Former Taliban hostage Tim Weeks has used the keynote speech at Rotary's World Peace Day Ceremony to call on Australians to be compassionate and think critically about international conflict.
Mr Weeks was held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan for three years before returning to Australia as part of a prisoner swap in 2019.
"Peace seemed like an unrealistic goal for me to achieve for my own self, let alone to begin to talk on the matter of world peace," he said.
"For me peace is not the image of a dove or a rainbow, as lovely as they are ... peace is a sustainable peace with justice and equality for all."
He said despite suffering at the hands of his Taliban captors, he grew to love the Afghan people. Mr Weeks called upon Australians to educate themselves further about Afghanistan.
"For 40 years Afghans have bared the brunt of proxy wars, international intrigue, and domestic and foreign intelligence services playing them like chess pieces," he said.
"Civilian casualties at best are staggering ... we in Australia are certainly not blameless either."
Mr Weeks called for Australians to take a personal interest in the plight of refugees, noting some Afghan asylum seekers have voluntarily elected to return to their homeland, overwhelmed by Australia's immigration policies.
"We should be asking ourselves, why? Why should a person, why would a person choose to return to one of the most dangerous countries in the world rather than continue with their claim for asylum and citizenship?
"For me the answer is clear: we are simply not doing enough."
Speaking after the event, Mr Weeks said that working towards peace should be a common goal, but it should not mean "laying down and playing dead" in the face of conflict.
"We should have good diplomatic relationships with those who wish to have good diplomatic relationships," he said.
Later in the ceremony AusAID advisor David Savage was awarded the Chief Minister's Rotary Peace award for 2020.
Mr Savage is Australia's only civilian casualty in Afghanistan, being severely injured after a suicide bomber attack in Uruzgan.
"I had two choices after I was injured. One is to be bitter about what occurred, [the other is] to use it, hopefully as a platform for good and try to use it to highlight what happens and what needs to change in the world," Mr Savage said.
"That's what I've tried to do and with this award I'll try to continue to highlight the need for peace."