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Our HIstory

  • Act for Peace is founded in 1948 as the aid agency of the Australian Council for the World Council of Churches.
  • Focused on aiding refugees displaced by World War II and emergencies. The Christmas Bowl was a visionary community appeal to alleviate global poverty, disease and violence and, most vitally, to help people that have fallen victim to these calamities. .
  • Our work has always had an emphasis on international long-term development.
  • Forceten (now known as Act for Peace Partners) was the first ecumenical regular giving opportunity in Australia formed in 1967.
  • We have been responsible for the resettlement of over 75,000 refugees from around the world.
  • We became Act for Peace in 2008 with an increased emphasis on assisting communities most burdened by conflicts.
  • Our partners on the ground are assisting more than 500,000 refugees and 1 million people living in extreme poverty.

Act for Peace, the international aid agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia, has undergone many transformations since its inception in 1948. As an organisation, we are indebted to the churches of Australia for working together to promote our shared humanity across Australia.

Our services began in 1948 with the sending of food and non-food items to refugees and internally displaced people following the Second World War. On Christmas Day 1949, the Reverend Frank Byatt of Victoria placed an empty bowl on the dinner table and asked all present to give what they considered to be the cost of the meal.

Frank urged his guests to reflect on their good fortunes and encouraged them to do something selfless for the people around the world who are victims of disease, poverty and violence. This small but significant gesture of charity has resonated deeply with thousands of Australians and has shown that we all have the ability to make a difference, no matter how small the gift. This action became the very first Christmas Bowl appeal. It only raised ₤1,808, but has now reached over $2 million each year.

In 2007, a new strategic direction was developed, including our name change to Act for Peace. This decision was the result of numerous consultations with domestic and international stakeholders and supporters. It was widely agreed that the name Act for Peace best described the work we undertake with partners in conflict areas.

Act for Peace is a member of the global ACT (Action by Churches Together) alliance, which helps communities affected by poverty and conflict in more than 150 countries. We respond to all conflicts and work long-term in many of the world’s most protracted conflicts. For example, we have worked with partners for over 20 years in Sudan, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Burma, Sri Lanka, Palestine, Indonesia, as well as in the Pacific and with Indigenous and refugee communities in Australia.

In building the foundations for real and lasting peace in the places where we work, it is vital to:

  • Reduce poverty through growing community food, health and education programs
  • Protect refugees and displaced people by helping communities to manage safe refugee camps
  • Prevent conflicts through facilitating community-driven peace, reconciliation and disarmament processes
  • Empower communities by helping them to lead this work and all aspects of their own development

We will continue to ensure that our projects are targeted towards those who need help most and where the most significant results can be achieved.

Act for Peace mourns the passing of Rev. Ronald O'Grady

Act for Peace wishes to express its deepest condolences to the family of Reverend Ronald O’Grady, who passed away on 25 February 2014 at the age of 83.
Reverend O’Grady, a current nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize 2014, served as the director of Act for Peace (then known as the Australian Council of Churches World Christian Action) for four years.
Rev O’Grady is currently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 2014 in recognition of his work in bringing the attention of the world to the heinous crime of commercial sexual exploitation of children and his ground-breaking work in bringing Governments, NGOs and UN bodies together to combat these activities. After many years successfully leading Act for Peace in its fight to support the world’s most vulnerable as the organisation’s Director, in 1990 Rev O’Grady founded ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes), an international non-governmental organisation working to combat commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Act for Peace pays tribute to Rev Ronald O’Grady as an extraordinary man who tirelessly devoted himself to the protection of those across the globe who are the most vulnerable and least able to raise their voice. We remember his committed work with Act for Peace and we extend our sincere and heart-felt condolences to his family.

Act for Peace Evolutionary Timeline


In 1948, Australian Council for the World Council of Churches (ACWCC) was founded. An assortment of various goods and funds were sent to Europe to assist war refugees. On Christmas Day 1949, The Rev. Frank Byatt placed an empty bowl on the dinner table and asked all present to give what they considered to be the cost of the meal. Frank urged his guests to reflect on their good fortunes and encouraged them to do something selfless for the people around the world who are victims of disease, poverty and violence. The very first Christmas Bowl raised ₤1,808, but has now reached over $2 million each year.  


