Rainbow Dreaming  

Stop Woolworths

Protesters burn the “Big Box”, Stop Woolworths protest action, Mullumbimby, 12th July, 2008
Image: © Brenden Allen/Northern Star

Stop Woolworths!

“Mullumbimby” in Aboriginal language means “foot of the mountain” and the town is nestled at the foot of a green pyramid in the rural hinterland of Byron Bay, NSW, Australia. Mullumbimby is an old-fashioned town with a population of 3,300 where farmers, ex-hippies and young families mingle in the streets. Small business thrives in its friendly atmosphere.

A thunderbolt hit on New Years Day 2008 when The Byron Shire Echo declared Woolworths was coming to town; they had bought land from a local supermarket that had got permission to expand. “It’s the wrong site” we complained, “the street is too narrow, the ground is too wet, the plan is too ugly, our town will choke with traffic and our businesses will die.” Local council found the plans “unacceptable”.

It was time for community demonstration! On 12 July 2008, hundreds of people converged, colourfully dressed, waving placards such as “Bullies: the Fast Fraud People” and “Buy Local or its Bye Bye Mullum”. Our Green Mayor addressed the crowd “We have been shafted by the State Government”; a local estate agent warned of the impact on the vibrancy of the town when small businesses have to close; another described the sewerage proposals as “ludicrous” as they ignored State Health regulations.

The excited crowd took off down the railway lines to the Woolworths site for a ceremonial burning of a cardboard Big Box. The event was featured nationally on ABC’s “Four Corners”, in Sydney and local papers.
Despite Council and community protests, State Government approved the Woolworths construction. Locals are looking for a legal loophole to challenge them, whilst others plan to preserve community by making another market where contact between people is the main consideration; where both farmers and locals can exchange produce and recycle items.

The Woolworths Big Box threat has highlighted the importance of maintaining our quality of life, sense of belonging, and of keeping our beloved community prosperous and intact.

Deborah Lilly, Coordinator, Mullumbimby Community Action Network

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