All Events: I was (t)here

Fairymount Festival 1985

The 1985 Kyogle Fairymount Festival was a great opportunity for the Kyogle Nuclear Disarmament Group.  

We covered my brother’s baby-blue 4WD with placards saying things like ‘NORCO won’t buy radioactive milk’. I sat on the bonnet with my arms inside my shirt and a  sign tucked under my chin: ‘Mr Disarmament 1985’.  

As we rounded the Post Office, driving slowly down  Summerland Way, I saw a huge crowd and my mouth went dry.  

A bloke outside the top pub called “He’s got no arms and he’s Mr Disarmament … that’s funny”. He broke the ice and we got a big cheer.  

And humanity has managed not to blow itself

Kyogle Bazaar

I was there when Kyogle Bazaar faced closure. 

In 2017 I was a stallholder for Kyogle Bazaar when management could no longer continue. Nobody wanted this little rural creative arts hub to fail. I stepped up and became coordinator. 

I found my happy place where the community gathers to share our passions and celebrate the diversity our community provides. It isn’t about commerce, politics, religion, although all these things are present.  

It’s to showcase the ‘vibe’ of all of us to be welcome and free to just be.  

One day every month to listen, connect, share, and accept. We are not all the same and that is who we are.  

It’s very Kyogle.

Cross Cultural Awareness Festival

I was there in 1996, helping organise a Cross Cultural Awareness Festival in Kyogle. At that time I had been playing in bands for several years, but during this festival I had the biggest thrill of my life, to that stage. 

This was being invited to support Uncle Jimmy Little on stage for a few songs. Uncle Jimmy was famous. I was not. 

But beyond that, it was the aura around Uncle Jimmy.  Despite the ignorance and discrimination he had lived through, he had an aura of calm, of peace. Not a trace of bitterness.  

I was not exactly the stereotypical angry-young-man.  But I was close, there was a chip on my shoulder. Being around this remarkable human being, Uncle Jimmy  Little, changed my life. It put me on a path to acceptance of the past, to reconciliation.

Kyogle, Casino, Coraki, Woodburn and Lismore

We live in a region that is used to floods, but everyone knew this was different. 

I was there. With a team of 80 beautiful volunteers over the first week we prepared and delivered 3,000 meals over five days throughout Kyogle, Casino, Coraki, Woodburn and Lismore. 

The priority was people of lower socio-economic status;  people who might be doing it tough in normal times – let alone in a crisis. 

This disaster bought out the best in many people. It also proved confronting for some people who, for perhaps the first time in their lives, were confronted by the casual racism that is widespread in Australia. 

Over time some of these people came to see things differently, to understand issues are not always clear cut. They changed their mind and became advocates. 

“Go home and talk about this around your dinner table,”  I said, “It’s time to break this cycle.”

The Nursery

I WAS (T)HERE in 1989.  

At sunrise the flood had reached the third London Plane tree just up towards the nursery from the old low-level bridge. 

This was the first bridge to be built in Kyogle back in  1907. 

Before this flood, I remember driving over it in our yellow  Mitsubishi van – the brown plastic buckles of the children’s seat holding me tight as our family of 6  bounced over the wooden xylophone of the old rickety low level bridge. 

I remember from that moment until recently when floods were exciting. 

After the water levels dropped – the bridge was gone forever.

The Lost World Wilderness

I WAS (T)HERE in 1998, late October. 

The Lost World Wilderness. 

The heart of the largest expanse of sub-tropical rainforest in Australia – right on our back doorstep. A prehistoric living relic of deep time ecology. 

We walked with packs and food and tents and snacks from Antarctic Beech in the Border Ranges to the wreckage of the Stinson crash. 

A plane crashed here 51 years earlier – 2 people survived and rescued by a mountain man listening to his feelings. 

That night we camped at Rat-a-tat hut. 

It was cold. 

We woke to 10,000 fireflies.  

Forest faeries. 

The most majestic site.

Kyogle 2002

I WAS (T)HERE in Kyogle in 2002. 

Half a lifetime ago. 

16 years old out on the town with the boys. 

Talk of a paddock basher. 

$200 for an unregistered car. 

With friends from Lismore visiting, and after last weekend’s experience, I felt to sit this one out. 

The following morning in Video Ezy – the news broke of a car crash out back road. 

3 friends dead in the early hours of Saturday morning. Total shock and disbelief. 

2 nights back we’d just been playing World Rally  Championship on the Xbox together. 

In real life you don’t get to press the reset button.


I WAS THERE when the shots rang out in echoes across our valley.  

Our herd we had worked were like skeletons, just hide hanging like clothes on a coat hanger. The grass long gone, turned to dust, brown choking dust, in our hair,  our clothes, hearts.  

Our vegetable garden and fruit trees long since gone as the creek dried up to less than a trickle.  

Oppression, deflation was evident in Mum and Dad’s eyes. You can’t make it rain, you can’t start a pump with no water. Death has a smell, death has a taste, drought!

Mt Lindesay

I WAS THERE, in the smoke-filled air, coughing and spluttering.  

It felt hard to breathe. Dry grass, fallen logs and weeds of all kinds, all kindling for the beast of flames that consumed Mt Lindsay. Sirens blasting in my ears,  sounds and smells around me I have never heard and smelt before.  

The only smell familiar is the smell of Mum and Dad.  Looking around all I see Is dust.  

My heart dropped as I saw Mt Lindsay. That flaming beast had been consumed by the unstoppable fire-breathing dragon that menacingly circled our villages and homes.


I WAS THERE when Lismore was flooding.  

I lost all my boyhood possessions and it was really sad when it flooded. Some people drowned in the floods.  That was heartbreaking.  

When Lismore dried up a lot of houses were destroyed and many roads were washed away, but our community worked together to help rebuild.  

Many helicopters arrived with army personnel to support the sick and elderly. My family needed to stay in a motel to keep us above flood water. I was so happy when we were safe at last.