Watching Sharon Shostak’s marvellous new doco, Activism and Politics, last Thursday night on Byron’s emerging environmental politics of the 80s, I was struck in hindsight by how successful it all was and just how much this very determined group achieved in such a short period of a decade.
It is no accident that Byron Shire is like it is today because it was this herculean effort by all these activists of the 70s and 80s that ensured it was preserved. It was a mad, weird combination of eco-warriors, hippies, vege growers and all sorts of urban refugees from the city seeking Utopia.
Inspired by the progressive politics of the Whitlam era, we laid down the foundation for the unique community and environment we live in here today. We were called ‘greenies’ as a pejorative swearword a decade before the Greens appeared, so it was rewarding to hear the former Greens mayor Jan Barham make that very point as the credits started to roll.
We were not building a future for movie actors or coal billionaires, though they are welcome if they behave. It was not about an alternative to Noosa or the Gold Coast. Rather we were trying to pick up the ideas of the counterculture, the alternative-lifestyle followers, and the nascent environmental movement and merge it with the open transparent politics of Ted Mack and John Hatton, two champions of open government and whose anti-corruption efforts largely led to the establishment of the NSW ICAC.
In Byron Bay, this political movement was led by Anudhi Wentworth and, working alongside her (and around her often!), we developed our vision for a unique community based on new values of openness and transparency in government, protection of the environment, respect for others’ desire to live differently and a desire to build a local economy that allowed locally owned businesses to prosper.
As Mullumbimby publicly recognises the legacy of Nick Shand and his fantastic contributions, I often think we should commemorate Anudhi in a more public fashion here in Byron Bay. She drove me and my predecessor, Stan Robinson, nuts on library funding. It would be nice to see her name up there every time I’m sitting outside the Library in a traffic jam. So over to you, Mayor Simon.