WOODLAND NYMPHS: Young festival goers bathing in the bush.
WOODLAND NYMPHS: Young festival goers bathing in the bush.

If you remember Aquarius ... maybe you were there

NIMBIN'S Aquarius festival will celebrate 40 years in May and in the lead-up Southern Cross University is calling on the public to present their memories and ideas.

 

SIGN OF THE TIMES: All directions led to the festival
SIGN OF THE TIMES: All directions led to the festival

The deadline for the first round of contributions is from February 1.

 

A published program will be presented at the Nimbin School of Arts on the anniversary, on May 23-24.

SCU's cultural studies lecturer Dr Rob Garbutt said the Aquarius Festival was a brave catalyst for change, both regionally and nationally and deserved proper recognition.

The foundation stone for the festival was the concept of education.

Organisers set up a "learning exchange" where young university students could engage with stoic locals to learn the skills they would need to rebuild and recycle the dying town of Nimbin - as that goal was very much a part of the grand plan.

Today it is the rest of the region that has learned from the new age settlers.

Just look at the recent CSG protests and you will find links going right back to the 1973 festival.

"The CSG debate has drawn together the most unlikely of partners," noted Dr Garbutt.

One of the earliest Aquarians to help develop relations between the new age youth and conservative locals was Mark Jackson, tasked by the organisers of the Aquarius Festival to regularly share a beer with Nimbin's world champion tug of war team.

CLAN GATHERING: New Settlers arrive in Nimbin for the 1973 Aquarius Festival.
CLAN GATHERING: New Settlers arrive in Nimbin for the 1973 Aquarius Festival.

 

"Those blokes were all big muscled timber workers. Their team, and the Freemasons Hotel in Nimbin, were the bastions of conservative opinion," Mark recalled.

After moving to Nimbin the youthful student from Brisbane took a job as a logging contractor, helping to supply the Nimbin saw mill with timber.

"It was another bridge building exercise," he said. "It was good for those men to see a hippy working as hard and at as dirty a job as them."

But his first day on the job caused more than a few jaws to drop. He asked his wife at the time to dye a pair of white overalls red, so they would offer some visibility in the bush. But the process went awry and Mark showed up for his first day of work with his long hair tied back in a pony tail, a silver Laotian necklace with bells dangling around his neck, and on his body a pair of bright pink overalls!

Today Mark is actively involved in creating forest regeneration through the sale of tradeable carbon credits.

"The early Aquarians were incredibly inventive and creative," noted Dr Garbutt. "They were thinking ahead of their time."

 

FESTIVAL HEALERS: Norman Stannard, Harry Freeman and Carole Elliot at the Nimbin Aquarius Festival.
FESTIVAL HEALERS: Norman Stannard, Harry Freeman and Carole Elliot at the Nimbin Aquarius Festival.

Author and historian Graham Irvine noted that the Aquarius festival sparked the only social experiment of its kind in the world. And at its core were many and varied learning activities.

 

"Today I can point to 15 different areas where the legacy of Aquarius survives," said the former political lecturer at the University of Sydney.

That list includes new methods of protest, new farming techniques, innovative education, natural childbirth and medicinal practice.

For more information visit the website.


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