Fremantle Stuff >

Fighting for Fremantle

Ron & Dianne Davidson, Fremantle Society, 2010


Chapter 1: A Special Place
Chapter 2: Wouldn’t It Be Marvellous?
Chapter 3: Into the Lion’s Den
Chapter 4: The Battles Begin
Chapter 5: The Best of Times, the Worst of Times
Chapter 6: A Good Place to Live
Chapter 7: A Long-term Success Story
Chapter 8: Troubled Times
Chapter 9: Rebirth of the Society
Chapter 10: Punching Above Their Weight
Chapter 11: From House of Horror to Heritage Icon
Chapter 12: Issues and Initiatives
Chapter 13: ‘Anti-football Traitors’
Chapter 14: Green Spaces and Industrial Cathedrals
Chapter 15: A Different President
Chapter 16: Development Onslaught
Chapter 17: New Beginnings
Appendix I: Fremantle Society Presidents
Appendix II: Members Joining in the First Year
About the Authors
Acknowledgements and Sponsors and Donors

Chapter 1: A Special Place

page 11

Fremantle was always a special place. For millennia the Nyungar people met there in spring and autumn to feast on fish and game, to dance and to exchange goods. European settlers arrived in 1829 with exotic plants and unsuitable equipment and struggled to hang on against fearsome storms, then heat. With the help of whaling, fishing, sandalwood and better farming methods things improved: but not for the Nyungars. The settlers took their best land and their best fishing and hunting places. Attempts at resistance were met with the full force of British law, which could mean hanging or exile on the Rottnest gulag.

Between 1850 and 1868 Britain sent out some ten thousand male convicts who translated into badly needed labour and capital. The Royal Engineers helped

page 12

them construct simple but elegant Georgian buildings (including their prison home) from local limestone as well as timber bridges and other facilities. With the convict legacy of vastly improved infrastructure Fremantle became a lively maritime trading centre. It also generated a widespread reputation as a holding place for carousing seamen, off-season pearlers and colourful prostitutes from at least a dozen nations.

Fremantle was run in the late nineteenth century by a small but powerful group of merchants - including one woman. They controlled both the economic and the cultural life of the port without a harbour.

A series of big gold rushes in the 1890s transformed Fremantle. A harbour was built, and the West End became a construction site where recently arrived architects put up buildings featuring metal cupolas and opulent plaster decoration. Meanwhile the merchants lived in some splendour in large houses situated along the limestone ridge above the city and a in Queen Victoria Street.

The period of prosperity continued with an agricultural boom for wool and golden grain, and Fremantle also continued to serve as a playground for noisy pearlers celebrating a safe end to another rewarding but risky season. From 1905 trams started heading east, north and south, and opened up middle-class and workers’ areas for housing.

With large numbers of wharfies, woollies, slaughtermen and prison warders Fremantle readily became a strongly unionised town in the new century. It was also a cheeky town: you didn’t push around its 20,000 citizens or its footballers, particularly if you came from Perth - the capital resting a distant eighteen kilometres upriver. Fremantle became the second biggest Allied submarine base during World War II and flourished in the post-war period.

page 13

But by the late 1960s Fremantle was heading for trouble. It had never been a tourist town - there were few restaurants, and it was dead on weekends, with everything but pubs closing at noon on Saturday.1 The passenger liners that had brought hundreds of thousands of immigrants to Fremantle were being largely replaced by jet planes. The three thousand wharfies who used to swarm over cargo ships and, when their shift ended, to fill the hotels, were being replaced by a few forklift or crane drivers. Cargo came in containers: it didn’t need much handling. The cavernous woolstores were moving out to Spearwood.

Many people felt that this process had to be accelerated: Fremantle needed to industrialise and modernise. There is a memorable quote from the then mayor of Fremantle, Sir Frederick Samson:

We’re finished as a residential area. Most of the houses that will remain after the next five years’ changes will be on quarter-acre blocks out of the main city ... We are going industrial in the best way, with plenty of advance planning.2

page 14

That planning resulted in the industrial suburb of O’Connor and the residential suburb of Samson.

When the Fremantle Society was formed in 1972 this prediction had not yet quite come true. Fremantle might have become a bit tatty, but it was still arguably the world’s most intact Victorian port town and a home for increasing numbers of artists wanting to take advantage of the cheap accommodation and cosmopolitan atmosphere. It was also a lively place with vibrant Italian, Portuguese, Croatian, Greek and other communities as well as a strong remnant of old Fremantle families who had traditionally run its shops, tearooms and hotels. Historian Kenneth McPherson describes it vividly:

page 15

When I was growing up in Fremantle in the 1950s and 1960s the city had a distinctive ethos which very clearly set it apart from the rest of the sprawling Metropolitan Region. My overwhelming childhood image of the city centres upon the harbour; passenger liners and cargo vessels were part of our lives, particularly as so many of us were first generation migrants. The Italian-dominated fishing harbour reinforced our sense of the sea and all the people I knew, from wharfies to shopkeepers, from priests to spivs, were somehow integral parts of a distinctive and localised society which had evolved around the port.3

Marny Lee, an ‘old Fremantle girl’, also describes it as having ‘a lovely community feeling’ and ‘a warmth and spirit’, and remembers it as ‘a bit exotic’ compared to the suburbs in which her friends lived.4

However, the built environment was on the verge of destruction. In the late 1960s and early 1970s most of Fremantle’s councillors were determined to bulldoze the city beyond recognition in the name of progress. The city’s bustling commercial axis, High Street, was to become a four-lane thoroughfare. The extravagant gold rush facades along both sides of the street would just have to go. Number 89-91 had gone already. Henry Street would link into a coastal

page 16

highway. Almost all the buildings along its east side had been purchased by Main Roads, the Metropolitan Regional Planning Authority and the Fremantle City Council and would be obliterated even though they represented, arguably, the West End’s finest stretch of buildings. On the other side of Henry Street the Orient Hotel was marked for demolition, to be replaced by a glass and aluminium showroom for second-hand boats.

Other disasters were either planned or had already been executed. At the western end of High Street one of the state’s oldest buildings, the Round House built in 1831, was only just surviving; there had been a number of attempts at its demolition. Already many limestone warehouses east of the Town Hall had been destroyed and were being replaced by shops which were small and struggling, and set well back from the original building line.

Ironically, the driver of some of this destruction was the Stephenson-Hepburn plan for Perth and its surrounds. The plan was developed for the state government by Professor Gordon Stephenson, a charmingly austere intellectual who had worked in Paris with modernist Swiss architect Charles Edouard Jeanneret-Gris, better known as Le Corbusier. Stephenson had also worked at the University of Liverpool in a city distinguished for its handsome and vast maritime buildings, which are now part of a world heritage precinct. Stephenson loved the coherence of Fremantle’s West End, and the Henry Street highway represented his best

page 17

effort to do the least possible damage. He calculated that his plan needed to accommodate a vast number of blue-collar workers - and their cars - many of them in high-rise apartments in North and South Fremantle where there would also be factories.5

The agents of destruction of old Fremantle were different from those responsible for the brutal conversion of St Georges Terrace in Perth from an elegant European boulevard to a badly designed steel and glass wind tunnel. In Perth private entrepreneurs were at work: Fremantle did not offer the same rich pickings because of its lower land values.

So the Fremantle City Council stepped in as promoter of development. The councillors of the time had usually been born in Fremantle but had moved to more respectable nearby suburbs like Applecross. They disliked ‘old-fashioned’ Fremantle; they wanted it to be more like Perth. They remembered the Depression, with hungry children rustling up spilt wheat from the wharf and stealing other provisions from the city’s many food stores. A number had done the stealing themselves, and now had an almost neurotic desire to wipe out any remnants of this past life. They were not alone in this. The State Member for Fremantle, Harry Fletcher, whose wife Esme was a councillor, made his feelings quite clear: ‘The best thing you could do for Fremantle is to get the bulldozers in.6

This was not an uncommon attitude at the time. Heritage as a concept hardly mattered in the 1950s and early 1960s in either Fremantle or Perth, and did not have serious credentials anywhere else in Australia. There was a general feeling that modern was good, and that there was nothing special about old buildings, which were generally seen as an inconvenience.

But things were gradually changing. The first National Trust had been formed as early as 1945 in New South Wales, and had been followed by similar bodies in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia in the 1950s and in Queensland and Tasmania in the early 1960s. However, consciousness of the importance of Australian heritage had generally not filtered through to the wider public.

This was to change decisively as communities began stirring, often when confronted by freeways, in the late 1960s. The first community-based action

page 18

group in Australia, the Paddington Society, was formed in Sydney in 1964 to protect the old buildings and historic atmosphere of the area from being destroyed by modernising developers. It was soon followed by the Glebe Society and the Balmain Association in Sydney, the North Adelaide Society in Adelaide and the Carlton Residents Association and the Fitzroy Residents Association in Melbourne. AH these groups campaigned successfully against the destruction of their respective areas for high-rise accommodation and road building. In 1969 the Carlton Residents Association ran a highly successful ‘these are not slums’ campaign against the Housing Commission of Victoria’s extensive urban renewal and slum clearance powers.7

There were resonances of this movement in Fremantle within the Council itself. Sir Frederick Samson had pushed strongly for the preservation of the old Fremantle Asylum as early as 1958, inspired by the conviction of local Fremantle architect Robin McKellar Campbell that the buildings were worth saving. This point of view was reinforced by the visit of the Chairman of the National Trust of Great Britain, the Earl of Euston, who described the Asylum as ‘the most marvellous example of colonial gothic architecture in Australia.’ Negotiations began with the state government, and in 1967 the state started funding the conversion of the Asylum into a branch of the WA Museum and an arts centre. The year before, the City of Fremantle had finally also agreed to restore the Round House, the state’s oldest existing public building, which had been in serious danger of demolition or at least removal from its original site during the early 1960s.

Although most councillors and council officers were strongly in favour of redeveloping Fremantle, there was also some awareness of the tourist potential of some of Fremantle’s old buildings. In 1968 the Deputy Town Clerk, Murray Edmonds, who had hitherto favoured extensive development, toured England and the port cities of Europe to gain some insight about how Fremantle might progress. The tour changed his mind, and his report on returning recommended that a study be conducted of Fremantle’s historic buildings.

In 1969 the Council set up a standing committee, the Cultural Development Committee, chaired by the City Librarian, John Birch, to oversee ‘the overall cultural needs of the community.’ This committee in turn set up a subcommittee to assess which Fremantle buildings should be preserved, in accordance with Edmonds’ recommendation. The subcommittee consisted of three

page 19

‘preservationists’ - Edmonds himself, Birch, and Rob Campbell, who had become the Council’s consultant architect and was then working on the Asylum - and two pro-development council officers - the City Building Surveyor, Eric Morriss, and the City Planner and Engineer, Ken Bott.8

The deliberations of this subcommittee produced a strangely ambivalent document entitled ‘Fremantle: Preservation and Change’. It seemed to acknowledge that there was something special about Fremantle:

There is a Fremantle identity - a ‘Fremantle feeling’ that is important to Fremantle people. The visual environment created by certain buildings and places, together with people’s awareness of their history, make a major contribution to this feeling that Fremantle is a separate place, and a special place.9

It also quoted from a UNESCO statement on preservation:

Regardless of contemporary pressures, each generation has a profound responsibility to preserve undiminished the historical and artistic heritage it has received from the past, and from new increments, and pass the total heritage on, unimpaired, to the next generation.10

However, it then went on to list only nine sites that the subcommittee felt should be preserved at all costs: the place where Captain Fremantle first hoisted the flag, Kings Square, St John’s Church, the Town Hall, the Museum and Arts Centre, the Round House, Samson House, the Proclamation Tree and some statuary (C.Y. O’Connor, the Marmion Memorial and the Maitland Brown Memorial).

Everything else was considered potentially disposable. Even the Gaol Gatehouse and Chapel, the Warders’ Quarters and St Patrick’s Basilica were only placed under Category Two, where demolitions and alterations could be allowed ‘if Council is fully satisfied that a greater social or aesthetic benefit will thereby be bestowed on the people of Fremantle!11 The Fremantle Railway Station, the Fremantle Oval grandstand, the Evan Davies building, and Fremantle Markets

page 20

were among buildings listed under Category Three, for which the subcommittee did not recommend any protection. Nonetheless, flawed and timid as it may have been, ‘Preservation and Change’ did represent a modicum of interest by the Council and its officers in preserving some of Fremantle’s heritage.

‘Preservation and Change’ was made public in 1971. However, by that time a groundswell was building in the WA community at large that reflected a serious if limited change in public attitudes about the worth of old buildings. This groundswell was boosted by the arrival of many ‘new Fremantle people' who were attracted by the cosmopolitan lifestyle, political activism, and amazingly cheap houses - $20,000 could get you a two-storey limestone villa with harbour views, $10,000 a timber cottage in North Fremantle overlooking the river. A new voice was also about to arrive in town - Leslie Charles Lauder - leading a new community group: the Fremantle Society.

Chapter 2: Wouldn't It Be Marvellous?

page 21

Les Lauder was a boy from the bush - he grew up in the Northampton-Geraldton area. He was largely raised by his grandmother, who had come from South Australia to teach in a bush school. Les describes her as ‘a cultured woman from a German family’12 who instilled in him a love of history, culture and the arts as well as an appreciation of the beauty of old buildings.

He remembers working in Perth in the 1960s and watching the progressive destruction of St Georges Terrace:

I remember being, horrified at the demolition of the T & G building on the corner of Barrack Street and St Georges Terrace, which was a late Victorian Gothic fantasy of about six floors with a cupola and fancy arches and decorative brickwork and the whole Victorian gold rush thing, a remarkable building which people would fight for now.13

page 22

By 1972 Les had completed a degree in psychology at UWA and was working in Fremantle as a guidance officer at the John Curtin High School, Hamilton High School and Bicton Primary School. He had yet to get a driver’s licence and became aware of the relative intactness of Fremantle in comparison with Perth as he walked and bussed from workplace to workplace. He recalls his mixed feelings:

I’d come as a child to visit other relatives in Fremantle, and 1 suppose in the very early days I shared some of the prejudices against Fremantle. It seemed very run-down and grotty and uninviting. At the same time I was aware of the vestiges of its former glory. I particularly remember Queen Victoria Street and its great houses that had fallen on hard times and become boarding houses. So I was certainly aware of quite a lot of what Fremantle had, and 1 became conscious of the fact that much of Fremantle was intact and that Perth was clearly losing its intactness and losing its soul.14

One of Les Lauder’s colleagues was Barbara Bennetts, who was involved with the York Society. This group had been formed in 1968 after the Department of Local Government had issued an order that all verandah posts be removed from Avon Terrace, where buildings had remained virtually intact since their construction in the late 1800s and early 1900s. There was enormous community opposition to this order, and while many posts were indeed removed, the conflict had seen the rise of a strong heritage conservation movement in York.

