Rainbow Dreaming  

Kohinor Community, New Years Day 1980Image by John W McCormick

Kohinor Community, New Years Day 1980
Image: © John W McCormick

Catching Another Kind of Wave

Waves have been pounding the Byron shire since time immemorial. During the fifties the Great Australian Surfie discovered the quality of those waves and was for a long time able to keep them as his own preserve.

In the early 1970s a new kind of wave hit the Byron shire and this one swept up the valleys and over the hills. It was a wave of patchwork colour, an unwashed wave, a laughing wave, a wave of love and confusion, a very hairy wave and very often a stark naked wave; a wave full of new thoughts and old ideals – a wave of alternatives.

The sixties had finally caught up with the Byron shire. The hippies were arriving.

Their advent was a microcosm of what was happening throughout the western, and part of the eastern, world. Dropping out, getting high, revising values, living and giving, founding communes, blowing yourself apart and then putting yourself back together again, only different, were the powerful aphrodisiacs of that heady time.

For those in the shire who got off the beaches and ventured west, a wonderland was in store. Beautiful valleys, rolling wooded hillsides with spectacular views, cooling creeks and lots of space. Old farmhouses, emptied through the post-war rural depopulation, were cheap to rent. Old sheds left from the halcyon banana days of the fifties were even cheaper.
Dropping out is, essentially, an experimental search for freedom. Up here in the early seventies that search led to all sorts of fun and a whole variety of realizations.

Moon dances, where every freak in Main Arm and their offspring (barely 200) gathered as an extended family to listen to the original Chincogan band (no booze in those peaceful far out days); the weekend barter and wholefood market, first held in Coopers Lane – a bunch of parsley and a magic mushroom for a packet of beedies; the first home births, as often as not in a field as there was hardly a house – and eat the placenta (it says so in the hippy rule book); and the new born names, aagh!

Blossom, Jasmine, Rainforest, mango, Lotus, three siblings called Fern, tree and Valley; hitch hiking naked into town with nary a glance from those that gave you a lift; and music was everywhere – in the valleys, the sheds, the fields and on the beach.

They were easy, colourful days. The old locals were often agog, forever amused, sometimes fearful, actually interested and they realized that a little prosperity was returning to the valleys. Land prices rose and turnover increased…

Wave upon wave has invaded the shire since those days. Hippies kept coming and the counter culture expanded. In the eighties came the richer drop outs from the cities, swapping their cashed up eastern suburbs houses for a bit of paradise and a healthy bank balance.

The shire’s character has changed forever; rural peace has given way to rural smallholding; the empty cobwebbed lanes have given way to the tourist route and the sleepy hollow of Byron has been made to wake up and grow up…

But there is a legacy in them thar hills, born of a wave of madness and mushrooms, hope and freedom and a generation of release.

Nicholas Shand, journalist & founder, The Brunswick Byron Echo
(now The Byron Shire Echo), 1991

PreviousRainbow Dreaming Next