Cathy Adams

Fire destroys links to Nimbin's hippie past

A HUGE part of Nimbin's history and many iconic artworks were lost forever when the village's much-loved museum went up in flames yesterday morning.

The museum was a tribute to Nimbin's colourful history, and told stories of Aboriginal culture, white settlement, the hippie beginnings, and the Aquarius Festival.

It was home to irreplaceable items, including the yellow Kombi which former Prime Minister Bob Hawke's daughter, Rosslyn, lived in while she was in Nimbin.

After visiting Nimbin numerous times in the 1970s, Michael Balderstone moved to the village in 1985, and opened the Nimbin Museum as a second-hand shop in the front room of the building.

"I first rented the front room for $35 a week, while people still lived in rooms in the rear of the building," he said.

"I kept renting more rooms and filling them with second-hand stuff until I was renting out the whole building."

Mr Balderstone said the Nimbin Museum was officially opened on Boxing Day, 1992.

Leaseholder Elspeth Jones said she got a phone call about the fire at 4am.

"We drove straight here, but 10km out I could see the glow in the sky and I knew it was bad," she said.

"It was an inferno. It's just old wood, but it's also Nimbin's history.

"I've been coming to this museum every day for 22 years.

"It has been in my constant care. I am in shock."

Mr Balderstone, who has spent the past 30 years working and building the Nimbin Museum, said the fire was a "kick in the guts" for Nimbin, but could have been much worse.

He said Nimbin's fire crew had gotten to the scene quickly and had been working to stop it leaping across the narrow gap to the neighbouring Nimbin Lifestyle Real Estate when instead it leapt the laneway between the cafe and the museum.

For Mr Balderstone, the loss of the museum means the destruction of a work that has dominated the last three decades of his life.

Mr Balderstone said Nimbin was a resilient community and would rebuild, but the museum was gone forever.

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