During the August-September school holidays in 1972 Les and another teacher friend, Keith Sinclair, visited Barbara Bennetts in York, met with other members of the York Society and heard about their work. They were very impressed. Keith remembers that when they returned to Cottesloe Les was full of enthusiasm and said: ‘You know, the York Society is doing such good things. Wouldn’t it be marvellous if there was a Fremantle Society?’ And Keith’s response was instant: ‘There could be a Fremantle Society - and you can do it - but you’ve got to get the mayor on side. You have to make an appointment tomorrow to see Sir Frederick Samson.’15

Sir Frederick was a Fremantle legend. Grandson of pioneer settler and liquor merchant Lionel Samson, his ancestors in England were connected to wealthy banking families like the Rothschilds; however, Sir Frederick himself was regarded as a ‘rough diamond’ by his contemporaries. His family had already produced

page 23 contains an image

page 24

two mayors of Fremantle; he himself became the third, serving as mayor from 1951 until he retired in 1972. He had a passion for Fremantle, and regarded Perth as something of a foreign country. He was always singing Fremantle’s praises, and eventually became generally known as ‘Mr Fremantle’.16 Sir Frederick was chiefly responsible for the retention and restoration of the Fremantle Lunatic Asylum, yet he could at the same time announce the death of Fremantle as a residential area. He saw nothing wrong with demolishing the Johnston Memorial Church, built in 1877, and replacing it with the ugly Johnston Court high-rise apartment block in Adelaide Street in the centre of the city. He also saw the striking art deco Oriana cinema pulled down in 1972 when he was secretary of Hoyts, and replaced by single-storey shops set back from the original building |r line in accordance with the overall plan for High Street. He told Ron Davidson that city housing should be removed because ‘people brought the rats’.

Such was the short but powerful, charismatic and contradictory figure on whose support Fremantle heritage depended. Despite some reservations about what he had let himself in for, Les pressed on.

Sir Frederick received him cordially and thought the idea of a Fremantle Society a good one. However, he reminded Les that he had just retired as mayor, and thought an approach should be made to current members and council officers. So Les sought out Murray Edmonds, the Deputy Town Clerk and one of the promoters of ‘Fremantle: Preservation and Change’. While in Edmonds’ office at the Council Chambers Les looked out the window at the handsome three-storey brick and limestone warehouse opposite. This was precisely the sort of building that should be preserved at all costs, he said. Edmonds said he should look quickly; that building was to be demolished in a couple of weeks to make way for the Myer building.

Les came away from the meeting with Edmonds with a sense that urgent action was needed, and put together a steering committee to discuss the possibility of forming a Fremantle Society, and to work out its possible structure and objectives. The committee consisted of Les’ colleague Barbara Bennetts; another teacher,

page 25

Marny Worth (now Marny Lee); Roy Edinger, a pharmacist from Bicton; Jenny McNair, who acted as secretary for the group, and architecture student Warren Kerr, who went on to become national president of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects in 2004. The committee was chaired by Les, and met at John and Marny Worth’s house in Burt Street to plot the next steps.

Les also wrote to the Paddington Society in Sydney, the North Adelaide Society and the Emerald Hill Association in Melbourne to seek their advice on the best way to proceed. All three organisations responded enthusiastically, agreeing that Fremantle was worthy of preservation, and that the formation of a Fremantle Society was very important. They also provided advice on dealing with Council, stressing the importance of producing well-researched documents drawn up by people with relevant expertise. The Paddington Society and the North Adelaide Society also sent copies of their constitutions, which included official statements of their objectives.

Encouraged by this positive response, Les wrote to the City of Fremantle requesting that their Exhibition Hall be made available for a public meeting to be

page 26

held by the Fremantle Society, outlining its aims as:

1. To provide a responsible voice on matters affecting the overall character and development of Fremantle and to encourage the interest of residents in civic affairs.

2. To improve the Fremantle district as a desirable residential and commercial area without destroying its unique character.

3. To encourage the retention and restoration of buildings of historic and aesthetic value.

4. To encourage the further beautification of the district through more tree planting etc.

5. To foster the development of the city as a major cultural and entertainment centre.17

Despite some reservations about the appropriateness of the time of year for public meetings, the City agreed that such a meeting could be held on 6 December 1972. The steering committee swung into action, putting up posters around the city and talking to as many people as possible, urging them to attend and to spread the word.

Les had prepared a speech, but was terrified at the prospect of having to deliver it, having had little experience of public speaking. And it seemed briefly as though he would be let off the hook: the meeting was scheduled to start at 8 p.m., and by 7.45 p.m. only four people had arrived. Others started trickling in, however, and in a short time about four hundred people packed the hall. Most were not from Fremantle itself, as relatively few restorations of old homes had started. There were some members of the National Trust (WA) present, including the Trust’s secretary, Mollie Lukis, and some members of the Royal WA Historical Society, but most of the crowd was composed of residents of East Fremantle, Bicton, Cottesloe and other nearby suburbs. Les recalls that:

There were people from all sorts of walks of life, and of all sorts of ages, who came to the meeting. A few I knew of, and a few when they identified themselves were obviously well-known people, such as Paddy Troy, the union leader.18

The meeting was chaired by prominent local personality Kevin ‘Rusty’ Christensen, whose family had lived in Fremantle since the late nineteenth century. His grandfather had been a sail rigger, his father a lumper and Rusty had worked as a roof carpenter and then in real estate. It quickly became obvious that all those present were concerned about the future of Fremantle and were very much in favour of forming a Fremantle Society. It was an enthusiastic crowd, and Marny Lee remembers it as a very exciting evening, where ‘it felt as if we could actually do something — change our community for the better.’19 She nominated for the committee, as did Paddy Troy, UWA lecturer in architecture John White and lecturer in English and flamboyant actor Neville Teede.

So did lots of other people. Les recalls that the nominations just kept coming; when the number on the executive and committee reached twenty-two he felt he had to call a halt, and invited other interested people to leave their names and addresses. Les himself was unanimously voted in as inaugural President.

There was a humorous moment when Neville Teede challenged Rusty Christensen on his pronunciation of Fremantle. ‘Fremantle!' he declared. ‘Not Fremantle' (which was a favourite of commercial radio announcers). That dispute still continues, although someone did say at the meeting that Captain Fremantle had often spelt his name ‘Freemantle'. Then there was a difference of opinion over the joining fee for the Society; twenty dollars was suggested but Paddy Troy insisted that membership should be accessible to everybody. Paddy won the day, and two dollars was decreed to be the joining fee. A hundred people joined on the spot.20

The meeting also unanimously agreed to pursue aims which would be in direct conflict with the City of Fremantle’s official planning policies. Battle was about to be joined.

page 28

Chapter 3: Into the Lion’s Den

The formation of the Fremantle Society at the same time as the election of the Whitlam Labor government in 1972 was a happy coincidence, certainly for the Society. Both had similar views about the importance of communities and of Australian heritage. Even while in opposition, Gough Whitlam had proclaimed in a policy speech that government ‘should see itself as the curator and not the liquidator of the national estate'.21 He also saw Fremantle as being particularly worthy of interest, and is quoted as saying that ‘Fremantle will receive special attention as it is one of the few towns in Australia that retains its historic character and is at the same time a thriving community'.22

The Fremantle Society was quick to cement this potential relationship. Radical unionist Patrick

page 29

‘Paddy’ Troy, who was on the inaugural committee of the Society, was chosen to write to Tom Uren, newly appointed Minister for Urban and Regional Development, introducing the aims of the Society and asking for the financing of a study aimed at the protection of Fremantle’s ‘character and identity’.23 Paddy Troy, workers’ hero and perhaps the most respected face in Fremantle, wrote in a very formal manner - Dear Mr Minister, Yours faithfully - so his personal relationship with the minister was not revealed. But then Paddy Troy wrote business letters in this formal way too. Tom Uren, heavyweight boxing champion, survivor as a prisoner-of-war of the Burma-Siam railway, witness of the Nagasaki atom bomb, supporter of communities and their heritage, and great bloke, responded with ‘Dear Paddy’ and ‘Yours fraternally’. He was optimistic about an early announcement of a ‘detailed study of Fremantle’s buildings and environment.’24 He was also encouraging - one of his personal staff had recently toured Fremantle with City Manager Stan Parks and Council’s consultant architect Rob Campbell, and had been most enthusiastic on his return to Canberra.25

There was another happy coincidence. The architect and driving force of the Australian Labor Party’s policy for the creation of the new federal Department of Urban and Regional Development (DURD), was Dr Pat Troy, Australian National University urban planner and son of Paddy. Pat Troy had been offered the headship of DURD but preferred to be Deputy Secretary with a general responsibility for the department’s programs, including social justice issues. He was determined

page 30

that DURD would be rigorous in its handling of grants to communities, with no favouritism to be shown - but Fremantle was his home town.26

The Fremantle Society had been working on a new planning scheme with thirty ideas for Fremantle’s regeneration. It was called ‘Ideas for a City - Fremantle’. This concept plan broke new ground by dividing the City of Fremantle into distinct areas, each with its own character - the West End, Phillimore Street, the Esplanade area, the Fishing Boat Harbour and the residential area beyond Hampton Road. There was a special emphasis on the West End and the need to protect it from the proposed bypass which would involve the destruction of Henry Street. In March 1973 they forwarded copies of this document to DURD, to the state government and to the City of Fremantle.

Here the Fremantle Society hit a stern reality check. The Society believed Council would be won over by the reasoning and good sense behind their

page 31

planning for Fremantle. However, Stan Parks, the ever-wise City Manager, took the Society executive aside and pointed out that rationality was, of itself, rarely enough when it came to planning matters. He said committed Fremantle Society councillors were required in the chamber in order to really make a difference.

However, there were glimmers of hope. The group which had produced ‘Preservation and Change’ (this was now known as the Preservation Group) put out a new document in February 1973, ‘Changing Fremantle’. In this the five members of the group presented their individual views about progress and preservation. Predictably, the City Planner and Engineer Ken Bott and Building Surveyor Eric Morriss produced relatively brief statements generally reiterating their vision of a modernised Fremantle with a minimum of preservation.

The other three were much more concerned about the potential loss of Fremantle’s essential character with the destruction of existing buildings. Murray Edmonds even issued a warning:

If we fail, or simply care too little, then we can sit back and wait - it won’t be a long wait - for that once identifiable, once proudly different place called Fremantle to be renamed what it will inevitably become - Port Perth.27

More importantly, the Preservation Group persuaded the Fremantle City Council’s Cultural Development Committee, of which it was an offshoot, to urge Council to approach the federal Labor government for finance to undertake a study of Fremantle and its special needs. In addition, the Cultural Development Committee recommended that until such a survey had been carried out, all plans to demolish or alter buildings, or to build new ones, had to come before the Council for evaluation. This recommendation was adopted by the Council in February 1973 and a process was put in place according to which all developments would come before the Executive Committee of the Council, and that the Executive Committee in turn would consult the Preservation Group before making recommendations to the full Council.28

page 32

In addition, the recently appointed committee for an inquiry into the National Estate, chaired by prominent QC Justice Robert Marsden Hope, visited Fremantle and met with Les Lauder and other Fremantle Society committee members. They were given a tour of Fremantle, and were suitably impressed, describing Fremantle as ‘a gem’ and ‘one of the most intact and significant historic areas left in Australia.’29

These were promising developments, but it was still true that an overwhelming majority of Fremantle councillors were strongly in favour of modernisation and progress, and Stan Parks’ advice to get Fremantle Society people on Council was sound. When Les Lauder heard Charlie Rule - who had represented North Ward since 1947 - calling for the demolition of the Round House, which he described as ‘a nuisance’, he decided there and then that Charlie Rule would have to be the first to go and that he, Les, would stand against him in the May 1973 elections. The Round House, after all, had been chosen as the logo of the Fremantle Society. Les had moved to Fremantle in early 1973 from Cottesloe, so was now eligible to stand for Council.

Somewhat bemused, Mayor Bill McKenzie, who generally agreed with the Fremantle Society’s aims and plans, protested that Charlie Rule was ‘quite a nice bloke’ and should be allowed to keep his seat. However, he did nothing to prevent Les standing, and even provided him with advice and tips on campaigning - like not to forget fences and footpaths.

The campaign was massive. An elaborate card system was prepared for

page 33

each ward member. Les doorknocked the entire North Ward, campaigning on a program of stopping further industrial expansion at the expense of residents, removal of offensive industry and reviving North Fremantle as a place to live. With voting being optional, his aim was to get the vote out. Doorknocking to get the vote out started early and did not finish until just before 8 p.m., when polling stopped. Many non-voters were not pleased to have their evening disturbed, but still, Les got a very favourable reception overall.

He also encountered a lot of hopelessness. North Fremantle people told him they had tried petitioning Council to change its policies but had got nowhere, and the councillors currently representing the area could also see no way of reversing the damage being done to local communities by the mania to industrialise at all costs.

Thankfully, there was no shortage of volunteers to help Les. Membership of the Fremantle Society was by then over five hundred, and many were full of enthusiasm and eager to do something. There were also some notable names from across the political spectrum who came to help on the actual election day: Kim Beazley Senior, ALP federal member for Fremantle and successor to John Curtin, the family of then Governor-General Sir Paul Hasluck, Paddy Troy and other union members all turned up. Sir Frederick Samson (who had authorised Les’ campaign pamphlets) handed out how-to-vote cards. The result was a record voter turnout (over 70%) and a landslide victory for Les, who got twice as many votes as his opponent.

During his campaign Les Lauder had promised local residents to call a public meeting on the future of North Fremantle. After his record win he was determined to deliver on his promise, and organised such a meeting at the North Fremantle Town Hall in July of that year. A very large number of people came, and Les presented them with a petition he had drawn up. This called for Council to drop its existing planning scheme for North Fremantle, and rezone the area to protect residential properties. The petition was enthusiastically and unanimously endorsed by the meeting, and large numbers of volunteers distributed it around the North Fremantle area. It ended up being signed by ninety per cent of local residents.30

Always partial to a bit of drama, Les presented the document to the full Council. In his words: ‘I think I flung it on the table, and people were rather stunned when I read it out and mentioned the numbers of people I spoke for.’ It was received with some hostility by City Planner Ken Bott, whose vision for North Fremantle was being attacked, and by Councillor Esme Fletcher, who shared her husband’s

page 34

views about Fremantle being only fit for bulldozers.31 However, by the end of 1973 the Fremantle Society newsletter could announce that almost the whole area east of Stirling Highway had been rezoned residential, as had the area southwest of Quarry Street in the city section of North Ward. The industrialising blight had been arrested.32

Les managed to get on the influential Planning Committee immediately and began a campaign to get rid of the City Planner and his industrialising vision. He found allies in Mayor Bill McKenzie, and City Manager Stan Parks, but generally Council attitudes were hostile: long-serving Councillor and member of a notable Fremantle merchant family Bob Higham demanded to know what right Les had to talk about Fremantle, when he had only been there ‘five minutes’. Les had his response ready: ‘I chose to come. You chose to leave.’33 The relationship did not improve over the years.

