Peace Park was commissioned by the National Consultative Committee on Peace and Disarmament (NCCPD) during the United Nations International Year of Peace in 1986. The NCCPD was established in 1985 by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Bill Hayden, to advise the Government on the most effective ways for Australia to contribute to the observance of the International Year of Peace.
His Excellency, the Hon. Bill Hayden AC, Governor-General of Australia, officially dedicated Peace Park on United Nations Day, 24 October 1990. On that day he unveiled a monument ‘Dedicated to All Peace Makers’, which has the inscription: ‘All who visit here are invited to commit themselves to peace and the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction’.
Peace Park has a strong, simple plan and relies on the contrast of spaces and materials to create its distinct character. The park is triangular in shape, built on two axes intersecting at the central feature, a black granite square. The polished granite in the centre of the feature is sloped with the word ‘Peace’ etched into its panels in the six official languages of the United Nations Organisation and the Aboriginal language of the local Ngunnawal people. The UN languages are English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic and Chinese. The Ngunnawal word used, ‘Narragunnawali’, means ‘alive/well-being/coming together’. At the heart of the feature is the international symbol of peace – an image of a dove carrying an olive branch – etched into black, polished granite.
An International Tree of Peace was planted in the park as part of the Centenary of Federation celebrations on 12 March 2001. Many of the heads of diplomatic missions based in Canberra aided the planting of the tree by placing small samples of soil from their respective countries around the tree.
The tree chosen was a Bunya Pine (Araucaria bidwillii), a native plant of Australia. It is a very large evergreen with a distinctive form, similar to the Norfolk Island Pine but with a larger, more broadly spreading dome-shaped crown. A specimen of the Bunya was planted on Kings Avenue to commemorate the visit to Canberra of the Duke and Duchess of York (the late Queen Mother) to open the original Parliament House in 1927. This tree is over 75 years old and in excellent health.
The design and construction of Peace Park was undertaken by the national capital Planning Authority (now the National Capital Authority) in association with Australian Construction Services.