I really appreciate the responses, thanks.
I've found many potentials and a variety that I could get overseas (haven't hit the pawnbrokers yet but there are wholesalers on online classifieds here such as http://www.gumtree.com.au/s-ad/south-yarra/digital-cameras/nikon-canon-auto-manual-lenses-digital-film-nikon-cameras/1030685410)
I won't rush it if I can't find a sure fit, but I'll pick up the 50mm 1.8.
I found a Tamron SP AF 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di II LD IF which @Brother D mentioned for $180, and in my neighbourhood. But it's got damage to the zoom. The videos I've been taking have been still -- I just set up the camera and let it run. Not sure on the repair situation with these but I'd be willing to try it out on advice.
Thanks so much for helping out a newb. I normally wouldn't be pressed if it weren't for the event coming up. That said, I've consulted photog friends and won't throw cash at a mistake.