The village of Nimbin is situated 30 kilometres north west of Lismore and is the service centre for a much larger district population. In the 2011 Census the population of Nimbin is 1,668 and is comprised of 48.7% females and 51.3% males. Due to a high level of transient visitation plus anecdotal accounts of statistical non-compliance within the alternative culture, it is likely that ABS figures underestimate the actual population serviced by the village. Within the Lismore Local Government Area, Nimbin functions as a district centre in its own righ tand has become a service town to the hamlets of Blue Knob, Tuntable Creek, Lillian Rock, Bishops Creek, Stony Chute, Coffee Camp and Larnook. Residents of Mt Burrell and Barkers Vale (within neighbouring Tweed & Kyogle Shires) also use the village services.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE SITE
In 1904 Mr. Hugh Thorburn donated two acres of land to the Department of Public Instruction for the purpose of providing a secure site for a school in Nimbin. Mr. Thorburn had housed the original school, established in his barn in 1891. In 1906 the first schoolroom (today's Bark Hut) was built. By 1910 a new school building and residence for the teacher (today's Banksia House) had been constructed and a fig tree was planted to mark the official opening. By this time the school had 120 pupils enrolled.
Additions in 1917 and 1927 created the Acacia House of today. In the late 1920s the department bought two acres of land across the road from the school, for playing fields and paddocks for the students’ horses. Originally this land was acquired for teaching animal husbandry and agriculture but became the school’s playing fields and horse paddock, as many students came to the school on horseback. This land is now the Nimbin Peace Park. In 1935 enrolments jumped to 188, a figure not to be surpassed in the primary school until 1990. 1950, 1963 and 1966 saw new classroom buildings constructed. The last of these, at a cost of $60,000 was the brick science block (Casuarina Building). Form 2 planted the cypress trees in the front of the school in 1965. The Aquarius Festival in 1973 saw new people move to the area and a gradual rise in school numbers. In 1977 the art and craft room (Bottlebrush Studio) was constructed and 1981 saw the first improvements to the playing fields - pipes, fill and leveling.
In 1987, due to increasing enrollments, the primary school was moved to temporary accommodation in the village. A new Primary School was constructed in 1995. In 1997 Nimbin Central School was completed to house both Primary and Secondary students, vacating the original school site, an historical occasion for the community of Nimbin.
ACQUISITION OF THE SITE
Armed with the knowledge that a new school was to be constructed, the Nimbin community was faced with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to keep the very heart of Nimbin in the hands of the community forever, an opportunity to create a focus for community activities and beautiful parkland. The Department of School Education offered the two sites, the old school grounds and the now Peace Park, to Lismore City Council for $280,000, approximately half their commercial value.
In August 1995 a community committee was established to explore the option of purchasing the site and in 1996 council agreed to buy this land for Nimbin, provided that the community itself raised $140,000 prior to purchase and undertook to repay the balance, plus any funds required for development of the site, over the following ten years.
So began a period of tireless fundraising and by January 1998 the community had raised the $140,000 required by council. Major financial contributions towards this figure included:
$37,000 Nimbin Community School Cooperative who sold a building to finance their contribution.
$30,000 "Visions of Nimbin" trade and cultural expo.
$30,000 grant from Casino Community Benefit Fund.
Significant donations from numerous individuals and organisations within Nimbin community.
The additional funds were raised through a multitude of fundraising activities.
While fundraising was underway the Nimbin Community Development Association (NCDA) was incorporated as a non-profit community organisation. NCDA undertook extensive community consultation to develop the vision for the sites and a long-term plan to ensure economic, social and environmental sustainability. NCDA subsequently became custodians and managers of the sites on behalf of the wider community, facilitated through a lease between NCDA and Lismore Council.
Acquisition of the sites saw two subdivisions take place. One created land for the Nimbin Volunteer Bushfire Brigade where a new fire shed was constructed. The other enabled Lismore City Council to build new public toilets, following closure of the public toilets belonging to the Nimbin School of Arts.