Les Lauder entered Council at a crucial and interesting time. A preliminary survey of Fremantle buildings and an assessment of how Fremantle should develop had finally been done. The federal government had established the Cities Commission to work with the Department of Urban and Regional Development and with the newly formed Hope Inquiry into the National Estate to come up with a five-year plan for national development and conservation. As part of its inquiry, the Cities Commission appointed a private company, Maunsell & Partners Pty Ltd, to do an initial study of Fremantle’s historic sites. This study, ‘Fremantle Historical Buildings - Initial Study’, was submitted in July 1973. It acknowledged and largely supported the arguments contained in the Fremantle Society’s ‘Ideas for a City - Fremantle’. It also recommended a thorough study of Fremantle’s inner city area and a review of Council regulations to ensure that development could be controlled to protect existing buildings and streetscapes.

Fremantle City Council, on the urging of Stan Parks, applied for and received funding from the federal government to undertake such a study. Maunsell & Partners, in conjunction with Assistant City Planner Rob Henwood and Council’s

page 35

consultant architect and Preservation Group member Rob Campbell, were commissioned to do this follow-up study. This was finalised and presented in September of the following year, as ‘Fremantle: Guidelines for Development’, and essentially confirmed the principles outlined in ‘Ideas for a City - Fremantle’. It proposed a Town Planning Scheme which included as one of its objectives ‘the conservation of the unique historic and architectural character of Fremantle’ and recommended strict height restrictions.34

These developments augured well in the long term for the Fremantle Society’s vision for the future of the city. In the meantime, however, major battles loomed.

Chapter 4: The Battles Begin

page 36

When the first dedicated Fremantle Society councillor was elected there had been on Council’s books for some months a development proposal for a sixteen-storey glass office tower on the north-east corner of Kings Square. The development was backed by a collection of Fremantle notables.

The Fremantle Society had already lodged formal protests against the tower in February and April of 1973, pointing out its unacceptable bulk and scale. It had received an assurance from Stan Parks before the May Council election that the project had not yet come before Council, and was still in a very preliminary stage. However, it was soon given elements of a Crystal Palace and presented to the new Council with a glittering commentary. No superlative was left unused: the glass tower ‘will restore what is fast becoming a dead heart which will be abandoned at night to the drunken brawls of the class of people that frequented East Perth ten years ago’; their ‘Victorian style building will make Fremantle one of the tourist attractions of the Southern Hemisphere’ and without it ‘Fremantle will languish as a small fishing village.’ And to clinch the argument

page 37

the developers assured councillors that ‘the Golden Age of Architecture in this city is yet to come.’ 35

According to Les Lauder, when the Society rejected these arguments and continued to resist the building, financial inducements were offered. These offers failed to move him, so there were late-night phone calls threatening to cut him up and use him as craybait; and of course the beheaded rooster mentioned at the beginning of this book.

The debate within Council also turned nasty. Full Council was asked to remove from the Planning Committee Denis Sowden, the colourful butcher who used a converted Rolls-Royce as his delivery van. His Fremantle credentials were impeccable. His great grandparents had walked off the Long Jetty carrying their cases and found a room in South Fremantle. Despite this background Denis was to be punished for campaigning vigorously against the glass tower: he was subjected to bitter personal abuse from the proponents of the tower before being kicked off the Council’s Town Planning Committee on a 9-7 vote.

Finally Stan Parks took the leaders of the debate aside, mentioned the possible dangers of a police investigation for some of them, then commented on their behaviour. He told them in a characteristically blunt turn of phrase to ‘pull their heads in’. Rob Campbell suggested a compromise and proposed the height be pruned to four storeys on the street frontages with an eight-storey tower in the rear. The Planning Committee unanimously backed the compromise, but full Council was evenly divided on the proposal. It was carried on the casting vote of Mayor Bill McKenzie - the first of more than ten occasions when the mayor’s casting vote saved the day on a Fremantle Society issue. The proponents, including Deputy Mayor Ron Warren, Councillor Bill Hughes and his son-in-law Alan Bond, initially refused to accept the scaled-down version but eventually a four-storey building went up.36

In 1974, a year after being elected to the Council, Les Lauder was also appointed to the newly formed Interim National Estate

page 38

Committee which the Whitlam government had created to assess applications for restoration funding pending the creation of an Australian Heritage Commission. Les believes he was probably chosen on the recommendation of Paddy Troy, but the appointment was a real coup for the Fremantle Society.37 The National Trust (WA) had also been strongly involved with the Hope Inquiry into the National Estate, putting forward submissions, forwarding its heritage registers and escorting members of the inquiry around National Trust sites, as well as advising the state government on its dealings with the inquiry. A representative from the National Trust would have been a more obvious choice for a Western Australian appointment to the Interim Committee, but clearly Les and the Fremantle Society had acquired a higher profile with the Whitlam administration. Interestingly, with the change of the federal government at the end of 1975 the Court Liberal government recommended the replacement of Les by a more Liberal Party oriented National Trust representative.38 However, in the meantime Fremantle benefited greatly from Les’ appointment; almost half of the initial 1973-74 National Estate grant sum of $325,000 was specifically allocated for work in Fremantle.

Fremantle Society’s link with the Whitlam government was further demonstrated when Federal Minister for the Environment and Conservation Moss Cass visited Fremantle and was taken on a guided tour by Les and Society Vice-President Helen Mills. He was appalled by a huge pile of scrap metal dumped on Leighton Beach by the Fremantle Port Authority and horrified by the plan to run a freeway through the West End of Fremantle that he had just inspected. Les and Helen discussed with him the need for affordable housing in Fremantle, especially for old people, and raised the issue of possible federal funding for the Council to acquire and restore old properties. Dr Cass advised an approach to the Federal Minister for Housing, Les Johnson, and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Tom Uren.39 This resulted in 1975 in a grant of $120,000 from the National Estate to the City of Fremantle to establish a rolling fund for a small houses scheme.40

Despite these breakthroughs and despite their acceptance of the published ‘Fremantle: Guidelines for Development’ many Fremantle councillors were still unconvinced about Fremantle’s worth as a historic port city, and in 1974 Ken Bott was still pushing for the demolition of Fremantle Markets to make way for a set of traffic lights at the intersection of Henderson Street and South Terrace. The requirements of traffic flow would necessitate that the intersection be moved

page 40

southward, and the Markets building was the only one owned by the Council. This move was strongly opposed by Stan Parks and the Fremantle Society, who believed that the Markets should be restored and revived. Les remembers that he was about to leave for a meeting of the Interim National Estate Committee in Canberra, while Stan Parks was rushing through a plan for restoration of the Markets together with a request for Commonwealth funding. It was not ready by the time Les had to leave for the airport, and the Deputy City Manager ‘arrived panting at the airport just as I was about to board,’ carrying the completed submission.41 The funds were granted, the Markets were restored and there was a triumphant reopening in October 1975.

From about 1973 there were strong moves to demolish Victoria Hall, the neo-classical church hall in High Street designed by prominent architect J.J. Talbot Hobbs. it featured a vaulted ceiling of polished wood which could almost be ‘played’ like a musical instrument by those who knew how to ‘throw’ their voices. Later Victoria Hall was where Fremantle bands played and Fremantle kids learned to dance. The hall was owned through the 1960s and 1970s by Norm Wrightson, bandleader and barber (six chairs, no waiting) and his brother Bob who had recently been crowned ballroom champion of the world. The brothers wanted to replace Victoria Hall with a single-storey office block.
For the Fremantle Society the plan represented a double threat: there was the loss of one of the few original buildings still left east of the Town Hall, and more importantly, any demolition and new building would spur the widening of High Street by more than 5.2 metres on either side. That requirement had been on the books since the Stephenson-Hepburn plan came out in 1955.

Renowned environmental activist and president of the NSW Builders Labourers Federation Jack Mundey had visited Fremantle a year earlier. He had strong connections with the Society; Les Lauder had met him through the National Estate Committee, and he was also a friend of the Society’s Vice-President Helen Mills. Jack Mundey and Helen were both councillors for their

page 42

respective states of the Australian Conservation Foundation, and had met at a conference in Melbourne.42 He was a famous advocate since the 1960s of the use of Green Bans to save buildings for the community. The Society wrote to the current secretary of the local Builders Labourers Federation (BLF) to ask for help to get a Green Ban placed on Victoria Hall. By the time the letter arrived a young Kevin Reynolds had wrested the secretary’s job from the incumbent. Reynolds wanted evidence that there was strong community support for a Green Ban on Victoria Hall. BLF organiser Bob Olsen set out to produce such evidence.

Olsen was a member of the Fremantle Society committee, but this night he wanted to remain anonymous. He disguised himself and his trailer numberplate with soot and oil, threw aboard some picks and shovels and parked his Simca and trailer outside Victoria Hall. Then he proceeded to make the noises of a demolition gang; he knew these noises well.

Fremantle was, at that stage, in a state of high alert for any late-night (unauthorised) demolitions. It seemed that here was one. 'Get moving with those floorboards. The truck arrives soon,’ called Bob. Someone heard this and shouted, ‘Ring Les!’ Mobile phones were still twenty years in the future. A crowd soon gathered to stop the apparent demolition of the hall. Bob Olsen disappeared into the night. Next morning there was a meeting on a BLF site and Bob could report the public interest demonstrated the previous evening. The Green Ban was applied.

Nonetheless, at a full Council meeting in March 1974 it was decreed by a vote of 10-8 that demolition of Victoria Hall could proceed, and the owners organised an auction to be held on 26 June. The auction was going well and the auctioneer was about to drop the hammer and sell the hall when two figures emerged from the crowd and announced that there was a Green Ban on the building. One was Society Vice-President Helen Mills, pushing her baby in a pram and holding a toddler by the hand; the other was BLF organiser Bob Henry. The crowd dissolved. There was no sale.

From time to time over the next twenty-five years Victoria Hall remained under threat, once as a cane furniture shop, until it was bought by the City of Fremantle in 2000 and serious restoration of the building began under the supervision of the Council’s heritage architect Agnieshka Kiera. Then in 2005 it became home for the Deckchair Theatre.

A number of Fremantle Society members who came from conservative leafy suburbs like Dalkeith, Nedlands and Claremont were not happy to see union muscle being applied to stop workmen from using their muscles on demolitions. It is reported in Fremantle Impressions that Bob Olsen went (anonymously) to Norm Wrightson’s Hairway for a shave and Norm was running the cutthroat razor over Bob’s throat. At the same time he was telling the man in the next chair what he would do if he came across ‘those union people’.43

It was the second time that such conservative members had had reason to be unhappy. On the first occasion a councillor, John Green, wanted to demolish

page 44

Dalkeith House at 160 High Street and replace it with ‘a state of the art' funeral parlour. Councillor Green already had a funeral business in Fremantle; he also had no idea of the history of the house he wanted to demolish. Dalkeith House had been the iconic home of James Gallop Jr and it had a considerable history involving trade union militancy. In 1952 there had been a large demonstration when all the tenants, mostly workers on the wharf, were evicted. Two thousand unionists from the Seamen’s Union, the Waterside Workers Federation, the Railways Union and Paddy Troy’s old union, the Painters and Dockers, threatened strike action to close the wharf. The Painters and Dockers were deregistered over this threat. When he heard of the threat to number 160 in 1974, Paddy Troy declared it ‘was sacred territory’ because of the earlier action and could not be touched.44 The following year Councillor Green died suddenly and the threatened building became a community school for a while, then a home for the followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, incorporating a padded soundproof screaming room for therapeutic purposes. It eventually became the home of Jenny Archibald while she was president of the Fremantle Society and later a

page 45

councillor and then mayor of Fremantle. Since 1994 it has been the local base for the Dharmapala Buddhist Centre.

The Fremantle Society had another success when the old fire station in Phillimore Street was destined for demolition in 1974, to be replaced by a new building which would be out of sympathy with the very intact Phillimore Street precinct. The Society recognised that the facilities at the fire station were inadequate and that a new building was needed for the Fire Brigades Board to operate satisfactorily. However, they advocated strongly that the old building be retained, and a new fire station be built on railway land next to the existing building. Mayor Bill McKenzie agreed to negotiate with the state government about this, and eventually won agreement that the land should be released for this purpose. The old fire station remained, and is currently home to the Bengal Indian Curry House.45

The clash between the self-styled Fremantle Council modernisers and the Fremantle Society supporters was intense and extended from 1972 to 1976. However, Les won a decisive victory after much lobbying and consultation with Stan Parks and Mayor Bill McKenzie: in late 1974 his nemesis Ken Bott was replaced as City Planner by his former assistant, Rob Henwood. Henwood had done a similar world port city tour to that undertaken by Murray Edmonds, and had also returned full of enthusiasm about the preservation and restoration of buildings.46

In 1974 the City of Fremantle received $151,000 from the National Estate Committee for various restoration projects, including the Round House and Fremantle Markets. This grant was also to be used for an inquiry into the future use of Fremantle Prison to be conducted by Rob Campbell. Additional grants that benefited Fremantle were made to the National Trust for restoration of the Scots Church and of the Community Education Centre for Princess May School. There was also a grant for the restoration under the auspices of the National Trust of a private dwelling in Norfolk Street, Fremantle.47 This was highly unusual, and was only possible in Western Australia because of the existence of a National Trust Covenant which ensured that future owners could not demolish or alter the property in question without the permission of the Trust. This arrangement did not exist in other states.48

The City of Fremantle grant also provided $3000 to assist in a study of the feasibility of restoring the Evan Davies Library building in South Terrace and converting it for permanent use as a theatre. Part of the building had been used

page 46

for some time by an amateur drama group, the Harbour Theatre, and this group had made the submission to the Department of Urban and Regional Development for the National Estate grant.

Initially the Council, by a slender majority, actually voted to reject this grant. There had been repeated attempts to tear down the historic building. The modernisers wanted an emphatic win — a demolition — to reassert their dominant position within the Council. They mocked its usefulness. You could fire a shotgun down South Terrace and not hit anyone, strident moderniser Esme Fletcher told Council.49 The Society felt it was at a turning point in Fremantle’s fortunes and pulled out all stops to save it, even though the building was not in the main historic precinct of the West End.

The Evan Davies building was a carryover from the days of working-class education and literary institutes. In the 1950s, it had been the state’s first free municipal library, for which Councillor Davies had been a passionate worker. In November 1972 the Fremantle City Council resolved that the library site ‘be developed as parkland when the building is no longer required for library services.’ It would have to be a very small park. The library moved into a new building beside the town hall in 1974. In August 1975 Councillor Warren wanted the earlier resolution reaffirmed. But in the 1975 elections two more Fremantle Society committee members had been elected to Council: Gerard MacGiil for North Ward and Don Whittington for Hilton. When Councillor Warren moved adoption of the 1972 motion, councillors Lauder and MacGiil played for time and moved to refer the matter back to the original committee, the Executive Committee. To everyone’s surprise this was carried.50

It was by now a complex motion with a couple of negatives to negotiate along the way. Was this part of the plan? Certainly some modernisers may have thought they were voting to demolish the building when they supported the motion. Over the next year there were further attempts to demolish Evan Davies, through the Executive Committee claiming that parkland would provide far greater amenity for the citizens of Fremantle. But Mayor McKenzie, as chair of the Executive Committee, refused to move the motion. Les Lauder and Gerard MacGiil again quickly moved the matter back.

Led by Les Lauder, Gerard MacGiil and Don Whittington, the Society and Harbour Theatre lobbied relentlessly to have Council accept the National Estate grant and fund the study. In record time Rob Campbell produced a favourable report on the building which included a notional design developed by theatre

page 47

design consultant Peter Parkinson. This design assumed that the whole building would be made available for theatre use.

