Colin Nichol has been to an historic occasion for Fremantle

AFTER nearly 40 years of looking at Fremantle, the evening of last Friday week the Fremantle Society was instead looking at itself. It was the night – not of long knives – no, a gentler theme, that of the publication of a book on the story of the preservation of the built treasures of Fremantle. But long knives are evident in the saga this historical record of the society tells.

The venue was the marvellous Victoria Hall, by not unhappy coincidence of choice, itself one of the first causes taken up by the society. That current home to Deckchair Theatre was packed, the enthusiasm overflowing and the support of speakers little less than euphoric.

More than that, it was inspiring to note the large number of young society members present. That obviously signals a great future for the society. The torch must soon be passed to them; they are hereby put on notice.

The battle to save the heritage of Fremantle is all the more stunning, even shocking, when viewed from the context of today’s world. We still have much of the old city, but at what cost to the likes of society founding president and current patron Les Lauder, noticeable by his absence from the occasion, as well as the early group he formed to save the city’s heritage from the bulldozers. The devastation that had been wreaked upon Perth was their incentive.

It’s all told in “Fighting For Fremantle, the Fremantle Society Story” (Fremantle Press) by Ron and Dianne Davidson, long associated with the Fremantle Society and the Fremantle History Society. This is a forensic dissection of the often-dramatic struggle to save a unique 19th century city. Or as much of it as was left at that time.

It is a generously illustrated 167 pages and you may even find yourself in it. In a situation reflective of that of Mr Lauder in his struggle, the production of this history was pressed on under duress of illness, among many other challenges.

This important event in Fremantle’s history was chaired by society president Dr. Ian Alexander and was on a sustained high, the apex of the society’s triumph. But a word of caution, vigilance must always be maintained; the society understands that.

In the presence of an impressive roll call of political heavyweights in the audience, both authors spoke, preceded by the premier Colin Barnett, who officially launched the publication. In a generously supportive way he complimented the book itself, its authors and the work of the society.

The premier revealed, as a North Fremantle resident at the time, he was an early member of the society. He recalled Les Lauder successfully pressuring him to support its efforts. Maintain that impetus, Premier.

The Society attains greater heights with the launch of this publication. It is the only historical record in the country of such an organisation. The overflowing attendance in the historic hall, the wild applause greeting every speaker’s comment and the wholehearted endorsement by the premier were hallmarks for a new era for the society.

In his address at this book launch, co-author Ron Davidson, mischievously exhorted his audience to buy the book on sale there and then. Three times he hammered it out: “Buy the book, buy the book for Christmas”, and they did – a clear demonstration that there is no such thing as a free launch.


The launch by Premier Colin Barnett of the book Fighting For Fremantle, written by Ron and Dianne Davidson, was a huge success. The gorgeous renovated Victoria Hall was the perfect venue, and over 200 people attended the function, amongst them many city councilors, Mayor Brad Pettitt, politicians Lynn McLaren and Adele Carles, former ones Peter Dowding and Jim McGinty, Fremantle Ports CEO Chris Leatt-Hayter, East Fremantle CEO Stuart Wearne, and many other well-known people, including ABC political reporter Peter Kennedy. It was a pity that inspirational Les Lauder, who features prominently in the book, could not be there.

It was an evening full of community spirit and good food and wine.

AND HERE AN ADDITIONAL NOTE FROM RON DAVIDSON: Sitting quietly on the eastern wall of Victoria Hall during festivities was Bob Olsen. Bob was the builders labourers organiser who, with a few well placed wrecking tools convinced Kevin Reynolds of the public interest in retaining the Hall. The full story is in Fighting for Fremantle. And the Green Ban went on, the hall was saved. Thank you Bob.

Roel Loopers


Today is a very special day for the Fremantle Society, as Premier Colin Barnett will launch the book FIGHTING FOR FREMANTLE, written by Ron and Dianne Davidson, about the challenging history of the society. The launch will be from 5.30 at Victoria Hall.

The book is a must read for anyone interested in, or loving Fremantle. It shows what a huge difference a small group of very dedicated and determined people made to Fremantle. Without them our gorgeous city would have been far less attractive.

