And for a few weeks every year, Prem Rawat calls Ipswich home. He has done so for almost 20 years.
Mr Rawat travels the world sharing a “Peace is possible” message and offering a Peace Education Program that is run in prisons here in Queensland, South Africa, South America and the USA.
From Monday, 10 September, more than 3,500 invited participants from 60 countries will attend Mr Rawat’s annual peace event at Ivory’s Rock Conventions and Events at Peak Crossing.
His talks over the five-day event will be translated into 15 languages and relayed via headsets to the audience. A huge team of volunteers is involved to deal with the logistics behind such an event.
Many participants stay on site while others will have had their accommodation booked in Ipswich for a year, since the last event.
So who is Prem Rawat, this global peace ambassador, who is not aligned to any religion and travels to share a practical message about peace beginning with the individual?
He was born in northern India, is based in the US, and has been travelling and talking for 50 years.
As a pilot himself he has also clocked up 14,000 flying hours. In November last year he spoke to an audiences of 400,000 in Buxar, India – the audience stretched back half a kilometre from the stage and delay towers and screens were installed halfway back to relay his words to those who could not hear and see him.
A Google search will tell you he is an Indian American also known as Maharaji and that his peace education is based on helping individuals discover inner strength, choice, appreciation and hope.
They are tools that have proven particularly successful in reducing the rates of return prisoners in places like LA’s Twin Towers prison with 18,000 inmates – the largest prison in America – and also here in Queensland at the Wolston Correctional Centre.
He said some inmates had told him they probably would not have ended up in prison in the first place had they had access earlier in their lives to the skills learned in the program.
Mr Rawat says he looks forward to his time in Australia every year.
“I find Australians’ attitude easy going … and that to me, it enamours you towards peace. You are not looking at a hectic lifestyle – in many ways, the geography of the country won’t allow it to happen, the cities are so far apart,” he said.
“You look at Los Angeles , and from Santa Barbara to San Diego its almost become one thing and if it keeps expanding it’ll just swallow up so many cities and everywhere you go there’ll be traffic jams and so on and so forth.
“So it’s a beautiful place and, at least for me, every time I come to Australia, it’s a sense of relief.”
He said the nature at Ivory’s Rock was one of the drawcards for visitors to the peace event.
“There are so many people coming from around the world and just to see a wallaby they stop cold and say ‘wow, look at that!’,” he said.
“When all of these people come here from all around the world it’s really a vacation for them and not only are they going to be able to take in the nature for the five or six days that they are here but also learn something about appreciation, appreciating their life, appreciating what they have because this world doesn’t allow us to do that – there is not time to slow down and say ‘a little time for me please’.
“That’s what’s been happening here for the last 20 years.”
The vast Ivory’s Rock venue, which includes a large amphitheatres and accommodation in a natural setting, is hired for a variety of events throughout the year including a Spartan race and Earth Frequency Festival.