Peter Masters, a Master of Peace 1920 ~ 2008

Western Australian member Peter Masters passed away on 28 July. He was 88 years old, and active in mind and spirit right to the last. He will be especially missed by MAPW members and supporters in Western Australia and around Australia.

Thanks to Judy Blyth for sharing with us this inspiring obituary.

English born and trained, Peter's early practice of medicine was in WW2 as a Medical Officer serving in India, Burma and Singapore. He retired from the Army as a Captain. His war experiences may have conditioned Peter towards the great yearning for peace that he expressed through his life, and which led him to Medical Association for Prevention of War, but I have the feeling that the seed for peace was sown earlier and deeper. It was such an integral part of the being of this quiet, helpful, gentlemanly, thoughtful man with a twinkling sense of humour.

After the war, Peter married Maria to whom he had been engaged for several years. He obtained his Diploma of Child Health, MD qualification and was working as a paediatric pathologist while he and Maria started their own family. He was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathology UK - and fortunately for us in W.A., later became Director of Pathology at Princess Margaret Hospital for Children here in Perth. By this time, he and Maria had four children, and their fifth and last child was born in here in 1965.

Peter was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australia, and was a member of the Royal College of Physicians. He was the Director of Pathology at PMH for 27 years, and always a kindly and outstandingly capable "boss" who called forth the best from his staff by his dedication and considerate ways. He introduced the Guthrie Test to WA. The screening of metabolic diseases in the newborn helped prevent many of these diseases.

Retiring in 1985, Peter joined PMH's archival group and through interviewing many past members of the staff, was able to make a great contribution to compiling the hospital's history.

Besides, MAPW, other affiliations of Peter included People for Nuclear Disarmament, the Anglicani Social Responsibility Committee (in the early 1980s), and a long term active membership of the ALP. In retirement, Peter became a volunteer lecturer at the Trinity School for Seniors, sharing his profound interest in history and social justice and how these influence current world affairs. He also engaged in community education by contributing to Radio National's Ockham's Razor periodically.

I also want to reflect on Peter in a more personal way as he became my steadfast friend while I worked with MAPW. I first met him at a PNDi AGM back in 1993. I had been working as a volunteer with PNDi for some years as its coordinator, and that evening there were many members owed a "Thank you". Of course one was Peter who had responded to my telephoned request to give a talk about nuclear disarmament to a class of secondary students. His traits of sincerity, self-effacement and willingness to help immediately struck me. I hoped then that I would have more to do with this gentlemanly Englishman in future - and I did.

In January 1996, after leaving my role with PNDi, I was asked to fill the shoes of MAPW (WA) Executive Officer June Lowe for about 6 weeks while she recovered from an illness. My friend June and I plotted how we could share this interesting and challenging job, but this turned out not to be achievable and I somehow became "staff" for the WA Branch for nearly a decade. Throughout those years, Peter became my companion in all things MAPW, always finding time to attend meetings and discuss and advise on arising issues in detail. He was a wonderful friend, adding to my confidence and helping me to grow into the job.

When WA was facing the possibility of several uranium mines starting up, WA peace organisations formed the Anti-Uranium Coalition WA, AUCWA. This grew into the Anti-Nuclear Alliance of WA, ANAWA, when Pangea International decided that WA could be the site for a vast underground repository for much of the world's high-level radioactive wastes. Peter attended every single of these meetings with me, co-representing MAPW, until I retired in mid-2005. I valued greatly the detailed discussions we had about these issues and how MAPW (WA) might relate to them.

Peter somehow was always THERE when needed. In 1998, when India suddenly announced that it had performed a nuclear test, Peter arrived at the (nearly) spontaneous protest at Perth's traditional vigil place at corner of Hay and Williams Streets outside Wesley Church. When Jo Vallentine had to appear in court over her actions to stop the uranium mine at Jabiluka, Peter came to support her. When the huge Reconciliation Walk over the bridges happened, Peter was there beside me, holding up the other end of MAPW (WA)'s banner while I also struggled to keep my bicycle upright. With Peter Underwood and me, he co-authored MAPW (WA)'s response to the Defence White Paper in 2000. He also, in 2005, co-authored MAPW (WA)'s submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the strategic importance of Australia's uranium resources, and addressed the Inquiry's panel when it came to Perth. He challenged the panel to dwell on the technical links between nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and asked that rapid development of Australia's renewable energy program become its top priority. He came to most of the roundtables I organised with the US Consul, Mark McBurney, to discuss the Iraq war, the visits of US warships and the proposed Seaswap plan among much else. When the 2005 pre-NPTi Preparatory Conference consultation came to Perth in 2005, of course Peter was there, contributing with his familiar strong grasp of the issues and his wisdom. He also participated in a protest outside the US Consulate appealing the US engage more meaningfully in its own nuclear disarmament.

As well as faithfully attending all of MAPW (WA)'s Executive Committee meetings, Peter was MAPW (WA)'s treasurer for quite a few years. Before, during and after his undertaking this role, I always noticed that it was Peter who was the first member to pay up the annual subscription! Because I was also involved with PNDi, I knew that there too he was often first off the block with his cheque book to pay his membership.

The editors of newspapers must have come to know the name of Peter Masters rather well. He was always drafting letters on peace issues, many of which were published and much appreciated.

What a wonderful life he led through his contributions in medicine, in rearing his family, in the organisations he chose to belong to so actively, in community wellbeing and education, and in his relationships with all around him. He was a gentle man as well as a gentleman. He will be so missed by so many. To Maria, and their five children and eleven grandchildren we can only say that we understand a little of what you will be missing, and that is a great deail.