The first Drug War Freedom Ride


Leaving Nimbin 30 June 2000

The Freedom Ride took to the road all-beautiful colour, good company and web savvy-ness. For the take off the convoy comprised "", a thoroughly muralised Toyota Coaster bus, "Happy Wheels", a '77 Hiace, the "Repo van", a '95 Econovan on the run from the repo-man and the "Web Sled", the XF Falcon station wagon packed with spare computer hardware.

For the record, the launch crew was: Max Stone (webmaster and unofficial smokesperson of the Radical Fringe of the Cannabis Law Reform Movement);  Jab (a leprechaun whose name is an acronym for "Just a Bus Driver"), Cannabis Dave, (A.K.A the UNDATOKA, the Nimbin Hemp Bar web master - Cannabis Dave is his deed poll name by the way), Paris, poetess and activist, 'Saint' John, (a former prison counsellor who burned out, hit the road and found healing and understanding in Nimbin), Ruben 9 and Felix 8 (Paris' bright and eager boys) and me, (a passionate and foolish old man).

All the local media, TV, print and radio, supported us. They were so warm to me and so young that I felt like some old patriarch of social action being aided and abetted by his grown up children, as they took my direction, helped and advised me on camera angles and the like. While we waited for a delayed news crew, the other media folk hung out at the back of the Hemp Bar chatting to each other, glad to be at ease, glad to be in Nimbin.

from the inside looking out

Nimbin Elder and former university teacher of Premier Carr, Dr Winifred Mitchell, blessed our journey for justice. She reminded us that this was the second time she had blessed a bus mission leaving Nimbin, the last being the epic journey of the Cannabus to the NSW Drug Summit last year, which she said had made a profound impact on the Summit and thus on drug policy in NSW.

Winifred, Graeme and Chibo

Including the media crews, we were a circle of about 50 well wishers gathered around, with its paint still wet, on the road outside the Nimbin HEMP Embassy. carries two big speaker horns on its roof (true Blue Brothers vintage!) and a big joint bearing a peace dove with the letters "" in its slip stream. Elspeth Jones, whose painting has given so much colour and character to the Nimbin Museum, the HEMP Embassy and the MardiGrass over the past 8 years, contributed the art.

The rainbow flags and banners of our road rig were flying - "Freedom Ride/" and "End the Drug War/Release the Prisoners" - and tacked to the wall of the Nimbin School of Arts, were four splendid new banners painted by Nimbin artist, Helen Rodriguez, and friends who had worked to 2 am to finish them for us.

Great social action art! The Freedom Ride is nothing if not eye-catching.

To bless the journey Winifred broke a coconut on the road and well wishers, touching their fingers in its juices, wrote their blessings on the window screen.

Then Nimbin magic did its stuff as Chibo led the Peace Bus out of town with the Hemp Olympix Torch.

Andy Putnam Speaks out

A koori man, known as Duncan, and his partner, Auntie Di, spoke up to give us their blessings. I recognised them as regular visitors to Nimbin and we had exchanged greetings as I walked past their campfire in Nimbin village a couple of days before. As the man moved forward to speak, all eyes, alllenses were focused. He said he had been in most of the jails we were visiting and had slept in the parks we would be speaking in. His speech was slurred and he staggered a little, maybe drunk, maybe stoned, maybe just fragile from homelessness. But his heart message of goodwill was clear.

Duncan presented a painting on black paper - a bright green turtle dreaming - tied a scarf printed with his peoples' motif on it around "Granny" Winifred's neck and kissed her. Drug law reform in a time of reconciliation.

Comrades, this I know. is carried as if by a river on a tide of blessings and goodwill. As it rolls around NSW, many doors and many hearts will be opened and the voice of justice will be heard. returned to the Cybershack to finish packing. We got out of Nimbin at sunset and circled our wagons, lit a fire spent the night beside the Pacific Highway at the Mullumbimby turn off 100 km away. Max Stone, a man who, many a time and oft, had hitched this route in search of cannabis law reform action, called this "roadside advocacy" with the whimsy and relish of a true fanatic.

I called it disturbed sleep and went off to camp by the Main Arm of the Brunswick River in a park where I had witnessed the funeral of musician friend, Steve Gilpin, five years before. I felt his shade about me, and his blessings. Meditating by the river at dawn I watched the tide come in, turn, and sit quite still with me. More blessings.


Index Freedom Ride stories

Other productions of

If you want to get Peacebus media releases, notice of upcoming actions and reports of those actions, send us @n email and we'll put you on our emailing list. may be contacted in Australia on 0407 951 688
and by email to graemedunstan[at]


Doing best we can. For peace! For justice! For the Earth!

web-design by rebelart ;O)--~