Nimbin, New South Wales

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Nimbin
New South Wales
Nimbin is located in New South Wales
Nimbin
Nimbin
Location in New South Wales
Coordinates 28°35′45″S 153°13′23″E / 28.59583°S 153.22306°E / -28.59583; 153.22306Coordinates: 28°35′45″S 153°13′23″E / 28.59583°S 153.22306°E / -28.59583; 153.22306
Population 352 (2006 census)[1]
Postcode(s) 2480
Elevation 65 m (213 ft)
Location
LGA(s) City of Lismore
State electorate(s) Lismore
Federal Division(s) Page

Nimbin is a city in the Northern Rivers area of the Australian state of New South Wales, approximately 30 km (19 mi) north of Lismore, 33 km (21 mi) southeast of Kyogle, and 70 km (43 mi) west of Byron Bay.

Nimbin is notable for the prominence of its environmental initiatives such as permaculture, sustainability, self-sufficiency as well as the cannabis counterculture. Writer Austin Pick described his initial impressions of the village this way: "It is as if a smoky avenue of Amsterdam has been placed in the middle of the mountains behind frontier-style building facades. ... Nimbin is a strange place indeed."[2]

Nimbin has been described in literature and mainstream media as 'the drug capital of Australia', 'a social experiment' and 'an escapist sub-culture'. Nimbin has become an icon in Australian cultural history with many of the values first introduced there by the counterculture becoming part of modern Australian culture.[3]

History[edit]

Nimbin and surrounding areas are part of what is known as the "Rainbow Region", which is of cultural importance to the Indigenous Bundjalung people. The name Nimbin comes from the local Whiyabul (Widgibal) clan whose Dreamtime speaks of the Nimbinjee spirit people protecting the area. In recent decades, since 1973, the area has become a haven for Australia's counterculture.[4]

Forests of Red Cedar first attracted loggers to the area in the 1840s, but by the end of the century most of the land had been cleared. With the Cedar forests gone, Nimbin was subdivided in 1903 with the land turned over to dairy farming and growing bananas.[5] In the 1960s, the local dairy industry collapsed due to recession and Nimbin went into serious economic decline until 1973, when the Aquarius Festival, a large gathering of university students, practitioners of alternative lifestyles, 'hippies' and party people, was held in the village.[6] The Festival was the first event in Australia that sought permission for the use of land from the Traditional Owners. After the festival hundreds of participants and festival goers remained in Nimbin to form communes and other multiple occupancy communities, in search of an "alternative lifestyle". Nimbin in fact made legal history for the first ever application of group title ownership of land in Australia. Since the Aquarius Festival, the region has attracted thousands of writers, artists, musicians, actors, environmentalists and permaculture enthusiasts, as well as tourists and young families escaping city life.[3]

In 1979, the Nimbin community staged the "Battle for Terania Creek" to protect the remaining local rainforest. As a result the N.S.W. government imposed a "no rainforest logging" policy covering the entire state, the world’s first government legislation to protect rainforest.[3]

The population of Nimbin before the failure of the dairy industry in 1961 was 6,020. At the 2006 census[1] Nimbin had a population of 352, compared to 321 at the 2001 census.[7] However, Nimbin's 'head count' does not include the many Multiple Occupancy rural properties, the hippy communes for which it is most famous. The region's high rural population (35 percent of Lismore residents according to the census) means Nimbin services a surrounding rural area of about ten thousand people living within 15 km (9.3 mi).[8] Nimbin had the highest unemployment rate in the Lismore Local Government Area in 2006, 18.1 percent.[1]

Cannabis culture and MardiGrass[edit]

Main article: MardiGrass
Nimbin Village 2008

In New South Wales the cultivation, possession or sale of cannabis is punishable by law. In Nimbin, all three activities are part of every day hippie culture. Nimbin has a high tolerance for cannabis (marijuana), with the open buying, selling and consumption of locally grown cannabis on the streets and laneways. To rally for an end to the prohibition of cannabis in Australia, Nimbin has held an annual MardiGrass festival since 1993. On the first weekend with any part of it in May, thousands descend on Nimbin for cannabis oriented fun and frivolity. Activities include: a Prohibition Protest Rally and Parade with the Ganja Faeries, the Nimbin Cannabis Cup, the Hemp Olympix, which includes the Bong "Throw'n'Yell", Joint Rolling, and the Grower's Iron Person event, where runners must first carry a 20 kg (44 lb) sack of fertiliser, then a bucket of water, and finally "the crop", as a tribute to the difficulties faced by growers in the hills, and to show that cannabis users can be fit and healthy. At night, entertainment ranges from the Harvest Ball and Picker's Ball, rave doof parties, to poetry and jazz in local cafes.[9]

The prevalence of a drug culture in Nimbin since 1973 has been accompanied by a prevalence of collective and public creativity: colourful and spiritually-motivated art (including large paintings above the shop awnings), music, poetry, craft and fashion can all be seen on the main street. The town is also known as a hot-spot for alternative social activities, grass-roots political discourse, and the espousal of naturalist, humanist, anarchist, feminist, libertarian, permissive, new-age, mystical and radical social philosophies (which can all be seen as collective creative endeavours).

There are a number of shops in Nimbin geared to the cannabis culture.

