Simon
Simon"the Mentalist" Baker at The Skullcandy Oz Grom Open, Lennox Head. Photo Patrick Gorbunovs / The Northern Star Patrick Gorbunovs

Famous people who call the Northern Rivers home

THE Northern Rivers certainly punches above its weight when it comes to producing, and attracting the rich, famous, and notorious. 

Here's a round up of 11 of the known and lesser known people who have at some point in time called our region home.

It is by no means an exhaustive list. 

1. Julian Assange

 

FOR REVIEW AND PREVIEW PURPOSES ONLY. Julian Assange in a scene from the movie We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks. Supplied by UPI media website. Please credit photo to Focus World.
FOR REVIEW AND PREVIEW PURPOSES ONLY. Julian Assange in a scene from the movie We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks. Supplied by UPI media website. Please credit photo to Focus World. Focus World

Mr Wikileaks, who currently calls the Ecuadorean embassy in London home, spent several formative years in Lismore.

He lived in Terania St, North Lismore, and attended Goolmangar Public School from 1979 to 1983.

His mother Christine and his stepfather Brett Assange ran a puppeteering theatre company opposite the current Rainbow Wholefoods site in Terania Street in the 70s and 80s.

In 2010, then Goolmangar principal Don Sams told The Northern Star he wasn't surprised that Assange spent his formative years at the small rural school.

"We try to develop free thinkers and people of independent thought here and Julian would be the ultimate example of that," he said.

2. John "Strop" Cornell and Delvene Delaney

 

John and Delvene Cornell at the opening of the Byron Regional Sporting and Cultural Complex. Photo Jay Cronan / The Northern Star
John and Delvene Cornell at the opening of the Byron Regional Sporting and Cultural Complex. Photo Jay Cronan / The Northern Star Jay Cronan

When this power couple of the Australian television made Byron Bay area their home many years ago, they signified the dawn of the celebrity love affair with Byron Shire.

Perhaps realising this, Mr Cornell bought up many prime properties in the region - most famously the Beach Hotel which he developed and reopened in 1991, sparking the tourism boom that ensued, changing the face of Byron Bay forever.

Photo of John Cornell and John Murray at the opening of the Beach Hotel in 1991. Supplied photo
Photo of John Cornell and John Murray at the opening of the Beach Hotel in 1991. Supplied photo

After spending $9 million to develop it back then, he sold it in 2007 for $65 million.

He also owns the iconic Brunswick Head Hotel, while in March last year the couple sold their 9000sqm Belongil beachfront property for $10 million.

The couple achieved fame on the Paul Hogan Show, with Cornell's character Strop becoming synonymous with the man himself.

3. Billie McKay

 

MasterChef Australia Top 10 contestant Billie McKay. Supplied by Channel 10. Please credit photo to Martin Philbey.
MasterChef Australia Top 10 contestant Billie McKay. Supplied by Channel 10. Please credit photo to Martin Philbey. Martin Philbey

Former Ballina restaurant manager Billie McKay went from zero to hero in last year's season of Masterchef, when a growing legion of fans followed the likeable 23-year-old's journey all the way from to her stunning victory.

She's since left Ballina for the fast-paced world of Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck in London, the celebrity chef's offer of a job just one of the fruits of her victory.

She also inked a deal to write for food magazine Delicious, and took home $250,000 for the prize.

It's fair to say we haven't heard the last of Billie McKay.

4. Pete Murray

 

Pete Murray will hit the road this spring on an extensive national 'Yours Acoustically' Tour.  Photo Contributed
Pete Murray will hit the road this spring on an extensive national 'Yours Acoustically' Tour. Photo Contributed Contributed

The singer-songwriter who famously only took up guitar at age 22 moved to the Byron Bay area after the huge success of his first album Feeler.

Being a sensitive man who has admitted he still gets camera shy, Pete generally keeps his whereabouts under wraps but was involved in setting up a Byron Bay cafe-restaurant in 2013 called Frankie Brown.

5. Olivia Newton-John

 

WORLD'S BEST: Olivia Newton-John and Gregg Cave celebrate Gaia Retreat & Spa being named World's Best Day Spa as well as the Retreat's 10th anniversary. Photo Contributed
WORLD'S BEST: Olivia Newton-John and Gregg Cave celebrate Gaia Retreat & Spa being named World's Best Day Spa as well as the Retreat's 10th anniversary. Photo Contributed Contributed

The singer, actress, entrepreneur and all-round Aussie (English born) export famous for her role in Grease and the double platinum Physical, regularly visits the Byron hinterland to look after her award-winning spa and retreat centre Gaia which she co-owns with three other friends, including Gregg Cave (pictured).

The Bangalow area retreat, which owes much of its high-profile to Newton John's own status and career, celebrated its 10th anniversary last year.

While she has never actually lived in the area and grew up in Melbourne, her interest in Gaia - and the fact she's sold 100 million albums in her stellar career - qualifies her for the list.

