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Thursday, January 28, 2021

Search for gaol’s future direction

Whether it’s an intimate wedding, a popular music festival or dinner for hundreds, Maitland Gaol houses some of the most unique spaces in the Hunter Region.

The former maximum prison operated from 1848 until 1998 before being reopened as a tourist attraction in January 2000.

Now, the community has been asked to provide feedback on additional uses for the historic site as part of a five-year plan.

Maitland council was appointed Crown Land Manager for the gaol in November, representing a pivotal change in the way it could be operated and developed in the future.

Gaol coordinator Gordon Sauber said the council wanted to hear from regular visitors, as well as those who had not yet visited the site.

“This is a great opportunity for people to think about what is possible for the future of the facility, and it could be anything from improvements as a tourist attraction, to exploring accommodation options, or even opportunities for different business models and offerings,” he said.
“We would like to hear everyone’s ideas, big and small.”

The gaol currently offers activities such as laser tag, an escape room, where participants, who are handcuffed and shackled together, must find a way out of a padlocked cell within 45 minutes, and guided tours.

It also provides an auditorium for large scale presentations, exhibitions and conferences, and is available as a filming location.

During the gaol’s 150-year existence, some of the state’s worst criminals walked through its front gates.

They included John ‘Chow’ Hayes, who became known as Australia’s first gangster, Darcy Dugan, a bank robber and notorious prison escape artist, and Ivan Milat, the infamous backpacker murderer.

A survey has been developed online for those who wish to provide feedback on the gaol’s future direction.

Visit maitlandyoursay.com.au and fill out the form by Wednesday 30 January.

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