Grafton, New South Wales

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New South Wales
Grafton is located in New South Wales
Coordinates29°41′0″S 152°56′0″E / 29.68333°S 152.93333°E / -29.68333; 152.93333Coordinates: 29°41′0″S 152°56′0″E / 29.68333°S 152.93333°E / -29.68333; 152.93333
Population19,078 (2018)[1]
Elevation5 m (16 ft)
LGA(s)Clarence Valley Council
State electorate(s)Clarence
Federal Division(s)Page
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
25.8 °C
78 °F
12.7 °C
55 °F
992.3 mm
39.1 in

Grafton is a city[2] in the Northern Rivers region of the Australian state of New South Wales. It is located on the Clarence River, approximately 608 kilometres (378 mi) by road north-northeast of the state capital Sydney. The closest major cities, Brisbane and the Gold Coast, are located across the border in South-East Queensland. At June 2018 Grafton had a population of 19,078.[1] The city is the largest settlement and administrative centre of the Clarence Valley Council local government area, which is home to over 50,000 people in all.


Before European settlement, the Clarence River marked the border between the Bundjalung[3] and Gumbaynggirr peoples, and so descendants of the speakers of both language-groups can now be found in the Grafton region.

Grafton, like many other settlements in the area, was first opened up to "white" settlement by the cedar-getters. An escaped convict, Richard Craig, explored the district in 1831.[4] With the wealth of "red gold" cedar just waiting for exploitation, he was given a pardon and one hundred pounds to bring a party of cedar-getters on the cutter Prince George to the region. Word of such wealth to be had did not take long to spread. One of the arrivals on the Susan in 1838, pioneer John Small, first occupied land on Woodford Island. 'The Settlement' (as the embryonic Grafton was then imaginatively named) was established[by whom?] shortly after.

In 1851 Governor FitzRoy officially named the town "Grafton", after his grandfather, the Duke of Grafton, who had served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1768 to 1770.[5] Grafton was proclaimed[by whom?] a city in 1885. Local industries include logging, beef cattle, fishing/prawning, sugar, manufacturing and tourism.

The Grafton Bridge, connecting the main townsite with South Grafton, opened in 1932. It completed the standard-gauge rail connection between Sydney and Brisbane, also forming a vital link for the Pacific Highway. Previously the only way to travel from Grafton to South Grafton was via ferry. As a result, South Grafton developed quite a separate identity, and in fact had its own municipal government from 1896 to 1956.

The introduction of fluoride to the town water supply in 1964 was accompanied by protest which became physical. The fluoride plant was blown up the night before commencement, the dentist supporting fluoridation received bomb threats against his family and later pro- and anti-fluoridation float participants at the annual Jacaranda Festival came to blows and a gun was produced.[6][7](03:39)

Heritage listings[edit]

Grafton has a number of heritage-listed sites, including:


At 30 June 2018 Grafton had a population of 19,078.[1]

From the 2016 census of Population:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 8.7% of Grafton's population.
  • 87.1% of people were born in Australia. The next most common countries of birth were England 1.5% and New Zealand 0.7%.
  • 90.5% of people spoke only English at home.
  • The most common responses for religion were Anglican 27.0%, No Religion 24.5% and Catholic 21.1%.[13]


Grafton has a humid subtropical climate with significantly more rainfall and higher temperatures in summer than in winter. Rainfall is lower than in stations directly on the coast, but monthly rain totals can often surpass 300 millimetres (12 in). The wettest month since records began was March 1974 when Cyclone Zoe produced a monthly total of 549.0 millimetres (21.61 in), whilst during periods of anticyclonic control and strong westerly winds monthly rainfall can be very low; for instance in August 2017 only 0.2 millimetres (0.01 in) fell. Grafton gets around 115.2 clear days on an annual basis. Grafton like many NSW regional centres, is affected by heatwaves in the summer months. On 12 February 2017 Grafton recorded a maximum temperature of 46.3, the town's highest recorded temperature since records began.[14]

Climate data for Grafton
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 43.8
Average high °C (°F) 30.1
Average low °C (°F) 19.7
Record low °C (°F) 12.8
Average rainfall mm (inches) 138.9
Average rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm) 10.7 11.0 11.1 8.0 7.7 5.7 4.6 4.3 5.3 7.4 9.3 10.1 95.2
Average afternoon relative humidity (%) 56 60 59 57 57 54 49 43 44 49 52 54 53
Source 1: Bureau of Meteorology[15]
Source 2: For February record high: Weatherzone[14]


Grafton is known and promoted as the Jacaranda City, in reference to its tree-lined streets and to the annual Jacaranda Festival. Inaugurated in 1935, Jacaranda is held each October/November. A half-day public holiday is observed locally on the first Thursday of November, the Festival's major focal day. During the 1963 festival, inventor John W. Dickenson demonstrated on the Clarence River the first hang glider that was controlled by weight shifts of the pilot from a swinging control frame – the birth of modern hang gliding.[16]

A half-day public holiday is also observed for the Grafton Cup horse race, held each year on the second Thursday in July. It is the high point of the city's annual Racing Carnival—Australia's largest and richest non-metropolitan Carnival—which takes place over a fortnight in that month.

