayor of Bremen, Ms. Karoline Linnert. The former mayor, Mr. Hans Koschnick, will be patronizing the event. The ceremony begins at 07.30. p.m. in the town hall, Obere Rathaushalle.
On the occasion of the Bremen Peace Award, the Threshold Foundation is also going to publish a brochure depicting outstanding and encouraging peace projects. Besides the prize winners, 24 other shortlisted projects and persons will be portrayed and brought to public attention. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The Threshold Foundation and its partners strive for peace, justice and integrity of creation. We are convinced that in order to achieve more justice and a peaceful living, social change is needed – not only in war-torn and post-war societies abroad, but also in Germany.
The Threshold Foundation therefore works together with project partners whose commitment aims at shaping social and societal change through non-violent means and whose work focuses on social justice, implementation and fulfillment of human rights as well as on environmental sustainability. Consequently, the Foundation’s work inspires other projects in turn, so that general societal change towards more justice is facilitated.
We are currently supporting peace projects in Southeastern Europe, West and Central Africa, Israel, Palestine as well as in Germany (Bremen). As a non-profit organization with various personal contacts, we believe that positive change can be achieved in small steps at the local level. We see ourselves as part of the ecumenical movement for peace, justice and integrity of creation (shalom).
The Threshold Foundation was founded in 1979 by Ruth-Christa Heinrichs and Dirk Heinrichs, a stevedoring entrepreneur and Philosopher from Bremen. The Foundation has an executive board, an advisory board as well as two employees: Ms. Petra Titze (director) and Ms. Raphaela Ertmer (secretary). We also accept proposals of other organizations supporting peace projects. This support, however, is on a smaller scale and can be granted only if the focus of projects is closely related to our areas of work.
Hard copies of the current annual report in German and chronicle can be ordered from our office. We will be happy to post them to you or you can download the 2008 annual report (in German) at:
The Threshold Foundation Stiftung die schwelle Wachmannstr. 79 28209 Bremen Germany
Radio Adelaide's Sue Gilbey wins Bremen Peace prize
Radio Adelaide volunteer, Sue Gilbey is one of the three winners of the international Bremen Peace Award 2009 in the category The Unknown Peace Worker. The other two Award winners are the Bulgarian organisations Animus and Pulse who work in the area of human trafficking and violence against women and Bishop Rubin Philip from South Africa. The award is presented at a ceremony in Bremen, Germany in October 2009.
The award is testament to a life dedicated to justice and a belief that community engagement is the only way to institute change.
From years in the outback cookhouse where the only communication with the outside world was by two-way radio, to the high tech boardroom, Sue Gilbey’s working life has been characterised by a sense of balance and equity. She married an Alyawarr man, had two children, and when they reached adulthood she rolled over all her long service and annual leave, then took it at half pay to volunteer in an orphanage in Cambodia.
An untimely accident while she was still only in her 40’s left her with a permanent disability, chronic pain and limited mobility, which for a while looked as if it might curtail her activities, but instead it was the beginning of a new era for Sue. She joined the Australian Peace Committee and from there all sorts of doors opened.
One of them was community radio. A coalition of peace and justice groups in Adelaide got together in 2006 to start a new program on Radio Adelaide; they called it A Peace of the Action. It covers peace, social justice, human rights and environmental issues. Sue Gilbey was a founding member and continues as a key participant in the program, which goes to air on Sundays at 12.30pm.
Around the same time Australia was coming under intense scrutiny for its inhumane treatment of people arriving seeking asylum. A mass movement emerged where lawyers worked pro-bono to defend the rights of people in detention in the courts of the Refugee Tribunal. These sessions were recorded and it was volunteers who transcribed the tapes, word for word for the lawyers to use. Sue was one of these volunteers and transcribed countless sorry sagas of people from countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Sri-Lanka, China, and many other countries. It was difficult, painstaking and heartbreaking work with the only reward being the possibility that the individual might be released from detention with a chance at a decent life.
Because of this work many people were released on Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) with temporary being the key word. The government then ruled these people ineligible for Legal Aid, making their chances of gaining a permanent visa almost impossible. A group of lawyers then contacted people who had been transcribing tapes and provided training for them to act as a para-legal to represent those on TPV‘s in their hearing. Sue was the first to do this and was successful in gaining a permanent visa for an Afghani man. She did many more and all but one were successful. Sue maintains contact with many of these people, now thriving in their adopted country.
She also opened up her home for a refugee family from Sudan, a situation that worked very well. They were able to live rent free in exchange for jobs around the house that she was unable to do, because of her disability. The young man of the family has since married and had a son and they are now a part of Sue’s extended family.
Sue was one of three founding members of a group known as the Human Rights Coalition, which exists to promote and develop a Bill of Rights for Australia and South Australia.
In 2007, despite being told that her traveling days were over, Sue undertook the trip of a lifetime. She attended and spoke at the Atlanta Social Forum, Another America is Possible, travelled on to Cuba where she visited many ministries, including the Ministry for Peace, and was given a powerpoint demonstration of the Energy Revolution in Cuba, from the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, which she has since shown to many groups.
Being a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom she went on to attend their International Conference in Bolivia and recorded many interviews from women from all over the world. From there she went to Peru and instead of doing the usual tourist roundabout visited Indigenous Peruvian families who eke out a living on a mountain of Lima’s garbage. Here children as young as 3 work sorting out the garbage in dreadful conditions where there is not even water to wash in.
A Peruvian woman she met in Bolivia spent 3 days showing her how with a little money and a system of micro-credit these proud and hard working people, neglected by their own government, could live a healthy subsistence lifestyle. On her return to Australia, Sue conducted numerous speaking tours, with the aim of raising awareness of these people’s plight and raising much needed funds.
She is still actively involved with the Australian Peace Committee, representing them and presenting a paper in Caracas Venezuela at the World Peace Council last year. She was the only Australian at that International gathering and was shocked at the negative perceptions people had of Australia. She remains an active member also of the Human Rights Coalition, and is a committee and board member of such groups as Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation, NOWAR, and Citizen Advocacy.
She is a founding member of a new group called EarthSong, Aboriginal Healing Pathways Inc and is an energetic member of another new environmental group, called CLEAN climate emergency action network.
On an international level, she is involved with the Global Sisterhood Network, the Feminist Peace Network, Madre and Code Pink amongst many others.
Her greatest passion at the moment is equity for Australia’s Aboriginal people most specifically in throwing out the racist N.T Intervention, which to be introduced required the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act.