Missed Opportunity

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The vast and highly significant Police Precinct of over 7000 square metres at 45 Henderson Street, Fremantle, has been sold.

The asking price of $5.95 million plus GST gives freehold possession of seven buildings of varying age and importance, but includes the former heritage courthouse and heritage barracks, in a prime location near the World Heritage listed Fremantle Prison, King’s Square, and Fremantle Markets.

The sale at such a reasonable price was a missed opportunity, one that Fremantle Council should have grabbed with both arms.

Instead Fremantle Council are stuck in a disastrous business plan with the developer Sirona.

The Fremantle Society wrote to all members last week outlining serious concerns with the King’s Square Business Plan which basically sells $50 million of ratepayer assets to developer Sirona for $29 million. Then, council intends building a $50 million administration centre for the mayor, councillors, and officers in King’s Square, thus destroying King’s Square and turning it into a triangle. After all that, the ratepayers will be left with massive debt for decades.

The Fremantle Society is demanding accountability for such a flawed business plan. The plan was supposed to be the catalyst for revitalisation, but in effect, it has wasted millions of dollars and years of time. The mayor and councillors are directly responsible for the seriously flawed plan.

Under no circumstances should the business plan be extended after the May 10 end of agreement with Sirona.

A new vision is needed for the town centre.

The Fremantle Society is working with prominent architects and planners to present a better vision for King’s Square and the surrounding area, and that will be published in the next couple of weeks.

The vision sees King’s Square becoming a true civic square, better design and use outcomes for council owned Queensgate, and for example, better options for the Spicer site (the car park opposite the Henderson Street warders’ cottages that the council intends selling to Sirona) to give enhanced linkages between the Cappuccino Strip, Markets, Prison, Police Precinct, and King’s Square.

Fremantle deserves a town centre designed for the public good, not for developers’ greed.


The Fremantle Society has the No 1 letter in the West Australian about the planned changes to the local council planning process. Here it is:

“The Fremantle Society is very concerned about State Government’s latest plans that will further erode the power of local communities to influence or decide their destiny. Sterile sameness will be the result of taking planning approval away from local Councils. The individuality and uniqueness of suburbs and the amenity of these will gradually disappear as the development industry does it business. For example, Fremantle is not Ferndale and Cottesloe is not Cullacabardee, so why mandate the removal of the tools that help create and maintain this identity.

The plans by Colin Barnett should worry all of us who believe in local government, community engagement and the essence of locality through local planning. Taking away more and more power from councils is a serious erosion of our democratic rights. We wonder what the alternative government might do about these and other so-called reforms that strip power from community.”

Henty Farrar

President Fremantle Society


Fremantle Council signed off on the project Arthur Head-A Class Reserve pub (J Shed), against the wishes of the Swan River-Nyoongar people. Elder Richard Wilkes addressed the council with great Statesman’s like class.

The mayor voted for it as well as one of the Greens’ leader Andrew Sullivan.

Below is his letter which he gave to mayor.

To: Whom it may concern, particularly to the Fremantle City Council

From Richard Wilkes, Albert Corunna, Bella Bropho, Greg Garlett, and Victor Warrell, Land Claimants of the Swan River and Swan Coastal Plain. We are very concerned that the Fremantle City Council are saying that they may be going ahead to build a Tavern in close proximity near the Nyungar Heritage around the Round House Gaol and Arthur Head.

We are the Swan River People. We are traditional Owners of the Swan River and Swan Valley and Swan Coastal Plains. Our Traditional Land includes the area of the Round House and Arthur Head.

Our Swan River People Native Title Claim is still in the Federal Court.

We were part of a hearing of the Federal Court for our Native Title Claim at Arthur Head in 2003, where evidence was given to Justice Beaumont concerning the creation of the Land and the area of the Round House and Arthur Head. This was following the first day of evidence to Justice Beaumont at Wajemup – Rottnest Island.

We have not been contacted or consulted by Fremantle Council or the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council or any other official body or any organisation concerning a tavern at Manjaree/Arthur Head.

The area is very important to us. In the early days, our people were killed there. The cliffs area was dug out who were by Aboriginal People in Gaol. The Nyungah Heritage in the Area needs to be properly documented to show its importance, and protected.

