Ben Cox, Newcastle, 1994. Photo: Chris Yeoh.

Ben Cox, Newcastle, 1994. Photo: Chris Yeoh.

In the early to mid-nineties, Newcastle was in an employment slump. The post-earthquake construction boom was over, the heart of the city’s steel industry, BHP, had started to slow down production and if you didn’t surf, you didn’t matter. 

But something was happening beneath the cracks in the city. Every curb and ledge in town was covered in a thick coating of wax. A block behind Darby St, Newcastle’s café precinct, echoes could be heard from deep inside the abandoned complex of factories referred to by those in the know simply as “The Stoves”. Come Saturday morning, kids from all over the Hunter were making their way to Newcastle’s own EMB – The Administration Building, known colloquially as “Admin”. 

With no real skate park (aside from a few crusty bowls left over from the eighties) and no real skate shop, the Newcastle skateboarding scene was flourishing against all odds. 

At the time, Australian skateboarding’s attention was focused two hours down the road on Sydney, making it hard for Novocastrian skaters to be heard. But a black and white skate zine called Amnesia started to make its way into the hands of locals. Although each issue was only made in limited runs, it was shared between crews and read until its photocopied cover was a smudged black mess. For the very first time, skateboarders from Newcastle had their own voice – and identity. 

The little zine morphed into hardware, t-shirts, and eventually boards. Amnesia broke the confines of Newcastle and started supporting like-minded skateboarders from all over the country. 

To this day, Amnesia remains true to its origins – giving a voice to the underground.

Words by James Turvey, Nov 2014.