Walking down the main street of Mullumbimby it’s hard to believe the place was once a conservative dairy town facing an uncertain future.
Most of us have become so used to the bustling mix of hippies, housewives and everything in between that it’s hard to imagine a time when there was barely a dreadlock or alternative worldview in sight.
Just how this transformation happened is at the heart of a new documentary film, Mullumbimby’s Magic: the culture of the 70s–80s, being launched this Thursday December 6 at the Civic Hall from 7.30pm.
Two additional screenings of the film will take place at Mullumbimby Drill Hall on December 7 at 5pm and 7.30pm.
The second in a series on the culture of the town, Mullumbimby’s Magic explores the emergence of the social, political and environmental movements that shaped the Shire and permeated out into the rest of the country.
The film’s maker, Sharon Shostak, has interviewed some of the region’s early rainbow arrivals and obtained old photographs and footage to recreate some of the seminal battles of the 1970s and 80s, from the Terania blockade to the ‘alternative takeover’ of Byron Council.
‘The film’s about how the people who settled here in the 70s – the city escapees, the dropouts, the misfits – became politically and socially conscious,’ Ms Shostak says. ‘They wanted to make things happen. They said “Okay, we broke away, now let’s make something of it”.
‘It’s also about the Brunswick Valley Historical Society [which commissioned the film] saying “these people are passing away, let’s get their stories down now”.’
Ms Shostak describes Mullumbimby in the early 1970s as ‘a dying dairy town’.
‘We had farmers working their arses off to scrape together a living and then in came the alternatives and they revitalised the area,’ she says. ‘A big part of it was the money they brought with them. The fascinating thing was that a lot of that money came from marijuana.
‘There’s an anecdote in the film about the hippies coming into James Hardware and all of them paying cash.’
Just as influential as dollars were the new settlers’ ideas and the campaigns these ideas inspired. ‘In many ways this is a film about the “firsts” – the first environmental protest, the first blockade at Terania, the first political party, the first councillor elected on an alternative political platform,’ Ms Shostak says. ‘These were the firsts that led to some of the environmental protections we now take for granted.’
This included the political and policy developments that occurred during the 1980s. ‘It was the work of people in the 80s who got on Council who are responsible for things like wildlife protections, environmental zones and limiting development,’ Ms Shostak says. ‘We owe them a lot.
‘I also think the Brunswick Valley Historical Society deserves a huge amount of credit for their vision in coming up with the idea for these films so that people can learn about what happened.’