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Grafton News

Big River Group Completes $22 Million Upgrade to Grafton Timber Factory

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John Lorente, CEO of Big River Group

Big River Group Completes $22 Million Upgrade to Grafton Timber Factory

 

Big River Group, a renowned figure in the diversified manufacturing and distribution of timber and building products, proudly announces the completion of a significant upgrade to its Grafton timber factory. This $22 million project, bolstered by support from the Australian and New South Wales (NSW) Governments under the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund, marks a significant stride in the sustainable manufacturing of specialty technical timber products, thereby enhancing supply to the construction industry across NSW.

With roots dating back over a century in Grafton, Big River Group has traversed through three generations of the Pidcock family’s ownership before transitioning into a public entity listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX:BRI) in May 2017. This transition symbolises a century-long dedication and expansion within the region, now spanning operations across 26 sites in Australia and New Zealand.

The official opening of the Grafton operation today underscores the pivotal role of regional development and sustainable practices within the industry. It underscores the government’s steadfast commitment to bolstering industries crucial for recovery and growth in areas affected by bushfires, while promoting advancements in sustainable timber manufacturing and supply.

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The upgrade, featuring the installation of state-of-the-art machinery, is poised to significantly augment Big River’s output. This enhancement equips Big River to supply an unprecedented volume of timber products throughout NSW each year, fostering growth in local and regional economies.

John Lorente, CEO of Big River Group, expresses his enthusiasm for the project’s culmination, stating, “This upgrade signifies not merely an expansion of our operational capacity, but a commitment to innovation, sustainability, and the future of the timber industry in NSW. With the backing of the Forestry Recovery Development Fund Program, we are positioned to make a profound impact on the availability of high-quality timber products, while also securing and creating jobs locally, regionally, and nationally.”

The upgrade is expected to generate 20 new jobs in Grafton, supplementing Big River’s existing local workforce and its 610 employees nationwide. This development underscores Big River’s enduring commitment to nurturing local talent through trainee and apprenticeship programs, and bolstering local businesses financially through logistics, warehousing, engineering supplies, and contracting services.

Federal Minister for Emergency Management, Murray Watt, emphasises the government’s role in facilitating these critical developments, noting, “Big River Group’s Wagga Wagga plantation bore the brunt of the Black Summer Bushfires, but with substantial investment from both levels of Government, new machinery and equipment have been installed in the factory in Grafton, delivering a significant boost to the local community.”

Minister for Regional NSW, Tara Moriarty, echoes this sentiment, highlighting the project’s significance for local and regional communities. “Big River Group’s Grafton timber factory is experiencing robust growth, and it’s gratifying to see these upgrades support them in delivering high-quality timber products to the construction industry for years to come.”

Beyond supplying essential building products for the construction industry, Big River’s operations offer an array of decorative and architectural products, many of which are proudly manufactured in Grafton. This fusion of functionality and aesthetics, supported by a century-long legacy and a forward-looking ethos, positions Big River as a cornerstone in sustaining the architectural integrity and development of NSW, Australia, and New Zealand.

“As we unveil the latest upgrade to our Grafton facility, we perpetuate a tradition of excellence established over 100 years ago,” asserts John Lorente. “This project epitomizes more than just an expansion; it’s a tangible manifestation of our dedication to innovation, sustainability, and investment in the growth of our workforce. By augmenting our capacity to supply high-value timber products and investing in our team’s development, we uphold our century-long legacy and reinforce our commitment to ensuring a sustainable future for the timber industry in Australia.”

“We are immensely grateful for the support extended by both the Australian and NSW State Governments through the Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund,” John From Big River Group concludes, expressing profound gratitude for the government’s invaluable support.

 

For more local Grafton news, click here.

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School’s mummy revives ancient history interest

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The Grafton High School Mummy Mummified Head

School’s mummy revives ancient history interest

 

By Tim Howard

Bringing to life the face of a 2000-year-old mummified head stored for more than a century at Grafton High School, has also re-invigorated classical studies at the school.

History teacher Simon Robertson said it was no coincidence that the school has two Year 11 ancient history classes in 2024, just as interest in the Grafton mummy ramped up over the past two years.