Petitions were also organised; by August 1975 the Council had received two petitions from the public. One, with eighty-two signatures, came from local traders and shoppers who asked that the building not be restored. The other, presented by Les, carried 2742 signatures from people wanting it restored and turned into a theatre.51

Mayor Bill McKenzie called a public meeting on the matter in October 1975, which was attended by several hundred people. Discussion largely concentrated on the expenses associated with restoration. Fremantle Society representatives argued that if Fremantle destroyed a historic building classified by the National Trust it was unlikely to receive grants in future from the National

page 48

Estate. In the end the meeting voted overwhelmingly in favour of retaining the building, and requested that Council staff prepare a financial report.

Despite the large petition and the feeling of the public meeting, the modernisers persisted in moving the motion for demolition. However, they were swimming against the tide. In May 1976 four more Fremantle Society members were elected to Council: Amelie Whittington, Peter Newman, Mark Staniford and June Boddy. The numbers were shifting. By late 1976 the Fremantle Society newsletter could announce that the Evan Davies building was safe at last. It had been saved on the casting vote, once again, of Mayor Bill McKenzie, and the Council had accepted a $35,000 National Estate grant for its restoration.

After the victory Bill McKenzie told Les Lauder: ‘I don’t know what you see in most of these old buildings but I know that what you are doing is the right thing.’52

Chapter 5: The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

The mid-1970s saw the Fremantle Society enjoying a great deal of success with a significant number of its members being elected to Council and its victory over the retention of the Evan Davies building. It was certainly a clear indication that the tide, in Fremantle at least, was turning in favour of heritage preservation. However, at the same time the Society - and the City of Fremantle - also lost a very important battle.

For some years doctors and clinical staff at Fremantle Hospital had been complaining about inadequate facilities and asking the state government for funds to upgrade these. Finally in 1974 the hospital board was able to announce that $23 million had been allocated by the government through the Public Works Department to build extensions to the hospital.53

An upgrade of facilities was welcomed by everyone, but what the Public Works Department was now proposing was really to turn Fremantle Hospital into a major regional hospital. The extensions consisted of two seventeen-storey towers in South Terrace, and involved the demolition of the South Terrace Primary School. This was not acceptable to many people.

At its meeting in July 1975 the Fremantle City Council rejected the plan, arguing that while an upgrade of Fremantle Hospital was certainly necessary, a large modern regional hospital should be built on a site near Murdoch University to serve the entire Rockingham-Fremantle-Armadale area. Fremantle was not the geographically appropriate place for such a hospital, which should be situated in the centre of the region and have ample parking and easy access. It called for an Environmental Impact Statement.54

The Fremantle Society agreed, pointing out that the Council had been trying to revive the area for residential purposes, and that the proposed extension would involve the demolition of shops, dwellings and a school. A Society spokesman was quoted by the West Australian as saying that it was ‘idle for the hospital board to be disconcerted by criticism when it consistently fails to consult the community and formulates its plans in secrecy with the Public Works Department.’55 The Society also emphasised that it wanted Fremantle preserved ‘not as a museum, but as a thriving, intact community, capitalising on its history and its unique character.’55 There was strong support for immediate action to develop a regional hospital near Murdoch University, and a deputation which included Mayor Bill McKenzie and the charismatic Mayor of Melville, Jack Howson, waited on the Minister for Health, Norman Baxter, to urge that this be done. A public petition organised by the Fremantle Society also supported this proposal, and called for a public meeting to discuss this issue.57

The Fremantle Hospital Board protested that it had long been criticised for not ensuring that its facilities kept up with demand, and now it was being criticised again when these shortcomings were about to be remedied. It pointed out that the proposed extensions, which had now been reduced to eleven storeys with only eight above ground level, would provide ‘urgently needed beds, outpatient clinics, administration, pharmacy and pathology departments.’58

The public meeting called by the Fremantle Society’s petition was held in Fremantle Town Hall on 11 March 1976. The town hall was packed, and the tone of the meeting was set by Mayor McKenzie when he opened proceedings by attacking the Minister for Health, Norman Baxter, who was present at the meeting to answer questions about the hospital.

page 51 contains an image

page 52

Baxter had appeared on television the night before and had suggested that McKenzie was calling the public meeting for political motives, as there was a mayoral election in May and a state election the following year. Bill McKenzie strongly objected to this insinuation, pointing out that he had no intention of standing for the Fremantle seat, and that he was obliged to call a meeting when a ratepayers’ petition demanded it. He condemned the minister’s remarks as ‘snide’.

Things went from bad to worse. Opponents of the extensions pointed out that the excessive enlargement of the hospital would involve resumption of desperately needed inner city housing as well as causing traffic problems, noise pollution, and parking difficulties while also inappropriately dominating the city skyline. They also strongly objected to what they called the ‘secrecy’ surrounding the extensions and the lack of consultation with the public.59

Two resolutions were overwhelmingly passed at the meeting. One, moved by Councillor Dick Cotton, was ‘that an environmental impact study of the proposed extension be undertaken immediately.’ The other, moved by Councillor Les Lauder, was a several-part motion calling for ‘an early start to the Lakes Hospital, and a restriction of work at Fremantle to that necessary for the Fremantle community’s needs.’60

The minister’s response was uncompromising. He said he would take no notice of the resolutions, and was ‘not prepared to mess about any longer with environmental studies.’61 He held aloft a large plan, the latest version of the hospital, demanding, ‘Now isn’t that a good building?’ ‘No. It’s horrible,’ came the reply, along with intermittent booing. The minister exploded. He threw the plans on the floor, stamped on them and threatened to leave the meeting. He took particular exception to a cartoon drawn by architect and Society member Geoffrey London that showed a hospital bulldozer demolishing a Fremantle church. ‘Bulldozers are never bigger than churches,’ said the minister dismissively.

The minister was not at his best that evening. Earlier he had made a comment about being surprised at the ‘strange’ and apparently sinister voices he had heard attacking the hospital extensions. A number of the speakers had recognisably English accents, one of these being Councillor Gerard MacGill, whose distinctive northern speech the minister had apparently found unacceptable.62

The crowd erupted. The meeting passed a motion of no confidence in the minister with loud cheers, whistles and foot-stamping. Deputy Mayor Dick Cotton summed up the feeling of the crowd: ‘I don’t think any fair-minded person here tonight could be anything but utterly disappointed with this minister. The way

page 53

the minister has behaved tonight is an insult to the people of Fremantle.’63 While the meeting had seemed like a triumph for the Society, there had been straws in the wind to suggest otherwise. Two women spoke of how the their daughters had been saved by prompt action by the hospital staff. Others mentioned the hospital pay cheques.

The Fremantle Society’s position was unequivocal: ‘Expanding Fremantle is a panicky, interim, stop-gap, attempted solution to this crisis. Not only is disastrous for Fremantle, it is of doubtful value to the region and only evades the real issue: the provision of a proper regional hospital at the proper place - the Lakes site, near Murdoch University, where over two hundred acres is set aside for hospital purposes.’64 It also announced the formation of a Lakes Hospital Action Group, convened by solicitor Peter Batros and consisting of Mayor Bill McKenzie, Councillors Les Lauder and Gerard MacGill, architect Geoffrey London and Melville Councillor Terry Lockwood. It was to argue its case before the Premier and the Metropolitan Regional Planning Authority.65

However, the Society was shocked when Deputy Mayor Dick Cotton (who was also a member of the Fremantle Society) moved from being a leading opponent to a very public supporter of the hospital extensions. He was by then on the Fremantle Hospital Board and had changed his mind on the issue. He moved a motion at Council which said ‘the development was urgently required to provide the upgraded hospital facilities so badly needed for the people of Fremantle and its near neighbours. It was not feasible for the building to be altered - except for a minor modification - and construction should start without delay. The overall planning by the Medical Department rightly gave priority to the Fremantle extensions because of its current hospital needs.’66 He explained his change of attitude: ‘Initially I had some misgivings about the extent of the hospital development. Later I saw the people most concerned at the hospital and I changed my mind. I make no apologies for doing so. What I saw led me to believe that the Council has no option but to support the project because of the substandard accommodation and overcrowding at the hospital ... What is more important, the aesthetic appearance of a building or the hospital services the city so badly needs?’67 Councillor Cotton’s motion failed to pass by just one vote, with another hospital supporter absent. The close vote meant Society supporters would have trouble getting Council to mount

page 54

a costly injunction against the state government, which had been their much advertised tactic.

The once useful weapon of union bans was also becoming problematic. The Amalgamated Metal Workers Union had put a ban on the Fremantle Hospital extensions a couple of months before Councillor Cotton moved his motion. However, the Trades and Labor Council was simultaneously asking the state government for ‘urgent action on sixteen building projects, including hospital extensions, to ease unemployment.’ With building jobs becoming hard to get, union enthusiasm for such bans was waning.68

Another blow to the anti-extension lobby was dealt by the Director of the Department of Conservation and Environment, Dr Brian O’Brien, who prepared an environmental issues report that came out in favour of the extensions. He stated that while ‘environmental factors should be an integral part of the design of such projects’ he felt that the hospital’s surroundings were presently unattractive, and, interestingly, that ‘ugly buildings can be tolerated.’

He summed up his findings in a letter to the Commissioner of Public Health:

In summary, while there may reasonably be objections to the proposal on the above environmental issues, none is sufficiently compelling, in my opinion, to justify intervention and delay in providing urgently to the community additional hospital facilities which your medical advisors clearly believe are needed.69

The Fremantle Society was outraged at what it saw as a ‘betrayal’ of the Fremantle Council and community when at the end of 1976 it was announced that the state government had awarded a contract for coordination and management of $25 million worth of additions to Fremantle Hospital. It was claimed that the improved hospital would work closely with the future Lakes Hospital which would I eventually become the regional and major teaching hospital south of the river.70

The Society was disgusted at the lack of consultation, claiming that the building had been ‘designed in a vacuum without reference to the local authority, MRPA or anyone else’71 and that no concessions had been made to the local environment. It also hit out at the opinions expressed by Brian O’Brien:

For this space scientist to make such a statement about a complex architectural and town planning issue on the basis of one afternoon's

page 55

discussions is to abuse the trust the public places in him as Director of the Department of Conservation and Environment.72

The Society sounded an interestingly contemporary note when it criticised the excessive emphasis on hospital building and treatment at the expense of preventative medicine and promotion of healthy living. It also expressed the opinion that with this very large expansion of Fremantle Hospital, the Lakes Hospital would get put on hold.73

The Fremantle Society was right. It was not until 2006, thirty years later, that the State Minister for Health, Jim McGinty, announced that a regional hospital was to be built at the Lakes site at Murdoch.

Stopping the massive extensions to Fremantle Hospital proved beyond the Fremantle Society despite them winning most of the arguments about the project between 1974 and 1976. Hospitals are different from other developments. They are seen as good per se, regardless of how hideous they may look and however geographically wrong the chosen site may be for a regional hospital. Medical politics always beat resident politics. And so it proved.

Another near disaster happened soon afterwards. On 23 August 1977 Mayor McKenzie announced without warning that he would be resigning in the following month and there would be a by-election in October. He was responding, he said, to ‘mischief making’ in the Council. He didn’t say what the mischief was but it was thought to be the mayoral ambitions of Denis Sowden. The resignation was chilling news for the Society, which had benefited from the mayor’s rulings and guidance.

The Society was galvanised. Fremantle Society councillors Lauder, Newman and Fred Watson asked for a meeting to discuss the matter but the mayor refused to call one. However, support flooded in from trade unions, Fremantle organisations, business, local politicians and eleven councillors, and culminated in a full-page advertisement calling on the mayor to stay. In the face of all this support Bill McKenzie relented, agreed to stand and was elected unopposed.74

One disaster may have been averted, but the Society was facing another divisive problem which had a less happy result. A newsletter in September 1976 had advised members that the committee was investigating the possibility of establishing a Fremantle Society Small Houses Scheme. This was an idea inspired by a Scottish National Trust scheme, which involved purchasing a run-down house, restoring it and selling it under a protective covenant which prohibited its modernisation or demolition. The proceeds could then be used to buy more

page 56

houses and follow a similar process, and eventually enable the Society to acquire permanent headquarters. Members were invited to comment and make suggestions on this idea.75

Not long after the announcement in the newsletter, Les Lauder announced to the committee that he had taken out a personal loan to purchase a neglected but potentially impressive house at 70 Hampton Road, one of a duplex pair.

He requested that the Society take over the loan in its name, and begin restoration work; the committee agreed to this, though some members, particularly Vice-President Don Whittington, expressed reservations about the process.76 Academic architect John White also questioned whether enough volunteers with trade skills would come forward for the project to be viable.

There were some enthusiastic supporters of the housing scheme, and donations towards the project were received from a considerable number of members; the Society arranged for tenants to occupy the house, and restoration commenced quickly.77

However, opposition to the purchase of the house was also gaining momentum. In May 1977 a letter from Society member Kevin Dwyer was published in the newsletter expressing the feeling of a growing number of members. Kevin objected to the Society acquiring a debt of over $20,000 without referring the matter to a general meeting in order to start a process that by definition would make cheap houses expensive. He also queried the need for a permanent headquarters, claiming that the use of different venues was a preferable option.

Les Lauder responded in the same issue, pointing out that members’ views had been called for, and there had been no opposition to the plan when It was put forward; he also reminded members that the Society had been trying to find a headquarters since 1974 in order to store materials it had acquired and which were currently ‘scattered amongst many members.’78

However, the issue continued to cause growing dissension among members, especially over the amounts being spent on its restoration, and finally the Fremantle Society committee voted to sell the house and end the conflicts once and for

page 57

all. However, members who opposed this decision and wanted to retain the house asked that a special genera! meeting be convened to vote on the matter.

The special meeting was held in August 1977 at the Fremantle Town Hall and attracted 120-odd members. A motion was put to the meeting calling for the house to be kept and the current tenancy retained pending eventual sale to acquire headquarters, and the motion was carried. The Society’s newsletter reported that eight members who had supported the committee’s decision for an immediate sale of the building then walked out of the meeting, including the Society’s Vice-President Gerard MacGill, committee member Don Whittington and the Society’s Secretary Winnie Dwyer. As minute taker for the special meeting, Winnie had to hastily find a replacement before departing. Gerard then resigned as vice-president through a public letter in the Society’s newsletter. He claimed that the Society was spending much of its income on the house as a top priority and he did not feel that this should be its main concern. He did not, however, resign his membership at this stage.79

The purchase of the Hampton Road house caused serious division in the Society, and its restoration continued to drain its coffers. An attempt was made to auction it in 1979 but a series of administrative problems made it impossible to dispose of until May 1981 when it was finally sold for $39,500.

The Society’s then treasurer, Brian Jeffries, made an exhaustive analysis of income and expenditure on the house, calculating that in the end a profit of only $2696 had been made, as the original mortgage had been taken out at a time of very high interest rates. However, the price of the house had doubled so the Society was able to recoup much of its considerable expenditure on restoration and maintenance, and to emerge with a healthy bank balance.80

The treasurer warned against any further dabbling in property, and the Society’s constitution was amended to prohibit any real estate purchases over $2000 without approval by a two-thirds majority of members at a general meeting.81

It was an unfortunate experience for many on the Society’s committee and executive. Ironically, had the Society kept the house for another few years it would have seen its value skyrocket with the news of the America’s Cup challenge.

