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Businesses, community organisations and individuals are invited to lodge Expressions of Interest to purchase the heritage section of the old Grafton Gaol. Image: file photo

Expressions of interest in Grafton Gaol site

Rodney Stevens


The NSW Government is seeking expressions of interest EOIs from parties interested in the purchase of the heritage section of the former Grafton Correctional Centre after the Ngerrie Local Aboriginal Land Council were granted freehold title on about half of the site.

The EOIs will be used to identify respondents and their response that best satisfy the NSW Government’s project objectives, which Property and Development NSW PDNSW may shortlist to be involved in further stages of the procurement process.

Situated within the heart of Grafton, the former maximum security Grafton Correctional Centre was designed by Sydney architect, Henry Austin Wilshire, and comprises 9,085 square metres which is listed on the NSW State Heritage Register.

The historic gaol, which housed some of Australia’s most notorious criminals and had a reputation of being one of the nation’s toughest prisons, was built in 1893 and operated until the new Clarence Correctional Centre opened in July 2020.

The new $800 million Clarence Correctional Centre opened with 1700 beds for men and women it is Australia’s largest prison, located at Lavadia, southeast of Grafton, and is currently run by Serco.

After Clarence Valley Council CVC approved the subdivision of the site (the old Grafton Gaol) to pave the way for new future uses allowing for adaptive re-use of buildings, in August 2021 the Grafton Ngerrie Local Aboriginal Land Council began negotiations with the government to transfer the former market garden and industrial building to successfully resolve a land claim, which was granted in February 2024.

Then at the November 2023 CVC meeting, Cr Debrah Novak put forward a motion for council to possibly purchase the historic portion of the site, which, after a confidential session in the December 2023, it resolved that council would not be submitting an EOI, after it received information from Property NSW.

The area of the site to be purchased is on the southeastern corner of Hoof Street, which includes a courtyard, three cell blocks, a guard station, amenities block, reception area, and the Governor’s office.

The last Governor of the jail, John Heffernan, who wrote a book ‘The Last Governor Diaries’ in 2013 about his career and time at Grafton Gaol, said it was disappointing to see what was the “lifeblood of Grafton” up for sale, due to the history associated with the site.

Mr Heffernan said he was happy the site was heritage listed, preventing it from being demolished, and noted similar successful jail transformations in Victoria.

Minister for Lands and Property, Steve Kamper said the sale of the site presented a wonderful opportunity and could help economic growth in Grafton.

The sale is anticipated to be delivered through a sales agreement between Property NSW and the successful respondent, with freehold tenure to be granted to the successful respondent.

EOIs close on April 24 at 3pm.

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