Nimbin Aquarius Festival – Pastor Don Brady and dancers

Nimbin Aquarius Festival – Pastor Don Brady and dancers
Megan McMurchy and Jeune Pritchard, the Brady family on behalf of the Jawiyaba Warra Aboriginal Corporation and the Kuku Yalanji community
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
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In 1973, the Aquarius Festival moved off campus to the Northern New South Wales town of Nimbin. Organised by the Australian Union of Students, the 10-day alternative festival was a coming together of countercultural ideas, workshops and performances.

The festival was the first of its kind to seek permission from the area’s Traditional Owners, the Bundjalung nation, and to include a Welcome to Country.

The push to engage the Indigenous community was prompted by Indigenous activists, and it was purportedly Gary Foley who asked festival organisers if they had sought permission from the local Aboriginal community to host the festival.

In response to these calls to action, the festival organisers secured two Australia Council for the Arts grants to further Aboriginal participation. San people from the Kalahari Desert, including artist Bauxhau Stone, visited Aboriginal communities and missions around the country and invited people to attend the festival.

In this clip, Pastor Don Brady, an Aboriginal leader and foundational member of the Brisbane Tribal Council, plays the digeridoo while three young men dance.

Born on Palm Island, Brady was of Kuku Yalanji descent; his tribal name was Kuanji. Brady often visited the Aboriginal community in and around Lismore.

Having learnt to dance and play digeridoo as a boy, Brady was a strong proponent of expressions of Indigenous culture, teaching many others as well as forming the Yelangi dance group.

Among those watching Brady and the dancers perform is the well-known poet and land rights activist Judith Wright who, as a member of the Council for the Arts, went to Aquarius to check on the use of grant funding.

She spoke positively of the festival, writing 'all was love and peace and flying hair and oriental garb and some rather beautiful nudity (on the camp sites only) and recycled grass tepees and music, music, music, and unstructured events'.

Home movies and experimental films reveal Aquarius to be a space for creative and cultural expression. This clip was captured by Sydney-based filmmakers Megan McMurchy and Jeune Pritchard, who documented the festival across 4 hours of video footage captured using open reels of tape and a Sony Portapak.

Though low quality by today’s standards, the Portapak revolutionised video production and gave the world a readily available, relatively inexpensive and portable way to produce black-and-white imagery with sound.

Able to be carried by one person, Portapaks were swiftly adopted by artists and countercultural groups to document happenings and protests and offer a unique perspective on events which differed from that of professional television broadcasts.