Hippy counterculture thrives 40 years on

Mandie Hale travelled to the 1973 Aquarius Festival in a psychedelic caravan from Melbourne, with a three-month-old baby in her arms. Forty years later, they both remain on a multiple occupancy community near Nimbin.

Mandie had her 21st birthday at the Aquarius Festival.

It's now 40 years since the Aquarius Festival and Mandie lives on a small community called Walagala, which borders Tuntable Falls.

"It was chaotic in some ways because there was such a mixture of people and there wasn't much structure but in another way it was quite organised in that people had actually worked together to make gardens and they were building infrastructure," she says.

They'd also thrown out the ideals and boundaries set by previous generations, and had to now decide what type of world they wanted to live in: what was appropriate and how would the community deal with someone who behaved inappropriately?

"Reaching consensus was really difficult, working out what was anti-social behaviour, how we're going to deal with that; just everything about how to live," Mandie said.

"We were starting from the ground up really and we didn't have much experience to draw from."

Many communities remain quite closed-off because of negative media attention in the past.

While outside interest generally seems to focus on things like drug-taking, nudity and 'free love', Angie and Mandie say these are not the stories that truly reflect life in intentional communities.

Founding principles of sustainability and the pursuit of a better world are the qualities that have kept Mandie in the tight-knit community now for 40 years.

"Sometimes I question why I live here," Mandie said. "And then some really lovely thing will happen and you realise all over again that you live here for that closeness to people and I guess that spontaneity and creativity that just happens."

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