Pole, Aquarius Festival, Nimbin, 1973
Image: © Chris Meagher
Aquarius Festival was produced by the Australia Union of Students and
it was a peak expression of the creative cultural ferment which arose
with the anti-war, anti-conscription, student activism of the late 1960s
and early l970s.
The Aquarius Festival brought to Nimbin student and counter cultural
activists from all across Australia. The isolated rural village of Nimbin
was chosen as the festival site because it was far away from the urban
and campus structures and symbols which had been the objects of so much
student protest. The years of protest had made clear what students of
that era were against: imperialism, sexism, racism, authoritarianism,
industrialism, consumerism and progress at any price. By 1973 Whitlam
had been elected and for Australians, the war was over. Our protest
had been won. In Nimbin we gathered to ask "What are we for?"
and "What future do we want to create for ourselves?"
It was called a Lifestyle festival - a Survival Softlick - and visionaries,
prophets and social activists came as tribes and networks of friends
to live and share their visions. The cutting edges of many cultural
changes were represented there.
There were conservationists talking ecology, healers offering wholistic
medicine and rediscovering herbs and acupuncture, architecture students
and engineers talking about low energy consumption and appropriate technology,
post-Illich educational theorists talking de-schooling, foodists offering
new diets, bakers offering wholemeal bread, kooris talking land rights,
psychotherapists talking about growth and human potential, food co-operatives,
videots, alternative media and an array of gurus, guru followers and
seekers of spiritual truths. All this and troubadours, shamans, tight
rope walkers, dancers, ecstatic singers from the East and soul rhythms
from Africa, easy sexuality and drugs to open the "doors of perception".
The Festival astonished us. It was a brave new world of wonder, ecstasy,
creativity and goodwill. Here were our dreams and anything seemed possible
to us. It was as if some great doorway in our hearts and minds had opened.
It opened only a fraction and only for a moment and we were seared by
a light which streamed through and illuminated our lives. We glimpsed
how things would and could be. We saw our future. And we were changed
Dunstan, Director, Aquarius Festival, 1973