Rainbow Dreaming  

Aquarius Festival, Nimbin, 1993Image by Jacklyn Wagner

Aquarius Festival 20th anniversary, Nimbin, 1993
Image: © Jacklyn Wagner

The Legacy of Aquarius

The legacy of Aquarius? Hmm, that's a tricky one. Personally, I've always had trouble with the 'Aquarian' label. Let's face it, by 1973 the Age of Aquarius was pretty well enshrined in the mass mind as a pop cliche from some five-year-old Broadway musical, Coca-cola had co-opted flowers and love beads as a marketing ploy, and the last remnants of the 'Youth Revolution' world-wide were either heading for the hills, signing up for an advanced meditation retreat, getting a job or about to embark on a mind-numbing drug binge that would last well into the 80's.

Here in Australia (with the benefit of a three year cultural time-lag and the newly-elected Whitlam government) we still had some optimism left. Hence, the Aquarius Festival, an event from the 70's that has somehow come to symbolise all the idealism and dreams of the 60's. It was a strange time. For one brief historical moment, many of the lifestyles, attitudes and beliefs that had always been current amongst fringe, bohemian, artistic and political circles were thrust into the forefront of popular consciousness and sold to an entire generation as the most desirable and fashionable role-model on the block. Fashions change of course, and it wasn't long before the new season's model of youthful rebellion replaced idealism with nihilism. Many of us spent the next 20 years hiding from and ridiculing anything that even vaguely resembled a 'hippie' posture.

Some changes go deeper than we realise however, and there are some truths that just won't go away. We’re living through most change-wracked century in human history, and the change just keeps on coming. Fortunately, we've had several decades to digest and assimilate some of those crack-pot hippie ideas from the 60's. Ideas like health and whole foods, alternative medicine, group therapy, world peace, stress management, organic farming, the hole in the ozone layer, recycling, alternative power, conservation...do I have to continue? Most of these ideas have proven indispensable to our survival.

Terania Creek is a good case in point. In 1979, a blockade and demonstration lasting several weeks managed to halt the logging of untouched rainforest, and drew media and government attention to the issue of rainforest preservation. Soon after, a similar though more intense struggle took place on nearby Mt. Nardi. The immediate result of these two blockades and their ensuing legal battles was the declaration of the Nightcap National Park. In short, we won.

At the time, there was considerable resistance to the idea of taking on the Forestry Commission and police in a head-on confrontation. They didn't call us greenies back then, just plain ol' hippies, and many feared a red-neck backlash after the blockade was over. They were right of course, but time heals most wounds and within 10 years even the reactionary Northern Star (our local newspaper) was calling it a "historic battle", and reminiscing about what a good and important thing it had been.

Terania Creek was the first environmental protest and blockade of its kind in the world, and has been emulated successfully many times since. Not only that, but history has proven us correct.

So there, I guess, is your Aquarian legacy. The lesson being that if we have the courage to stand by our beliefs, we can institute real and lasting change. That, and the notion that many of those arcane and peculiar hippie raves we've all laughed at over the last 30 years are turning out to be among the most vital and relevant pieces of intellectual currency we possess. And don't think for a moment that it's all over yet.

Neil Pike, artist - musician - activist, Mt. Nardi, 1993

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