Fremantle Council have not consulted with us before they made plans for the Area of Arthur Head. They can consult with other people but they must consult with us the Nyungar Traditional Owners, we the Swan River People. The Council have done wrong by not contacting us. We are demanding the Fremantle Council meet with us urgently to discuss this proposal of development.

We want to remind the Fremantle Council that we know all the Nyungar Names of Fremantle, the name of the Sea between Fremantle and Rottnest Island. We know that our People were brought down here from all over the State to be gaoled either in Fremantle Gaol , then walked over and under ground to the Round House Gaol, then they were sent to the infamous Rottnest Island Gaol. We want to remind you that hundreds of our People died in and under these conditions of confinement.

Our Nyungar People lived in harmony on this Land of Walyalup as the Owners, and we consider ourselves still to be the Owners. This statement enhances our heritage values which gives us the right to say: “We the Swan River People oppose this proposal for a tavern at Arthur Head until a properly negotiated solution is found that suits everyone”. By thinking this way, nobody may be left out

Yours faithfully for Swan River People

Richard Wilkes
Albert Corunna
Bella Bropho
Greg Garlett
Victor Warrell
Kathy Penny

Swan Valley Nyungah Community
Date: 26-February-2014

The Walyalup (Fremantle) Dreaming' by J Shed Art Studio. Art Work design by Esandra Colbung. Part of the Fremantle story.
The Walyalup (Fremantle) Dreaming’ by J Shed Art Studio. Art Work design by Esandra Colbung. Part of the Fremantle story.


The Australian Institute of Landscape Architects once stated: ” The Indigenous artworks at Leighton comprise of seven separate mosaic artworks depicting dreamtime stories and the local history of the Aboriginal people. The mosaics were designed in consultation with indigenous Elders and form part of the site’s transition from a railway marshalling yard and container storage area to a vibrant beachside hub. These artworks record a small but important part of the local Aboriginal heritage for posterity and as such they provide added interest and value to the project. We also hope that they help provide a better understanding of Aboriginal culture in Perth. “

The above is taken from ‘www.aila.org.au’.The site writes about Fremantle’s Leighton Beach Development Indigenous Mosaic Artworks. All the works were produced at Fremantle’s J Shed Art Studio.
LINK to the article: http://www.aila.org.au/projects/wa/LeightonBeach/more.htm

Sandra Hill (Nyoongar visual artist) in collaboration with Jenny Dawson (Ceramic Artist-J Shed Art Studio) translated stories passed on by the elders into this beautiful series of pavement mosaics. Amongst them was Ken Colbung. Other Nyoongar artists involved were Esandra Colbung, Sharon Egan, Peter Farmer, Kylie Garlett,Vanessa Corunna and Sharna Mippy. The elders stories were collected by Sandra and stored in the Batty Library collection.

Below is one the one of the seven mosaics from the Fremantle-Leighton Project (photo by Peter Zuvela). ‘The Walyalup (Fremantle) Dreaming’ by J Shed Art Studio. Art Work design by Esandra Colbung. Part of the Fremantle story.IMG_6995vs
The Walyalup Dreaming was first mentioned in writing in the 19th century by F. Armstrong who in 1836 wrote: “They state, as a fact handed down to them from their ancestors, that Garden Island was formerly united to the main, and that the separation was caused, in some preternatural manner, by the Waugal” (F. Armstrong 1836).

The work was completed in 2007. In 2008 the project won the Landscape Architects of Australia award for art in Public Places.

More images from the Public Art Work:IMG_6975vsIMG_6891vsIMG_6915vsIMG_6988vsIMG_7011 SH vs


PLASTIC checkout shopping bags are still unwelcome in Fremantle, regardless of the state government’s lack of support for the council’s earlier proposed regulation. Mayor Brad Pettitt is pragmatic as well as emphatic; he acknowledges he is resigned to the government’s refusal last year to approve council’s local law banning the bags and hopes for individual action on the alternative of promoting voluntary change by businesses themselves.