  • The Nimbin Hemp Embassy is a "soft entry point for drug information", and a shop selling anything to do with Hemp, except cannabis itself.
  • Clothing & natural skin products using industrial hemp products.
  • The Nimbin HEMP Bar used to allow the patrons to smoke cannabis while enjoying fresh coffee and cake. In April 2008 police announced their intention to close the HEMP Bar and Museum. Landlords were sent letters to this effect. Rather than cause legal problems for their landlord, the HEMP Bar crew voluntarily closed the doors and moved out. The HEMP Bar reopened in 2009 as a coffee and hemp information centre, but smoking of cannabis is no longer encouraged.
  • The Nimbin Museum is a collection of local artefacts, local art,and alternative culture open for tour. Admission is gained by donation of a gold coin. The Museum has managed to stay open despite threat of closure. It may still be closed if too many drug offences continue to be detected on the premises. The Nimbin Museum and two other buildings were destroyed by fire on 13 August 2014. There are plans to rebuild a proper museum at the site.[citation needed][citation needed]

Police intervention[edit]

The level of police intervention against drug trafficking has fluctuated over the years, however the State and Federal Police have never been able to stop or even significantly reduce the prevalence of cannabis use in the village. In April 2008, a squad of 110 officers wearing bulletproof vests, six horses and police dogs conducted searches in a police operation. Several buildings were searched including the Hemp Embassy. Eight people were arrested, 72 people were issued cannabis cautions and police seized 4 kilograms (9 lb) of cannabis and cannabis ‘cookies’. Police sent letters to the Nimbin Museum and the Hemp Bar leaseholders indicating an intention to seek closure orders under the Restricted Premises Act of 1943 for the MardiGrass weekend.[10] The Restricted Premises Act allows for the closure of premises for three days and orders may be obtained weekly. The Museum soon reopened with a new leaseholder while the Hemp Bar remained closed for eight months and reopened in January 2009.[11][12]

CCTV cameras in the main street of Nimbin had pushed dealing off the streets and into the museum and the Hemp Embassy had been requesting that police deal with the problem. Following the raids, Hemp Embassy volunteer Andrew Kavasilas commented: "This is a real slap in the face for people who would like to see other resources in town. We have been inviting the police to come down and sort out the dealing in the museum for years and this is their response. They could work with the community, but they're not interested." Many locals voiced their opposition to the Police operation.[11][12] Following the operation, Richmond Police local area commander Superintendent Bruce Lyons vowed to "shut down the drug trade."[10]

Nimbin's local economy[edit]

Nimbin Village 2008
  • Tourism: Usually higher during late summer/spring, Nimbin is a major tourist attraction with organised tours frequenting the town.
  • Backpackers: As Nimbin is regarded as an international attraction for its eccentricity, colourful people and drug culture; it attracts backpackers from over the world who spend money in the town at its various accommodation houses, retail outlets and New Age healing centres. Workshops held in the surrounding areas on ecology and self sufficiency contribute to the towns revenue.
  • Property: In 2004 the region was experiencing a property boom, as many left the cities for an alternative lifestyle or tree-change, and large farms were being subdivided into smaller blocks for sale.
  • Alternative Energy/Culture/Lifestyle: Many green industries operate in Nimbin include the Rainbow Power Company, Djanbung Permaculture Gardens, Nimbin Environment Centre, Ecosilk Bags and the Nimbin Candle Factory.
  • Health & Lifestyle: New Age healing is available in almost every form, and the local arts are thriving with many galleries and arts events.[13]

Accommodation and attractions[edit]

Nimbin Mardigrass 2008

Nimbin is served by the people for the people; the community works together to promote a peaceful town that welcomes for all people to enjoy.[14] In Nimbin is a police station, hospital and medical centre, lawyers, real estate, a service station with NRMA accreditation, restaurants, cafes, and a pub. The pub has music and offers beer with an in-house restaurant. A wide variety of accommodation is available for visitors, from camping grounds and youth hostels, to bush cabins and hotels. There are a number of sporting clubs and the Bowling Club maintains licensed premises. The Nimbin Neighbourhood and Information Centre is a valued[citation needed] source of knowledge about local trends to newcomers, activities, the where's where, visitors guides, resources, computers to use the Internet and general help to the community. The NNIC includes a small centrelink office, legal advice, nurse practitioner, welfare worker, weekly soup kitchen to the adjacent park, and publishing service for the local paper, all run by local volunteer residents. Local entertainments include the town hall, once a year Madigrass, markets, bands, walks to the mountains, and day-to-day activities from buskers to street stalls.

Other nearby attractions:[4]

  • Nimbin Rocks, a series of jagged outcrops, solidified plugs left after the erosion of volcanic dykes and vents and Blue Knob that are both landmarks for the village.
  • Mt Warning (known as Wollumbin to the Bundjalung people) is close by, the summit of which is the first point of mainland Australia to see the sunrise. The summit of Mt. Warning can be climbed via an 8 km track through forested slopes. Mount Warning is the solid plug at the centre of a caldera containing the Tweed River, where, millions of years ago, a volcano once stood. Nimbin lies on the edge of that ancient volcano.
  • Nightcap National Park is one of the few remaining places to see the remnants of the Big Scrub rainforest.
  • There are many local creeks, waterholes and rivers for swimming

Media[edit]

The Nimbin Good Times is a free monthly community newspaper, also distributed in Lismore, Byron Bay, and some suburbs of Brisbane and Sydney. The community radio station is 2 NIM FM which offers an independent alternative media voice playing a diverse range of music and programming in Japanese, German, and Bundjalung language.

Transport[edit]

Nimbin is 35 km (22 mi) from Lismore Airport with flights several times daily to Sydney. Local and Private bus companies operate services from Lismore to Nimbin.

Gallery[edit]

Sister Cities[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]