‘It’s difficult for our Indigenous kids, for all of us mob, we have to learn to walk in two worlds.’
Nick. You grew up in the heart of Australia’s outback. How traditional was your upbringing as an aboriginal boy?
Traditional in terms of focusing on family group. Togetherness which grows solid in every group among our community. But also going out bush, learning about certain things from the elders. Listening to stories about the countries that are passed on to generations. Seeing different kind of animals too like birds, lizards, snakes. Respecting the land and what it holds. I was raised by my Auntie and my mother in two different worlds.
Was there a skate scene in your hometown Mparntwe (Alice Springs)?
I started skating alone a lot at the beginning. That’s another reason why I think skating is really good for some people. They can do it alone. Not everyone is a competitive team sport player. I was playing basketball but was slowly losing interest in it so just started skating solo. There was a guy a couple of years older than me who must have noticed me skating by myself. You know, little kid skating by themselves. He came over and introduced himself and we became brothers. This is another example of how the skate community can be. It brings people in and welcomes people, looks out for each other. Actually my first board I got from a friend who won a competition from a music store.
How did your family react and the wider Aboriginal community in your town?
Back then I copped a bit of slack but mostly from family. Everyone think all Indigenous kids are meant to play football and I was doing something different. It was always questioned by others and by me. I questioned my own decisions. I didn’t really realize that I was standing out the way I did, until my family told me. But I found a new community within skating. Family would’ve been thinking “why you cruising around on skateboards with these white kids?” I didn’t take much notice but looking back it would’ve looked unusual.
Do you think skateboarding helped you to connect with the new city/ state and its people?
For sure it was through skating that I made friends in a new place. Whether it was my next door neighbour or at my new school, it really helped me feel like I belonged to something. I was still the only Indigenous skater though.
‘Everyone thinks all Indigenous kids are meant to play football and I was doing something different. It was always questioned by others and by me. I questioned my own decisions.’
In an ABC Interview you mentioned that “When I was skating as a kid I couldn’t go twenty meters without being stopped by police”. Do you think this was because of your ethical background or being a skateboarder? Or maybe both?
Back then skateboarding was seen as a community of criminals and terrorizers. But we didn’t do any of those things. We just wanted to skate. Film tricks, hang out and have fun. Never bothered anyone but society sees us as antisocial misfits. I had a bit of anger about it all and held it in, I guess. You know, like “I don’t really care what you think” kind of attitude. I think it really helped my skating actually. It’s like that for young Indigenous kids whether they skate or not. Kids walking around town, everyone straight away thinks they’re up to no good. They sense that and sometimes it makes them act that way.
You built an indoor skatepark in 2017 in your hometown Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa) which is 80km south-east of Mparntwe (Alice Springs). What were the main challenges in realizing this project?
The first years has had its ups and downs and a long road of wanting to do something with skating and working with young people. From the moment I shared my idea about a mini ramp in a remote desert community, I’ve had so many people support me and help guide me in the right direction. From local community support, to Alice Springs and the Australia Skateboarding Federation (ASF), people donating and volunteering their time…the list goes on. But I spent a lot of time thinking about my idea. I wanted something for the young ones that was going to stick around. It’s a pretty common story for programs to come and go pretty quickly.
Is there any street skating in your town Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa) at all?
Unfortunately not. There are only dirt roads here so the only place you can skate is the basketball field and the skate park.
‘Pro rider Jack O’Grady for example has done an interview after the trip on where he mentioned his experience coming out here, meeting me and what I was doing. That meant a lot to me.’
I found a quote where you said that “My dream would be to have interstate skaters come out to these communities, and really see where skate boarding’s gone, and how far it stretches”. Any success stories you are able to share?
Back in 2018 an Australian skateboard team showed up called Passport. They were doing a Northern Territory skate tour at the time. They contacted us and sure enough they did come out which I was very excited about among the kids in the community to see other skateboarders. Within this group there were two international skateboarders as well. One from France and to other from the UK. They stayed overnight at the local camping ground and cooked some kangaroo meat they have not had before. Pro rider Jack O’Grady for example has done an interview after the trip on where he mentioned his experience coming out here, meeting me and what I was doing. That meant a lot to me. They have also given us boards and stuff.
In the middle of Covid last year you launched the first Aboriginal skateboarding brand (Spinifex) in Australia. What are you trying to achieve with it?
I want to achieve a lot with Spinifex and I wanna share all of this with everyone, especially those young ones. I wanna build something that supports the kids and young people who decide to take on something new. I want to achieve something that’s never been done before, that can grow, to show these kids that they can do it too, you can do anything. I want to be able to look back one day and look what I’ve done and who I am and what I’m passionate about. It’s my way of giving back. I’d love for this to grow so big that we were producing all own own merchandise, provide job opportunities through production, sales and computer skills. I wanna help build some employment somehow too I guess.
It looks like you achieved quite a lot. Is there anything you want to do before you slow down or is that not an option?
I want to continue what I am doing. Doing skate workshops in other remote communities and expand Spinifex by putting a team together. That would be very interesting and exciting. And also I would like to organize another skate trip for the local kids here. Maybe looking at an outdoor skatepark too.
Last question. If you could interview a person, who would it be and why?
Stevie Williams from DGK. I loved his documentary and I always liked his style of skateboarding. Also Kareem Campbell and also Rodney Mullen. Check out this TED Talk. It is very interesting.