It is also a reminder that we need to remain vigilant and scrutinise each and every development proposal carefully.

Roel Loopers

Fremantle Society Election makes History

A few weeks ago, it seemed that no-one was going to put their name forward for election as President of the Fremantle Society for 2011 and beyond. Now, with nominations to close in a few days, two Society members have  indicated they are going to stand for the position. If this occurs, it will be the first time there has been an election for the post in the Society’s 40 year history.

I think that’s great, as it indicates there is a high and growing level of interest in the recently ‘re-badged’ Society.

Watch this space for an official announcement after nominations close on November 22nd!

Ian Alexander*

*Ian has been President of the Society since 2007, but is not standing for re-election

Fremantle Society AGM and Committee Elections coming up

The Fremantle Society will be holding its AGM in a few weeks, on Monday December 6th, 7 for 730pm at the University of Notre Dame Santa Maria Lecture Theatre, 19 Mouat Street Fremantle.

We hope as many Society members as possible will attend. Non-members are also encouraged to attend — you join up on the night for just $20 annual sub, $25 family and $10 concession — there is a proposal to increase the subs for 2011, but if you join before or at the AGM, $20 is all you need pay!

Our guest speaker is Dr Carmen Lawrence, well known for her past and dedicated political contributions to WA and especially to Fremantle. Recently, Carmen was appointed Chair of the Australian Heritage Council, the Federal body responsible for heritage. In this role, Carmen will be addressing the topic “Why List the West Kimberley?” Given recent public debate on the future of this area, it is a timely topic.

The Election of a new Committee will also take place at the AGM. Nominations close on November 22nd and nomination papers will be mailed out to members — you are encouraged to nominate, whether it be for Committee (9 members required), for President (Ian Alexander is stepping down after 4 years in the post) or Secretary (Ruth Belben is not re-nominating for that position).
If you are interested contact

Ian Alexander


An inspiring meeting of the Fremantle Society’s communications committee this evening, shows that our community group will be going places! There is a great energy for change and becoming more active. If it’s happening in Freo, we want to be part of it.

By using modern communication tools we hope to attract many more members and hopefully become known as the go to group for those who want to find out about Fremantle as a unique place, with unique people, and a pretty special unique life style.

In November the Premier Colin Barnett will launch FIGHTING FOR FREMANTLE, a book about the history and compassion of the people who started the Fremantle Society.

Don’t be Swiss and sit on the fence. Join us and participate in our passion for Fremantle! Become a member of YOUR Fremantle Society.

Roel Loopers


EAST END AMENDMENT  — a submission from the Fremantle Society


The Fremantle Society supports the concept of redeveloping the East End of the City, with residential development being the dominant use. This would help boost the City’s population and provide spin-off economic benefits to the city’s business and services.

The current renovation of the Fort Knox heritage former woolstores building for residential apartments  — an extension of a now well-established Fremantle conversion process — is a promising indication of the potential of the area. The Society, as an advocate of affordable and low-income housing in Fremantle, is particularly pleased to note that the Government has recently committed to providing some Homeswest units as part of the fort Knox development. We believe that there is more room for affordable housing – through the involvement of organisations such as Foundation Housing – in the East End redevelopment area.

The East End area is one of the main entrances to the City and currently creates a poor impression. Parts of the area are run down, there are vacant lots, and there is clearly the potential for more appropriate development that would provide a more impressive entrance to the city.  The current mixture of activities, many auto-oriented, interspersed with some marginal and predominately low-density development, has a very run-down and tired feeling to it.


The Society has specific concerns that are detailed separately below. In outline, our main concerns cover the proposed height and bulk of development envisaged for some parts of the East End. We would like to see ‘human scale’ retained in new development, and are of the opinion that proposed building heights of up to seven stories are excessive in this regard.

We question the ability of the proposed Amendment to adequately protect the visual and cultural integrity of the area’s important heritage buildings. The question of whether there is sufficient infrastructure to cater for the proposed population influx allowed for in new residential development needs attention.

We also consider that the Amendment should address traffic flow through and in the area, and transport requirements, matters that are currently overlooked.