Chapter 6: A Good Place to Live

The Fremantle Society had wider aims than the protection of significant historic buildings. Possibly its most important aim was contained in object (b) of its inaugural constitution: ‘Encourage the improvement of the Fremantle area as a desirable residential and commercial district whilst retaining its unique character.'

To this end subcommittees were set up to give advice on restoration of old houses and provide information about availability of materials and relevant tradesmen. Where old houses were being demolished, the Society organised the rescue of fittings, timber, stained glass and iron lace, mantelpieces, plaster roses, doors, windows, skirtings and anything else that could be reused, often also raising funds for the Fremantle Society. In the 1970s this operation was largely managed by Les Lauder and a young local antique dealer, Richard Brouwer, who was also then on the Fremantle Society committee.

The Society was tirelessly promoting Fremantle as a good place to live. This was at a time when many residents were leaving for newer suburbs that were established when market gardens outside Fremantle were being subdivided for housing. Many Italian, Croatian and Portuguese settlers wanted to get out of their wooden and limestone houses and into brand new brick and tile. Their tum-of-the-century cottages in Fremantle reminded them of houses in their European villages. They hadn’t travelled to the other side of the world to live in an old stone house again. However, many found that the! suburbs usually lacked comer shops, friends and a Fremantle city centre within walking distance. When they wanted to return they found that ‘new people’ had already moved in and prices had gone up.

The new people, often attracted by Fremantle Society publicity, were younger and better educated than the original owners of the old houses, but frequently didn’t have much money. They moved into houses which were in bad shape. Many had served for years as low-cost rental accommodation, where potentially imposing dwellings had become doss houses for destructive drunks. The Society wanted its members and supporters to buy any available limestone houses pre-1925. The next step was to restore them - properly. The society put out a policy document. It offered lists of old, restorable houses on the market to all members, as well as advice on skilled tradesmen and restoration materials. It maintained a pool of hard-to-get materials for sale and a stock of iron lace for loan to members so they could recast missing pieces for their old homes. Authentic restoration was the aim. To oversee this, Les Lauder toured Fremantle and East Fremantle in his noisy beige VW giving instructions; he was an expert who suffered no disagreement.

Fremantle became in the 1970s and early 1980s a city of house restorers. As the authors, Ron and Dianne Davidson, were part of this wave, their experience was probably typical. They were looking for a cheap house, liked the cosmopolitan feel of Fremantle, and were persuaded by Les to move there in 1976. Society member Annie Woollett was then keeper of the list of available houses and took

page 60

Ron and Dianne on a trip around a collection of turn-of-the-century villas.

They stopped in Fothergill Street, high on a limestone ridge with a panoramic ocean view. Like many of the turn-of-the-century limestone and brick houses in Fremantle, the house Annie was showing had seen better days. It had been a scrap metal dump after being a fine middle-class house, part of a speculative block of five - two villas and three workers’ cottages - at the top of the ridge that overlooked Fremantle Gaol (as it was then known), where the first owner worked as a doctor. All strata of society were represented at the top end of Fothergill Street including a merchant prince and a pioneer educator and politician.

Ron and Dianne’s house, like the one next door, featured a bay window and a fine living room, complete with an elaborate ceiling and a servant’s bell.

The servant had lived out the back in a weatherboard room just big enough for a bed and a wash basin. When the Davidsons first saw the house all that was holding the roof together were several thick coatings of red oxide paint. There were still holes the size of a lumper’s fist. However, rain tumbled down the steeply pitched roof so fast that only an occasional stream lodged on the elaborate moulds of the lath and plaster ceilings. When rain reached the wall it amalgamated with accumulated cooking fats and remnants of tar deposited for decades by hand-rolled cigarettes. Mothers hated their sons and daughters buying these houses. Ron’s mother was characteristically direct: ‘Why would you want to live in a slum even if it did cost only $25,000?’ The same view was expressed by several of Ron and Dianne’s friends.

It was a lucky house, though, if not for the previous owner. A former Italian

page 61

owner had decided to remove was holding the roof anything old rather than moving out. There wasn't to he much left that was old except for occasional bits of wall: no bay window; no old woodwork; lowered ceilings; blue tiles on the roof; and terrazzo everywhere. Then fate had a say. The morning that destruction was due to begin the owner had a heart attack and abandoned the project. The house was allowed to decay gracefully for another seven years.

Bank managers had reservations about houses like the one the Davidsons were looking at. The Society at its formation received a letter from a member saying she had been unable to buy an old house in East Fremantle because the bank wouldn’t lend the full amount. While waiting to arrange for extra money someone at Council put the owner in touch with a developer who paid the full price in cash and demolished the house. The Fremantle Society sought advice from the Paddington Society. They had had the same problems until they convinced banks that old restored houses went up in value much more quickly than modern ones. Ron and Dianne finally managed to convince their bank and bought the house.

The first task was to strip the house of the flat plastic paint which made it look like an aquamarine blob. This involved the spraying of caustic soda on the paint, which was no picnic. Occasionally a house-stripper would sit in a caustic pool. It was not uncommon then to see them, pants down, being given sprays of vinegar to neutralise the caustic burns. Not surprisingly, tradesmen didn’t want these particular restoration jobs or didn’t have the skills to do them. Owners had to learn on the job. They did wondrous things. Without any experience, for instance, Ron laid a pine floor which has stood the test of time.

A small group of older tradesmen did undertake serious repairs for Fremantle Society members. They were passed from one restoring owner to another with reverence and flattery. When the Davidsons were surprised to discover that the chimney that had serviced the tiled fireplace in their elegant lounge room had come down eight years earlier during the Meckering earthquake they put out a call for Bob Keppie, the Society’s extraordinary bricklayer. His charge was seven dollars an hour, with the owner acting as his brickie’s labourer.

Bob liked to tell his amateur assistants he had done his apprenticeship fifty years earlier as a lad living in Glasgow. During winter Bob would leave a saucer

page 62

of water on his window sill. His mother checked the water next morning. If it was frozen the weather was too cold for bricklaying and she let him sleep. Otherwise she sent him off to the almost freezing building site. Building towering smoke stacks which tapered ever so gently upwards became his specialty.

Bob in 1976 was an invalid pensioner with serious stomach problems and attitude. Each morning at eight he’d be standing on a wooden scaffold he’d built around the remnant of the Davidsons’ chimney, wearing shiny silver-buckled shoes that never seemed to get dirty. Bricklayers were sculptors with bricks, he would tell Ron a little grumpily, as Ron stumbled along a scaffolding plank with the first bucket of mortar. Ron was told to call it mud. The sculptor with bricks gave instructions - but only once. A blade of grass or a pebble brought a terrible stare for the assistant. At 2 p.m. it would be knock-off time for Bob to play bowls: his assistant would collapse.

Stan Henderson was one of the Society’s master carpenters. He’d arrive on the job with his fifty year old - probably original - tools. Over the years his saws

page 63

had been sharpened until they shimmered like a rapier. His chisels were mere stubs. With these saws he did wonderful things. He eschewed the electric saw.

The next old tradesman on the scaffold was John Pope. John was a seventy-ish plasterer who could still cut and run a mean mould. There were no prefabricated fibreglass moulds around in those days. John was as outgoing as Bob Keppie was self-contained. It was his job to run moulds on the Davidsons’ new brick chimney and on the front fence that had been demolished by an overloaded scrap-iron truck and had to be rebuilt. He’d stand on the chimney, scour surrounding back yards and look for neighbours to tell that the weather on the roof was ‘as cold as a frog’s foot’ and other colourful phrases.

Any house having problems with its stumps - and few didn’t - needed Victor Pampling. Victor was an enthusiastic Englishman who worked under houses rather than in them. He made ricketty kitchen areas sound. But at a high personal cost: when last seen by the authors in the 1990s Victor was suffering from mesothelioma as a result of encounters with asbestos dust under houses. He died soon after.

Eitan Friedman was a Society tradesman - tiler - who was very different from all the rest. He was an anarchist in the true sense of the word who fitted well into seventies Fremantle. Eitan was a young Israeli with three engineering degrees and three desert wars behind him. He didn’t like either. But he had worked during university holidays with his grandfather who had taught him the art of laying tiles that varied slightly in size: somewhat like the Victorian and art nouveau tiles house restorers wanted him to lay. Eitan disliked rules and wasn’t worried by time. The house next door booked him for 10 a.m.: he was knocking at the door of the Davidson house at 10 p.m. He was like that.

With time conservation tradesmen became more common and more formally trained - but less picaresque. Fremantle people became richer and could afford to have their houses restored in one hit. A Fremantle pastime passed. When last seen by the authors, Eitan, the last of the old school, had been on crutches for ten years after a motorbike crash. He now paints and makes superb jewellery. He still dislikes rules and clocks.

The Fremantle Society also fostered social life in Fremantle in the seventies through its frequent fundraising activities and celebrations. Pre-restoration parties were happening all over town, as well as wine and cheese nights, quiz nights, poetry readings, film evenings and, best of all, the annual bush dances which were attended by hundreds. For newcomers to Fremantle the Society

page 64

provided an entree into a group of friendly people who would often form lasting friendships or, occasionally, intense dislikes.82 Social life was also promoted by colourful entrepreneur Nunzio Gumina, who transformed his Papa Luigi’s cafe into a late-night venue with outdoor tables where the Fremantle Society newcomers frequently spent their evenings discussing their restoration efforts - with those in the know drinking Nunzio’s specialty ‘three bean’ coffee which was considerably enlivened by the addition of a strong slurp of Sambuca.

A very popular Society fundraising function was the fete held annually from 1974 to 1976 in the gardens of the East Fremantle home of Neville Teede and Keir Matheson, where there were white elephant stalls, books, pot plants and home-made jams, cakes and pickles for sale. Surprisingly large amounts of money were raised at these fetes to support the Society’s work.83

A major landmark social event was the display at the Fremantle Arts Centre of over one hundred outstanding photographs of Fremantle buildings, taken by lawyer, Society member and photographer extraordinaire, Michal Lewi. The exhibition was held in November 1974 and was opened by the Society’s patron, Sir Paul Hasluck; many of the buildings pictured

page 65 contains an image

page 66

had been recently classified or recorded by the National Trust as the result of a survey done by the Fremantle Society.84

Another popular Society event which was to become the most long-lasting annual fixture until the mid-eighties was the house inspection tour. Printed sheets were handed out to participants that gave the addresses of half a dozen houses, with some information about the history of each house and the progress of its restoration. Fremantle Society members were invited to visit these houses, wher owners were available to take people around and answer any questions they might have. There were no restrictions on perfect strangers wandering around people’s houses, and most did not remain strangers for long.

Chapter 7: A Long-term Success Story

page 67

Another area the Fremantle Society involved itself in almost from the start was history, with a Historical Research subcommittee being established in 1974, convened by Society committee members Ruth Wight-Pickin and Marie Scott. The group began by arranging talks by Professor Geoffrey Bolton, writer and researcher Rica Erickson and the curator of history at the WA Museum, David Hutchison, on how to do basic historical research.85 They also informally consulted Dr Tom Stannage from the History Department at the University of Western Australia (UWA) on ways to improve their research methods.86

The group initially scoured the Battye Library for any material relevant to Fremantle, and published some early Gallop family letters in the Society’s newsletter. During 1975 the Society’s newsletter, now formally named Fremantle, featured a regular page entitled ‘Fremantle through the years’ that contained quotes from a variety of early newspapers about matters relating to Fremantle.

page 68

In 1974 the Society successfully applied to the federal government for a grant to enable the Historical Research group to buy two tape recorders and four dozen tapes, as well as some basic history books aoout Fremantle Western Australia and more particuIarly Fremantle.87 The group recorded an irnpressive twenty-two interviews with longstanding Fremantle residents, but could not recruit enough volunteers to keep the project running beyond 1976.

The enthusiastic amateurs were briefly replaced at this point by a high-powered subcommittee which included some professional historians as well as the president of the Society Les Lauder, and was convened by Kenneth McPherson, an academic from the Centre for South and Southeast Asian Studies at UWA.

The group planned to continue oral history and collect photographs, and aimed to produce ‘a composite publication which would concentrate upon the changing pattern and style of life in the city.’ Despite these somewhat grandiose aims its existence was in fact short-lived.88 In 1979 Kenneth resigned from the Fremantle Society committee due to pressure of work, but he also registered a complaint that most committee members seemed to be ‘strangely apathetic' about history. However, he recommended strongly that the oral history program should be continued.89

As it happened, early in 1979 the Society had surveyed its members and asked them to indicate what their interests were. Enough people claimed to be interested in Fremantle history for a meeting to be called in June by the Society’s convenor of activities, Gerda Fowler, who invited Larraine Stevens, librarian in charge of the Local History Collection at the Fremantle City Council Library, to talk to the Society about the aims and methods of oral history.

The timing turned out to be fortuitous. At this time oral history was beginning to be taken seriously by professional historians as a respectable source of formation about the past, and the Oral History Association of Australia (OHAA) had been formed in 1978. Larraine had become interested in getting an oral history project under way for the Local History Collection after taking part in an oral history course run by Jean Teasdale, organising secretary of the OHAA. The renewed interest of the Fremantle Society was an unexpected bonus.

As a result of the meeting a specific oral history sub-group was formed by the Fremantle Society under the convenorship of UWA academic Kathy Power to collect reminiscences by local residents about Fremantle and its history. The

page 69

Fremantle Society joined the OHAA as an institutional member, and several members of the oral history group attended its first national conference, which included workshops on interviewing techniques, and Annual General Meeting in August 1979 at Mt Lawley College in Perth,

At the same time Larraine was asked by the Fremantle Society to take charge of the twenty-two tapes that had been recorded in 1974-75, as the Society had nowhere suitable to store them. Larraine offered to catalogue the tapes and make them available to researchers; no easy task, as the interviewers of the early 1970s had had no guidelines for the recording of oral history. Many interviewees had since died and Larraine had the unenviable task of tracking down relatives to sign release forms for the interviews. There was also no record on the tapes of the interviewers’ names, and these had to be identified by voice by Marie Scott. Eventually, however, Larraine had a good foundation for her oral history project.90

Whatever Kenneth McPherson’s reservations may have been about the viability of the oral history group, from its rebirth in 1979 it continued to go from strength to strength. Kathy Power left Fremantle for Subiaco in 1980 and the group then acquired the convenor who was to remain in that role for almost twenty years, the indefatigable and dedicated Alice Smith. Alice began as an enthusiastic amateur, but attended OHAA workshops and conferences and soon became an expert interviewer. Alice also benefited greatly from the guidance of Larraine, who became an indispensable member of the oral history group herself, and could point out areas where the Local History Collection needed more material.

