An aerial image of the Grafton Correctional Centre.
An aerial image of the Grafton Correctional Centre.

TIME TO ACT: City needs urgent heart transplant

EXCUSE the use of the traditional spelling of 'gaol' one last time when referring to the Grafton Correction Centre. Like the word, it will soon become obsolete (before the grammar Nazis jump on my case, the accepted spelling across all Australian media IS jail - so this argument is also now obsolete).

But Dan Fahey - never one to shy away from a pun or catch cry - is onto something...

"Old gaol, new goals".

The Grafton pharmacist uttered this one to me yesterday as well:

"We want our young people to be dealing with a payroll officer, not a parole officer." Classic.

These sorts of phrases roll off the tongue for Dan... so too a plethora of ideas to repurpose the centrally located city block.

Future Clarence Valley, or #FutureCV, is a campaign driven by The Daily Examiner focused on leading a conversation about what we want the Clarence Valley to look like in 2050, and what needs to be done to achieve this.
Future Clarence Valley, or #FutureCV, is a campaign driven by The Daily Examiner focused on leading a conversation about what we want the Clarence Valley to look like in 2050, and what needs to be done to achieve this.

During The Daily Examiner's Future Clarence Valley campaign in mid-2019, we highlighted the redevelopment of the old jail in our list of '10 must for the future', stating that 'preferably part, if not all of it will be able to be used by the community in some way and it is up to us to put forward ideas on how best to use the site'.

While some of Mr Fahey's suggestions are unlikely - such as relocating the gallery whose future plans are firmly rooted in Fitzroy St following $7.6 million in state funding for upgrades - a combination of several ideas certainly seems very feasible, and enriching for the community.

Grafton is blessed with a highly professional Clarence Valley Orchetsra and Chorus, but lack an adequate home of corresponding stature. Contained within the prison's walls is a hall superior to any existing public facility in Grafton, which could be repurposed into a Town Hall, and rehearsal and performance space for the orchestra and other performing arts.

And just imagine a community gardens precinct extending south towards the city into a botanic garden with bike paths and seating in that wasted space that is Alumy Creek.

The beauty of the prison's layout is that it has the potential to be used for multiple and vastly different purposes across the entire block.

For example, the minimum security section in the north east corner could become crisis housing, quite separate from extra facilities or parking for the adjacent hospital, community gardens and a cultural space including a museum, all in the one block.

Hopefully Mr Fahey's passionate and somewhat ideological splash of ideas provoke some thought among the community about what the best use of this land could be to benefit and revitalise the community, and the urgency to act quickly.

If we are sensible, we will use Dan's list as a dossier as we move towards repurposing this large block of land situated in a prime central location of Grafton.

It's an opportunity not to be missed, again quoting Dan - "have we the willpower and insight to realise our true potential? To remove a rotten core, and replace it with a beating heart?"