Laura Court House Conservation Work: outcomes

Benefits of project

Laura, like other rural sector towns, has been battling both seasonal and economic downturns for several years. Younger skilled workers often leave the town and the region, seeking opportunities to further their careers.

It is hoped that this project may allow local trades people to employ some unskilled and unemployed young workers for at least short periods. This will give younger workers the experience to work on heritage buildings, and gain further exposure to increase their skills.

Laura is situated on one of the major routes to the popular Flinders Ranges, and so tourism is a small but vital aspect of the local economy. The Court House Gallery hosts a major art exhibition in conjunction with the annual Laura Folk Fair, which attracts 20,000 people to the town each April. Improved presentation of this heritage building will enhance tourism potential.

Laura Court House Jobs Fund Story

As the childhood home of Australian poet CJ Dennis, the town of Laura in South Australia's Flinders Ranges has significant heritage value.

He wrote the poem Laura Days to celebrate the town's Golden Jubilee in 1932.

The actual township of Laura didn't come into existence until 1872. Prior to that the area had a number of large pastoral holdings.

Six years later, in 1878, the town gained a Court House. It operated in that capacity for 90 years and was only closed in 1968. The building is now heritage listed and is used by the local Rocky River Historic and Art Society to house art exhibitions.

The Society also has a lease on the adjacent Masonic Lodge, which is used to store its archives. Both of these buildings are central to the town's community precinct but were showing signs of deterioration.

The Society secured $122,400 from the Australian Government's Jobs Fund heritage component for conservation work on the Court House and painting of the Masonic Lodge.

Greg Slattery, President of the Rocky River Historic & Art Society, said the grant meant they could act on the recommendations of a heritage architect secured by the state government to survey the buildings.

"This funding has enabled us to have some excellent conservation work done to the stone work of the Court House," he said.

"That work has in turn enabled us to put a new roof on the building.

"Without the funding these works would have been put off for another generation and the damage would have become worse."

The project has been a great opportunity to showcase the work of local tradespeople.

"We have employed a local stonemason who specialises in dry stone walling and has worked all over Australia," Greg said. "The other specialist we have employed is a plasterer who is experienced in repairing and recreating ornate facades.

"We have a local builder doing the roofing and guttering, a building engineer from Clare preparing specifications for tie rods and a local electrician doing repairs, replacements.

"It's a lot of work, but a once in a lifetime opportunity to get these buildings back in order and create town pride in them again."