Action on the bags is “for both environmental reasons and the impact it has on wildlife”, explains the mayor and he believes most city retailers support the plan, including some majors which have already introduced compostable and reusable bags, while others are holding back, awaiting head office authorisation. Dr Pettitt observes their position is that they will “obey the law, when it is the law”, but hopes they will eventually be recruited to the cause.

Potential customer backlash is a concern for some businesses without state government authority for the handy lightweight plastic not being on-call. The mayor is convinced that “Freo people” relate to the environmental reasons for change and mostly support it – furthermore, council’s spot surveys tended to confirm that. He observes that it is particularly relevant an oceanfront city understands the importance of not allowing more plastic into the ecosystem. Bags ending up in the sea are a menace to marine life. The problem is so great there is now a floating pool of rubbish in the Pacific, greater in extent than any other detectable human-caused impact on the environment. In countries prone to flooding such as Bangladesh, plastic bags have been labelled as responsible for blocked drains and it is no secret they will outlive us all, taking up to 1,000 years to break down in landfill.

Chamber of Commerce CEO Tim Milsom was a member of the council’s working group linked with the Plastic Free Freo initiative and feels the majority of shoppers will gradually cooperate. He notes that single-use plastic bags are being phased out around the world, quoting China as one significant example, where a total ban was introduced in 2008 because of problems with sewers and general waste.

There is however, some good news about plastic bags. University of Adelaide researchers have developed a process for turning them into high-tech sophisticated, expensive nanomaterial hundreds of times stronger than steel but six times lighter, with a variety of potential advanced applications. At the other extreme, it is controversially said that one of the greatest contributions the bags have made to human society is in developing countries where they are used as a toilet and end up hanging from trees.

Some world governments impose a tax or charge levied through the retailer for the bags, sometimes paid into a fund that goes to good causes and others leave it to the business itself. England, where its first plastic recycling plant recently opened, has announced a 5p (9 cents) levy from 2015. Levies in Ireland, Wales and Switzerland led to an 80 per cent reduction in the number of carrier bags issued.

Mayor Pettitt reports that, “We’re seeing globally that there is either a price or a ban on bags”. Retailers objecting to the requirement of charging customers a minimum of 10 cents for each of the new bags, call it yet another impost upon business but it can’t anyway be enforced without government backing.

However, that charge has a double purpose; not only does it reimburse the cost of the more expensive biodegradable replacements, it encourages people to BYO bags.South Australia, Northern Territory, the ACT and Tasmania have all enacted legislation, but Queensland back-flipped due to cost of living concerns and the NSW government is being lobbied to legislate. Fremantle is the first local authority to take up the challenge to de-plastic where the state has not, while it is unlikely the government will itself pick up the gauntlet. In South Australia, on whose legislation the proposed system for Fremantle is based, a charge is optional, while the loss of “free” supermarket bags (you pay for them in the end, after all) has resulted in more than doubling sales of plastic bin liners to replace them. However, less are thrown away or stockpiled.

It is important to unscramble the tangle of descriptions of various types of alternative bags and how they perform. That is, reusable ones and biodegradable cornstarch (compostable) are the standard, the latter being by far the best answer – but not degradable ones, which do not completely disintegrate. The mayor specifies the ban being on (repeat after him) polyethylene, polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate less than 60 microns thick, while delivering the startling information: “Australia currently uses more than 6 billion plastic bags a year”.

Details on how to unlove plastic along with alternative options is on council’s web site and in distributed information. Council door-knocked every business and was determined to overcome any communication glitches to ensure every business was fully briefed. The new focus is on plastic bottles and non-reusable café tableware.

Universally available free supermarket-type plastic bags were welcomed as a wonder at the time of their introduction and have become a ubiquitous symbol of consumer waste and of our civilisation. Their embryonic forerunners date from the 1950s, the decade of the never-used hydrogen bomb. Which has caused more damage? It should have been “ban the bag”, as well as “ban the bomb”.

Now, those new cornstarch compostable bags: can they be eaten? There’s a thought, that would make them really recyclable. And the closer from sustainability expert (and recycled) Mayor Pettitt: “If you can’t show this kind of environmental leadership in a place like Freo, where can you do it?”

by Colin Nichol