Economics of Happiness Conference

Byron Bay, March 15, 2013


Good evening and welcome to the Byron Shire.

It is wonderful that the organisers have brought this vital conference to our Shire, for its focus, is in many ways, our focus.

Like the conference, Byron Shire also focuses on the multiple benefits of localisation —

we have four different farmers markets per week across the shire, weekly artisan markets and monthly art and craft markets, developing an economic strategy that can take us away from relying on giant, unaccountable corporations towards human-scale business; in fact, just yesterday, Council, empowered with a supportive staff and around 4500 personal signatures and letters of support, refused an application from KFC from coming to town. We don’t win all our battles, and we are not perfect, but boy, we give it a serious go.

Like the conference, Byron Shire also focuses on transitioning society from self-recrimination towards empowerment; again, yesterday we successfully passed a motion to declare ourselves a supporter of marriage equality as a human equality. That we will provide a Byron Shire Certificate of Marriage, upon request, for same sex marriage ceremonies within Byron Shire.

That we support the creation of a “Love Garden”, whereby a tree is planted in a public space to record and celebrate a same sex marriage within Byron Shire as a symbol of our community’s expression for inclusion and support for marriage equality

That we will create a Proclamation of Local Government Support for Marriage Equality and write to all Local Government Areas in Australia, inviting them to co-sign the proclamation

That we will create a Mayors for Marriage Equality group and write to all Local Government Mayors in Australia, inviting them to join the group and to invite input into ways to formalise and develop this collaboration.

We did so, because we believe in diversity and inclusion. We did so because it is vital that when a section of our community is discriminated against, we speak out on their behalf. So, on behalf of the adult members of our community who simply want to have their loving union recognised, respected and validated, yesterday, council spoke loud and proud.  On behalf of our younger community members who may be isolated, the victim of homophobia or sitting in their room suffocated by feelings of fear, mental pain, confusion and ostracism, yesterday, council spoke loud and proud. On behalf of the overwhelming portion of our community who refuse to accept discrimination, marginalisation and inequality in any form, yesterday, council spoke loud and proud.

Like the conference, Byron Shire also focuses on resisting a globalised system of exploitation and pollution towards an economics of human and ecological well-being, or “an economics of happiness”. Our rich and wonderful history of environmental activism recently added a new chapter, being at the forefront of the unparrelled momentum of the no coal seam gas movement that recently succeeded in having major corporations leave the area to lick their share price wounds. We know these monsters of dinosaur economics will try and return, but we will be waiting, hand in hand, arm in arm and heart next to heart.


However, like most of the world, our communities and our environment faces great challenges.

When I first came to this area, from a middle class, private school, old university based background, I slept in the sand dunes, I then processed to a large, creative squat called the epicenter, an old whaling station and abbatoir. I then lived in tipis and various forms of unlawful dwellings, whilst creating social and environmental magazines and standing alongside members of my community to protect our forests from mining, logging and development.  Finally, I began teaching in government and steiner based high schools in the area

I tell of my journey, because in a way, it reflects that of the Shire. This Shire is filled with educated, passionate and active individuals who have all, to various degrees, decided on a life that contains less money, but more nature and community, It is a shire filled with people who seek fulfilling employment that can continue to offer a sustainable and creative place to live and one in which our kids can grow into positive, empathetic, creative and caring adults.

However, though this community is still, passionate, environmental, creative and active enough to see a resume such as mine as desirable enough to elect me mayor and a majority of greens and progressives as councilors,the pressure to hold back the seemingly unstoppable wave of economic monoculture, social pacification and governmental intrusion from breaking through our wall of resilience grows each year.

We desperately need enough time and space and skills and support to develop local enterprise, community enhancement and innovative creativity, to keep healthy, the  head, heart and will of our community- so we can move through this century as a community that is resilient, sustainable and thriving.

This conference and its speakers can empower us, educate us, invigorate us and so, on behalf of all the communities within the Byron Shire, thank you for coming and please enjoy our little piece of paradise.

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