Through the 1980s the group consisted of between eight and ten members, the most prominent being Alice Smith, Gerda Fowler, Zoe Griffin, Phoebe Freeman and Larraine. Their oral histories were planned around themes, with the first major theme being ‘Entertainment in Fremantle’ in 1983; interviews were recorded with members of Harbour Theatre, Spare Parts Puppet Theatre and Deckchair Theatre, which was then just getting started, as well as with members of bands and orchestras.91 ‘Fremantle in World War II’ followed in 1985, along with interviews done with the staff and original owner of the Fremantle Gazette after its takeover by Community Newspapers. Interviews with the staff of Freecoms grocery store in Adelaide Street were done in 1986-87 and in 1988 the group focused on the horse industry, once very important, especially in South Fremantle. They also did a series of interviews with the staff of the legendary Fremantle department store, Pellews.92

page 70

But by far the most important project the oral history group worked on in the 1980s was its contribution to the 1988 Australian Bicentenary. In 1978 a group of historians and social scientists in the eastern states had decided to produce a series of volumes to describe various aspects of Australian life and history from 1788 to 1988. This project included preparation of a book about life in Australia in 1938 that was to incorporate a lot of oral history. Jean Teasdale was appointed the coordinator for Western Australia, and three areas were selected for study: Peppermint Grove, Subiaco and Fremantle.

The Fremantle Society oral history group was the group chosen to work on the Fremantle area for this project, and Alice, Larraine, Gerda Fowler, Zoe Griffin and Phoebe Freeman received special and detailed training. They were provided with questionnaires which covered all the details of everyday life in 1938: birth details, names of parents, schooling, work, household organisation, details about houses and inhabitants and how the households worked, courtship, marriage, health care, contact with those of other nationalities, role of Royal Family, and any perceived external threats. In addition, interviewees were encouraged to explore, if possible, more intimate details, such as sexual relationships, homosexuality, sex outside marriage, miscarriage, abortion — with optional anonymity offered.93

page 71

Twenty interviews were carried out by the oral history group, and completed well within the stipulated time, which earned an accolade from Jean Teasdale. Much of the material was incorporated in Australians 1938, which formed volume 4 of the twelve-volume Australians: a historical library, which was published to celebrate the Bicentenary and distributed to libraries throughout the country.

In 1987 the Fremantle City Council Library organised a function at which the Mayor, John Cattalini, presented the oral history group with an official commendation certificate from the City of Fremantle, acknowledging the group’s major contribution to the Local History Collection.94

The oral history group met monthly at various places over the years. Its members listened to interviews that had been done and discussed them, noting what seemed to have worked and what hadn’t, and putting forward suggestions for improvements. It became an important social group for its members, and Larraine remembers her involvement with the group as one of her most satisfying roles during her long service as Local History Collection librarian.

The relationship between this very successful group and the Fremantle Society was curiously ambiguous. It was always listed as an official subcommittee of the Society and from 1982 Alice Smith was also a formal member of the Society’s committee; she also reported regularly in newsletters on the activities of the oral history group. But the group appeared to have its own separate social activities, organising talks, workshops and visits to other groups and places. These were not advertised in the Fremantle Society’s newsletter; instead, the group publicised its functions through community newspapers and radio stations.

During the time when the Fremantle Society was struggling to put together even a newsletter in the mid-1980s, the oral history group was at its peak, and in fact the only substantial issue of Fremantle in 1985 was devoted entirely to the activities of the oral history group.

Alice Smith did preserve an active link to the Fremantle Society proper in organising the Society’s annual walks around Fremantle, with commentary on the history of its buildings, usually held during some significant Council event such as Fremantle Week, Fremantle

page 72

Festival or Heritage Week. These walks usually finished at the Society’s headquarters at Princess Chambers, where there were photos and artefacts on display for people to look at.95

The oral history group’s last major project was the South Terrace Primary School Oral History Project, which ran from August 1994 to January 1995. The group had dwindled by now to half its former size, with only Alice Smith, Daphne Goulding, Zoe Griffin and Phoebe Freeman remaining, with Larraine still taking an advisory role. They interviewed twenty-one former students, while eight other students produced written recollections of the original school, which is now part of Fremantle Hospital. A front-page story in Fremantle when the project was completed noted that ‘All former students referred to the original South Terrace Primary School as the “Big” school, and the then adjoining Alma Street School as the “Infants” school.’

Tapes and recollections were stored in the Local History Collection, with copies in the Fremantle Primary School library.96 Nearly ten years later a very successful book was produced by the school’s P & C Association that must have drawn heavily on this invaluable resource.97

But the group’s energy was running out, and while members continued to meet regularly for a few more years the meetings became more social events than business sessions. The group finally disbanded in 1999, after twenty years of dedicated service to Fremantle history.

It was certainly one of the Fremantle Society’s most valuable and lasting contributions.

Chapter 8: Troubled Times

page 73

For the Fremantle Society the turbulent 1980s really started in 1979 with Sir Charles Court closing the Fremantle-Perth railway to ‘save on maintenance’. Les Lauder had resigned as president in 1978 and had been replaced by June Boddy, a very determined social worker with government Disability Services. She wrote to Sir Charles to protest against the closure, pointing out the work that had been done by both the Society and the Council to restore and promote the historic port and its potential for attracting visitors. This letter elicited a curious reply. The Court government was expecting increased traffic to Midland and to Armadale, but not to Fremantle. It seemed to have a strange blind spot about the port city, which at the time was clearly already developing strong tourist potential. Only a few years later, in 1983, it was to win the prestigious international Pacific Area Travel Association award. The Court government did not seem to see this coming.98

A Friends of the Railways group was formed in March 1979 at a meeting of eight hundred people at the Perth Town Hall, with Fremantle councillor and Society member Peter Newman convening its Citizens Action Group, which

page 74

included representatives of the Railways Union, the Environmental Centre and the Fremantle Society. The Federal Member for Fremantle, John Dawkins, convened the Politicians Action Group, of which State Member for Fremantle John Troy was also a member. Within a month the Friends of the Railways had collected 99,840 signatures for a petition against the closure and Peter Newman presented the petition to the Minister for Transport on the steps of Parliament House. The minister’s response was that the government would take no notice. This prompted the Leader of the Opposition, Ron Davies, to point out that in dismissing what he believed to be possibly the largest petition ever presented to state parliament the government was demonstrating its undemocratic nature.99

The Liberal government might have been able to ignore public opinion, but they couldn’t ignore the Railways Union. The union stepped in and refused to pull the track up, thus saving the railway line for the long term. The Fremantle-Perth railway was reopened in 1983 after the election of the Burke Labor government.

Both John Dawkins and Society President June Boddy had been prominent at protest meetings and marches along the railway track. They also used to meet while exercising their large dogs on the open spaces of Fremantle Park. One day Dawkins made June Boddy an offer she had to refuse. Dawkins wanted the Fremantle Society and the ALP to work together to support ALP candidate Norm Marlborough in South Ward for the forthcoming council election.100 She said this was not possible: the Society made a special point of not aligning itself with political parties and pointed out that party policies were usually not relevant to issues coming before Council. Then a demand followed almost immediately. Fremantle Society committee member Alyson Hulley-Jeffries, whom the Society

page 75

was supporting for South Ward, was to withdraw from the contest, or the Society’s other candidates would be targeted. This demand was rejected.

Until this time there had been a fairly comfortable relationship between the ALP and Society members. They were often the same generally progressive people, and some Society members were members of the ALP. But there were also members who supported the Liberal Party. Sir Paul Hasluck, the former Liberal Governor-General, had been the Society’s patron since 1974 and members of his family had handed out how-to-vote cards for Les Lauder at the Society’s first council election foray in 1973.

June Boddy immediately contacted Bob McMullan, then State Secretary of the ALP, to protest. Bob had said nice things about the progressive policies of the Fremantle Society and had even sounded out Les Lauder as a possible candidate for the state seat of Fremantle. But he claimed he had not heard of any ALP push and didn’t promise to intervene, only expressing a hope that there would be no local conflict between the ALP and the Fremantle Society.101

But there was. The Society did not have long to wait for candidate targeting to begin. In 1979 June Boddy was opposed in the Hilton Ward by union organiser Clive Hughes, who would later, in the space of a single year, become MLA for Cockburn, be viewed as a prospective Labor leader, and die of an undetected melanoma. He was strongly supported by the ALP in the Hilton contest.

page 76

On 5 May a big team of Fremantle Society workers on foot and in cars swarmed over Hilton, getting out the vote and where necessary driving voters to the polls. The message was that June Boddy was independent and that was good: Clive Hughes was described as a party hack which wasn’t quite true. June won easily in a high voter turn-out and received a note of congratulations from Dawkins.

However, the election was not all good news for the Fremantle Society. There was a shock in North Ward. During the pre-election jockeying Gerard MacGill, one of the pioneering Society councillors who was elected two years after Les Lauder for North Ward, had been surprisingly beaten by an ALP member when he came up for re-election in 1978. He wanted to stand somewhere the following year, but not, originally, against the former president. So, as a party member, he sought ALP endorsement for South Ward. He failed to get this, but his request lost him the support of the Fremantle Society. He was still determined to stand somewhere, and he finally did choose North Ward where he lived and was active in the community. This led to a bitter clash between sitting North Ward Councillor and former Society president Les Lauder and one of its most able former committee members. According to Les, he was crippled by a letter to the electorate from John Dawkins withdrawing his support because he no longer considered Les a suitable candidate. Dawkins when questioned did not remember any details of the contest - not even Gerard’s name.

When Les was again elected to Council nearly twenty-five years later he was to be very critical of sustainability advocate Dr Peter Newman for Peter’s support of waterfront projects like the ING high-rise development on Victoria Quay and the North Port Quay plan to engineer a number of islands over the ocean. However, in the aftermath to the 1979 election, Peter Newman’s praise for Les was unreservedly generous and appeared in the Society newsletter of October 1979 under the heading ‘In Appreciation of Councillor Les’. He wrote of Les’ contribution during his appointment to the National Estate Committee:

Now restoration of the many public buildings became possible as someone who understood Fremantle’s unique situation was able to articulate the case in Canberra. Half a million dollars eventually came to Fremantle and each of the beautiful buildings which we now treasure was given a new lease of life. And most importantly they began to fulfil a commercial or cultural role; a new tone was set in the city. Old buildings began to get a new

page 77

image as an asset not a liability. Slowly the restoration programme spread throughout the city and even the stone houses that surrounded the city began to smile again. Les was also interested in more than just buildings though. New thinking had begun to occur that local government was more than a provider of roads and rubbish services ... Les became a staunch and articulate advocate of the many progressive ideas which marked out Fremantle ...

Les had finished his term as president in 1978 in poor shape physically: he had been living on his nerves and as a consequence had had a number of major operations because of chronic internal bleeding due to ulcerative colitis. Once he had arrived in the Council Chambers in pyjamas, escorted by supporters, straight from his Fremantle Hospital bed. He was just in time to tie the vote and bring Bill McKenzie’s casting vote into play once again - and save the Evan Davies building. John Cattalini, the local pharmacist who often voted against Les, saw how sick he looked and was shocked. Next day John and his wife Pam Cattalini, devout Catholics both, knelt beside the bed of Les Lauder the unbeliever and prayed for him to recover. He eventually did, but only after being close to death on a number of occasions.102

In a further wash-up from the Council election the Society published a five-hundred-word statement to ‘clear up misunderstandings’ regarding the Society’s position about political parties. It was essentially that the Society had to be independent, as to protect Fremantle it had to be free to deal with both political parties.103 This was what June Boddy had told John Dawkins at Fremantle Park some two months earlier.

But while June had convincingly defeated Clive Hughes, ALP member Norm Marlborough won South Ward and future Labor premier Geoff Gallop was waiting in the wings, to be elected in Beaconsfield Ward in 1983. Fremantle City Council was shaping up as a proving ground for party hopefuls.

page 78

The last year of Les’ presidency had seen the emergence of possibly the most important project the Society was involved with in the closing years of the 1970s and the early 1980s. This was its comprehensive photographic survey, originally coordinated by Fremantle architect Ralph Hoare. In August 1978 photographing commenced of all Fremantle residential buildings in North Ward, City Ward, South Ward and the western sides of East and Beaconsfield wards. These buildings were then to be indexed so that the Society could assess the architectural and historic value of both individual buildings and entire streets. The completed collection was to be made available to both the City of Fremantle and the National Trust.

Les Lauder had managed to secure a small Commonwealth grant to get the survey under way. The work was to be carried out by volunteer photographers, and film and processing costs were donated by Mayor Bill McKenzie on behalf of the Friendly Societies.104

One of the volunteers, Colin Nichol, describes vividly the personal experiences, encounters and pitfalls that awaited the photographers who contributed to this massive project:

‘Are you from the Council?’ asked the curler-decorated head. Without pausing for my explanation, dropping broom and pinning back her flapping scarf, the lady of the house grasped what she hoped was a golden opportunity to have her say over the front fence ... Say what you will about the melting pot [made up by] Fremantle residents, a common and rapidly developing characteristic is certainly vivid interest and concern for their community. They are aware of the value of their unique residential area and anxious to see it maintained.

... I had reckoned without interested bystanders and householders who either thought me a Council official or would-be burglar getting the lie of the land. Certainly I had not thought there would be so many spontaneous encounters with friendly dogs anxious to catch my runaway hat before I did or with rattled motorists nearly catching me.

Street furniture takes on a new dimension when you find the best angle for a shot of an interesting house obscured by a no-parking sign, while the many attractive trees often necessitated my climbing on top of fences to photograph behind.105

page 79

By October 1979 some four thousand photographs had been processed and were being evaluated by an assessment team consisting of Les Lauder and architects Ralph Hoare, Tony Connor, Wayne Jacks and Carl Payne. The process had its enjoyable side as the team sat around the table at Ralph’s house drinking port and assessing houses street by street. They divided important buildings into two categories: those which were important to Fremantle’s character in their present form, and those which would be important if they were restored. Les proved invaluable in the process; he had been inside many of the houses and could provide additional knowledge of interiors.107 The team identified fifty buildings which could be considered outstanding but which were as yet unrecognised, and successfully recommended their classification by the National Trust.107 The photographic survey continued into the early 1980s, now convened by Tony Connor, and by July 1983 some five thousand buildings had been photographed.108

The departure of Les Lauder from the presidency ushered in more than a decade of rapid turnover in presidents, with eleven incumbents between 1979 and 1990.109 Early in the 1980s there also seemed to be increasing difficulties about recruiting members willing to serve on the executive or on the committee, and there were increasingly frequent questions about whether the Society had a future.

The reasons for this are not clear. There were probably a number of factors at work: the strident discord over the Hampton Road house alienated a number of longstanding Society members, while the considerable Fremantle Society presence on Council by 1979 may have engendered a false sense of security in the Fremantle community.

