March Committee Meeting

The March Committee Meeting of the Fremantle Society will be held at 11 Captain’s Lane on 24th March at 6:00PM.  Members are welcome to attend.

US Laundry Demolition By Neglect

Last evening Fremantle Council supported WA Museum’s application to demolish the old US Laundry on grounds that it was too dilapidated to save.  The sad fact is that the deterioration occurred while the building was under the care of the Museum, a clear case of demolition by neglect.  After listening to the debate I believe I saw a decision based on Councillor’s opinions rather than evidence based decision making.  The Council’s heritage expert recommended retention as did a number of experts in the field who became interested in this issue and gave free advice to Council on the merits of retaining the building.  Cr Sullivan challenged Mayor Pettitt to be the Mayor of a heritage city that supports heritage; alas he chose to be the Mayor who supports demolition.  The application will go to the WAPC with little chance of a turnaround unless the Heritage Council moves to put the Laundry on the State Register.

Jon Strachan


Joint letter to Editor

Dear Editor

We write in response to “Reece a lone voice against festival plan” (Herald12-2-11) as the Presidents of Fremantle’s community based history and heritage organisations. We represent members with a wide range of ages and professional expertise that have strong connections to the city’s past and who are committed to its sustainable future. Both organisations believe that, through a knowledge and understanding of and commitment to our past, our cultural capital is enhanced and enriched.

We therefore believe it is vital to maintain an independent Heritage Festival that increases understanding of the past and engages in a broader debate that focuses on the future. A well-run heritage festival allows the Fremantle community and visitors to be part of that process.

We dispute the proposition that the Heritage Festival is untenable and believe that it is not only sustainable but, by reviewing its charter and including events that allow opportunities for participants to engage in a broader dialogue, we will enhance its current profile and ensure the Heritage Festival is a highlight of Fremantle’s rich calendar of events.  In retaining and enlivening the Heritage Festival we contribute to the economic, social and environmental benefits enjoyed by our port city.

Bigger is not better. Bigger means one voice is diminished at best, lost at worst. We encourage the council to review and refine the Heritage Festival and to ensure that the international reputation Fremantle enjoys continues to engage and challenge locals and visitors alike.


Jon Strachan, President Fremantle Society and Anne Brake, President, Fremantle History Society

East Fremantle Royal George Decision

East Fremantle’s Council Chamber was packed to capacity at Tuesday’s Full Council meeting, which I attended for the Fremantle Society. The Royal George Hotel is clearly close to the hearts of East Fremantle folk and two hours passed as the community aired their thoughts to Council on the proposal for short-term accommodation and restaurant.

Thirteen people registered to speak with 10 against the proposal.  Their main objections were loss of community space particularly for artists, and lack of developer intentions to meet parking shortfall of over 40 bays.  There was frustration at losing the Royal George as a Council held community asset to a private development proposal.  Cr Martin likened it to two lovers, both parties telling each other what wonderful things they could achieve together, but ending in divorce.  In this case at the court of the SAT.  The proposed developer, his architect and one community person spoke in support.

Andrew Smith, who aired his views in thinking allowed in two editions of his newspaper, the Fremantle Herald, urged Council to refuse the application and formally ask the National Trust(NTWA) to please explain several issues, including a very pointed, why they went back on their partnership agreement with East Fremantle Council.

Mayor Ferris allowed members of the gallery to ask questions of the developer and his architect, thus people not registered had a say and those who had spoken strengthened their case.

At 9:30pm Council returned to the chamber to make their decision.  The Officer’s recommendation was for Conditional Approval with Council choosing between 1 of 3 options. Whilst there were 20+ conditions they differed only in dealing with parking issues.  Cr de Jong moved Conditions B requiring ‘submission of amended plans incorporating sufficient on-site car parking…’  Cr Collinson led the charge for outright Refusal.  40 minutes later the motion Passed 5 to 3.  The application will now go back to SAT for further Mediation.  If the parties cannot agree it is destined for a full sitting of SAT for Determination.

The Fremantle Society called the Royal George home in 2009/10 partnering with the NTWA in seeking Federal grant funding for restoration work retaining the community use component, which unfortunately was unsuccessful.  It is saddening to see what started out a decade ago with such promise coming to this.

Councillors speaking for and against the motion were of like mind on the issue, with the mover of the motion stating the ‘National trust has been disgraceful‘ on this issue.  There was Councillor consensus at their disappointment and frustration at being obliged to decide this controversial item on Planning grounds.

The clock cannot be turned back, but mediation between East Fremantle Council and the NTWA is required, not on planning issues but on ownership and the future of the Royal George.  One thing is for sure, it’s not the end of this issue, with many in the community prepared to fight for The People’s Royal George Hotel.

Jon Strachan


Last year, having a decent budget for a change,  we had a very good Fremantle Heritage Festival. Having a new mayor helped, as did having a very energetic officer in Alex Marshall.  Also, the Fremantle Society did a lot of work and their events attracted many people. I had 96 people attend a talk I did with Fremantle’s senior architect Rob McCampbell at the old asylum.

It will be over my dead body that Council gets rid of the long running Heritage Festival. Apart from anything else, it  incorporates the annual Heritage Awards, something which has run  successfully for 30 years.

We already have seen Council ditch the very strong heritage committee it had, and the Heritage Festival should be left where it is as a major annual event on our calendar at the end of May.

This year, with the ISAF sailing championships, there will be increased numbers in town for the November Fremantle Festival. I would certainly support an improved Fremantle Festival, and heritage should always be part of that festival too, as it is the character and stories of Fremantle which attract people in the first place.

But, Fremantle needs a good festival every few monthsI during the year.  I would like to see a few blockbuster heritage events this year, like a Son et Lumiere at the World Heritage listed Fremantle Prison for example. I am speaking with some hotshot experts to see if they can be enticed to Fremantle to present their views and expertise on heritage issues, whether those issues be planning matters, port related, advice on restoration, or here just as an excuse for a good debate.

City of Fremanle Councilor John Dowson


The Fremantle Society has had its first 2011 full Committee meeting since our AGM and I am delighted to tell you 2 vacancies on Committee are filled.  Pam Hartree is welcomed as Hon Secretary; you may know Pam in her role Head of Local History Section of Fremantle Library she is also an Associate Member of Australian Library and Information Association.  Clearly she will bring a lot of experience and wisdom to the Committee.

Kate House was also co-opted to the Committee.  Kate has worked on the Planning & Heritage committee in 2010 and we welcome her continued involvement in the Society. The several Society members who attended the meeting were welcomed and we encourage more in future.

Other agenda items included Fremantle Heritage Festival programmed for the end of May.  The Society is committed to working with Council and local stakeholders to ensure the continued success of this longstanding local event.  If you or your business wish to be involved contact us, it would be great to have you on board.  The Society will also contribute to the newly announced National Heritage Week in April – with a National focus.

Ongoing planning issues include the US Laundry at FAC, The Old Royal George in East Fremantle, and a new hotel at Little Creatures.

It is great to finally have a home and a wardroom to hold our meetings; the Society has truly come of age.

Jon Strachan