Grafton resident Dan Fahey is very keen to see the community maximise its opportunity to repurpose the old Grafton jail and has come up with an extensive list of worthwhile project ideas.
Grafton resident Dan Fahey is very keen to see the community maximise its opportunity to repurpose the old Grafton jail and has come up with an extensive list of worthwhile project ideas.

OLD GAOL, NEW GOALS: Ideas to repurpose correctional centre

THE pending decommissioning of the old Grafton gaol allows us, the community, to dive into a grab-bag of ideas for its repurposing, perhaps good enough for the Department of Corrective Services to apply to the rest of their redundant property portfolio.

However, the repurposing will not be a mere refurbishment, nor even a simple renovation, although these elements won't go unaddressed. It will be a remastering, a retrofitting, perhaps even renaissance-producing. A brand new destiny is calling.

The British set the example that building a prison is an excellent way to advertise one's enlightenment.

What institutions could be established to herald our newfound windfall?

Could we create a place where science, art, music and culture combine to show us our true humanity right here in our community?

Could it be a museum, botanic gardens, sanctuary, town hall or campus? Could it be put to practical use as a carpark and childcare centre for hospital staff? Or even all of these things?


1. Academy

Opportunities for youth. Even if your youngsters have the get up and go to leave and flourish, why shouldn't we host someone else's brightest and best young people in return?


2. Museum

Specifically for the apology and return of the British Museum's collection of pre-invasion artefacts.


3. Gallery

Relocate the current art gallery away from a mostly residential area rather than invading a residential neighbourhood with more and more extensions.


4. Concert Hall

The Clarence Valley Orchestra and Chorus are hamstrung by the lack of a permanent home. We have no adequate rehearsal venue such as a mid-sized theatre with proper backstage facilities. Really? A symphony orchestra borrowing halls?


5. Botanic Gardens

Imagine Wisteria-clad walls, Babylonian terraces sweeping down to Egyptian lotus ponds, and a willow-lined canal, with water harvesting mechanisms in place to feed the fountains.

What if Alumy Creek became a delightful stream again, rather than just the sewer, drain or morass that we have allowed it to become?


6. Community Garden

The functional commercial grade nursery already set up on the site could be the starting point.

It could be used for a community garden, for the propagation of the 84 species of gum trees that koalas need to eat, or for any amount of ecological restoration. Perhaps the Richmond birdwing butterfly could again live in our valley, once the vines they feed upon are replanted widely. The existing fencing could be adapted to large fly-through aviaries, and a butterfly house.


7. Embassy

The Yaegl, Gumbaynggirr and Bundjalung peoples should be recognised fully as survivors of attempted genocides. I'm sure everyone recalls that 2019 was the International Year of Indigenous Languages.


8. Sanctuary

Emergency digs for people affected by whatever catastrophes or pandemics or community dysfunction lies ahead, local rehab centre for those affected by drugs and alcohol, crisis accommodation.


9. Hostel

YHA-style accommodation for sporting groups, or perhaps quarters for visiting hospital staff and students, with a gymnasium and pool, cafe, basketball courts and tennis court.


10. Research Centre

Our World Heritage-listed Gondwana rainforests need promoting, the World Heritage nomination for eucalypt forests has stalled, the Nymboida fossil beds need cataloguing … the list goes on.


11. Hospital Facilities

Relocate Aruma from its current site.

What about a carpark and childcare centre for hospital staff, and actually make real people's lives easier?


12. Rehabilitation Centre

Where's the rehabilitation centre for us locals after an accident or stroke? Where can anyone retreat to when stuck in bad company? Ballina? Lismore? Somewhere else? How much social dislocation does that inflict on people already at their lowest ebb?


13. Extended Stay Accommodation

Where's the extended stay maternity and carer accommodation for new mothers, who need all the care and devotion society can provide, rather than all the narrow-mindedness people can unleash when young people can't cope?


14. Town Hall

How come we've never had a town hall, with state rooms, a concert hall and a ball room?


15. Demonstration Area

Where can we showcase innovation and ideas, and exchange knowledge outside of dedicated learning institutions?

How wonderful will it be to have an entire city block remastered to solar power for the first car-charging power station in town and a wind-powered turbine system to reuse on-site run-off lifted to water silos for stored on-demand and base-load hydro-electric output with zero voltage loss to transmission? We can show our determination to avoid irre- levance and oblivion.


What about the cost?

The cost of neglect, the cost of dereliction, the cost of another missed opportunity?

They wouldn't abandon a community asset would they?

The Nymboida hydro-electric scheme was so far ahead of its time - a non-dam, gravity-fed scheme. Yet it is now defunct from decades of neglect (hey, there's another idea for something to fund in a drought-recovering, bushfire-recovering community).


What about the risk?

The risk of being held hostage by an abandoned building, the risk of being haunted by the ghosts of so many lost souls and imprisoned by more uninspiring leadership?

What about the value of a functioning community, with new networks of interpersonal and cross-cultural, generation-bridging interactions - a seat of learning, culture and civilisation?


Who is going to pay?

Knowing our current NSW Government to be wise and insightful, I'm totally certain adequate provisions were made in the $798 million budget for the new Clarence Correctional Centre for the refurbishment of the previous premises.

If not, that oversight is a golden opportunity for the new $3 billion acceleration fund.

The redaction of the ANZ Stadium rebuild is welcome relief for our collective finances - it was only grandstanding anyway. Whereas these ideas are simply an inevitable conclusion to be reached and a majestic accord to set in place - a golden opportunity.

We can only implore people in decision-making positions to adopt an enlightened viewpoint, and consider their legacy, and to foster an attitude of benevolence, to embrace a world were change is possible; change for the better, and change for good.

But have we the willpower and insight to realise our true potential? To remove a rotten core, and replace it with a beating heart? To be rid of our old gaol and set our sights on new horizons, new worlds, new goals?

This proposal addresses all 17 goals laid out in the UNESCO 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Shall I fetch my shovel and screwdriver, Ms Berejiklian?

Letting kids get down and dirty, and be kids!

Premium Content Letting kids get down and dirty, and be kids!

Find out what made Walla Walla Bing Bang Early Learning Centre one of Clarence...

ADOPT A FAMILY: St Vinnies says thank you

ADOPT A FAMILY: St Vinnies says thank you

Eleven families in the Clarence Valley will have a more enjoyable Christmas thanks...

WATCH: How Matt saved his street from going up in flames

Premium Content WATCH: How Matt saved his street from going up in flames

‘I found him collapsed on the ground, pouring water on himself after fighting the...