Groups get starchy over losing laundry

(The following article by Jenny D’Anger comes from this week’s Herald, and is posted here with permission.)

The article as it appeared in the Herald.The ranks are growing of those pushing to save from demolition a former WWII US laundry behind the Fremantle Arts Centre.

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 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