Festival of International Understanding

Photograph of the stage with performers at the Cowra Festival

A unique event celebrating our diversity

The Cowra Festival of International Understanding will be back in 2022, but rather than focus on an individual country, next year will see the celebration of the proud history of the Festival, all past and future guest nations and by extension, the cultural history and diversity of the Cowra region.

Taking place from 31 March - 3 April 2022, the Festival format will be similar to previous years with headline events including the opening dinner, parade, carnival, Youth Ambassador program and sporting events. 

The Carnival on Saturday 2nd April promises to be a real highlight. There will be carnival rides, fireworks, community performances, the talent quest finals, as well as red-hot Latin, soul and funk band, Mahogany Flow from Sydney providing a real a party atmosphere.

Check out all the action from the 2021 Festival on the Cowra Festival Facebook page.

The Festival originated in the mid-1960s at a time when the town was coming to recognise the benefits of promoting understanding between nations. It is a credit to the local community — and recognition of their support for this first event — that the Festival immediately grabbed the public's attention. Cowra Festival of International Understanding (originally the Festival of the Lachlan Valley) is a community-based event focusing on Cowra's unique place as the home of reconciliation. Proudly hosting Australia's World Peace Bell — this honour derived from Cowra's first-hand experience of war with the POW Breakout of Japanese prisoners in 1944.
 
This annual Festival was first conceived in 1964 as Cowra Shire approached the 150th anniversary of Surveyor George William Evans' exploration of the Lachlan River in May 1815. It was suggested that some form of celebration be held to mark this historic occasion.
 
A committee was subsequently formed to organise a celebration — "Cowra's Festival of the Lachlan Valley" — after a community competition had been held to name the event. Theme of the first Festival was the historical importance to the town and district of the first European exploration of the Lachlan Valley; and included a full-week of celebrations in April 1965. As a special guest, New Zealand's High Commissioner performed the official opening with more than £5400 ($10,800) raised from the inaugural Festival which was donated towards development of the Wyangala Waters foreshores area.
 
Following this success; it was decided to hold this unique celebration annually with the idea of featuring a guest nation strongly-supported. The theme of "International Understanding" was also embraced at this time and — because of our unique historical links — Japan was invited to be the first Guest Nation. Succeeding years have seen a number of variations and additions to the Festival but the basic format and aim of the event has remained constant.
 
With Cowra bestowed world recognition as the site of Australia's replica of the World Peace Bell in 1992, the celebration's name was changed to the "Festival of International Understanding"; an alteration that also incorporated the Festival's main theme that all the peoples of the world are one.
 
A Guest Nation has subsequently featured and been celebrated at each Festival; with the exception of 2002 which focused on Cowra's cultural diversity and 2014 which featured the United Nations.
 
The Festival continues to be a major event in the Cowra Shire calendar and plays a significant role in building a sense of pride and identity in the Cowra Community.
In 1999, a book about the Festival of International Understanding was produced by former Cowra Council Shire President Cyril Treasure that tells, through programs and newspaper articles, the Festival's history for its first 33-years.
 

The Festival of International Understanding celebrated the 50th Anniversary in 2014 with the United Nations Information Centre in Australia the special guest in recognition of this world-body's international focus. 

List of the Guest Nations for the Festival

1965 New Zealand  1984 The Philippines  2003 Vietnam
1966 Japan  1985 Spain  2004 Slovakia 
1967 India  1986 Canada  2005 Malta 
1968 Malaysia  1987 USSR  2006 Poland 
1969 Italy  1988 Australia  2007 South Africa 
1970 Great Britain  1989 Peru  2008 Chile 
1971 United States of America  1990 Austria  2009 Portugal 
1972 Indonesia  1991 Egypt  2010 Hungary 
1973 Federal Republic of Germany 1992 Ireland  2011 Turkey 
1974 Thailand  1993 Western Samoa  2012 Finland 
1975 Netherlands  1994 New Zealand  2013 Sri Lanka 
1976 Mexico  1995 Zimbabwe  2014 United Nations 
1977 Iran  1996 Papua New Guinea  2015 Republic of Korea 
1978 Fiji  1997 Belgium  2016 Kingdom of Tonga 
1979 Greece  1998 Israel  2017 Belarus 
1980 France 1999 Denmark 2018 Nepal
1981 China   2000 Argentina   2019 Japan 
1982 Brazil    2001 Romania    2020 Cancelled 
1983 Sweden 

  2002 Celebrating Cowra's Cultural Diversity 

  2021 New Zealand 

 

Photo Gallery