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The Aquarius Festival

In May 1973 from all across Australia, students and other young people radicalised by the protests against the Vietnam War and conscription gathered in the village of Nimbin in north eastern New South Wales, Australia, to celebrate the Aquarius Festival and to explore the meaning of peace. The Aquarius Festival was produced and funded by the Australian Union of Students. Since the "All the way with LBJ" commitment of the Australia government to the Vietnam War in 1965, students and their organizations had been fuelling and leading the resistance. In November 1972 the election of the Whitlam Labour government had confirmed their success.

The Nimbin Aquarius Festival set out to explore the dimensions of the counter culture, which the years of resistance to war had spawned. After six years of protest we knew what we were against. But what were we for? What future for the future?

The Nimbin Aquarius Festival brought together the many and diverse themes, dreams and ideals of the counter culture and put them into practice as 10 day temporary community in the village and the fields adjacent. We called it a "lifestyle festival" at a time when the word had not been co-opted by consumerism and applied to real estate and the like.

A site far away from the city and campus symbols of corrupt authority was sought for this exploration. The organisers chose Nimbin because of its northern clime and the amenities made available by its economic decline.

An ancient initiation ground, we later understood that maybe Nimbin had chosen us, that the cultural initiation we were undertaking was ancient too and that paradoxically we had gone back to go forward and entered a Dreamtime, a rainbow dreaming.

We were the best of our generation, the intelligentsia, the prophets and the pioneers, and our Aquarius experience was ecstatic with joy and madness, vision and magic. It was as if a long closed door had opened in our collected hearts, only a little and only for a little time, but the light that shone through drenched us with wonder and revelation and changed us irrevocably.

Many dreams were seeded and took root. The dreams changed the lives of the dreamers and the cultural practice of the communities around them. Nimbin in particular took on new life and meaning and the district about it once called Summerland became known as the Rainbow Region of New South Wales.

Thirty years on we reflect on how many of these dreams flourished and over time became seamlessly integrated that their Aquarian inspiration is now almost forgotten and invisible, how others became eccentricities or passing fashions, and yet others the shibboleths of scorn and ridicule for succeeding generations.  Thirty years on we celebrate the significance of Aquarius and the wonder of rainbow dreams. Because if you don't have a dream

Graeme Dunstan

Thirty Years a Short Time for a Fig Tree
written (2 April 2003 for the Nimbin News)
Echoes of Aquarius   
(written 2 May 2003 for the Byron Echo)