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“I think it (the mummy) definitely had a lot to do it,” Mr Robertson said. ”The timing of it was when the mummies head podcast came out.

“Some of the kids were involved in the podcast generated a bit of buzz.

“A couple of kids talking about wanting to study archaeology now.”

He said when the ABC program Things the British Stole approached the school about doing a show on the mummy about 18 months ago, events began to take a life of their own.

Egyptologist Elliot Smith linked to the Grafton Mummy

One of Grafton’s famous sons, pioneering Egyptologist Grafton Elliot Smith has also been linked to the school mummy.

The show put the school in contact with Dr Janet Davey, a forensic Egyptologist from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine and Department of Forensic Medicine, who kept the school updated on her research.

“She was getting herself in contact with a new expert from Monash or from a German university and then the world experts in Herculaneum in Italy,” he said.

“It’s pretty remarkable to think these things that we study in textbooks here in Grafton is actually you know, being connected as we speak. That’s been super cool.”

He said the mummy was an important artefact, with links to some of the big events in ancient history.

“From what I understand we’re the only school in Australia with something like this,” he said.

“And then it comes with a whole other sort of level of uniqueness, the fact that it’s a Greco Roman person and probably descended from the Ptolemies, who were connected to Alexander the Great.

“The fact that she’s undergone this medical procedure called trepanation in her head, and it’s one of the only mummies in the world, from Egypt where that’s evidenced, so when you talk about uniqueness, it’s pretty amazing.”

The Grafton High School Mummy Mummified Head

The 2000-year-old mummified head of an Egyptian woman has been kept at Grafton High School since 1915, It has recently been featured on an ABC TV show and spurred an interest in classical studies at the school.

The mummy was donated to the school in 1915 and had been buried in the school archives for a long time.

Mr Robertson said when he came to the school about 20 years ago, learning the school owned an ancient Egyptian artefact had stirred his interest.

“Because I was an outsider, I really engaged with it and I was kind of sharing the kids’ indignation that it was here and we began that campaign over the course of a few years to return it,” he said.

“But after that, it kind of sort of sort of disappeared into the upper echelons of the library there in that server room where it’s air conditioned.”

Mr Robertson said the extent of plundering of Egyptian relics over two centuries was the main reason the mummy had not returned home.

“It was the weight of the theft that had gone on in Egypt, particularly in the 1800s and early 1900s,” he said.

“The colonial powers had come in – the British and the French – and just taken everything and every one that they could get their hands on.

“If you go to the British Museum, the Louvre the Met, in New York, they’re just teeming with Egyptian artefacts.

“They said just in terms of the sheer volume of bodies, and artefacts that are out there, they just can’t support the repatriation.

“It’s not something that they don’t want, it’s just that it’s just impossible.”

The face of the Grafton Mummy

Forensic researchers have been able to recreate the face of the woman whose head was mummified around 2000 years ago in Egypt and donated to Grafton High School in 1915.

He said students had also been fascinated with the techniques used to probe the mummy’s secrets and recreate her face.

“Just seeing what else is out there,” he said. “And, you know, in the big cities that someone is a world expert on mummy tissue, and that’s what they spend their days doing.

“And some other lady has an amazing studio in Victoria where she spends her days you know, forensically sculpting.

“Just exposing the kids in a small town like ours to all the possibilities out there. And that history isn’t just dry and dull and in the past. It’s been it’s been amazing.”

He said the mummy’s links to former Grafton Egyptologist Grafton Elliot Smith, who pioneered the use of X-rays to study mummies and was a leading expert in the field in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was also important.

“He was an amazing, fellow too, and to think that this might possibly have a connection to him and even bringing that connection that he has to Grafton back out so that people learn more about his achievements, is pretty cool,” Mr Robertson said.

 

For more local Grafton news, click here.

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GRAFTON REDMEN SCORES UP IN LIGHTS

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L-R- Bart McGrath - President, Garry Powell - First Grade Coach, Richie Williamson - Member for Clarence and Leeah Kohn - Committee Member Grafton Redmen

GRAFTON REDMEN SCORES UP IN LIGHTS

 

The Grafton ‘Redmen’ Rugby Union Club has been awarded $19,800 to upgrade the scoreboard at its home ground in South Grafton, Nationals MP for Clarence Richie Williamson has announced.

