The history of MAPW

In the beginning of the 1980s there was considerable tension in Europe and the world over the abandonment of the concept of mutually assured destruction (MAD), discussion of a limited nuclear war, civil defence planning against nuclear weapons and planned placement of new nuclear missiles in Europe on the instigation largely of Ronald Reagan in the USA. This was creating an anxiety of nuclear annihilation comparable to that of the Cuban crisis in the 1960s. 

Like other concerned citizens doctors were becoming increasingly alarmed again. This concern was reflected in the formation of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) led by Dr Bernard Lown in the USA and Dr Eugenie Chazov in the USSR both distinguished cardiologist. This led to the first IPPNW Conference at Airley Virginia in 1981.

In Australia there had been an early attempt at the creation of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War in the 1950s but this no longer existed although Medical activities against nuclear issues had occurred in different states over the years.  Richard Kefford of Sydney University developed the idea of a national medical group based on the well-established British Medical Association for the Prevention of War. He was joined by John Ward and others from Sydney and MAPW (Australia) was formed in 1981. A Co ordinator was appointed for each State and Territory.

By September 1981 there were about 60 members and 82 by November at the first annual meeting of MAPW that took place in Sydney. By July 1982 branches were well established and there were 420 members nationally and the numbers continued to increase. Bernard Lown Co-President of IPPNW visited that year and gave lectures on “Nuclear War and Physicians” in Sydney and Melbourne which added greatly to the development of MAPW who joined the newly formed International Council of IPPNW at the 3rd. International Congress of IPPNW in Amsterdam in 1983 with John Andrews as MAPW councillor. By 1985 IPPNW had gained such prominence as to win the Noble Peace Prize. Professor Ian Maddocks President of MAPW played a leading role in both MAPW and IPPNW affairs then and subsequently, as do Susan Wareham and Tilman Ruff amongst very many others.

MAPW has been a major player in peace activities in Australia increasing steadily over the years with a wide variety of participants who constantly and effectively add to its endeavours.