Aquarius Festival

Coordinates: 28°38′45″S 153°13′23″E / 28.64583°S 153.22306°E / -28.64583; 153.22306
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Nimbin Aquarius Festival
Dates12 to 23 May 1973
Location(s)Canberra, Nimbin, New South Wales, Australia
Years active1971, 1973
Founded byJohnny Allen and Graeme Dunstan

The Nimbin Aquarius Festival was a counter-cultural arts and music festival organised by the Australian Union of Students. It was the fourth in a biannual series of festivals, first organised by the National Union of Australian University Students. The first Australian Universities Arts Festival was held in Sydney in 1967, and the second Australian Universities Arts Festival was held in Melbourne in 1969. The third added "Aquarius" to its name and was held in Canberra in 1971.[1] The fourth and last was held in Nimbin, New South Wales in 1973.[2]

The Aquarius Festival aimed to celebrate alternative thinking and sustainable lifestyles.[3] The ten-day event was held from 12 to 23 May 1973 and co-directed by Johnny Allen and Graeme Dunstan. Vernon Treweeke also played a part in organising the event. It is often described as Australia's equivalent to the Woodstock Festival and the birthplace for Australia's hippie movement.[4] It has also been credited with being the first event that sought the permission to use the land from traditional owners, and included a Welcome to Country ceremony.[5] The estimated attendance at Nimbin was between 5,000 and 10,000 people.[6]


Performers at the festival included the White Company - an experimental theatre troupe featuring a number of alternative culture artists including Peter Carolan - singer Paul Joseph, Donny McCormack (ex-Nutwood Rug Band), The Larrikins and Ian Farr. Also appearing were Indian street performers the Bauls of Bengal, the South African pianist Dollar Brand (later known as Abdullah Ibrahim), classical-ambient musician Lindsay Bourke,[7] and tightrope walker and unicyclist Philippe Petit, who gained worldwide fame the following year by walking between the rooftops of the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center.


The festival had a permanent effect on the economy of Nimbin, as many Festival participants decided to remain in the district.[8] The area was previously a dairying and banana growing region in severe decline. Some of those that stayed might be defined as hippies, but in fact the larger percentage came from all sorts of backgrounds and life experience, ranging from 18 to 80 years old.

One group pooled resources after the Nimbin Aquarius Festival and bought a then 500-hectare (1,200-acre) property at Tuntable Falls[8] in the next valley east, below Mount Nardi, and formed a community called the "Co-Ordination Co-Operative". Other groups followed suit and formed communes that continue today. Examples include Paradise Valley Pastoral Company and Nmbngee.[8]

Interviews were conducted in 1992 documenting the alternative lifestyle movement of northern NSW in the 1970s, focusing on the town of Nimbin and the 1973 Aquarius Festival. Interviewees discussed how they arrived in Nimbin, their efforts in organising the Aquarius Festival, and the lasting impact the Festival had on the township.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Festivals - Aquarius Festival, Canberra, 1971 MilesAgo. (Retrieved 26 October 2006)
  2. ^ Festivals - Aquarius Festival, Nimbin, 1973 MilesAgo. (Retrieved 26 October 2006)
  3. ^ S Sorrensen. "Rainbow Region born from black and white". The Northern Rivers Echo. TAOW Ltd. Retrieved 3 November 2009.
  4. ^ "Peace, love and real life". Brisbane Times. Fairfax Digital. 14 March 2008. Retrieved 3 November 2009.
  5. ^ Scantlebury, Alethea (13 October 2014). "Black Fellas and Rainbow Fellas: Convergence of Cultures at the Aquarius Arts and Lifestyle Festival, Nimbin, 1973". M/C Journal. 17 (6). doi:10.5204/mcj.923.
  6. ^ Carr, Andy (Autumn 2013). "Archives of Aquarius" (PDF). SL Magazine. 6 (1). State Library of New South Wales: 20–21.
  7. ^ Kimball, Duncan. "The Almanac – 1973". Milesago: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964–1975. Ice Productions. Archived from the original on 19 March 2009. Retrieved 24 February 2022 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ a b c "Nimbin - New South Wales - Australia - Travel". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Digital. 8 February 2004. Archived from the original on 14 October 2009. Retrieved 3 November 2009.
  9. ^ "Richmond-Tweed Oral History Group - Under the Rainbow. Interviews with residents following alternative life styles in the Lismore area, 1992". State Library of New South Wales Catalogue. Retrieved 5 June 2018.

External links[edit]

28°38′45″S 153°13′23″E / 28.64583°S 153.22306°E / -28.64583; 153.22306