Grafton is the birthplace of several renowned country music players. Local artist Troy Cassar-Daley received four Golden Guitar awards at the 2006 Tamworth Country Music Awards—the largest and most prestigious country music awards in Australia. At the same event Samantha McClymont, the 2005/2006 Grafton Jacaranda Queen and sister of Brooke McClymont, also received an award for her country music talent.

A vision of Grafton with its numerous brilliantly-flowered trees in bloom is immortalised in Australian popular music in Cold Chisel's song Flame Trees, written by band member Don Walker, who had lived in Grafton during his formative years.

Notable buildings[edit]

Christ Church Cathedral, designed by John Horbury Hunt, was consecrated in 1884 and is the seat of the Anglican Diocese of Grafton.[17]

Schaeffer House is a historic 1900 Federation house and contains the collection of the Clarence River Historical Society, which was formed in 1931.[18]


The Grafton Bridge over the Clarence River showing the bascule span lifted to let shipping through. (Postcard from about 1932; the Southern Cross aeroplane has been added to the photograph.)

The MurwillumbahByron BayLismore railway (opened in 1894) was extended to Grafton's original railway station in 1905;[19] for details, see Murwillumbah railway line. The North Coast Line reached South Grafton's railway station from Sydney in 1915. Pending the opening of the combined road and rail bascule bridge in 1932, Grafton had a train ferry to connect the two railways. Clarence Valley Regional Airport is the airport that services Grafton.

Grafton also lies on the Pacific Highway, the main North–South road route through Eastern Australia, and links it to the Gwydir Highway, one of the primary east–west routes through Eastern Australia.

Busways Grafton is the operator for local town routes, as well as out-of-town routes to Junction Hill, Jackadgery/Cangai, Copmanhurst, and Maclean and Yamba.

Lawrence Bus Service operates a shopper service, as well as school service on school days, to and from Lawrence.

Northern Rivers Buslines operates a weekday service to Lismore via Maclean, Evans Head and Coraki.

NSW TrainLink provides a coach service to Byron Bay, connecting off the train from Sydney. It also offers a coach service to Moree via Glen Innes, connecting from the train from Brisbane.

Preceding station TfNSW T.png NSW TrainLink Following station
toward Casino or Brisbane
NSW TrainLink North Coast Line Coffs Harbour
toward Sydney
Preceding station Former Services Following station
towards Brisbane
North Coast Line Braunstone
towards Maitland


From 1904 to 1917 the Grafton Copper Mining Company Ltd operated a copper mine, smelter and tramway at Cangai,[20] more than 100 km from Grafton via the Clarence and Mann rivers, today about 70 km over the Gwydir Highway. From 1952 to 1997, first as an independent company, then owned by Tooheys since 1961, the Grafton brewery provided Grafton Bitter to the North Coast.[21] The nearby Harwood Mill is the oldest working sugar mill in New South Wales.


The daily newspaper of Grafton is The Daily Examiner, owned by media conglomerate Australian Provincial Newspapers (APN).

Radio and television[edit]

Radio stations[edit]

Television channels[edit]

Pay television services are provided by Foxtel.

Of the three main networks, NBN produces an evening news bulletin containing regional, national and international news, screening every night at 6:00pm on Channel 9. Prime7 News produces a mid north coast new bulletin screening weeknights at 6:00pm. WIN Television produces news updates throughout the day, broadcast from the Wollongong studios.


Public schools[edit]

Independent schools[edit]

  • Clarence Valley Anglican School (formerly The Cathedral School)[22]
  • McAuley Catholic College
  • St. Joseph's Primary School
  • St. Mary's Primary School
  • St. Andrew's Christian School

Defunct public schools[edit]

A large number of small (mostly one-teacher) public schools existed in the Grafton and Clarence Valley areas in the past. These schools have included:[citation needed]

