The alternative lifestyle movement in the 1980s

In the 1980s, Roger Marchant established a business as a freelance photographer, copywriter, graphic designer and printer. He attended many alternative lifestyle or ‘hippie’ festivals that were held in Australia during the 1970s and 80s and took photographs.  These included the Down to Earth ConFest in Victoria, the annual Woodford Folk Festival in southern Queensland, the Bellingen Global Festival and Nimbin Mardi Gras in NSW. When festivals, like Woodford, tried to attract a more mainstream audience, they became (in Roger’s opinion) ‘rather tame, [with] no nudity, swimming or dope smoking'. 

These festivals brought together people who wanted to turn their backs on consumerism, individualism and the acquisition of wealth for its own sake. Instead, they embraced an ethic of sharing, working together and being in harmony with nature. The events and people at these festivals are captured in Roger’s photographs, which have recently been digitised by the Library. They are part of the Library’s Rainbow Archive which documents the alternative lifestyle movements of the 1970s and 80s.

The following quote from Roger’s book The Sharing book: A souvenir of change in Australia during the 70s gives a flavour of the festivals:

"The day has been long and hot. The crowds had milled around for twelve hours sampling festival activities. Now, most had retired to the movie site or to jam sessions around dozens of campfires. Food is cooked as the rising moon cools the evening air. On the banks of the Cotter [River in the Australian Capital Territory], perched on the edge of the night, a young man shares his pennywhistle skills with a newfound ladyfriend."

People who pursued an alternative lifestyle were often involved in anti-nuclear and anti-war protest marches. Roger’s slides include photos of a march opposing uranium mining and nuclear power in Sydney in 1979. As well as illustrating the march, the slides provide a picture of Sydney’s city streets in 1979. Can you spot the Regent Theatre, Woolworths and the Hilton Hotel?

View more of these digitised photographs through the Library's online catalogue.

Words by Alison Wishart, Research and Discovery

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