The latter seemed to be the view of the Society’s administration, and from 1980 onwards the newsletter lamented the poor attendance at Annual General Meetings and the difficulty of attracting nominations for executive and committee positions, while stressing that in fact Fremantle buildings had no legal protection at all. Despite these exhortations, by the end of 1982 no presidential nomination had been forthcoming and the post was only filled at the last minute by local resident and oil company executive Peter West.110

Social activities such as annual bush dances, quiz nights, house inspections and walks around Fremantle continued, as did the ongoing oral history program. However, politically the Society was seeing itself as consolidating and stabilising rather than acting as an opinion former.111 In 1982 the Society moved into permanent premises in Princess Chambers in Market Street, and a lot of energy was put into cleaning up, renovating and restoring the rented rooms.112

page 80

Some important political issues did arise in the early part of this period. In 1981 global aluminium giant Alcoa, which had employees scattered around offices in the Fremantle CBD, put forward plans to Council for a three-building complex - two of five storeys and one of eight - in a Cantonment Street car park. The Society was under serious pressure; nobody wanted Alcoa to move out of Fremantle, but such a high-rise development contradicted the provisions of the City of Fremantle’s Town Planning Scheme No. 3 which was about to be implemented, and which restricted building height to five storeys. As Norm Marlborough, Councillor for South Ward, pointed out, if Alcoa gets away with breaching the Town Planning Scheme, what is to stop other corporations doing likewise?113

The Alcoa issue resulted in a sharp and public rift in the Fremantle Society. Anthony Rutherford, who took over the presidency from June Boddy in 1980, had come out in support of the Alcoa proposal, stating in a letter to the mayor that ‘While on the one hand we are concerned with the overall aesthetics of the new development, we are also concerned to encourage Fremantle’s growth as a viable commercial area.’ This outraged his predecessor June Boddy who wrote to the committee demanding his resignation, claiming that his letter was ‘an outrageous betrayal of everything the society stands for.’

June’s sentiments were echoed by Fremantle resident and master of grassroots campaigning Rick Grounds, who suggested that an alternative group should be formed now that the Fremantle Society had clearly been ‘discredited’ over its stand. Both June and Rick pointed out that the Alcoa issue had not been discussed by the Fremantle Society committee and that Anthony Rutherford had presented his own views on the matter in the name of the entire Society.

In November 1981 Councillor Dick Cotton moved to full Council that the new plan should be accepted. The plans now made the tall building ten storeys rather than eight but it was thinner. The vote was 10-7 and Fremantle Society members and supporters who were on Council were hopelessly split, some voting for and some against. The Alcoa proposal was accepted, but shortly afterwards Alcoa moved out of Fremantle anyway, using the Fremantle Council’s approval to promote an even higher building in Garden City.114

Anthony Rutherford was a new kind of president for the Fremantle Society. He was a Liberal supporter and worked in the office of a Liberal Party senator. He lived in an extensive Georgian house in Norfolk Street which had been largely restored with Commonwealth funding; later it was to become the Sala Thai

page 81

restaurant. Here he delivered to members a paper on the role of private enterprise in protecting heritage. He survived the attack on him over the Alcoa issue and went on to be re-elected unopposed as president later in the same year.115

Another major issue in the early 1980s was the Parry Street extension, a proposal to extend Parry Street from Holdsworth Street in order to curve between the Markets and the Fremantle Oval grandstand and connect with South Terrace and Norfolk Street. In its 1978 document ‘The Future Fremantle’ the Society had expressed cautious approval of the plan:

Parry Street By-Pass [it became known as PSE in 1980] has certain advantages as, for example, providing an inner-city ring road system linking through to the West End and Phillimore Street. However, it would appear to provide a barrier to the Gaol and other areas. The proposal needs to be seriously re-examined and is seen as a last resort strategy.116

However, by 1980 the Society was expressing serious reservations about demolition of existing buildings and splitting the markets - Fremantle Oval precinct; it called for a re-examination of the proposed extension.117 There was also strong opposition to the road being expressed by a new body, a Citizens Committee headed by Fremantle architect Gerard McCann. This group included a large number of prominent architects who objected strongly to a heritage precinct being divided by a road, and pointed out that a future heritage icon, the Fremantle Gaol, would be cut off from the city. The Citizens Committee wrote to councillors and local politicians putting forward their objections, and in June 1983 submitted an extensive critique of the proposal to the City of Fremantle which included alternative suggestions for improved traffic flows and parking.117

The Fremantle Society planning subcommittee headed by Society Vice-President Carl Payne and Secretary Reg Gordon supported the Citizens Committee, now also recommending against building the extension, and pointing out that existing inner-city roads should prove adequate. It recommended pedestrianisation of all roads around Kings Square and monitoring of ‘new movement patterns’ which it believed would emerge.119 Despite all this, and a petition containing 1500 signatures organised by the Citizens Committee against

page 82

the extension, the Council announced in early 1984 that the plan was to go ahead.120

There were some positive moves on the heritage front. In February 1980 the National Trust issued an official definition of the West End Conservation Area of Fremantle, and nominated the entire area for the Register of the National Estate.121 There was also a hope that with the election of the Brian Burke Labor government in 1983 Western Australia might finally get a Heritage Act, since this was part of the ALP platform.

The Society itself was also involved in a major restoration project in the early 1980s. A historic brick and stone cottage known as Winter House in Johannah Street, North Fremantle, was in poor condition and deteriorating rapidly due to neglect and vandalism. In 1982, under the presidency of journalist Baden Pratt, the Society formed a partnership with the City of Fremantle to restore the building, despite several councillors favouring demolition.122 After several months of hard work the restored cottage was officially opened on 5 November 1982, and was to win the Fremantle Society a heritage award from the City of Fremantle in 1984.123

page 83

In 1983 Alan Bond’s controversial new yacht Australia II won the America’s Cup at Newport, Rhode Island, and an announcement soon followed that the 1987 America’s Cup challenge would take place in Fremantle. Reactions to this ranged from ecstatic to wary. Society member and Councillor Peter Newman was full of enthusiasm, comparing the possible economic benefits for Fremantle to the arrival of convicts in the 1850s and the gold rush of the 1890s. Other Society members noted with apprehension that a possible new boom would bring pressure to redevelop and recycle existing buildings without any heritage protection that would ensure that this was done appropriately.124 The Burke government did not seem to be in any hurry to enact its promised Heritage Act.

Interestingly, there had been serious moves to place Fremantle on the World Heritage List, though not by the Fremantle Society. In 1982 a visiting heritage expert and member of the Board of Trustees of the United States National Trust, Robert Collins, stated publicly that Fremantle was the most significant historical area he had seen in Australia: ‘I thought that Fremantle was a world event - it is the most unique collection of nineteenth century commercial buildings.’125

Early in the following year the Mayor of Fremantle, Bill McKenzie, moved a recommendation in Council that the city manager should report on preparing a case to UNESCO to have Fremantle included on the World Heritage List. This was carried.126 A few months later the chair of the Australian Heritage Commission, Dr Kenneth Wiltshire, visited Fremantle to present the mayor with a certificate recognising the port city as part of the National Estate, and proclaiming it to be ‘probably the best example of a nineteenth century city in the world and well worthy of nomination on the world heritage list.’ He announced that the full Commission would be visiting Fremantle in 1984 to inspect it formally.127

The Australian Heritage Commission did visit Fremantle, holding its forty-fifth meeting there in May 1984, with Kenneth Wiltshire announcing that ‘Fremantle had probably more historically significant sites per square kilometre than anywhere else in Australia.128 However, in January 1985 the Daily News carried a prominent headline — ‘Freo Misses History List’. Wiltshire had recommended nomination, but the Australian Heritage Commission did not have the resources to do the research and preparation required. The normal procedure, he said, was for the state government to do this and nominate the area to the federal government which would then put a recommendation to the UNESCO Paris office.129 The Burke government expressed no interest in following this up, and the Fremantle Society does not seem to have been involved in the debate at all,

page 84

other than to note in its newsletter the failure to have Fremantle nominated and to deplore Western Australia’s lack of interest in its own heritage.

A very interesting suggestion did emerge from the Fremantle Society during this period. In April 1985 the Society had been asked by the City of Fremantle to suggest a possible project which might be funded by the Australian Bicentennial Authority’s Heritage and Environment Program. The Society’s secretary, computer statistician Brian Davies, proposed that all federal and state land in Fremantle be transferred to the City of Fremantle as a bicentennial gift, to be administered by a Heritage Management Trust which would acquire, manage, restore and maintain the properties, and which would pay rates to the City.130 Needless to say, the suggestion was not taken up.

The Society was in any case having serious doubts about its own future, and a front page headline in its May 1984 newsletter was ‘Future of the Society’. The newsletter noted that several members of the executive were planning to retire in 1985 and warned that unless nominations were forthcoming the Society would have to seriously consider calling a special meeting to consider dissolution.131 In any event an executive and committee were cobbled together from the floor, with no written nominations for the executive, and only two for the committee, one of them the ever-reliable Alice Smith.132

During 1985, housing inspections and Fremantle walks were still held, but the photographic survey was discontinued and social activities generally became the responsibility of the whole committee, which saw major events like the annual quiz nights and bush dances disappearing. The newsletter continued through 1985, but ceased publication during 1986,1987 and most of 1988.

Some other activist groups emerged campaigning on particular issues, notably the Buckland Hill Action Group which was lobbying to preserve the Hill as a major regional park linking the Swan River to the ocean, and the South Park Action and Revegetation Committee (SPARC) with its aim of restoring the South Beach area as a regional seaside park.

However, during this period the most important new group was set up by the Fremantle Society itself - CARD.

Chapter 9: Rebirth of the Society

page 85

Rumours began circulating in 1985 that a huge resort development was being planned for fourteen hectares of industrial land in North Fremantle between the Fremantle Traffic and Stirling bridges. It was to be called the Anchorage, and would come to be seen as the first element of the Burke ALP government’s dubious financial involvement with certain private businessmen which later became known as WA Inc. The land in question was made up of remnants of small-scale industrialisation in North Fremantle. It comprised a jumble of boat yards, the Rottnest barge harbour, a sail maker, a wool scourer and even an historic steam laundry. All of these were to be moved. The State Superannuation Board was the shadowy developer. The planned development was hopelessly out of scale with North Fremantle and Fremantle as a whole. A canal was to be cut through the riverbank for a six-hundred yacht marina. There was also to be a thirteen-storey hotel and residential towers. A third of the river along the coastline was to be privatised. Homes had to be found for existing industry and this posed a potential threat to recreation at South Beach as well as

page 86

destroying the traditional Harvest Road swimming area. During 1986 estimates of building costs rose from $300 million to $1 billion, making it the state’s biggest project in money terms.133

At the same time, during 1986-87, the America’s Cup defence was in full swing and the Fremantle Society, after bruising conflicts over the Parry Street bypass, the Alcoa building and the new boat harbour, had declared a truce on controversy over the time of the sail-off.134 This became a problem when it was revealed just how devastating the Anchorage was to become to North Fremantle and Fremantle as a whole and how the Society was being hampered by this truce.

The Fremantle Society solved its dilemma at a meeting attended by President Brian Davies, Vice-President David Hutchison, committee member Paul Roberts, architect Jack Kent who was also a North Fremantle resident, Society member Ron Davidson and leading members of the North Fremantle Community Association including Rex Gate and Ann Forma. The name CARD (Community Action for Rational Development) was coined by Brian Davies, who felt people may be tiring of the Fremantle Society label, particularly at a time of considerable festivities. The Fremantle Society would fund CARD and meetings would be held at the Society’s headquarters in Princess Chambers.135

The group made a deliberate decision to keep the Fremantle Society in the background and worked on research which revealed some juicy land dealings. The Anchorage and some accompanying scandals became the big Fremantle story and CARD spokesman Jack Kent appeared frequently in the daily press attacking the lack of principles of government apparent in the project. For example, the dredging for the marina put at risk the delicate piling beneath the Traffic Bridge. The Anti-Anchorage campaign included vivid illustrations showing the proposed new hotel dwarfing the existing Swan Hotel. North Fremantle screen printers produced posters drawn by local artist Mandy Browne, showing Fremantle being entangled by the tentacles of the

page 87

Anchorage Octopus. It was a triumph for skilful grassroots activism where the local campaigners were winning the arguments against highly paid professionals.

IS THIS THE FREMANTLE YOU WANT? shouted pamphlets in an extensive letterbox drop that announced a CARD protest meeting in Fremantle Town Hall. The hall was packed on 28 April 1987 for the meeting, and the audience unanimously rejected the project despite a robust defence from Tony Lloyd, the new chair of the State Superannuation Board. Next Premier Brian Burke was calling for calm and the project lost momentum when faced with a number of scandals involving land valuation and an earlier chair of the State Superannuation Board. By year’s end the Anchorage was dead despite its original momentum generated by massive state government backing.

The North Fremantle Community Association members dropped from view as the original Anchorage energy dissipated, leaving CARD with sometimes only Jack Kent and Ron Davidson as frontline activists. There were, however, other major issues brewing, of possibly greater import than the Anchorage. The publicity attracted by the America’s Cup brought to wider public notice Fremantle’s stock of handsome and cheap buildings in the West End. The eighties mining entrepreneur and winemaker Denis Horgan and his public relations man Chris Codrington had plenty of money to buy buildings for a projected Catholic private university. The future of Fremantle prison was in question. It was due to be decommissioned in 1991 and no decisions had been made about whether it was to remain in public hands or be handed over to private developers; there were questions about the appropriate development of the Fishing Harbour, and also about the increasing practice of building inappropriate new structures behind a token heritage facade, or ‘fasodomy’.

In the meantime, the Fremantle Society itself was undergoing a major crisis. It was proving more and more difficult to recruit members to the committee and executive, and in 1988 the committee decided that a special general meeting should be called to discuss whether the Society should be wound up and its assets distributed. A special newsletter was put together by the Society’s Vice-President David Hutchison notifying members of the meeting, outlining the urgent issues facing Fremantle and calling for a revitalisation of the Society.136

The special meeting was held on 23 November 1988. Intensive lobbying by CARD activists and others resulted in the best attendance in years, with the Society’s patron,

page 88

former Governor-General Sir Paul Hasluck also present. It was proposed that the motion to wind up the Society be postponed until General Business to allow nominations for a committee to proceed. Sir Paul pointed out that an official committee could only be elected at a formal Annual General Meeting, which could not be convened until the following year, and it was agreed that nominations should be called for an interim committee to allow the Society to continue functioning.

There was a sharp new awareness at the meeting that something drastic had to be done to save the Society, and ten members nominated for the interim committee: former vice-president and museologist David Hutchison, green activist Bryn Davis, real estate agent and prominent local identity John Dethridge, documentary filmmaker Paul Roberts, Jack Kent, industrial chemist Elizabeth Atahan, Regal Theatre impresario John Thornton, Murdoch University academic and Councillor Alan Petersen, local activist and historian Dianne Davidson and of course the tireless Alice Smith. All nominations were accepted, and Brian Davies agreed to continue as interim president.

During discussions about the Society’s future it was stressed that newsletters were a crucial issue, and that the Society needed to reinstate a restoration advisory service and rekindle social activities to involve members. It was also felt that the Society needed to once again make strong public statements on important issues.

Sir Paul Hasluck pointed out that it was crucial for Fremantle to retain its distinctive character and not become just another city as Perth had done. It was currently at risk, he said, and the Society had a vital role to play:

We must be ready to make a declaration or protest directed at the right target at the appropriate time. People with local knowledge and wisdom must be heard ... the Society can’t help being political, though not partisan. There are many powerful and conniving people devising schemes under a cloak of confidentiality to increase their fortunes. Eventually they must apply for permission. This is where the Society must be active, and make the right people aware of its views.

