The Sociology of A Place To Call Home Part 16
The tolerance and creativity of the community on the beach arose out of the empathy travellers feel for like-minded travellers. ‘We’ included domestic refugees seeking other than disposession, happier environments than those that were once home by geographic placement, birth allotment, associations and at odds with conservatism by lifestyle, cast against a background burden of war. R&R deserters found their way to that harbourage. The community knew trauma and acknowledged trauma. The growth of community represented the growth of voice, individual resistence and collective will, a youth movement certainly as more youth gathered and swelled the numbers, but more, a local and universal movement of people of all ages and background that was growing.
The weight given the inference that all resisters were opposed to the welfare of homecoming soldiers is a sad outcome of the Vietnam War. Between ourselves our individual stories struck chords that revealed a common awareness of justice and
injustice, but never the pillory of individuals. Nobody either mistreated anybody who expressed a different viewpoint from the mainstream of the beach community opposed to continuing involvement in the Vietnam War.
Instead I reflect on the potential waste of people everywhere who make creative community. attract the best of virtuousity and not to neglect the worst of vice in all its guises. Vice is usury. I have not included in this account the sheerly fantastic of which I know only half stories, of empire builders. The originals of us were innocent of criminal activity albeit cognisant of agency amid the dangers of handing anybody over to authorities, their potential undoing on political grounds, as scapegoats, as undocumented, as simply set up by powerful individual others and the implementation of the Mental Health Act among the possibilities.
We became canny because we ourselves were in danger.
‘Hippies vs Hairies: the early Australian counter-culture in Kuranda North Queensland’, entered in 2013 as an Honours thesis at James Cook University by Rohan Lloyd deserves accolades particularly for his choosing community as a pivotal identifier of history. Rohan describes the beach community as a forerunner of the contemporary
community of Kuranda, which is where this juncture of my attempt to describe the sociology of housing experience leads to. I had written this text in first draft as well before I found and read Rohan’s thesis, all the more interesting from my viewpoint because I am invested in inderstanding the meaning of community. Many different ideological stems and sources however can be traced to Kuranda including Kuranda had a pre-history of ‘alternate’ settlement by individuals and groups.
The beach community, too, found its place in social history because of an enclave of residents tolerant of difference. Holloways Beach that I have not previously identified so as to depersonalise it I read many years ago in popular news media was a gathering place of ‘widgies’ and ‘bodgies’ previous to the Vietnam War-era of ‘hippies’. The same article suggested as well the pre-condition existed that I am calling tolerance of difference (I cannot remember what the article called it) because Holloways Beach was the home of crocodile shooters attributed as ‘community’ and that their origins were European (true). Kuranda albeit identifiable as containing an ‘alternate’ culture or counter-culture is as complex as the beach community was.
Rohan further draws inference in effect the beach community was a hippy community that lost its essence in Kuranda by virtue of ideological conflicts driven by stress
between attitudes inherent in ‘commune’ and the drive of individualism.
Social movements are complex. Individual and collective experience gained in a period of persecution and resistance has a heart beat. As invisible or seemingly extinguished as a community driver may seem assessed neighbour to neighbour or in members of a once common group divided by circumstances as international refugees are, a common knowledge of a greater reason for living than self drives the same core individuals’ actions and reactions in their respective spheres of influence. What happened on the beach created common considerations that were short term and longer at the point when the beach community was called ‘finished’. Its participants engaged some only solutions that were common including that locations other than Kuranda were eventual destinations whether on the basis of individual choice of environment or presentation of seized opportunities.
The significant factor in the sociology of the beach community was, however that among its members were key enablers of creative conversation for its own sake. The art of conversation created community. The prevalent external factors of disposession
and persecution provoked intense discussion of common meaning, of ideology but strategy and migration exactly as villagers of far longer heritage have been documented as doing in the face of threat, settling even in entirety most certainly in a district in another country because of common weal. I lived in Adelaide in a suburb that was home to the inhabitants of a near entire migratory Greek village (I learned from its researcher).
Safety not ideological consideration was paramount.
The local Council would in fact soon exclude the campers on the beach from paying fees by non-acceptance. By that virtue that the campers did not pay fees, they had no voice in Council and behind closed doors repealed was the long held right of campers to the esplanade roadside/beach front strip. Announced was the establishing of a caravan park and camp ground at the farther end of the beach considered uninhabitable for its infestations of sandflies that proliferated where they were protected from the wind blowing freely at the deposed camper’s end. Developers and affiliated interests waiting in the wings stood to make immediate profit through sub-division. Without the least consideration of an innovative approach to its community and inclusion, towards only its dislocation as happens more generally everywhere in phases termed local development, the Council went for the quick buck. Notices of eviction were served.
I stood on the beach on the final day with perhaps two others and the couple whose day-to-day living space in an army disposal tent had evolved into a gathering place, a
first aid station, a design studio, ours the last shared moment of witness to history that on its surface was gone, the beach left so tidied there appeared to have never been a community.
The landlord of the property my partner and I lived in had in the same time period decided to sell the beachfront cottage. He offered my partner and I first option to buy. We were not able to buy and would soon be looking ourselves for a new place to call home.
to be continued…
Christina Binning Wilson