I arrived in Magical Maleny on a cloudy afternoon, sitting in the passenger seat of my host’s car, looking out onto the green rolling hills, randomly littered with pockets of forest and herds of cattle. During this drive, it was clear why this area was described as magical. Blanketed over this peaceful landscape seemed to be a dreamlike haze, as if the moment was meticulously painted to capture a fleeting dream. And though this dream is real for the residents of this small artsy town, they also recognize it’s fragility.
I had heard that Maleny has a strong arts and music scene. Artist-owned galleries were pointed out to me. I had afternoon tea at the town’s co-op restaurant The Upfront Club – apparently the only co-op restaurant in Queensland. I shared a couple of pints with my co-WWOOFer in the local Irish pub, where groups of expats played traditional Irish folk music for the pleased crowd. Maleny definitely is a relaxed artistic town.
Walking through the streets of Maleny, there are many small shops that are thriving, which unfortunately doesn’t often happen when there is a Woolworths down the road. But as I found out from the local newspaper, many residents (including my host Veronica Martin), refuse to support the large corporation. And for good reason. The large Woolworths decided to nestle it’s new mass grocery store on a significant platypus habitat. Not cool. This proposal led to large protests in the small town. Unfortunately, the store was eventually built. But, after almost 10 years, many residents still refuse to support the company, and instead support the small local businesses, allowing them to thrive and the town to keep it’s unique charm.
While admiring the social will and perseverance of a small group of people, seemingly aloof in their dreamy town, I began to wonder if such unity and comradery is limited to small towns? Why does it seem like this collective passion is lacking in our society?