The Fremantle Society also has a general concern over the effective  ‘up-zoning’ of the East End, i.e. only one part of the City Central Area zone as defined under the Metropolitan Regional Planning Scheme.  This concern is the precedent the Amendment may set for other parts of the City centre. There is a danger that this amendment, proposing  — for specific reasons of encouraging a high-density ‘urban village’  — to change the scheme to allow buildings of greater height than in the Scheme, may lead to pressure for similar increases in other parts of the city’s central area where redevelopment is likely.

LPS 4 was only adopted and gazetted in recent years, after extensive public consultation.  The timing of the current Amendment may be taken to imply that the overall city centre Scheme provisions are in need of review, without LPS 4 having been allowed to run its course.

We believe that the current amendment should not be used as a precedent for Scheme amendments in others parts of the City’s central area. We are of the opinion that the current provisions of LPS 4 are generally adequate. Their maximum height limits help ensure that city centre development is of a scale and intensity suitable to harmonise with the long-developed and relatively low-rise character of the Fremantle City centre, and to protect its important heritage assets.


In general, we submit that the height profile of the East End should be in the form of an apex from west to east, such that heights should reach a maximum on the ‘central spine’ of Queen Victoria Street, with diminishing heights to the east towards Quarry Street and to the west towards Beach Street.

Area 2 – Beach Street north

We submit that the proposed maximum height in Area 2 should be confined to 5, rather than 7 stories (18 rather than 24.5 metres).

In line with the desired height profile above, this change is also proposed so that views though to the Harbour – an iconic part of Fremantle’s amenity — from areas to the east of Beach Street, are maintained. Even with the fall in ground level from Queen Victoria St to Beach St, the current proposal – a maximum of 7 on Beach St and 5 on Queen Victoria – would see maximum heights of buildings close to the harbour greater than those along Queen Victoria Street. This threatens views through to the Harbour beyond, particularly from the Burt St heritage precinct.

Areas 7 & 8 – Block bounded by Beach, James, Queen Victoria and Parry Streets.

The Society submits that the maximum height of buildings in these two areas should be changed from 5 to 4 stories (18 to 15.5 metres)

We are particularly concerned to protect the visual and cultural integrity of the former Woolstores building, Fort Knox. The current proposal would allow buildings in the block to match the height of fort Knox, subject to certain conditions. The proposed conditions refer to the need for buildings to be consistent with ‘conservation objectives for the site locally and generally’, a standard central area policy/condition.

However, we consider that buildings adjacent to and in the vicinity of the Fort Knox building, the only remaining intact Woolstores building in Fremantle, should be mandated to be at least one-storey lower than Fort Knox. In this way the existing visual prominence of Fort Knox, and particularly views of its distinctive saw-tooth roofline will be maintained.

The lowering of proposed building heights will also lessen the risk of this portion of Victoria Street becoming beyond ‘human scale’ and becoming canyon-like in appearance, thus creating an uncomfortable wind tunnel effect for pedestrians.

Part of Area 4 – along Quarry Street

The Fremantle Society submits that the maximum height of buildings in this area be lowered from 5 to 3 stories (18 metres to 11 metres with a possible fourth level to 15 metres set back), consistent with proposals for adjacent parts of Quarry Street and consistent with current provisions of LPS 4.

We are very concerned to minimise the impact of redevelopment on the adjacent residential precinct in Quarry and Shuffrey streets, so as to maintain their valuable historic integrity and their amenity.

The current proposal for the part of Area 4 along Quarry Street – altered from the officer’s recommendations that went to Council – would allow 5 storey buildings in an area of predominately one and two-storey residential buildings. The proposal would allow buildings that could literally overshadow, especially in mid-winter, houses in Quarry Street.

Should the Leisure Centre Car Park (not included in this Amendment) be developed in the future in accord with the provisions of LPS4, it would also likely be to one and two storey residential development.

Higher buildings in this section of Quarry Street would detract from its amenity as a residential precinct and would also prejudice views through to the important heritage-listed Arts Centre complex.

The current scheme TPS4 designates a maximum of 3-4 stories in this strip, a height that residents have fought hard for in order to protect their amenity. For this reason, we consider that the current limit should be maintained.


