Local police were in attendance on Sunday afternoon, when around 70 people gathered at the park next to Torakina Beach in Brunswick Heads.
In what was clearly a gathering of like-minded people who all coincidently happened to be in the same place at the same time, police could do nothing as no one they spoke to had organised the gathering.
People were walking on tightropes, juggling, hula hooping, baton twirling, and on any other day you would imagine it was a Christmas party for a group of circus performers.
The individuals that police spoke to said they were not part of a group; they were just there enjoying an afternoon at the park and had bumped into friends while they were there.
In the past, police have been called to disperse people who were drumming, and at that time it was just as much for noise issues as for COVID-19 issues.
Local drummer, Jason van Tol, says the drummers have been moved on several times over the last few months, which included people being fined.
‘The initial reason given for breaking up the music was compliance with COVID-19 conditions, but as these have now been relaxed, the new claim is that the NSW government-run Reflections Holiday Parks manages the land on which the music was being played, and that, according to a sign that was erected two weeks ago, “you are required to obtain a Current License for any event to be held within the Reserve”.’
Integral part of the culture
Mr van Tol says that drumming has been an integral part of the culture of Byron Bay for at least 30 years.
‘It’s not an “event” in any formal way, any more than going to the beach is. This is what the police – who must make a judgment about “eventhood” – cannot, or will not, comprehend’.
Gatherings like the drumming circle can form without any central organisation, yet have a clear unity based on rhythm. Moreover, the drumming defies capitalist logic in that it is not profit-oriented and anyone can join in.
Reflections say that as the NSW Crown Holiday Park Land Manager (trading as Reflections Holiday Parks), they are bound by the Crown Lands Management Regulation 2018 and that their website has links to apply for a license.
A Reflections spokesperson said that they provide various licences across their 37 holiday parks and 35 reserves across NSW.
‘Some examples include, filming and photography purposes, markets, personal training and yoga, cultural tours, fun runs and the like.
Each license application individually reviewed
‘Each license application is individually reviewed and approved based on meeting the requirements within the application process.’
The events and functions which require a license are those that generally engage with the public.
‘Many are commercial businesses which must have a license to operate under the legislation. There is a fee and this is charged according to the size of the event/function and is basically to recover costs, such as additional rubbish removal during and after the event/function.’
Family gatherings such as birthday parties or barbecues do not require a license. However, they must align the gathering with COVID Safe practices and government health restrictions.
The spokesperson said, ‘Reflections has dedicated staff who review our licenses, and depending on the complexity of the application, turnaround times are quite quick’.
What is the threat?
Mr van Tol asks what is the threat posed by the drumming circle?
‘That people are getting together spontaneously and having fun? If there is a more prominent reason, I’d like to hear it, but whatever logic is thrown at it, it should also apply to the birthday parties, which are organised deliberately, and carried out at the same spot as the drumming, without a license on a regular basis’.
The police who attended the gathering at Torakina last Sunday said they wouldn’t be taking any action.