Behind a colourful house, there lies a little library, which provides a platform where passionate women get together, discuss and broaden their ideas on international issues.

“I love reading by all means.” Robin McGuire says, sitting in one of the chairs in the Brenda Lewis WILPF Peace Library. “I also wanted to learn – you can’t believe what you see in the sound bite on TV anymore.”

This is what attracts, and motivates this former art teacher – and now the library coordinator – to have the Reading with WILPF, at which women get together and discuss various international issues.

The Brenda Lewis WILPF Peace Library is owned by the Queensland Branch of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. It is an international non-profit organisation which aims to achieve an equal and just world, which is free from violence and war. Seeing education as one of its important missions, WILPF has its own library in West End.

The library was named after Brenda Lewis, a well-known West End identity and a member of WILPF, who inspired others through her art and humour. The library, which was once a garage of a member, Del Cuddihy, is filled with more than 600 books whose overriding themes are peace and freedom. 57 of them are related to indigenous themes. The collection also includes CDs, DVDs, reports, activity sheets, banners and posters.

This is where the idea for Reading with WILPF started. “We just felt terrible too see all the books sitting here and nobody reading them,” Robin says.

The meeting is only for women, and held once in two months, from 10am till noon on either Thursday or Friday. There is a theme set for every meeting, which relates to today’s issues, and books are selected based on the chosen topic. Women get together and “argue, talk and yell,” as she jokingly described.

“Most of women were professionals and have done all sorts of things,” Robin says. “And they have life experiences as well. So they are all thought-provoking.”

“It is just to broaden our understanding of our world.”

The meeting is held either at the library or the Avid Reader’s courtyard, which always is a popular option among the members.

Robin first found out about WILPF more than seven years ago, when she ran into her former student-teacher, Chris, in the Woodford Folk Festival.

“My son was in Sri Lanka when the tsunami hit,” she recalls. “After I knew my son had survived the tsunami I was feeling I must do something… and Chris said ‘you should come to WILPF.’” She joined WILPF straight after that, and has been a member ever since.

Asked about her motivations to be in the organisation, she immediately responds “it’s the international goals of WILPF more than anything else.”

Passionate about educating people about the topics of peace and freedom, the women put together “a package of peace,” which is a collection of 20 children’s books. They aim at eight to 13-year olds, and are designed so that children can engage in creative activities after they read one of those books.

“Avid Reader was tremendous help when we were selecting the books. They ordered many books from overseas as well.”

It was a lot of effort to create this box. “It took about a whole year to read and discuss books,” Robin says. “But it was enjoyable. We read tremendous children’s books.”

They placed the package at the Ipswich Library though the responses were not as exciting as they hoped.

“Because children are so into the computer and anything else, it hasn’t been as easy as we thought,” Robin says.

Nevertheless, it does not stop those motivated women. “Perhaps we should actually have reading days where we go to a book shop,” Robin says positively.

The next Reading with WILPF will be held on Friday 11 October, discussing on John Bradley’s Singing Saltwater Country: Journey to the Songlines of Carpentaria by John Bradley and Mazin Grace by Dylan Coleman. Any woman is welcome to this event. If you are interested, please contact Robin McGuire at 07 3281 6825.’

Words by Manami Odahara