Skip to content

This Is Northern New South Wales

Time Travelling in Wanganui


A recent photographic adventure with friends found me slipping through the camera’s portal, time travelling twenty years in the past, or was it a hundred and twenty? Arriving from a Canadian city having just packed away my newly acquired uni degree, my rock n roll public relations job and all but two pairs of stilettos (in my backpack, just in case), within months, I found myself pregnant to Barry Gibb and Mel Gibson’s love child and moving into a converted cow bails In Wanganui, Huonbrook (the lush green hills behind Mullumbimby). In Canada, avocado and rubber trees are potted plants that rarely reach the ceiling and palm trees are only seen in vacation brochures hidden in this week’s ‘to do’ in tray, and yet there I was making a home in a jungle of these ‘potted plants’. No computers, phones or electricity, I had found paradise lost and prepared to give birth at home, in the water. Call it stupidity or just plain bullet proof, the conviction and belief I had in myself in my early twenties was unsurpassed.


This was a magical place and a magical time. I was accepted fully into my new ‘neighbourhood’, as nine women in this area were pregnant at the same time. Home births were the norm and ‘growing your own’ food, medicine and entertainment was not only accepted, it was expected. Harvest had a whole new meaning; in Canada we had Thanksgiving for one day, in Wanganui, harvest allowed thanks to be given for the rest of the year. We had parties that lasted for days with no neighbours to complain as they were all dancing. The infamous ‘Wanganui party’ was the first of the ‘doof’ parties in the Byron area. Rumour has it that a hundred tabs of acid were in that punch, but only those who attended know the truth.


The kids grew up without plastic. They had trees to climb, tyres to swing from and creeks with platypuses to explore. Every now and then, a few plastic toys would turn up in the chicken shed. We tried to keep chickens, but the snakes ate them all, which was good, as it kept them from eating the kids. After successfully giving birth to my first girl, my neighbour congratulated me then said, “Watch those snakes, newborn babies are their favourite meal”. My baby wasn’t put down for four months!


It was here that I learned what community spirit really means. While waiting for my residency, money was nonexistent, yet we were so abundant. Our neighbours provided everything and more to which we are eternally grateful. Food was plentiful, as was music and laughter.


Eventually, my machete got too dull for the jungle, the floods through the house too frequent, and too many funnel web spiders in the kids’ room, it was time to make way for the next set of bullet proof new parents. It was a magical time and I’m grateful to be able to time travel through a friend’s camera and the portal of my mind. – Words by Kaz Toupin – Photographs by Kirra Pendergast