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Starlight shines down the decades

Starlight Community Hall in 2022. It was built over 15 years by community volunteers at Brown’s Creek Road, Yandina.


Starlight shines down the decades

Young people of the 1970s who dreamt of becoming self-sufficient away from bureaucracy and city life, shocked conservative Yandina when they found paradise on Brown’s Creek Road. AUDIENNE BLYTH celebrates the Starlight community’s 50th anniversary.

Starlight, about 7km west of Yandina, came into being on April 26, 1972 when Tom Vichta bought 140 acres from a farmer who had been growing bananas.

Tom’s idea was to provide young people a cheap place to live. The valley of Starlight was, and still is, a beautiful rainforest with streams and waterholes.

Vichta also organised the first Australian Buddhist meditation course at Diamond Valley and formation of the Chenrezig Institute at Eudlo, in 1974.

The 1970s were the era of Joh Bjelke-Petersen and the authorities did not take too kindly to “long-haired, dope smoking/growing hippies from down south”.

It was said that a guy with long hair could stop the traffic in conservative Nambour and it was not uncommon to have to walk out of a shop because everyone was suddenly too busy to want to help.

Many young couples arrived at Starlight to try a different sort of life. Those who stayed have memories of belonging to a vibrant community and having to overcome many difficulties. Some left after finding the lifestyle too difficult.

In 1975, another 180 acres were added to Starlight. At first, lots were sold at $100 an acre but there was a shortage of cash to buy building materials so many dwellings were makeshift.

One story is that tarpaulins were donated by a fertilizer agent in Yandina. Unfortunately, they smelt strongly of urea. Whatever could be scrounged was used, whether from sawmills or demolished buildings.

Only a couple of the early dwellings remain, mainly due to the voracity of white ants. The abundant wildlife, including large carpet snakes, goannas and bush turkeys, was sometimes another difficulty.

Negotiations came from a concerned Maroochy Shire Council which demanded the lots and buildings comply with council regulations.

Starlight became a company with shareholders to overcome the legal barriers of subdividing the land. Its zoning was Special Facilities, Existing Bushland, Multiple Occupancy to allow 23 houses and flora and fauna conservation.

Protection of the environment has always been a driving force at Starlight.

Residents have a strong conservation ethic and can boast a large privately-owned and protected wilderness area.

Starlight residents have also shown themselves to be innovative.

They established the Yandina Good Life Fair in 1977. It has been an annual event until the present, having been renamed as Yandina Spring Fair or Yandina Street Fair with only a couple of years missed because of Covid.

At one stage, four business owners in the main street of Yandina were from Starlight. One resident became a member of the local council, while the fire brigade formed in the 1980s has now proudly opened a three-bay shed.

Residents also provided the labour to build the gravel road into Starlight.

The novelist, Peter Carey, once a Starlight resident, in accepting the Miles Franklin award for Bliss, told the London crowd, “It’s a long way from Brown’s Creek Road”.

Thanks to Annie Smallmon for her research in A Vision Unfolds, the Last 50 Years.

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