  • Alumny Creek 1872–1969[23]
  • Angowrie 1895–1899
  • Billys Creek 1946–1963
  • Calliope 1890–1983
  • Carr's Creek 1877–1964
  • Clouds Creek 1943–1964
  • Coalcroft 1875–1971 (originally known as Coaldale till 1912)
  • Coldstream Lower 1873–1966
  • Copmanhurst 1866–1938
  • Eatonsville 1881–1961
  • Glenferneigh 1928–1967
  • Kungala 1926–1977
  • Lawrence Lower 1883–1955
  • Mororo 1886–1939
  • Palmers Channel 1869–1975 (originally known as Taloumbi till 1907)
  • Seelands 1889–1967
  • Shark Creek 1877–1927
  • Smalls Forest 1885–1971
  • South Arm 1871–1967
  • Southgate 1867–1875
  • Stockyard Creek 1882–1895
  • Swan Creek 1870–1994
  • Trenayr 1901–1970 (originally known as Milers Waterholes till 1912)
  • Tullymorgan 1886–1971 (originally known as Cormicks Creek till 1911)
  • Tyndale 1868–1975
  • Ulgundah Island Aboriginal 1908–1951 (near Maclean)
  • Woodford Leigh 1869–1956
  • Woombah 1872–1953

Military history[edit]

During World War II, Grafton was the location of RAAF No.6 Inland Aircraft Fuel Depot (IAFD), completed in 1942 and closed on 29 August 1944. Usually consisting of 4 tanks, 31 fuel depots were built across Australia for the storage and supply of aircraft fuel for the Royal Australian Air Force and the US Army Air Forces at a total cost of £900,000 ($1,800,000).[24]

Notable people[edit]

Notable people who were born or lived in Grafton include:


  1. ^ a b c "3218.0 – Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2017-18: Population Estimates by Significant Urban Area, 2008 to 2018". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 27 March 2019. Retrieved 22 April 2019. Estimated resident population, 30 June 2018.
  2. ^ "Grafton". Geographical Names Register (GNR) of NSW. Geographical Names Board of New South Wales. Retrieved 10 June 2019. Edit this at Wikidata
  3. ^ Tindale, Norman (1974) "Badjalang" in his Catalogue of Australian Aboriginal Tribes. South Australian Museum Archived 2010-04-06 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Kathleen Simpson (1984). "The story of Richard Craig". Manuscripts Leaf Catalogue No. 1 (5-552 C). State Library of New South Wales. Retrieved 22 July 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d "The romance of Australian place names". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 27 May 1964. p. 59. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
  6. ^ "Bombs, brawls and bloodshed: The fight against fluoride in Grafton". ABC News. 31 July 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  7. ^ "Something in the water — the bitter struggle over fluoride in Australia". ABC Radio National. 17 July 2019. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  8. ^ "Cathedral Church of Christ the King (inc. hall and cottages)". New South Wales State Heritage Register. Office of Environment and Heritage. H01654. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  9. ^ "Grafton Correctional Centre". New South Wales State Heritage Register. Office of Environment and Heritage. H00809. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  10. ^ "Grafton rail and road bridge over Clarence River". New South Wales State Heritage Register. Office of Environment and Heritage. H01036. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  11. ^ "Saraton Theatre". New South Wales State Heritage Register. Office of Environment and Heritage. H01401. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  12. ^ "Arcola – house, stables, garden, fence". New South Wales State Heritage Register. Office of Environment and Heritage. H00714. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  13. ^ 2016 Census QuickStats
  14. ^ a b Over 40 Temperature Records Broken over the Weekend by Joel Pippard, Weatherzone, 13 February 2017
  15. ^ "Climate statistics for Grafton". Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  16. ^ "How Grafton's hang gliding pioneers made aviation history" by Catherine Marciniak, ABC North Coast, 9 September 2018
  17. ^ Diocese of Grafton. "Grafton Cathedral". Retrieved 19 May 2006.
  18. ^ About Us, Clarence River Historical Society
  19. ^ Grafton—Rail Centre of the Clarence for 100 Years Milne, Rod Australian Railway Historical Society, November 2005, pp. 443–463
  20. ^ "Assessment of Mineral Resources in the Upper North East CRA Study Area: A project undertaken as part of the NSW Comprehensive Regional Assessments November 1999". November 1999, New South Wales Government & Commonwealth Government. Retrieved on 6 May 2017.
  21. ^ "Grafton fought hard to get a brewery" by Lachlan Thompson, The Daily Examiner, 29 October 2012
  22. ^ "History of the Cathedral and the Close". Christ Church Cathedral Grafton. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  23. ^ Alumny Creek Public School 125th Anniversary 1872–1997
  24. ^ Australia. Royal Australian Air Force. Historical Section (1995), Logistics units, AGPS Press, ISBN 978-0-644-42798-2
  25. ^ "Cohen, Fanny (1887–1975)". Australian Dictionary of Biographies. 1981. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  26. ^ Colless, Matthew; Bhathal, Ragbir Singh) (Interviewer (21 March 2018). "Matthew Colless interviewed by Ragbir Bhathal in the Australian astronomers oral history project". Retrieved 21 March 2018 – via Trove.
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Grafton Chinese Who Led the revolution", The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 September 1932, via Trove

External links[edit]