Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Trish McDonald-Harrison

With her wonderful smile and boundless enthusiasm, Trish McDonald-Harrison had the gift of making each person feel extraordinary. The truth, her friends say, is it was Trish who was extraordinary. One year after she passed away in 2016, a group of friends met at the Auburn Centre of Community in Sydney to plant a camellia and install a plaque in memory of her. 

Trish McDonald-HarrisonJane Mills, a full-time volunteer with Initiatives of Change, had worked closely with Trish and gave the eulogy at a memorial event in Sydney in 2016. Jane recalls:

Creators of Peace (CoP) is a program of Initiatives of Change for women of all backgrounds to explore our potential to be peacemakers in every level of society, through meetings and workshops. In 2004 when the CoP peace circles began in Sydney, Trish was in the midst of this unstoppable tide, which continues to this day right around the city. I remember in those early days sitting with her and other friends around a map of Sydney, sticking pins into all the places that had requested a CoP circle and discussing how to deliver them all. New circles blossomed along with introduction sessions, facilitator training events, and annual celebrations, with Trish joyfully in their midst.  She used to say, ‘Through Creators of Peace, I discovered I could change my own feelings of resentfulness and my hard-done-by attitude.’

In 2005 Trish attended the international CoP conference in Uganda, East Africa, which was organized on the theme of ‘Women accountable for the future.’ This proved to be a watershed in her life.  Another Australian delegate, Jackie Huggins, who was then co-chair of Reconciliation Australia, was speaking of the spiritual journey of reconciliation after Australia’s painful shared history.  Trish, of Irish, Scottish and English descent, whose ancestors had come to Australia on the First Fleet, was confronted with what her people had done both in Africa and Australia. She rose in tears to apologise.  Spontaneously, a Nigerian woman embraced her and the African women in the audience responded immediately, ‘You are forgiven. We forgive you. Go free.’ From that time on, Trish gave every spare moment she had to the work of Creators of Peace and to matters of reconciliation in Australia. 

Later that year, she teamed up with a Bougainvillean woman, Rita Pearson, in Port Moresby, and together they delivered the first Creators of Peace circles in Papua New Guinea.

When the suggestion arose for the next international CoP Conference to be held in Sydney, Trish could not contain her joy. She gathered a team of women, many of them working in professional roles, who met regularly for 18 months to prepare for a conference at Collaroy in 2009.  All of that organizing group were at the Auburn Centre for Community to honour her memory.

Trish McDonald-HarrisonIn later years of her journey with CoP, Trish focused her efforts on the lively, cosmopolitan suburb of Auburn. The first CoP circle that took place there has flowed into ongoing monthly meetings on peace creation, bringing together local residents with women from around Sydney.

When asked why she was so passionate about CoP, Trish said, ‘A woman can put her life in order to become the person she wants to be, living her own values. With growing confidence in her own integrity, she becomes increasingly trustworthy in her family, workplace and community, and better at listening to others.  Through regular listening to her inner voice, she can live her life more reflectively and feel a greater sense of peace in herself – and work towards creating more peace in her home, community, country and even internationally.’

All of us who had the privilege of working with Trish were continually inspired by her ‘heart power’ and passion.  She leaves a great hole in our lives, and also a great example. I do believe that, in the words of the Bible’s 23rd Psalm, ‘Truly she will live in the House of the Lord for evermore.’

Trish McDonald-Harrison