Evocative snaps mark 30 years since quake

20 Jun 2019


A doctor tending a man seriously injured on Beaumont Street and a Council worker whose composure - amid great adversity - belied her young age, feature among stirring images in a Newcaste Museum exhibition commemorating the 1989 earthquake.

The Earthquake Then and Now and Again Exhibition, curated in partnership with local designers Headjam, reflects on the 1989 natural disaster that claimed 13 lives and tested the resolve of so many Novocastrians.

Dr Garry Warner, 39 when disaster struck, was snapped by the Newcastle Herald that fateful December morning with two other men, desperately awaiting an ambulance, as they cared for a man hurt by the collapsed Kent Hotel awning visible in the background.

“I raced to Beaumont but the whole street was full of a cloud of dust which made everything difficult to see,” the Cardiologist recalls of his reaction from his Hamilton medical rooms, in a caption to a 2014 photo of himself and one of 25 newspaper pics.

“I saw the destruction and my medical training just clicked in. I was providing first aid to the injured man in the photograph who was struck by a piece of The Kent Hotel awning.”

City of Newcastle worker Melissa Dial, a 29-year-old special projects officer at the time, has only realised her own mettle in the decades since she spent two continuous months on the phone dealing with the quake’s aftermath.

She appears on one of those calls in a photograph flanked by policemen not long after the 5.5-degree tremor.

“When I look at this photo, I immediately feel stress and pressure,” she says of the then-and-now exhibit pic.

“At first we had a lot of phone calls about missing people … then the calls started to be about demolitions and building work … slowly the calls changed to people who were trying to cope with the trauma and stress of what had happened.

“I didn’t think about it at the time but I was pretty young to be coping with the stress.”

The exhibition, which gained national media attention when first held in 2014, marks the beginning of commemorations across the city for the quake’s 30th anniversary.

“This is a very personal exhibition with members of our city sharing their stories,” Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.

“The 1989 Earthquake was a defining moment for our city - it shaped us as a resilient but caring city.”

Photo credit: Luke Kellett from Headjam

Event: Earthquake Then and Now and Again Exhibition Opening
Date: Wednesday 3 July 2019 to 27 October 2019.
Location: Newcastle Museum, 6 Workshop Way, Newcastle