For 24 years, David Kearney was the resident policeman in the idyllic Tasmanian village of Richmond and during that time watched it grow to become one of Australia’s most popular tourist centres.
With shades of the television hit series Heartbeat, David was tapped into the life of the village and saw an opportunity to become part of the local tourism phenomenon when he retired from Tasmania Police.
Nine years ago, David and his wife, Janine, acquired the lease on one of Richmond’s most popular attractions, the convict era Richmond Gaol built in stages beginning in 1825 and the only one to house both male and female convicts.
Prior to the pandemic, around 45,000 people a year visited Richmond Gaol with cruise passengers accounting for up to 20 per cent of the visitors to Australia’s oldest prison still in its original condition.
In addition to losing so many cruise holidaymakers, the gaol actually closed its doors from late March to early December last year.
Needless to say, David is looking forward to the resumption of cruising to help reenergise tourism in the district.
“People are scared to travel because of the pandemic and at one stage visitors to the gaol were down by nearly half,” David said.
“Normally, everyone loves to come to Richmond to see the oldest bridge in Australia, the oldest Catholic church and the oldest gaol. Richmond has just so much to offer visitors really.
“I used to be the local policeman in Richmond so we lived in the police house that is adjoined to the gaol just over the back wall.
“Janine used to work at the gaol part time for the man who ran it and we got to know him really well.
“He always said he would sell me the lease once he retired. I was about to retire from the police at age 54 and he rang me up and asked if I wanted it.
“I jumped at the chance. I did 34 years all up with Tasmania Police but that included 24 years in Richmond.
“Tourism has become massive compared to when I first came here. It will be sooner the better for cruise visitors to be able to return, it’s very important. We have missed them, that's for sure.”
Sture Myrmell, President of Carnival Australia and P&O Cruises Australia, said David and Janine’s experience showed just how important cruising was to regional tourism as part of its $5 billion a year contribution to national, state and local economies.
“Businesses both small and large benefit from economic activity generated by cruising but the flow has now been cut off for more than a year with no indication of when the tap might be turned on again,” Mr Myrmell said.
“This loss of business opportunity for so many underlines why it is so important for federal and state governments to engage and agree on a pathway for the resumption of domestic cruising, knowing that it will be months before any cruise ship can return to Australia.”