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125-years of history on show at Grafton Gaol

Published date: Thursday 6 September 2018

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Corrective Services NSW will this week be celebrating staff who work at Grafton Correctional Centre, as the heritage-listed prison marks 125-years of operation.

Minister for Corrections David Elliott will join the community this Saturday at a special celebration at the landmark centre on Hoof Street to mark the important milestone.

“I’m looking forward to visiting the Northern Rivers region and meeting staff at the Grafton Correctional Centre to thank them for their commitment to Corrective Services NSW and to keeping the community safe,” Mr Elliott said.

“As a history buff, I’m also keen to hear some stories about the building’s past and to learn firsthand how it has changed over the past 125-years.”

The free community celebration on Saturday 8 September from 10am will have a Corrective Services NSW K9 Unit and escort vehicle displays, historical images, a charity barbecue and inmate-produced products for purchase, with all funds going to Buy a Bale.

Grafton Correctional Centre Governor Michelle Paynter said the centre employs about 70 staff, including custodial officers, industry overseers and psychologists.

“Back then, there were just 18 male cells, seven female cells and two ‘dark cells’ across a two-storey wing, as well as a trial yard, labour yard and an exercise yard. The design also includes a Governor’s House, which sits outside the prison perimeter,” Ms Paynter said.

“Now named, Grafton Intake and Transient Centre, we house 260 male minimum- to maximum-security inmates and 20 minimum-security women in the June Baker Centre.

“Inmates work in food, laundry, timber and agricultural industries and undertake education, vocational training and therapeutic programs to prepare them for a life outside prison.”

Grafton Gaol was built in 1893 to replace an existing prison considered too small, flood-prone and unhygienic. The first correctional facilities were established in Grafton in 1862.

Made primarily of brick, sandstone and terracotta tiles, the £17,000 gaol was built by leading English construction company, Holloway Bros, and gazetted on 8 September 1893. The first inmates moved into the facility two months later.

The prison’s imposing and elaborate gatehouse has mediaeval architectural motifs, such as mock ‘machiolations’ – the small openings in castles designed to throw missiles through.

More information on the history of Grafton Correctional Centre

Grafton Correctional Centre 125th anniversary celebration

170 Hoof Street, Grafton

10am – 2pm