(The following article by Jenny D’Anger comes from this week’s Herald, and is posted here with permission.)
North American Veterans’ Unit president Michael Munjak fronted this week’s Freo council meeting pleading with councillors and the mayor to keep the building.
“[Demolition] would obliterate an important heritage for both West Australian and for United States local residents and overseas visitors,” he said.
“Heritage is a vitally important part of our past and…should be preserved at all costs.”
He presented council with a letter from UWA senior historian Tony Barker (who couldn’t attend).
The unique relationship between Fremantle and the US military deserved preserving, Prof Barker said.
“Conversely its destruction would…be an unfortunate denial by Fremantle of a special part of its history.”
In an email to councillor John Downson the US Consul said she’d been concerned enough about the proposed demolition to alert the Seventh Fleet, based in Singapore (the fleet had 700 personnel based at the arts centre during the war).
The Australian American Association is also set to make a submission to council and the architect who restored the centre in 1972 also supports keeping the building. “Noted heritage expert Kris Bizacca has made a submission supporting saving the building,” Cr Dowson said.
Museums WA owns the land the massive shed sits on and — citing termites — it wants to knock the place over before handing the site to Freo council to manage.
Debate raged, with claims and counter claims amongst councillors over the cost of repair versus heritage value.
The council voted 10-1 to defer a decision, sending the item back to next month’s planning committee where it hopes more information will be presented.
Councillors slammed Museums WA for allowing the building to deteriorate under its ownership to the state where it was essentially seeking “demolition by neglect”.
There was no response from Museums WA to the Herald’s questions.
The idea by the City of Fremantle to incorporate Heritage Week into the Fremantle Festival appears to be a way of reducing community interest in Fremantle’s history. The spin that Heritage Week would benefit from being part of the highly popular festival is misguided. What we would see instead is reduced interest and participation in Heritage Week, because there is already so much on during festival week. There will be a saturation of events that people will want to be part of, and the media will want to report on, so not much time would be left to attend Heritage Week events, and the media would not have enough editorial space to also cover less exciting and less photogenic events. The Fremantle Festival is also planned to coincide with the World Sailing event here, and that will also diminish Heritage Week’s chances of getting media coverage and community participation.
As a committee member of the Fremantle Society I know we already had planned to not only make Heritage Week as successful as it was last year, but also have a presence during the Fremantle Festival, to show our community spirit and support.
The Fremantle Society is not in favour of Heritage Week becoming part of the 2011 Fremantle Festival and I hear the Fremantle Heritage Guides at the Round House do not support the idea either.
Is the City of Fremantle trying to hide Heritage Week this year, so it can disappear all together next year?