The history of the Nimbin Neighbourhood & Information Centre reflects the history of Nimbin. We, along with our community, have evolved through many incarnations and innovations, to become the organisation we are today.
In the beginning was the Aquarius Festival in 1973, which was a national event organised by the Australian Union of Students. This brought a surge of young and energetic folks into the community, many of whom stayed on to populate Nimbin and eventually the Northern Rivers region. Five years later the “Rainbow Information Centre”(RIC) was established by Peter Pedals (Van der Wyk), to meet the needs of the emerging community of Nimbin. The RIC ran from the front office of the then “Media Centre” (now the Nimbin Environment Centre), and it was the RIC which eventually evolved to become the Nimbin Neighbourhood Centre. The media centre was oriiginally the local RSL office and was aquired by the ASU for the Aquarius festival.
The building now houses the Nimbin Apothecary, Nimbin Environment Centre and meeting and healing spaces.
Back in those days the organisation was a self-funded voluntary association which provided very basic and vital services to a new & emerging population.
The Community Noticeboard was used by community members to pass on info and messages to each other. Very few people had phones and so the “Red Phone” (payphone) next to a comfortable chair was used by many when they came to town to ring family & make business calls.
The “Rural Resettlement Task Force” (RRTF) moved into the Centre and began to lobby the State Government to legislate to allow Local Governments to accept “Multiple Occupancy” Communities, and alternative building techniques such as pole frame constructions.
The 1980’s were exciting times for the Centre. We became the networking hub for Nimbin, driven by collective principles, and a commitment to community. With many new projects initiated during this time, the RIC outgrew its space at the Media Centre, and so took up new premises across the road to the room annexing the Town Hall (now Perceptio’s Book Shop).
In the mid 1980s, our name was changed to Nimbin Neighbourhood and Information Centre (NNIC) and in 1986 we became incorporated. In 1987 NNIC secured funding under the Community Services Grants Program, which has remained our primary funding ever since, although funding levels remained static until only recently (see below).
Funding enabled us to employ staff to manage the Centre and its finances and to support the community.
Many other organisations shared the Neighbourhood Centre’s resources.
The RRTF was successful in its efforts and “Multiple Occupancies” became legal in 1981.
“Nimplan”, after intense community consultation, prepared Nimbin’s own Development Control Plan, which saw the School relocated, green belts created around the town and the beautification of the streets with tree planters and seating.
The Nimbin & Environs Booklet Directory was produced.
An Eco Development plan was developed which included a feasibility study on creating our own Credit Union, which later became the Northern Rivers Ethical Credit Union (which eventually became absorbed into the Summerland Credit Union).
In the late 80s we moved up the road a little to the Tomato Sauce building (owned by the Nimbin Community Scool Cooperative and currently occupied by HEMP). THis would remain our home until the purchase of the old school site in the 90s.
During the 80s our attention turned to Nimbin’s rapidly increasing number of young people. We started up the Youth Club, which was very popular particularly on Friday nights. Funding was secured to establish Emergency Accommodation for Homeless Youth, which also led to the securing of the RYIS (Rural Youth Information Service) funding and the construction of the Youth Housing at the South end of the village. The RYIS project continued to operate until the Federal Government scrapped the program in December 2002 . The Youth Housing continues to operate and is managed by Youth Connections Far North Coast.
During the 90's Government policies saw the withdrawal of public and community services and increasing reliance by Governments upon non government organisations to deliver key services to communities and disadvantaged people. Thus NNIC beame increasingly involved in government funding and at the same time accountability requirements became a lot more rigorous, forcing NNIC to become more professional and meet much higher administrative and financial accountability benchmarks. The result was that much time was taken up negotiating with various Government departments in relation to community services and funding.
We continued to distribute Emergency Relief and the Community Welfare Worker Positions were created. We also accommodated Family Support Outreach Services, LILLYs outreach staff, DoCs staff and solicitors from the Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre. We continued to operate the RYIS project. We also coordinated the Skill Share projects, the Nimbin Play Group and Youth Worx (Youth Club and activities).
As the issue of drugs and alcohol began to impact upon the community, just as it was across the country, NNIC began to engage in harm minimisation strategies including submissions to the 1998 Illicit Drug Inquiry, conducting the Safe Injecting Room Community Survey, establishing a support group for “Mothers on Methadone” and auspicing the NEAR (Nimbin Ear Acupuncture Recovery) and the SHARE (Self Help and Recover for Everyone) projects.
