Darmin Cameron – In Loving Memory

These words of Darmin’s amazing life come from his loving partner.

“What an incredible mystery we are, beings that will live through an absolutely unique set of experiences and circumstances, some good, some bad, some highly traumatic, some highly ecstatic, all shaping us into the unique people that we are.” (Darmin, A memoir-Introduction).

I would need to write a large book reminiscent of War and Peace in order to give a full account of Darmin’s amazing and unique life.

He was an electrician, musician, poet, comedian, actor, clown doctor and audio sound recordist for many films including Blowpipes and Bulldozers and Nearly Normal Nimbin. He was a youth and family counsellor and facilitated and wrote programs for the Master of Indigenous studies at Southern Cross University. He was a founder of community events such as Lismore folk festival, Nimbin Youth film festival, and the Dolphin Awards. He was a sailor, and helped his dad hand-build a 30 foot ferro cement ketch in their back yard which he sailed to North Queensland. He also built and flew his own hang-glider. He was a founding member of Billen Cliffs Community and in his later years an award winning film maker and artist. He was a beloved son, brother, father, grandfather, life partner and friend. Phew.

Like many of us Darmin came to Nimbin searching for truth, peace, harmony, and healing from trauma. In his last year he was writing his memoirs which I have mined prodigiously. I have tried to include the significant moments in the hope that Darmin’s life-learning may continue to help all of us.

Darmin (John Cameron) was born in Paisley, Scotland, on the twenty eighth of May 1955. His father, James Cameron was a gunner in the British Navy. He fired the first shot in the Korean war. His mother, Margaret Cameron, nee Johnston, had grown up an orphan and was a domestic labourer. He had an older brother Andrew and later a younger brother James (Jimmy). For the first five years of his life he lived in a one room tenement in Paisley, Scotland.

“I grew up in a post industrial town in Scotland, when I say ‘grew up I mean more like dragged, cajoled and frightened up. This was a tough place and only the tough survived. It was a great place to be born and grow up in because everywhere after that was like living in Disneyland” (Darmin, A Memoir-Introduction).

In the first five years of Darmin’s life he experienced two significant traumas that would shape his life and his destiny.

“If I had had the ‘Normal’ amount of Scottish Trauma It would have been okay, I think I would have survived the poverty, the normalised violence, the trans-generational trauma, the horrors and stress my parents had experienced and were experiencing as I was in the womb, then growing up in those early years, but a couple of events happened that are burned in my brain” (Darmin A memoir-Trauma Soup).

When he was four, Darmin was sent to hospital to have a hernia removed. His parents rarely visited and he “felt violated, tortured then abandoned.”

Eventually I was discharged, but there was more than a physical scar left from that whole surgical intervention and enforced hospital stay. My bond, my attachment to my carers was seriously weakened… If your Primary Carers could not be trusted, who could?” (Darmin, Memoirs-Trauma Soup).

Not long after, his playmate was brutally murdered by the young man who lived across the hall, only minutes after Darmin had been playing with him.

The “motiveless slaughter of four-year-old Hugh McAuley in Paisley in November 1958 shocked the country. The boy died in Burke’s Paisley flat after he was hit on the head with a hatchet” (The Scotsman 13th January 2002).

The publicity and media scrutiny as well as the trauma of the event itself convinced Darmin’s parents to immigrate to Australia, they ended up, with many other emigrants in Inala, Brisbane.

“As a child I went from the BBQ to the hot coals. From the slums of Scotland

to the Housing Commission Estate of Inala in Brisbane Australia. It was the nineteen sixties, Inala was still being built. The governments were throwing up houses to accommodate the immigrants needed to exploit this countries resources in the post-war boom.

 These newly arrived immigrants were people from every part of war torn Europe. People whose fathers may have been shooting at each other, were now living next door to each other, it did not bode well for cordial relationships. In Inala, fighting skills were essential for survival, you were either a winner or a loser and if you had a reputation for being tough and a winner, your reputation may be enough to avoid a fight. I was very lucky my Father Jimmy Cameron had incredible street fighting skills, honed on the streets of Paisley and Glasgow in Scotland.

 My Father was able to show me many ‘street fighting survival skills’ to get out of tricky situations, like when fighting two or three against one, or a bigger and stronger opponent. I became invincible, my father had also taught me how to access the ‘Berserker’ . This is where if you are out- numbered or have encountered a too large opponent, just unleash the animal in you, the monster. This scares the living daylights out of almost anyone, but can also be a shocking traumatic experience for the user which in this case was me.

Then one fateful day, three events occurred in succession that changed him.

“I was picked up and hurled half way across a classroom by a psychotic teacher, landing in a mess of chairs and desks and my brain quickly switching into a traumatised almost catatonic shock state, to protect itself from the horror of what was happening, the violence, shock and shame.

 “I could not take anymore violence getting picked up and thrown was bad but the worst was six cuts on the open palm, that day I learnt  to suppress my crying mechanism. I was was so traumatised and in fear that I just could not take anymore punishment.  I knew I had to try a new approach the system had won.”

On the way home he was beaten by a boy two years senior. Darmin learnt he was not invincible. On that day he stopped fighting, both the system and other people.

“I finished primary school with two ideas don’t argue with the system and don’t become part of it. Be a nobody, invisible. I wanted no part of the brutality, I could see it would turn me into an angry and revengeful person who only want to get back at society in whatever way I could. I could see that ‘Hurt people hurt.” (Darmin a Memoir Inala)

In High school, Darmin’s new approach kept him out of trouble and at the top of the class. He left at 15 to become an electrician. In the early seventies the melting pot of Inala met the freedom of the sixties head on.

There was a lot of anger and unrest and the sixties was a time for protesting.

