The Daily Examiner: We're For You
IT'S 4AM on a cold, gloomy July night. For a sixth night fires burn beside frozen footpaths as dozens of residents attempt to keep warm. Some sip tea, others play chess to pass the time.
Entrenched in this peaceful vigil is the faint glow of a laptop, the soft tapping of keys permeates the silent, crisp air as a journalist, fighting the urge to sleep, hits the 'publish' button. Night after night, day after day, each blending into the other, The Daily Examiner has poured countless entries onto its website to provide the public with around the clock, real-time updates on perhaps the most significant community call to arms in Grafton's history:
Two days later we ran the headline 'Heart ripped out of Grafton' with news described by the mayor as 'gut-wrenching'.
Enjoying Ladies Day at the rugby, the last place the editor expected to be that Saturday night was bunkered down outside the jail, where children earlier held placards which read 'don't make my daddy leave town'. She, and other staff, slept rough, in solidarity alongside prison officers, their family and friends, concerned residents, families of inmates, union officials and political staffers, on the picket line.
We drummed for resistance to the cuts, we were among the 2000 who rallied at Memorial Park where the Clarence MP admitted he "stuffed up" by first supporting the cuts. "This is what you elected me for," we heard him say, "to stand up or stand aside".
The ground swell grew, the whole town got behind the workers, local businesses started dropping off food and supplies to the protesters.
It's now Grafton Cup Day. It should be the happiest time of year. Instead there's a sombre mood as the crowd assembles to turn their backs in a symbolic gesture as six prison trucks roll into the jail. We're there, standing side by side in unison during the last stand of "the darkest chapter in Grafton's history".
At the crack of dawn on July 12, 2012, the trucks take the final prisoners away. Correctional officers salute the jail, the crowd sings while the piper plays Waltzing Matilda. We follow the march, "it's a heartbreaking walk".
The jail protests captured the heart and soul of the Clarence Valley community. We were there, the voice of the community. We did it because we're for you. We're for protecting the values of our community.
But the fight didn't end here. We launched the Our Time Now campaign to hold the NSW Government accountable for the jobs it promised to return to our Valley.
We didn't win the battle the day we fought for the jail, but we set the wheels in motion. In June 2015, almost three years later, that same MP announced a new jail would be built. The first sod of the new 1700-bed prison at Lavadia, 12.5km southeast of Grafton, was turned in August last year, and when it opens in 2020 will be the largest prison in Australia, creating 600 permanent jobs.
On the back of the "sugar hit" provided by the Grafton Bridge and Pacific Highway, our promise to pressure the NSW Government to 'mobilise the Valley to rejuvenate its economy' is paying off with unprecedented infrastructure spending and jobs growth in the region.
It's a time to be aspirational and optimistic about our future, and it's our goal to set that tone and provide a product that makes lives better.
Generations of families have come to us for the past 159 years as the trusted source for unique and exclusive news relevant to our community.
As Australia's oldest continuous regional masthead, our brand is engrained in the psyche of our community. Since 1859 the most noteworthy names in Clarence Valley's history, such as Sir Earle Page and John Moorhead, have driven The Daily Examiner to deliver innovation and vision for the future.
Just like you, we've witnessed massive technological evolution, and adapted with it. A lot has changed since the hand-operated printing press, even since transitioning to full colour in the early 2000s. We now offer a mobile app, and have increased our capability to engage directly with our online subscribers through email newsletters, major alerts and personalised functionality. We are truly 24/7.
But our purpose has not changed. We're still for challenging the status quo. We're still for a bright future for our kids.
Whether it be to Fix Ulmarra's Blackspot, lead the charge on a blanket ban of single use plastic bags, or keep up the fight for improved mental health services, we will continue to campaign for our community.
That's our commitment, because we're for you.