6. Gary "Kong" Elkerton

 

Former pro-surfer Gary Elkerton is shocked by the shark attack on pro-surfer Mick Fanning during the J-Bay Open final of the World Surf League. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star
Former pro-surfer Gary Elkerton is shocked by the shark attack on pro-surfer Mick Fanning during the J-Bay Open final of the World Surf League. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star Cathy Adams

Elkerton was born in Ballina but spent most of his younger years on a trawler (which gave him an innate sense of balance) running between the Northern Rivers, the outer Great Barrier Reef, and all the way to the Gulf of Carpentaria. After returning to the region some years ago, he now runs a swimming school in Billinudgel.

He made his name in the surf industry boom years of the early 1980s and ultimately spent 12 years on the ASP professional surf tour, renowned as a hard-charging power surfer in heavy waves.

According to Wikipedia, Kong gained "notoriety for his matadorial bravado in big waves, his low body-torque power and his hard-partying antics on land", which included struggles with cocaine, booze and cannabis in his younger days.

Now in his 50s, Kong leads a more relaxed life in the calming environs of the northern Byron Shire, and can occasionally be seen when the breaks around Brunswick Heads are pumping.

The Sunshine Coast may have claimed him as their own since he spent some formative years in Mooloolaba, but given he was born in Ballina and now lives in Byron Shire we can certainly claim him as one of ours.

7. Ric Richardson

 

No Caption
No Caption

He's the geeky inventor who successfully took on software giant Microsoft in the US court system, and also calls the Byron Bay area home.

Ric Richardson can occasionally be seen in Brunswick Heads having a lazy coffee at the Terrace Espresso Bar, and who would know he was awarded US$388 million in 2009 in a lawsuit against Micrsoft for patent violation.

Richardson's company Uniloc held a patent for a groundbreaking product which equipped downloadable software with the now ubiquitous "try before you buy" technology which issues buyers with a licensing key once the software's free trial expires.

It is now a cornerstone of digital commerce, but when Uniloc showed to to Microsoft in 1993 they didn't license it but made its own version.

While Microsoft launched an appeal, the original verdict was upheld in 2011.

Mr Richardson divides his time between Byron and California, and is well known locally as a mentor to other hopeful inventors who haven't yet cracked the big time.

8. Adam Gilchrist

 

Adam Gilchrist. PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED.
Adam Gilchrist. PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED.

One of Australia's most famous cricketing sons spent his teen years in Lismore.

Born in Bellingen before moving to Goonellabah when he was 13, Gilchrist captained the Kadina High School cricket team.

The world's greatest ever Test batsmen/wicket keeper has since maintained the connection to Lismore, visiting here regularly for fundraising events and always happy to put his face forward for a local good cause.

Last year he said he was "honoured" to be selected as the ambassador for the Lismore Masters Games.

Still a local resident, his father Stan Gilchrist was the founder and is chairman of Lord's Taverners Northern New South Wales, a non-profit organisation that helps young people, the disadvantaged and also high achievers reach their goals, particularly through sport.

Both father and son have been honoured with membership to the Order of Australia, Adam in 2010 and Stan in 2015.

9. Simon Baker

 

Aussie actor Simon Baker with Lennox Head Chamber of Commerce president Louise Owen at Williams Reserve in Lennox Head watching the rugby union on the weekend.
Aussie actor Simon Baker with Lennox Head Chamber of Commerce president Louise Owen at Williams Reserve in Lennox Head watching the rugby union on the weekend. Doug Lee

 

Simon Baker, famous in the US as The Mentalist, was born in Tassie but raised in Lennox Head, attending Ballina High and Trinity Catholic College.

In 2013 he was immortalised with the 20490th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of television.

But all that glitz and glamour hasn't gone to his head - he still names Lennox Point as his favourite wave in the world and comes home as often as schedule allows to catch up with family and friends.

In 2010, the star reportedly snapped up a $1.5m historical homestead in Nashua.

In June 2011, he was snapped at the Lennox Head versus Casino rugby union match in Lennox Head enjoying a few beers with his old school mates.

10. Andrew Barr

 

BORN IN LISMORE: Andrew Barr, Chief Minister of the ACT since 2014.
BORN IN LISMORE: Andrew Barr, Chief Minister of the ACT since 2014. Kate Lundy - cropped from http:/

The first openly gay head of a government in Australia, Andrew Barr is currently the Chief Minister of the Labor Government of the ACT.

Barr was born in Lismore, but raised in Canberra.

He became involved in student politics while studying at Australian National University, working as a Labor staffer before embarking on a private sector career.

He eventually returned to politics as an adviser for four years, before successfully running for a seat in the ACT Legislative Assembly in 2006.

11. Iggie Azalea

 

Mullumbimby-raised rapper Iggy Azalea is the new face of Bonds Australia.
Mullumbimby-raised rapper Iggy Azalea is the new face of Bonds Australia. Contributed

The Mullumbimby-raised rapper has achieved plenty of headlines in the past few years for her critically panned yet super selling smash albums, her sex appeal, and her weird trashy image.

The attitude which defines her music might be partly born of the free thinking spirit of Mullum, but primarily from the southern states of the US where she emigrated to at 16.

On a cultural level, the 25-year-old woman born Amethyst Amelia Kelly has been at the centre of a culture war over the "authenticity" her product.

Nevertheless, she has a boasted a net worth according to Forbes of upwards of $6 million in 2015.

Her second studio album Digital Distortion is due out in 2016.



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