Darmin embraced everything the sixties had to offer, sex, drugs, rock and roll and the hope of enlightenment. He studied healthy eating, meditation and yoga and quit work to travel extensively in Northern Africa and Europe.

It was 1975 when I arrived back in Australia, during the culmination of the greatest political and constitutional crisis in Australian History. Beat-up, and bedraggled and penny-less. My travels through Europe, Russia and Africa had sent me broke. I had survived a freezing Scottish winter, King Hassan’s dodgy Saharan Revolution and General Franco’s Soft-Serve Fascism, and being shot at, but I don’t know if I would survive the Sacking of Gough Whitlam. What became known as The Dismissal created a very conservative and austere Federal Government, the party of hope and change was well and truly over. But for some it gave something to rebel against.”

Darmin worked in Brisbane for a while and sailed to North Queensland where he met others on the same path. He scooped a land lease on the Walsh River in the Atherton tablelands where he lived in a community of “super Hippies” they made thier own bread cooked on stones, and lived on tahini and rice. It was a natural progression from there to India where he lived for two years in Poona at the ashram of Bagwhan Shree Rajneesh. He became Bagwhan’s electrician and lived there for almost two years, building his own two-story bamboo house.

“Poona was a moment in time in human history that just happened because of a number of factors all occurred simultaneously. Bagwhan was just hitting his stride in worldwide marketing and publicity. He had been practicing on the Indian population for many years, in a country that just love’s Guru’s and holy men, the Rockstars of religion in India. Bhagwan’s act, his sect, his concept, was fully formed when it crashed into the West where there was a psyched up young population ready to embrace his ideas. They wanted something different than what their culture’s were serving up.

 Bhagwan basically ratified what many Hippies were already doing, but made it a practice, formalised it, gave it some status, and gave somewhere for the more far out Hippies to go. They could rebel, drop out from the already freaky alternative hippy world, leave the straight world far behind and become a disciple of an iconoclastic Indian Guru, looked attractive and sounded awesome.

(Darmin Memoirs – sex on a tantric log)

He married fellow Sanyasin Rosie (Prem Devi) and brought her back to Australia, just before the Ashram started to crumble. When Rosie was pregnant with their daughter Venu, they moved to the Northern Rivers attracted by the natural birth options promoted by Nimbin’s Birth and Beyond.

Darmin had met S. Sorrenson in north Queensland and they caught up with each other again in Byron Bay. They played in bands and brought up their children together as well as being founding members of Billen Cliffs community where Darmin built a home and lived for the last 20 years of his life. During this time he and Rosie divorced and he found a new partner in Michelle, the mother of his second daughter Ariel. He became step father to Jessie and Yasmin and produced his first Album Oshe Annia The Legend of the Golden Dolphin, riding the new age wave, and building Byron’s fist audio recording studio with Mookx Henley.  He came to the attention of Paul Tait and Jenni Kendell of Gaia films and started working as their audio sound recordist. Darmin’s life was about to dramatically change again.

Darmin met Professor Judy Atkinson, a global leader in trauma and healing, on-set while making the film Cry from the Heart. Darmin became the first non-indigenous person to complete the Master of Indigenous Studies at Southern Cross University, a landmark program of it’s type. Darmin then went on to deliver units of this degree for over six years. He left film-making to work in the community sector.

Darmin previously was a Senior Group Facilitator and Trainer at the Men and Family Centre Lismore, facilitating their MEND program (Men Exploring New Directions) and delivering their Skilled Mates and Skilled Facilitators Training. Darmin has developed and presented Parenting Education programs designed specifically for fathers and he was contracted by the Dads in Distress (DiDs) national organisation to develop and deliver training nationally, for their DiDs Support Group Facilitators. He has directed the training DVD ‘Men Being Real’ about Indigenous Men’s Support Groups and completed a film for the YWCA and the Men and Family Centre on Dads and Kids Playgroups and the MEND and WEND program. In Nimbin as a youth worker he concieved and facilitated the Nimbin Youth Film Festival that had its eighth year in 2018.

In 2012-13 Darmin was part of a film crew listening to and collecting the stories of the Stolen Generation women from the Cootamundra Training Home for Girls and the men from the Kinchela Boy’s Home as part of a larger healing process.

It is his unique combination of skills, knowledge and experience and his driving passion for positive social outcomes that facilitate the creation of contemporary programs that form the heart of his work.

Darmin started exhibiting his artwork, photography, digital art and sculpture in he was a staunch advocate for womens, mens and children’s rights, and the environment making four films for the Bentley protest against coal seam gas mining.

Darmin loved Nimbin, its people, diverse vibrance and community ethos. Darmin died on the19th of September 2019 in Royal North shore hospital, Sydney, embraced in the love of his family, after battling with post traumatic stress syndrome triggered by a poorly managed workplace incident. This severely affected his physical and mental health. Darmin’s journey, where he took PTSS head-on, was inspiring, his courage to transform pain, love deeply, and changed me profoundly I have learnt more in the last four years, then the rest of my life put together. Sometimes, on low days, I would take Darmin into Nimbin, where coffee on the footpath, the kind words of friends who stopped by, buskers, community spirit, and colourful ambience of hope would ease his suffering.

If you allow it Nimbin is healing place.

My dear Darmin, I will love forever and always miss your physical presence as I continue to traverse this earthly plane. As Judy Atkinson so aptly put,

He has transitioned into a state from which he can speak to critical issues more directly than before.

And I welcome that.

“Don’t worry John, it’s just another adventure” (Andy Cameron) “Grief can lead us to a profound understanding that reaches beyond our individual loss. It opens us to the most essential truth of our lives: the truth of impermanence, the causes of suffering, and the illusion of separateness.”

—Mark Matousek, “A Splinter of Love”

“The wound is the place where the light enters you.” Rumi