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This website aims to develop case studies of the development of farming practices and attendant transformations of local ecologies of defined blocks of land. Through these biographies of particular plots of land we are developing localised analyses of the wider historical trends in the political economy/ecology of the Northern Rivers.
Ray Flanagan, Leigh Davidson, Carol Perry & JJ Bruce’s Stories

Ray Flanagan, Leigh Davidson, Carol Perry & JJ Bruce’s Stories

By on Jul 1, 2013 in Dharmananda | 0 comments

Go to: Introductions | Dharmananda: from individual title to a multiple occupancy | WWOOFers | Growing food | Neighbours | Introducing Carol | The early years: creating community | Neighbours | Channon Markets | The Fire Brigade | Generational change and building community | The farm’s history | Bananas | Old roads | Finding a sense of belonging | Mr deSorzi | The Ivans | Back to the early days | Being a local


We were talking about neighbours with Ray when you arrived. How were relations with your neighbours?

Carol: Ah I mean we were a bit naive! We invited everybody to a tea party, like this is we actually had no idea how to relate, I would say. So we invited them to a tea party so I wrote these invitations. Do you remember this? And the neighbours came and I served scones and cream and there was no beer. We just had no idea. Anyway they came and they were friendly enough and Noel Everingham used to support us when we had the cattle in trouble and the birthing and … all of that sort of thing. They used to say – they thought we didn’t have a chance – that’s what they said; because we knew nothing and I went up to one guy because I started to have horses, and I went up and asked him…

Ray: Noel Warne you’re talking about?

Carol: Sorry, Noel Warne. And I asked, ‘I want to get my mare in foal. How do I do that?’ Can you imagine asking a farmer that question!? Well I did and they, they don’t know how to answer such a dumb – such an ignorant question. He simply did not know how to answer that question. Like, he didn’t know whether to tell me about the birds and the bees [all laugh]. I just wanted to know….

Leigh: Where do you get a stallion…

Carol: Yeah, where did you get a stallion? But the whole thing about the way we came was that we came with the view that you can learn anything, and we’d learnt a lot of things – you can learn anything. You can learn anything. So, we came with that view that we could learn. And people were very supportive until we started to save the forest and that’s when the community really turned against us.

Because, one of the things I didn’t realise – was that I was brought up in a suburb where the fences were very high and I did not ever have any sense of community – in the suburb that I lived in. Where kids played in the street – but there was no one in the street, because they were always behind these really high fences. So I had no idea that I was craving community because it never existed for me as a child. And I came here and I did not see that there was a community here. The rural community, you know all you have to do is now, look at the list of the people who went to war at the hall, the fact that the hall had a committee – but I didn’t know any of that, any of it. And so we didn’t treat the community as if it was a community. And it’s just like there’s all these isolated houses and there’s no relation between them. And it was years later it really hung in my mind and I actually, about five years ago, maybe, yeah about five years ago I went and I sat for two hours with Everingham…. …

Ray: Noel?

Carol: No, his wife …

Ray and Leigh: Georgette.

Carol: Georgette Everingham and I explained to her and I apologised to her for how we had behaved. And she said she really appreciated the apology, and she, it was a very healing thing to do, to acknowledge my ignorance – that they had a community and that we ignored that and didn’t understand that, and you know, it was a very good, very long conversation. And she said ‘you don’t have to apologise’ and I said that I want to apologise. And she said ‘well we learnt a lot too from you and really put us on our metal and we were sleepy, you know sort of half asleep and you woke us up’. And they got all political and, cause they saw how intelligently political we were when we fought that. But it really, really bothered me that I was so blind to what was here already. And just did not understand it. Just didn’t understand it.

That’s really interesting because there is still some pain from the old settler side I’ve noticed with some, maybe amongst women more than men, that community connections were fractured…

Carol: Yes. There’s a lot of pain and because they remember things like… Somebody, not us, but somebody had a shit on one of their lawns because there was no public toilet, so there was no sense of a population here. Well you would never, none of those people would have ever done that in a suburb if the lawn, you could step over a fence and do it; but they’re the sorts of things that are remembered. The violation, there was a violation on them because of not seeing them, just definitely not seeing them. And being very much in a, a hugely self-righteous mode of mind we were, it was sad. When I look back on it there was so – self-righteous, awful.

Ray: We had an Italian family that lived across the road here. And we did learn quite a lot from them – we had a reasonable relationship with them.

