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Byron Tales: the ground we stand on

This place where we are matters in life’s big scheme, and in the minutiae of life. A special part of the festival was the Byron Tales event orchestrated by Jenni Cargill founder of The Story Tree Company that provides storytelling performances, workshops and recordings. Cargill chose as her theme “The Ground We Stand On” and invited seven speakers representing diverse constituencies of the community to talk about the forces that have shaped and changed Byron Bay.

First up was Delta Kaye who representing the Arakwal Aboriginal people of Byron Bay. Delta entertained everyone with her warm stories of growing up in Byron. She told of playing hide and seek among the cows with a mob of kids- in the paddock where the new Woollies petrol station now is and of her sister Yvonne getting chased by a bull. She told of eating fish for breakfast, fish for lunch and fish for tea, and of her parents fishing with nets at night ands being posted to watch for the dreaded fishing inspector. She told of living in Suffolk Park Caravan Park and her mother’s fast reflexes with a branch snapped from a nearby tree if they were naughty. Delta spent hours most days at the Taylor’s Lake in Suffolk after school. heer Mum gradually taught her and her siblings more and more, as they got old enough, about bush tucker and stories and how to be a good custodian of their sacred land.
Delta now passes on this knowledge to younger generrations as a part of the Cape Byron Trust running Bush Tucker walks through the National Park and the ‘Dolphin Dreaming’ cultural education programme for school kids, families and adult groups at Cosy Corner and the Pass.

Rusty Miller is a former USA Surfing Champion, who surfed with masters in Hawaii and in the early 70s he moved to Byron Bay. During the Aquarius Festival in 1972 he published the region’s first alternative free newspaper. He was featured in the film “Morning of the Earth” that time that offered a visual manifesto for soul-surfers (as opposed to a competition surfer). Since 1984 Rusty has produced the Byron Bay Holiday Guide each year, as a free booklet and teaches surfing.
“Rusty took up all his speaking time singing and playing Byronesque music from the 70s and 80s with his band. I loved the music and the ambience it created, especially some of the funny original songs the guys sung,” said Cargilll. “But I was disappointed not to hear a story from Rusty, who writes so beautifully for his Byron Guide.”

Frank Mills was the first farmer to sell land to hippies and had to weather disapproval from some of his peers. He was also a Byron Bay Councillor for many years and a Fire Inspector and has self-published many books of local history and is regularly invited to speak about Byron and Brunswick history.

Eighty-one year old Frank took people right back to the days of the old factories of Byron in earlier days. He said Sunnybrand Chickens emits but a mild aroma compared to the fetid stench that that use to roll out of the meatworks. Council meetings were lively. One landlord demanded the Council act to stop his hippy tenant from reading books that contained shocking language. Another made her demands wearing a large hat rammed down over her eyes while waving her umbrella wildly at the Councillors.

Phoebe Robinson, a teenager, from Mullumbimby is a member of a band and wrote a song bout Byron and played guitar. She had taught herself three weeks before but it didn’t show and Phoebe had real presence. The song reminded me that no matter the era we growing up in that our concerns are universal.

Sol was instrumental in the establishment of two skate parks in the shire, has run youth festivals and once led a rain dance during a drought here in Byron Shire which apparently resulted in a brief but steady fall of rain. Sol runs Soul Adventure Tours.
Sol shared his experiences of climbing Mt Chincogan (Mullumbimby and Byron’s small mountain), of men’s rituals held at the summit, and the great gifts the mountain gave him. Sol even told of the night when all his house mates had the same dream about the beings he had met on the mountain- without having heard a word about it from Sol!
Sandra Helpeirn is a passionate environmentalist. and 71yrs young Jewish woman who also works for Aboriginal people. She worked as a scientist, and moved into social welfare and social justice. She arrived with her partner/husband in Byron Shire 1992 and they set up a consultancy in social justice which they ran for 12 years. She was a Byron Shire Councillor for a few years.

Sandra spoke about becoming a grandmother soon after arriving in Byron, which caused the epiphany that led her to become an environmentalist and an active member of the greens. She also spoke of the joys of working to re-afforest her own property.

Jimmy Willing Jimmy Willing, lead singer of ‘The Real Gone Hiccups’ is a musician, singer, songwriter, puppeteer , puppet maker, storyteller, and events co-ordinator, “and he is also an artist extraordinaire,” says Cargill. “I invited Jimmy to explain the story behind the huge new iconic mural set in 1960s that he has painted in one of our main pubs.
Jimmy was dynamic and passionate as ever and even spoke to time! He told us why he set the mural in 1962 and in the 70s or during the Aquarius Festival. He related arriving decades ago in Byron on the train with a band he was playing with and the lead singer would always say “Phew where do they get these women? They are like something from a movie set!”
In 1962 you could drive your Holden on to the beach and take your dog on the beach but women could not take off their top. He had to remind a few Rails patrons of that when they pleaded “Mate where are the white pointers, the lovely white pointers?!” as enthusiastically gesticulated with their hands to indicate upright breasts on their chests.

Marian Edmunds, and with thanks to Jenni Cargill for filling in details of an evening I enjoyed immensely but chose to just sit and enjoy on the night.

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