Act for Peace (then known as ACWCC Resettlement and refugee agency), was set up to assist refugees in Australia in Melbourne and Sydney.  


ACWCC was renamed the Australian Council of Churches (ACC). Our international aid work trebled with program workers assigned to projects overseas for two year periods and an expanded refugee welfare service. Support for the project work of the World Council of Churches and the East Asia Christian Conference continued. Our own international partnerships began to develop around the world. We supported NGO efforts on food issues by helping to establish the Australian Freedom from Hunger Campaign (FFHC). Our resettlement work included short term accommodation for refugees. We supported NGO cooperation as one of the founding members of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA). We make significant contributions to the Aboriginal Development Fund of the ACC Medical teams were assigned to specific emergencies in Vietnam, Biafra/Nigeria, Lebanon. Material Aid projects were set up where food and other goods were sent until policy changed favouring the sending money. Our first regular giving program Forceten (now Act for Peace Partners) was established as an education and monthly giving scheme for Australians to contribute to international aid work. Work Teams of young people were sent to Hong Kong & Indonesia.  


Our work expanded and we took on more overseas development work and humanitarian work in Australia. Advocacy and vital work relating to the human rights violations & protection needs in Africa, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, El Salvador & Nicaragua was carried out. We cosponsored the UNCTAD IV Project focusing on world trade and the economic structures of injustice. Along with ACR (now Caritas) and St Vincent de Paul Society, we set up Trading Partners, a not for profit fair trade company which imported goods from international partners.  


We helped administer scholarships for South African students in Australia who had fled the Apartheid regime. We were involved in peace and anti-nuclear war movement by organising national hearings on the nuclear weapons issues, were also concerned with the impact of nuclear testing, nuclear ship visits & superpower rivalry in the Pacific region. We supported setting up the Ecumenical Coalition on Third World Tourism. We supported the campaign to end Third World Debt. We closed our Melbourne Refugee Resettlement Department and changed to a stronger parish education & promotion of the Government’s Community Refugee Resettlement Scheme (CRSS) for supporting refugees via the off-shore program. ACC set up the Aboriginal & Islander Commission (AIC).  


Key areas supported included the Horn of Africa, Burma, Cambodia and former Yugoslavia. We supported the Australian Campaign to Ban Landmines and later included support for projects. We supported the setting up of End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT). Australian Churches formed National Council of Churches in Australia to replace the ACC, with full membership of Roman Catholic Church. Commission for Christian World Service (CWS) replaced Division of World Christian Action. We helped to set up asylum seeker support networks, via provision of welfare needs and rights and advocacy with governments. We supported Jubilee 2000 (Poor Country Debt campaign) and hosted the campaign until 2008.  


Key areas of support include Sudan, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Burma, Sri Lanka, Palestine, Indonesia, as well as the Pacific and with Indigenous and refugee communities in Australia. Forceten was replaced by what is now known as Act for Peace Partners and Caritas Hopegivers. Act for Peace Partners are those supporters who have chosen to support our projects with regular gifts. Simply Sharing Week remains as a joint initiative of Act for Peace and Caritas Australia. We became Act for Peace and increased our focus on peacemaking. We celebrated 60 years of ecumenical aid and development as the Christmas Bowl celebrated its 60th Birthday. We empower communities to act for peace wherever conflicts occur by working with long-term project partners in helping communities to provide protection, prevent further conflict, manage disasters and reduce poverty.

More ways to take action

You can help prevent children like Maala being born with chronic illnesses by helping pregnant women stay healthy and nourished in the first place.

Take the Act for Peace Ration Challenge and eat the same rations as a Syrian refugee during Refugee Week (June 2017). Raise money to support refugees who have lost everything, and challenge perspectives – including your own.

Right now, thousands of innocent people are fleeing Syria every day to protect their families from bloodshed, violence and death. We need your support to provide emergency relief packs to the families fleeing in Syria.