History of the Centre
The history of Nimbin is entwined with European settlers, local Indigenous populations, and the alternative lifestyle movement, spurred by the Aquarius festival.
The site of Nimbin Community Centre represents an amalgamation of these histories and reflects its volunteers' determination to preserve and strengthen the community spirit Nimbin was founded on.
Before the Community Centre
In 1904 Mr. Hugh Thorburn generously donated two acres of land to the Department of Public Instruction for the purpose of providing a secure site for a school in Nimbin. In 1906 the first schoolroom was built (today's Bark Hut) and by 1910 a new school building and residence for the teacher had been constructed (today's Banksia House). By this time the school had 120 pupils enrolled and a fig tree was planted to mark its official opening. Additions in 1917 and 1927 created the Acacia House of today and in the late 1920s the Department bought two acres of land across the road (today's Peace Park, site of the Nimbin Skate Park). Originally this land was acquired for teaching animal husbandry and agriculture but became the school's playing field and horse paddock, as many students came to the school on horseback.In 1935 enrolments jumped to 188, a figure not to be surpassed in the primary school until 1990.
The years 1950, 1963 and 1966 saw new classroom buildings constructed with the last of them, the brick science block, at a cost of $60,000 (today's Casuarina Building). Form 2 planted the cypress trees in the front of the school in 1965, which can still be viewed to this day. 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 (today's Bottlebrush Studio) was constructed and 1981 saw the first improvements to the playing fields, pipes, fill and leveling. In 1987, due to increasing enrolments, the primary school was moved to demountable buildings and a new primary school was constructed in 1995. In 1997 Nimbin Central School was completed to house both Primary and Secondary students, leaving the former school site vacant, an historical occasion for the community of Nimbin.
Beginning of the Community Centre
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 the village in the hands of the community. The Department of Education offered the two sites, the old school grounds and the now Peace Park, to Lismore City Council for $280,000, approximately half its market value.
In August 1995, a community committee was established to explore the options for purchasing the site. In 1996, Council agreed to purchase the site for Nimbin, on the proviso that the community raise $140,000 prior to purchase and commit to paying the balance, plus any additional funds required for site development, over the following ten years.
So began an intensive period of community fundraising and by January 1998 the community had raised the required funds to move forward with the purchase agreement.
The loan with Lismore Council was paid up in 2008, with major financial contributions being:
$37,000 from Nimbin Community School who sold a building.
Over $30,000 from a highly successful 1997 trade & cultural expo 'Visions of Nimbin'.
A $30,000 grant from the Casino Community Benefit Fund.
Significant donations from numerous individuals and organisations within Nimbin, as well as a multitude of fundraising activities.
Lismore City Council Section 94 contributions.
Income from renting out the buildings and rooms that comprised the old school.
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 its 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 City 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.
In July 2008 Nimbin Community Centre Inc. (formerly Nimbin Community Development Association) took title to Nimbin Community Centre. The ownership of Nimbin Peace Park remained vested with the Council. Nimbin Community Centre Inc. retains the right of first refusal should Lismore City Council ever intend to dispose of this asset.
Birth and Beyond
Built on the main street of Nimbin around 1906, the Birth and Beyond building 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 donated their shares in the building. Birth and Beyond is now in community ownership through NCCI, secure for future generations, and continues to be used by a diverse range of community organisations and local healers.
NCCI would like to publicly acknowledge Coordination Cooperative (owners of Tuntable Falls Community) 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.