The loan with Lismore City Council was paid up in full in 2008. This was achieved through the fundraising initiatives and grants listed above, and through rental income from local groups and community services who rented spaces in the community centre. At the same time NCDA changed their name to Nimbin Community Centre Inc. and took the title to Nimbin Community Centre in July 2008.
7 Sibley Street Nimbin
In January 2012 the community became aware that 7 Sibley Street in Nimbin would be auctioned in late February 2012, and the Team Leader of the Nimbin Neighbourhood and Information Centre (NNIC) together with the Secretary of the Nimbin Community Centre (NCCI) met with Gary Murphy, General Manager of Lismore City Council and submitted to Council a Project Plan with a view to Council purchasing the site for the purposes of the NNIC's identified "Sustainability Hub" project. In the meantime NNIC commenced a fundraising campaign and around fifteen thousand ($15,000.00) dollars were pledged by community members towards the purchase of the site by the date of the auction.
A few days prior to the auction Council advised that it was unable to purchase the site or assist with financial contributions towards its purchase due to budgetary constraints. As the property was passed in at auction, NNIC continued to seek pledges from the community.
By late March 2012 pledges had increased to around thirty thousand ($30,000.00) dollars and NNIC had committed fifteen thousand ($15,000.00). Gerhard Weihermann (“the Mortgagor”) approached NNIC and offered to provide bridging finance to enable the purchase of the site, on the condition that NCCI take title over the property.
The Mortgagor's reasons for this included:
NCCI offers a greater security for the loan given its asset base;
NCCI has significant experience in property management;
This will enable NNIC to focus on the development and implementation of the project;
The potential for NCCI to regain ownership of the adjoining former skate park/basketball court thus expanding the potential for the project;
A partnership between NCCI and NNIC will increase the collective energy and experience behind the project.
An initial offer of one hundred and forty ($140,000.00) dollars was made and accepted, but the property was eventually purchased in May 2012 for the sum of $145,000.00 plus $2,000.00 legal costs.
Donations to the project have been made by community members on the understanding that the site will be used for the Sustainable Living Hub project. The parties acknowledge their obligation to honour the considerable community good will and funds contributed to the purchase of the site for the purposes of the project.
The Birth & Beyond Story
In 2013, following a protracted legal dispute over ownership, Nimbin Community Centre took title to Birth & Beyond at 54 Cullen Street, a building with a long and varied history. Built on the main street of Nimbin around 1906 it has housed a barber’s shop, a billiard room, a boot store, an auctioneer’s and the local branch of the RSL. In 1973 it was purchased for $500 from the RSL to serve as a hub for the Aquarius Festival. Following the festival the building was sold to six individuals for $500 plus costs.
Since 1973 the building has continued as a community meeting place and provided a home for many organisations including Birth & Beyond, Treeworks, the Nightcap Action Group, a local Down to Earth branch, Nimbin Film Society, Rainbow Information Centre which gave birth to Nimbin News and Nimbin Neighbourhood and Information Centre, Seedsavers, and Brackets & Jam folk nights. It has also provided a healing space for many health practitioners of various disciplines, and birthed successful local businesses such as Rainbow Power Company and Fashionating.
In 1990 Nimbin Apothecary, an herbal and homeopathic dispensary, was established alongside Nimbin Environment Centre. Once sharing the same room, both have long established themselves as core tenants of Birth & Beyond, growing and prospering independently as valued community services.
In 2013 Nimbin Community Centre purchased the building from four of the six post Aquarian owners for $200,000. The remaining two owners, CoOrdination CoOperative (CoCo) and Gael Knefner, donated their shares in the building. Birth & Beyond is now in community ownership, secure for future generations, and continues to be used by a diverse range of community organisations and local healers. NCC would like to publicly acknowledge CoCo for their additional and generous financial contribution to this outcome. We would also like to thank the community member who assisted the Community Centre’s acquisition with an interest free loan.