Hollywood and homelessness: the two sides of Byron Bay
In Byron Bay, a coastal town at the easternmost point of mainland Australia, there are rainbow lorikeets everywhere. They fly between postcard palm trees: small blurs of yellow, red, orange, blue and green against a backdrop of cloudless skies.
It is almost too much – the colourful birds, the warm weather, the rolling hills, and of course, the Hollywood stars. Chris Hemsworth, Zac Efron and Matt Damon own property close to the town. Byron’s social media influencers – the murfers or “mum surfers”, in particular – are world famous, thanks to a profile in Vanity Fair. So potent are its charms that 2.2 million tourists visit Byron shire each year.
But the region this year earned a more sinister distinction: outside Sydney, the shire now has the highest rate of homelessness in Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales. The problem is particularly and newly acute for women.