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Yin Yang confest Yin Yang

conference - festival

Hi there groovers !!!!

This is a public service "Non-profit" web site.

This web space is dedicated to ConFest,
for its continual rejuvenation, evolution and spirit
in this new millennium, 2000 and beyond.

You're the Voice - The realities you create will stop Net Censorship - stay free

Welcome to this, 'Non-profit', tribute web site, for ConFest, a publically attended Conference Festival.

The word 'ConFest' is a portmanteau of Conference and Festival.

In exploring this web site, and the links contained within, it is recommended that you read the disclaimer to fully appreciate that this is a 'Tribute Web Site' for the original "Down to Earth" festival in 1976 and for ConFest gatherings which have followed to the current day.

Within this context, this site acknowledges the two primary generic activities of these gatherings as conferencing within a festival environment.

Please understand that this 'Tribute Web Site' is not a publication of the 'Non-profit' Down to Earth (Victoria) Co-operative Society Limited.

The Down to Earth (Victoria) Co-operative Society Limited [DTE], is an incorporated Non-profit co-operative, which was registered in 1977, in the State of Victoria, Australia, that emerged 'out of' and 'after' the first "Down To Earth" festival in 1976.

The co-operative has staged a sequence of later ConFest events and is often abbreviated by the acronym 'DTE'.

The first "Down to Earth" festival was founded and instigated by the late Dr Jim Cairns in 1976, which was established through the "DOWN TO EARTH" trust, with a joining fee of $1 (AUD).

Therefore please note that the Down to Earth (Victoria) Co-operative Society Limited, at the time of formation, was a separate organisation to that of Dr Jim Cairns's initial organising group which established and ran the first "Down to Earth" festival through the "DOWN TO EARTH" trust.

Over time and after the rise and fall of the Australian Down To Earth Network (ADTEN), the Down to Earth (Victoria) Co-operative Society Limited became the primary organisation responsible for organising and running 'Conference Festival' gatherings called ConFest, in Australia.

Nevertheless, this tribute web site acknowledges with highest praise, the late Dr Jim Cairns' instrumental role in founding the first "Down to Earth" festival, in December 1976, called:

"Down to Earth: A Shaping of Alternatives";

The first "Down to Earth" festival was instigated by Dr Jim Cairns in 1976, after the socially progressive ALP (Australian Labour Party) of the day, headed by Gough Whitlam, was sacked by the Governor General on the 11/11/1975.

Dr Jim Cairns was the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia when this Government was sacked.

In October 1976, a leaflet was distributed from the Parliament House office of Dr Jim Cairns. It was a statement inviting all 'who feel the need for radical change' to a forthcoming event. It stated that the event would be host to:
    Aborigines, ethnic communities, women's liberation groups, peace activists, homosexuals, lesbians, members of rural and city communes and co-operatives and those concerned with self-management and workdemocracy, law reform, ideology, theories of social change, alternative food, health, energy, living structures, education, psychotherapy, yoga and meditation. (Rawlins 1982:24)
The result was the first "Down to Earth" festival, which occurred in December 1976, on the Cotter River Recreation Reserve, in the ACT (Australian Capital Territory), where 10,000 - 15,000 people came together.

Speaking at the first "Down to Earth" festival - "On the morning of the final day 3,000 people gathered again to give heed to Cairns 'on the mount', and this time he delivered a 'manifesto'. A brief medley of ideas designed for popular absorption, the 'manifesto' had been produced by a committee led by Robert Hughes of Melbourne's Footscray Community Arts Centre. It was formed out of its authors' experience at Cotter, and is infused with unmistakable 'Cairns-speak'. A significant comment on the moment, it was shortly afterwards edited and carried on the front page of the first DTE newsletter - The Down to Earth Community News (1977) - under the headline 'A Call For A New Society' (see Appendix E)." (St John)

ConFest, formed out of the first "Down to Earth" festival, has continued to the current day, albeit in a different form to the original "Down to Earth" festival, and by a different organising group.

However, despite some differences, common threads have carried forward and in some cases evolved.

Whereas some aspects have been lost waiting to be reignited.

Adding to the historical context of the ConFest phenomenon, this tribute web site is honoured to be able to host the ground breaking PhD Thesis by Dr Graham St John, whose detailed and thorough work has, amongst other things, documented a broad history of the ConFest events in Australia, to the time of its submission in July 1999.

Links to this thesis can be found on the about page of this tribute web site.

You may also download a 1.5MB *.pdf text version (without photos) of his thesis here.


The Aquarius Legacy

Excerpt from "Nimbin & Environs, 1996" by Mousetrap Media


In 1972, scouts from the Australian Union of Students came to the village and persuaded the Nimbin Progress Association to allow a festival to be held here. Johnny Allen, Graeme Dunstan and Paul Joseph organised a celebration of the dawning of the `Consciousness' and `Protest' movements in the heady days of the Vietnam war, free love and marijuana - a festival of discovery .... It lasted 10 days and marked a watershed in Australian popular culture. Many decided to stay and bought up the cheap land available, settling in to a new lifestyle.

Although it could be said that now Nimbin is "A Living Theatre"; it remains an enigma, an energy, a process that some think could be outside the normal parameters of everyday living.

The new Settlers

After the Aquarius Festival of '73, the 'alternatives' had different problems to face but many common threads were there. Left with only a portion of the original forest, they were certainly much more careful with what remained! Twice they stood up to the Police and Authorities to save what was left at Terania Creek in 1979 and Mt. Nardi in 1982 and won out substantially.

A strong contingent of local 'Greenies' have been active ever since then, helping to save our heritage in other parts of the country - not without criticism and controversy.

However, it must be said that the population of Australia (and also overseas) are now much more aware of the issues at stake, partly due to these early protests and to the general lifestyle centred on Nimbin itself.


lotus flower


The purpose of the festival is to show the urgent need to SHAPE ALTERNATIVES NOW. Ways must be found because of the violent, acquisitive, alienated, industrial society which now poses a threat to survival. People have for centuries searched for equality and the right to and ability to determine their own development. Individuals must accept responsibility for themselves. Personal happiness and equality, as much as a good society depend on self-realisation . The most vital factor is the sense of true identity. This is lost because our identities are created by others - not by ourselves. The all-powerful externally created hegemony in this assumed-to-be free society, and its eternalised personal alienation, must be understood if self-real-isation is to be achieved.

The starting point must be "will to be that self which one truly is".

There must be equality and effective individual participation in government and in every other group activity if self-realisation is to be achieved.

The festival will be concerned with the search true nature of man and woman.

For many centuries belief that man is inherently bad has exercised tremendous influence. Because of this belief, individual needs are suppressed and the result is that personal helplessness, lack of independence and the desire to be led are created. From infancy on, people re-trained to be self-denying, falsely modest, self-effacing and mechanically obedient. They are taught to suppress or hide their natural feelings or energy.

Social ideology is governed by contradictory altruism, by guilt and the inability to experience work and action as a pleasure. This results in tendencies towards violence. But is not the basic natural needs of people that has a destructive and hedonistic outcome - it is the result of the repression of basic natural need that is violent and destructive.

The internal social crisis of today that results from these contradictions means that we must SHAPE THE ALTERNATIVES NOW. There is not just one alternative. The new society will be made up of the choices of multitudes of people - individuals and groups - who are determined to find a way out. No one can be excluded.

Sincerely Jim Cairns


lotus flower

Lotus Flower

A seed is planted - Cotter River Confest 1976

A seed is planted - Cotter River "Down to Earth" festival 1976
Photo by: Raymond Steiner

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