Beach Street

The Fremantle Society believes that much greater use should be made of Beach Street for traffic entering and leaving Fremantle.  Some benefits of directing more traffic to Beach Street are:

  • Improved access to Fremantle railways
  • The opportunity to greatly improve the Queen Victoria St environment
  • To make greater use of Fremantle Harbour as a significant ‘entry statement’

Queen Victoria St

The Fremantle Society supports improving the streetscape amenity of Queen Victoria St especially South of James St.  Road narrowing, footpath widening, tree planting, cycle paths, reduced traffic will all help. Creating a successful precinct is much more likely if greater use is made of Beach St.

Traffic Management Study

An increase in the population of the East End of 2000 to 2500 is significant.  We urge Council to conduct a thorough Traffic Management Study.  The impact of increased vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic should be considered.

Submitted on behalf of the Fremantle Society

October 2010



Fremantle Society’s president Ian Alexander’s partner is selling her lovely house at 9 Lilly Street.

For photos and more info check out my blog Freo’s View, or contact Margo at Dethridge real estate.

Roel Loopers


Dear Fremantle Society Members

We have some exciting events in the next few weeks and we hope that you can join us at some or all of them.

Launch of the Rebranding of the Fremantle Society and Members’ Social Event. Monday October 18th   6pm at X-Wray Café This will be a special occasion as we are launching the rebranding of the Fremantle Society.  We also have a very interesting speaker: City of Fremantle Councillor Andrew Sullivan, who is Chair of the Planning and Development committee, a well-known local architect and a member of the Society for over ten years.

The Fremantle Society’s Communications Working group has been rebranding the Society’s look and feel with a new logo, new colours and a newly developed Manifesto.  At this event,  committee members will explain the Society’s new, refreshed direction and introduce you to the Freo Tribe blog and new Facebook page. We would love you to bring friends who might be interested in joining the Society. There is no charge as you can order food and drinks. Please RSVP to me by Friday October 15th.

Fremantle Society Blog
Check out the Fremantle society blog that has been set up and is maintained by Roel Loopers and includes some of his stunning photographs of Fremantle.  You can read more about the wonderful evening we spent at Villa Roma Restaurant with Nunzio Gumina last week.

We now have a Facebook page and the website is being reconstructed, thanks to another new member, Sam Wilson.

Concert for Pakistan. Saturday October 16th 12 noon to 6pm  Fremantle Arts Centre. Join us for an afternoon of fantastic Music and Stalls while at the same time helping the people of Pakistan recover from the devastating floods. We hope you will support this fundraiser: most of the organizing committee are Fremantle Society members.

Fremantle Studies Day  2010 explores the diversity of the history of Fremantle.  Sunday October 31, 1pm onwards. Reception Room  City of Fremantle

Don’s Tram Tour.  Experience the story of ‘Fighting for Fremantle’ before the history of the Fremantle Society is launched by the Premier on November 19th. On this tram tour with a difference, our Membership officer, Don Whittington, will show you what Fremantle would be like, had the Society not lobbied to preserve so much of our heritage. Don was a City of Fremantle Councillor 1975–1984, including six years as Chair of Planning, during a time when many heritage battles were won. Saturday November 6th.  4pm leaving from The Meeting Place. South Fremantle , and Wednesday November 10th 12 noon leaving from the Fremantle Art Centre. Cost: $10    RSVP: Phone Don or Ruth on 93356091 to book your place on the tram or email:

Launch of ‘Fighting for Fremantle’ by the Premier. Friday November 19th 6pm. Victoria Hall
The Premier, Hon Colin Barnett MLA will launch the history of the Fremantle Society since 1972.  ‘Fighting for Fremantle’ is written by Ron and Dianne Davidson and published by Fremantle Press.   The venue for the launch, Victoria Hall, is one of the many buildings that the Society saved from demolition in the 1970s. We will be sending members of the Society an invitation to this launch soon.

Fremantle Society AGM:   Monday December 6th   7 for 7.45pm. Dr Carmen Lawrence will be the Guest Speaker at the Society’s Annual General Meeting. She is a member of the Fremantle Society and has recently been appointed Chair of the Australian Heritage Council. More information on this event will be sent to you soon.

Ruth Belben