Nimbin & The Demise of Utopia


About 5 years ago we watched a doco on the little Aussie town of Nimbin in NSW and on the social experiment that took place there as alternative lifestyle folks moved in with the intention of creating the perfect world. This was to be a place where there were no rules except love and where people were free to do whatever they wanted especially in regards to drugs and sex. It was the hippie / flower power era and idealism reigned supreme.

I remember the doco ended with one of the founders lamenting that it just didn’t work because they had realised that people couldn’t live without some degree of rules/laws. It seemed that in the absence of restraints society fell apart. It was tragic to watch and observe the demise of this great dream and the awareness that we as people are so innately driven by selfishness.

So being in northern NSW we decided to visit Nimbin yesterday to see firsthand the town as it is today… and it aint pretty…

The drive from Murwillumbah to Nimbin is nice and the town itself is colourful and interesting. We parked at the lower end of town and began to walk up the main street past the pub and various shops many of which specialised in alternative spiritualities (although I think they are more mainstream these days). I had to resist the urge to ask each shop-owner if they had a Bible I could purchase… interestingly it was the only spiritual book missing from each place.


Despite having taken the kids to almost every museum around Oz, we decided to miss this one… I would have liked to check it out but we never got around to coming back up that part of the street. Apart from the shops the town certainly carries a pretty unique vibe with some interesting people hanging around.

We walked to the end of town and were on our way back. I had been told that I wouldn’t get very far without being offered some pot. Perhaps it was the presence of children that kept them away, but we almost got back to the car with no signs of street dealing at all. Oh well…

However while we were looking in a shop window by an alley a scuffle broke out between two men. One was a dealer – maybe 20 years old – and the other was a middle aged bloke who had snatched a packet out of the dealers hand. It was getting ugly and standing nearby I stepped between them and tried to make a bit of peace. It worked and they walked away, but it scared the kids and left a bad taste. We went into the supermarket to get some food and observed another argument / altercation before walking on. Not happy people…


At the end of town back near the car I saw a sign pointing to the ‘World Cup Poetry Championships’ and being a lover of poety and literature I wandered on down with Danelle and kids in tow. A bloke called Daniel Pearson was on stage rapping his life story of addiction, demise and recovery. It was really good stuff and I sat down. The kids let us (and everyone else) know they were bored so Danelle offered to take them to the park and give me half an hour to listen.

I stayed and enjoyed the time before the air temp dropped to a point lower than shorts and T shirt could cope with. I went back to the park to find Danelle and kids but they weren’t there. I heard yelling on the street and observed a fat bare chested man screaming and crying incoherently as the police and a small crowd walked slowly behind. It wasn’t pretty. I walked past the car and saw Danelle and kids holed up in there.

It turns out the last half hour while I was watching poetry Danelle was viewing domestic disputes between addicts, street fights and other bizarre behaviour. Ok, so it sounds like just another day in Butler…

But she was keen to just get out of there and the kids were happy if we never return… As we drove off it was with a feeling of sadness as we had observed so much obvious pain and anguish in such a short space of time. While some continue to perpetuate the Nimbin ideal its clear that it hasn’t worked and if anything has created a more unhealthy community than otherwise.

To the Christians in Nimbin who are living out the kingdom of God, we wish you well and pray that you will be able to offer love, hope and healing to what we felt was a very broken place.

6 thoughts on “Nimbin & The Demise of Utopia

  1. Mate

    This is a brilliant critique of how humans at their idealist best still can’t do it. It made me sad to read it because of the desires that started the experiment. I think Butler needs you more than ever. Keep drivin’!

  2. Good post Hamo.

    the paradox of the scriptures and life is that very often what we think will get us what we want, it exactly what wont get us that!

  3. Great post Hamo – I agree with Steve Mac … it seems we can’t create that ideal community … and I join you in prayer for those Christians living out the Kingdom in Nimbin.

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