In 1995, the Lismore City Council conducted a community consultation and approached NNIC as to how Nimbin could best use the former Central School site, since a new School had been built on a new site across the road. The Council had negotiated to purchase the site from the Department of Education.
The Nimbin Community Development Association was formed (NCDA), with strong backing from NNIC, for the purpose of raising community funds to purchase the site for the community with the support of Council. All of Nimbin’s various community groups agreed to forgo their own goals and interests for an 18 month period and combine their focus to raise the $180, 000 needed.
Against all odds this was achieved and in 1998 the Nimbin Community Centre opened & NNIC took up its new premises at 71 Cullen St, which was the former Central Schools Principal’s residence, on the new Community Centre site … where we remain until today! (The building was also used as the School library, and before that it was the Police Station residence and was located at the other end of Cullen St). In 2005 the purchase of the former school site was finalised as a result of the allocation of funds to the purchase by the Nimbin NIDS (National Illicit Drug Strategy) Project, in relation to which NNIC sat on the steering committee.
This huge achievement by the community cannot be understated and the whole community deserves credit for working together in such a focussed way to achieve this goal.
In the 90's NNIC purchased (and begged and borrowed) computers in order to set up a Public Access site to technologies. For a time this was funded under the PARP project funding (Public Access Regional project) but eventually this became a self-funded endeavour and now the Public Access to Technologies Project operates as small fundraiser for NNIC and includes photocopying, computers, faxing and secretarial support.
During the 90s funding was secured for the Family Day Care Centre, which was operated by NNIC on the Community Centre site (where it still is) until Lismore Family Day Care took over its management in the late 90s. NNIC was also involved in the establishment of Youth WorX, NimFM and NimLets, all of which took up premises in the Community Centre site.
NNIC worked with the NCDA (now the Nimbin Community Centre) to seek support for the development of the Nimbin SK8 Park.
Other projects housed, auspiced or provided by NNIC were:
By the year 2000 Government funding became increasingly tied to service delivery and had become rather removed from the concept of Community Development. The neighbourhood and community centre sector in NSW, led by the Local Community Services Association (LCSA), which is the Peak Body for neighbourhood and community centres in NSW, embarked on a lengthy campaign to restore the significance of Community Development in the minds of funding bodies.
In 2007, NSW Family and Community Services, (which now provides our primary Community Hub funding), finally recognised the value and importance of Community Development and incorporated this into its planning documents.
In 2010 most neighbourhood and community centres were moved across to the Community Builders funding stream, which recognises the role of neighbourhood centres in providing community development projects and activities as well as services for the disadvantaged. Additionally, the NSW Government finally announced a much needed 20% funding increase for neighbourhood and community centres under the Community Builders program. Although the additional funds wiould not solve all our financial issues, the acknowledgement of the work of neighbourhood centres was much appreciated.
The 2000s saw us undertake 3 renovations projects at the Centre, increasing the floor space and office areas, and installing wool insulation and solar panels. We delivered the Safe Community Project, outcomes of which were the Nimbin Womenly Wise Diary and the Respect Booklet.
The Nimbin Integrated Services Nurse Practioner service was developed and established. We supported the Domestic Violence Committee which produced eight annual Nimbin Womens' Dinners. We took over the Older Women's Forum Soup Kitchen and Town Hall Community Xmas lunch.
The Nimbin Mens Group paved our front yard and built the Nigel Pierce memorial garden. Nigel was an active member of NNIC and the Nimbin communty for many years.
And of course, by the end of the 2000s we had built the Community Solar Farm, developed the Nimbin Food Security project, rolled out the Community Grain Mill as well as collecting baseline data around our community's sustainability as part of the 2009 Sustainble Nimbin Community Plan.
NNIC remains the key service provider and community development organisation in Nimbin. We are here for the whole of the community, with a focus on the disadvantaged in particular. We are always open to suggestions from the community and we rely on the community to provide us with direction.
Today we are a registered Charity with Deductible Gift recipient status, we employ 7 permanent staff and around 15 casual staff, we have an annual turnover of around $300,000, and we are kept busy with around 50 people coming into NNIC every day. Our community development work has been focussing primarily on the sustainability of the community and we have been able to secure funds towards this work.
So much has been achieved in the last 35 years … and we hope there will be many more achievements in the next 35 years!
We remain forever in debt to the many, many volunteers, staff and community members who made these achievements possible.
NNIC…In the Heart of the Community.