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.
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
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"
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
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:
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
JIM CAIRNS PRE COTTER FESTIVAL 21/12/1976.
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
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
A seed is planted - Cotter River "Down to Earth" festival 1976
Photo by: Raymond Steiner
This site is maintained by the "The Tribute Web Site Team"
It was created on the 1st of January 2000.