Carol: Yeah that’s right.

Leigh: They taught you how to make cheese.

Ray: Yeah they showed us how to make cheese.

Carol: And then there was the Bairds, a bit later. Up that way. Ron Baird used to come nearly every day in the afternoon. Do you remember?

Ray: Yeah.

Carol: Ron Baird coming. He loved it. He loved….

Ray: Arthur?

Carol: Ah, sorry Arthur Baird, that’s right.

Ray: Ron was the son.

Carol: That’s right, Arthur Baird.

Ray: Oh he was great. Arthur was a devotee of Krishnamurti and so he knew he’d always get a spiritual rave if he came [laughs]. He loved to have a debate with Dudley.

Carol: And we used to go across there and have a cup of tea because Mrs Baird….

Ray: Edna…

Carol: Edna would make five kinds of biscuits and we would sit there [all laugh] shovelling these biscuits in and you know, it was like a really traditional afternoon tea. So there were, there were very good relationships as well.

Ray: Arthur used to come over here when we first started building the community house and Arthur was a bit of a builder, he built his own house down the coast somewhere at one stage. And he came over and he’d look at us, sort of trying to chisel with these chisels that you couldn’t cut butter with and he’d shake his head and he’d take them home and sharpen them for us and bring them back.

Carol: Ah beautiful.

Ray: He showed us quite a lot.

Leigh: He was an electrician wasn’t he?

Ray: He was, that’s right.

Did that disappear those good relations after the forestry protests?

Ray: Some of them did but… Noel Warne was a classic, because he was actually very involved in the protest movement, up to a point. Ah cause we used to have regular meetings and we started organising these walks every weekend. We’d put notices around to invite the public to come and we’d do guided tours up into the forest. And Noel was one of the guides, he loved the forest and he would take people up there. He was there when the first blockade happened, but it was really after there was a bunch of people who went up and spiked a whole lot of logs that had been dropped and cut them half way through with chainsaws, and ah that’s when we lost a lot of support. Cause people said ‘oh this is illegal’.

Carol: The violence always loses support.

Ray: Yeah. But it was only a minority of people and it wasn’t, it wasn’t something that had been sanctioned by the group.

Leigh: But then after that there was that ‘The Concerned Citizens of The Channon’.

Ray: Yeah, Yeah.

Leigh: Got set up and they, I remember they had their first, that was after I came here cause Ellen and I came here just at the end of the forest protest. And I remember they had their first meeting down at Noel Warne’s place.

Ray: Yeah.

Leigh: So, in a sense that was a kind of a vocalising of the fact that – hey these guys are, you know, not like us or something, wasn’t it?

Carol: Yeah.

Ray: Yeah.

Leigh: So there was a big, a big divergence there. Last time [to Jo] when you were here you were asking me how that kind of healing process occurred. And I couldn’t really come up with anything specific. But I had forgotten; that you [Carol] had mentioned to me about talking to Georgette. But that was only recently?

Carol: That was about five years ago. Because I’d been thinking how can I do this? And then some people organised some sort of a story telling event at the Channon. It was just like a natural place to do it. And I rang her and asked her to come and meet me. And I did it then. So the situation sort of organically presented itself.

Leigh: But that was only five years ago.

Carol: That was only five years ago.

Leigh: After that you had this peak of antagonism and then things over the years gradually smoothed out. I think it probably – putting the pub down the road there probably helped, you know. Pubs are great places for people to meet each other.

Ray: I think also the population balance had reached a point where there were more new settlers here than older settlers.

Leigh: And the original new settlers were very hippie and very poor, you know, none of us had any money. But then I suppose starting from the mid-80s you had people would come and say, ‘oh a doctors bought the place up there from Fred Nerk.’ So in other words a hippie realised he can’t get on top of the lantana and sells to someone a little bit more affluent. So in a sense the kind of demography of the new settlers started to change. It was more a lifestyle rather than, I suppose in the old days, it was kind of the people who really genuinely thought they were new settlers.

Carol: The other thing that happened is that, because many people took the dole – it was used as a lifestyle thing. And then the government made it very hard to do that, so people started getting jobs. So what you got was a natural diffusion into the community at large, including Lismore, so you got people who would be working in the Health Department who …

Leigh: Lived out here.

Carol: Who lived out here, things like that. So integration started to happen.

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