Mr Williamson said the current scoreboard had reached its end life and he was thrilled the Club had been successful in securing funding through the NSW Government’s Local Sport Grant program to replace it.

“Local grassroots sporting clubs like the Grafton Redmen are the lifeblood of community sport, and this investment will increase both the player and spectator experience,” Mr Williamson said.

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“This latest grant is in addition to funding I announced last year which saw new female change rooms and new lighting installed at the grounds.

“I thank the Grafton Redmen volunteers who made this possible as without their commitment and dedication to the sport, none of this would have been achieved.”

Grafton Redmen Club President Bart McGrath said the Grafton Redmen have worked tirelessly over the past two years to obtain funding to upgrade amenities at the club for the benefit of both players and spectators.

“The funding support received from the NSW Government to upgrade infrastructure at the grounds has seen the club go from strength to strength on the field with increased junior and female participation as well as increased community sponsorship and support off the field,” Mr McGrath said.

The Local Sport Grant program is annual program that aims to support grassroots sporting clubs to increase participation, host events, improve access and enhance sport and recreation facilities.

Mr Williamson said he will be announcing other successful recipients under the latest funding round in the coming weeks as he moves around the electorate.

“I encourage all sporting clubs across the Clarence and Richmond Valleys to jump online and subscribe to receive updates on when the next round of Local Sport Grants program open,” Mr Williamson said.

Further information can be found here or by calling Mr Williamson’s office on 6643 1244.

 

For more local Grafton news, click here.

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Education

Grafton High mummy reveals more secrets

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Grafton High mummy

Grafton High mummy reveals more secrets

 

By Tim Howard

The existence of a mummified Egyptian head in the library at Grafton High School is common knowledge for generations of the school’s students.

But when the ABC show, Stuff the British Stole, revealed its existence to the rest of Australia last year, the response was shock and wonder at how such an artefact came to be in the care of a regional high school.

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The discovery also ramped up interest in the mummy and in a follow-up report the ABC has revealed forensic experts have discovered the sex, age and the period in which the person lived.

A forensic Egyptologist from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine and Department of Forensic Medicine, Janet Davey, scanned the mummy in a CT scanner.

The ABC reported Dr Davey’s team combined with the University of Chieti in Italy to discover the mummy was female and had died aged between 50 and 60.

Flecks of gold leaf attached to the head put the mummy in the Greco-Roman period of Egypt, roughly between the time of Alexander the Great in 332BC to the Roman occupation of Egypt and the early Christian period, around 395CE.

Dr Davey told the ABC the quality of the mummification, including the full removal of the brain – a process known as excerebration – plus the presence of gold leaf showed the woman came from a wealthy family.

Grafton High mummy

For more than a century a mummified head about 2000 years old has been stored in the library at Grafton High School. In the past year forensic experts have been able to reconstruct the mummified remains and give people an idea of what this person once looked like. Photo: Jennifer Mann

The data from the CT scan encouraged Grafton High to fund a reconstruction based on the data from the scan and put a face to the mystery.

The CT data was sent to forensic toxicologist Matthew Di Rago, at VIFM, who created a 3D print of the skull.

A forensic sculptor at VIFM, Jennifer Mann, took over and she was able to make a complete “forensic facial reconstruction” sculpture.

“[It] involves doing a portrait in reverse — so in effect, starting with a skull, and putting all of the musculature on, and then having to recreate the face based on very strict formulas,” she told the ABC.

The mummy has been in the school’s possession since 1915, according to note from 1960 which explained that a Grafton doctor, T J Henry bought the mummy while he was a medical student in Edinburgh during the late 19th Century.

But like the mummy itself, the story of how it got to the high school also has twists and turns with suggestions another famous former Graftonian was the source.

Another version has the mummy coming from Sir Grafton Elliot Smith, a local who became one of the world’s foremost Egyptologists in the early 20th century.

He revolutionised the study of ancient mummies using X-rays to reveal their secrets without disturbing them.

When the tomb of Tutankhamen was discovered, he was responsible for the examination of the preserved body.

Grafton High School was contacted for information, but did not reply.

 

For more local Grafton news, click here.

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