Forty-nine individuals, families and philanthropic groups have raised $2.5million to buy the Old Beechworth Gaol, claiming it as a win for community ownership of former public assets.

Spokesperson for the consortium, Matt Pfahlert said people got involved for a range of reasons, including providing career opportunities for rural young people, an interest in heritage and the Kelly story, social enterprise and grass roots community action, cycling and community development.

“The consortium is committed to transforming the highly valued heritage site into a thriving community space for the social and economic benefit of the region,” Mr Pfahlert said.

“Purchasing, planning and renovating historic assets is an expensive process and local leadership saw more than $1.7million raised out of the community. This enabled philanthropic groups to support the project and the consortium to secure loans to complete the purchase.”

Mr Pfahlert said the consortium is excited about the plans for the site. He said what’s possible will be determined by the master planning process, but could include:

  • The home of the Social Enterprise Academy Australia and the Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship
  • Heritage – honouring the heritage of the site and the role it has played in local history through the Kelly story
  • Visual arts, entertainment, film, culture, music and events programing
  • Hospitality and retail – showcasing regional beer, food and wine
  • Flexible co-working and collaboration space for small businesses and artisans
  • Luxury and mid-range accommodation focused on cycle tourism and cultural heritage visitors
  • A bicycle training and development centre
  • World class cycling tours and experiences tailored to individual needs
  • Bicycle school including youth based skills development program
  • Wellness centre and conference facilities
  • Possibly residential development

Mr Pfahlert said successful social enterprise approaches to community ownership of assets like the Abbottsford Convent, Abbottsford and Sovereign Hill, Ballarat showed what is possible on the site.

“Both projects combined community support with government and business investment to develop the precincts,” he said.

“We imagine interested people will have a lot of questions about what’s going to happen at the site and when. Some of these questions can be answered with information on our website but we encourage people to attend the Community Briefing at the Gaol on Monday, 28 November at 6pm.”

“We’ll provide an update and they will also hear from Libby Ward-Christie, a director of the Abbottsford Convent and the head of investment and advisory with Social Traders.”

Register for the Community Briefing