There were extensive and enthusiastic exchanges of views, and by the time the motion of dissolving the Society was brought forward under General Business it had no supporters.137

page 89

The interim committee met weekly until Christmas to work out what was needed to rejuvenate the Society, with a strong membership drive initiated through personalised letters to likely candidates, arranging publicity and organising press statements, and, importantly, finding an effective president.138

Another newsletter quickly followed at the beginning of February advertising the formal Annual General Meeting, to be held 14 February in the Fremantle Town Hall. Professor George Seddon, a brilliant and multi-talented academic who had recently become a Fremantle resident, was the keynote speaker on ‘The need for a landscape plan for Fremantle’. Former Society president June Boddy outlined briefly the history of the Fremantle Society, and David Hutchison summarised the current major issues confronting Fremantle residents.

The Annual General Meeting was a resounding success. Approximately two hundred people attended, all twelve available committee and executive positions were filled, and there was a deluge of applications for membership. Early vice-president of the Society and a former deputy mayor of the City of Fremantle, Don Whittington, was elected unopposed as the new president.139

The Fremantle Society was indeed back, full of renewed energy.

Chapter 10: Punching above their Weight

page 90

There were important battles to be fought. In May 1988 the Daily News reported the purchase of the J & W Bateman complex in Fremantle, and asked whether this collection of hardware buildings in the West End might be the future home of a Catholic university, a project which it claimed was being promoted by notable Perth Catholic entrepreneur Denis Horgan and the head of the Catholic Education Commission, Dr Peter Tannock. It also speculated about the possibility of such a university taking over the Fremantle Prison which was soon to be decommissioned, a notion which seemed to find favour with David Parker, Deputy Premier and chair of a Cabinet subcommittee set up to decide the future of the prison.140

This rang serious alarm bells with the remaining CARD members, who wrote to Fremantle councillors and the Mayor, John Cattalini, asking that a social and physical impact study be conducted before any further moves were made to set

page 91

up a university in Fremantle. They were concerned that ‘the views of a financier like Mr Horgan may be different from those of the bulk of Fremantle residents’ in that he may see an increase in property values (and hence rents) as a good thing, while Fremantle residents might find themselves forced out of their community by just such an increase. The Mayor said there was no need to do an impact study until the university planners put forward a formal submission.141

In August 1988 rumours about a Catholic university were confirmed when Archbishop William Foley made an official announcement. There was indeed a proposal ‘in principle’ to establish such a university in Fremantle, with a final decision to be made in March 1989. it was announced also that the state government had agreed to enact legislation backing the proposal and was to set up a Cabinet committee to investigate how the plan might proceed.142

Unable to get more detailed information about the proposed university from the university planners or from the Council, CARD organised a petition to call for a special electors’ meeting to protest against the apparent secrecy surrounding negotiations about the university that seemed to be taking place between a few councillors headed by Mayor John Cattalini and chair of the Council planning

page 92

committee Bill Latter, Council bureaucrats and the Catholic Education Commission.143 In the meantime, companies associated with Denis Horgan purchased the Esplanade Hotel, the former Trades Hall and the Norfolk Hotel.

The Council provided no publicity for the special electors’ meeting that took place on 15 November. Fortunately, CARD was by now very good at generating publicity and the meeting attracted an estimated five hundred Fremantle residents. The residents put forward a wide range of views. A popular one was that democratic Fremantle would not make a happy fit for the hierarchical Catholic Church. There was also a demand for information about the project and how it would affect Fremantle socially and economically.

Council representatives refused to provide any details and rejected the need for any impact or planning studies. Mayor Cattalini again emphasised that the university planners had not yet put forward a formal submission.

The Catholic Education Commission sent no representatives to the meeting, which aroused anger and resentment. A unanimous motion was passed demanding that Council call another meeting, with the proponents of the university present to provide information.144

The meeting’s hostility served as a warning for the university group. The day after the meeting Denis Horgan requested a meeting with Jack Kent (who was now spokesman for both CARD and the newly formed interim committee of the Fremantle Society) and Ron Davidson, at Jack’s office. He went straight to the point: ‘You boys could be putting Fremantle at considerable loss.’ He went on to list how ‘the boys’ might be doing this. He told them that Fremantle stood to lose economically if the university did not go ahead, and that parents of would-be students were already apprehensive about Fremantle and its reputation for sexual permissiveness.145 He went on to say his university would add vibrancy to the West End with pubs, restaurants and bars thriving.

Undeterred, the CARD representatives put forward a submission to the State Government Task Force set up to oversee the university negotiations, claiming that the secrecy which seemed to surround the plans for the university had created a lot of ill feeling among residents. CARD was calling for a comprehensive impact study to ‘set guidelines to be used by the Catholic University Planning Board in formulating its final proposal’ as clearly the impact on Fremantle would be considerable; many major Fremantle buildings had already been purchased by companies linked to the university planners.146

page 93

Jack Kent and Ron Davidson went to see David Parker at his Fremantle office to press for a social and physical impact study to be done before matters proceeded further. That was at 1.15 p.m. Five minutes later the Deputy Premier had agreed to the study. Days later he appointed Jack and Ron to a Steering Committee to organise the study through the Centre for Urban Research at the University of Western Australia.147 The CARD representatives were amazed at the speed with which agreement had been reached on the study.

In the meantime, Fremantle’s Mayor, John Cattalini, was organising a new public meeting as demanded by the special electors’ meeting, with representatives of the university proponents attending this time. This relatively swift response was in part inspired by public complaints from one of the sitting councillors and Fremantle Society interim committee member, Alan Petersen, that no one would tell him what was happening about the university.148 The Mayor was also incensed at the critical comments about Council’s handling of planning issues published in the Fremantle Society’s revived newsletter, especially relating to the proposed university.149

The public meeting was held on 24 January 1989, attended by Denis Horgan, Peter Tannock, David Parker, City Manager Ron Malcolm and the Director of Planning, Patric de Villiers. Representatives from both CARD and the interim committee of the Fremantle Society were among the crowd packing the Town Hall, but the result was disappointing. Denis Horgan was clearly out to charm the locals, though he did not always succeed. He said that the Catholic university would improve Fremantle physically and morally. Jeers followed. Next David Parker announced that he had approved a social impact study, but there was no answer to the crucial question of how the study would translate into guidelines for the proposed development. It also became apparent that the university would not be paying rates, thus adding to the already disproportionate number of rate-free properties in Fremantle.

The Fremantle Society was particularly disturbed by the large-scale purchase of Fremantle buildings by the Horgan-related group of companies, and decided to argue strongly that the social impact study group should thoroughly investigate the implications of such a concentration of ownership.150

The Society’s newly elected president, Don Whittington, initiated

page 94

title searches which revealed that at least forty-four buildings had been acquired by companies with connections to Denis Horgan, and proceeded to organise a ‘walk against secrecy’ in March 1989 to highlight the extent to which West End properties were being bought up. The walk was joined by the Federal Member for Fremantle, John Dawkins, who was also alarmed and expressed his concerns in an interview with ABC television:

I think there is an obligation, at least at this stage, for them to tell us precisely what they have in mind, because what I’ve been told involves a proposal for a very small university indeed, one which wouldn’t on the face of it need the kinds of numbers of buildings which apparently have been acquired.

The Catholic University Planning Board refused to comment.151

The university planners finally produced the Notre Dame Australia Draft Development Plan in July 1989. It stunned both CARD and the Fremantle Society. High Street was to be pedestrianised from Henry Street to the Round House, with bollards blocking off that part of the West End. A large decorative medallion filled the intersection, with trees being planted at the four corners. The orientation of Fremantle was altered from the traditional east-west to north-south, with Henry Street and Marine Terrace now providing an elaborate

page 95

entrance into the university, with a replica of the Town Hall on the left hand corner, complete with a ‘campanile’ as an entry statement. There were more trees and bollards in Henry Street. The Esplanade reserve had virtually been incorporated into the campus.

Victoria Quay was to be used for parking, a soccer and hockey field, swimming pool, gymnasium and squash courts. The Slip Street sheds were to be demolished and A, B, C and D Sheds taken over for university use.152

The Council welcomed the submission, and invited the public to comment. The Fremantle Society responded with a comprehensive commentary, urging rejection of the plan on the grounds that Notre Dame Australia (NDA) had not acknowledged even the existence of the Burra Charter, the official document adopted by the Australian branch of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) providing guidelines for the conservation of places of cultural significance. It objected strongly to the change in orientation, the virtual takeover of the Esplanade reserve, the insertion of trees into streetscapes, the bollards and the closing of roads. The Society firmly rejected any plan to hand over Victoria Quay to NDA, urging instead that an independent study be done of the Quay’s heritage value and cultural significance.153

Similar comments were made by CARD, which also objected strongly to the emphasis in the NDA plan on a clearly visible separation of the university from the rest of the West End. It pointed out that the West End as a whole was included in the Register of the National Estate and that to fragment it would be to diminish its significance and possibly even cause it to be removed from the Register.154

This was to be CARD’S swansong; with renewed energy permeating the Fremantle Society and with the election of Jack Kent to Fremantle City Council in 1989 it was decided that CARD had achieved its purpose and could hand back responsibility for monitoring proposed developments to the Society.

The Fremantle Society and CARD achieved many of their objectives in this instance; the Fremantle City Council accepted the development plan in principle, but ruled against any closing off of streets, tree planting in streetscapes or street decorations. It wanted the West End kept intact, and not divided up into university and other precincts, and stipulated that any development conform to the West End Conservation Plan. Handing over of Victoria Quay was ruled out, and it was decided to set up a committee of Cabinet ministers and representatives from the :remantle City Council and the Fremantle Port Authority ‘to look at what should be done with the most prized land package in Fremantle.’155

page 96

The NDA project was officially approved with conditions in the last week of October 1989 by the Council, and included a market in Pakenham Street for antiques and curios, a restaurant and bar in Marine Terrace and an antique furniture market in Henry Street.156 The final seal of approval came when an Act of Parliament giving official status to the University of Notre Dame Australia was proclaimed on 21 December 1989.

However, by May 1990 rumours began circulating about Denis Horgan’s corporate empire sliding into insolvency, and soon afterwards most of his Fremantle properties were being sold off as part of a $250 million asset sale.157

NDA had lost its major financial backer, and drastic changes were being made in planning the university. The planners were now looking for a less expensive site than Fremantle, possibly on the outskirts of Perth. Notre Dame Indiana was to

page 97

play a bigger role, providing books, equipment and exchange programs to bring their staff and students to Perth. NDA was still to open originally in Fremantle in 1992, using a couple of buildings and with only fifty to a hundred students and no on-campus accommodation, it would then move by the end of the decade to a larger campus north of Perth.158

In any event these new plans also foundered. A revelation that the state government had granted 150 hectares of crown land to NDA at Alkimos, forty-five kilometres north of Perth, between Mindarie Keys and Yanchep, drew an avalanche of protest from the vice-chancellors of local universities, as well as from the Federal Minister for Education, John Dawkins.159

Fremantle Society committee member Andrew Smith, who had just established a new local community newspaper, the Fremantle Herald, then revealed after determined research that the land in question had been intended for low-cost housing, and called for the land deal to come before a WA Inc Royal Commission, a call supported a few days later by the West Australian.160

The fate of the land grant was sealed when it was revealed that David Parker had made an $80 million financial guarantee in a letter to Denis Horgan only days before Peter Dowding resigned and was replaced as premier by Carmen Lawrence. A number of ALP members resigned about this time and the Lawrence government became a minority government. The whole matter was successfully referred to the public accounts committee of state parliament, with the National Party calling for a full judicial inquiry into government land deals with NDA.161

In the end Notre Dame Australia went ahead supported by grants from the Catholic Church, religious bodies and groups, and donations from individual benefactors like Bernie Prindiville, for whom Denis Horgan had once worked as an office boy. NDA was officially opened on 23 February 1992, with a parade of representatives from seventy Catholic schools carrying school flags in a street procession from the Esplanade to a newly restored former warehouse on Mouat Street, which had become the NDA College of Education.162 The slower start was to the advantage of Fremantle, which would have been destroyed by the excesses of the original Draft Development Plan. The quality of building restoration turned out better than could have been imagined originally, but the problem of what the Fremantle Society eventually came to describe as a ‘West End monoculture’ would remain.

Chapter 11: From House of Horror to Heritage Icon

page 98

Fremantle Prison had been a major institution in Fremantle since the 1850s. It was a harsh maximum-security place of incarceration, with conditions for prisoners in the late twentieth century not much different from those in its nineteenth-century beginnings. It was also grossly overcrowded. The people of Fremantle were used to its grim presence and accustomed to periodic disturbances and inevitable escapes with the attendant dangers they represented. The prison was, however, a major employer in the Fremantle area.

By 1975 the Department of Corrective Services was already planning to construct a new maximum-security facility at Canning Vale, and to relocate all prisoners by 1983.163 However, this ambitious plan failed to materialise, and a

page 99

formal decision to close Fremantle Prison was not made until the election of the Brian Burke Labor government in 1983. Before being elected Burke had publicly pledged to hand over control of the running of the prison to the City of Fremantle once it was decommissioned.164 However, once his government was elected it was resolved that the prison should remain in the hands of the state government.

page 100

Early in 1989 the Fremantle Society became aware of the existence of a draft conservation and management plan for the prison, which was dated May 1988 but had never been released for community comment. It seemed to imply that the prison would need to pay its own way, with possible commercial uses for the site to include boutiques, cafes, cinemas, flower-pots and coloured umbrellas. It contained no mention of the Burra Charter despite the prison’s listing on the Register of the National Estate. The illustrations included as part of the plan showed such massive changes as verandahs along the main cellblock and rebuilding of the interiors.

The Society was appalled at the apparently cavalier treatment of what it considered to be a potential world heritage site, and in March 1989 a Fremantle Prison Group was formed by the Fremantle Society to monitor developments. The convenor of the Group, Dianne Davidson, approached Dr Norman Etherington, an expert on historical preservation who had helped devise the heritage register for the City of Adelaide and who was then visiting Perth, for advice on further action. He strongly recommended that the Society contact Dr James Semple Kerr, a conservation architect and a leading expert in Australia on nineteenth-century prisons.

Dianne contacted Jim Kerr in Sydney, and explained the Society’s concerns. Jim told her that he had expressed an interest in working on a conservation plan for the prison in 1987 but had heard nothing since. He also expressed surprise that apparently no approach had been made to Rob Campbell, the Fremantle conservation architect who had written a report on the prison in 1975 for the Fremantle City Council and the Department of Urban and Regional Development. The report included a comprehensive analysis of its buildings and their heritage value. Jim was very interested in being involved, but he did feel it was ‘carting coals to Newcastle’ (as he put it) when Rob Campbell was already on site.165

The Fremantle Prison Group could get no adequate explanation for the omission of this resident expert from the planning team but it became quite clear that the omission was not going to be rectified. So ‘coals to Newcastle’ or not, the group decided to make a strong push to have Jim Kerr brought over to advise on a conservation plan.

The first step was a strongly worded submission in response to the draft

page 101

conservation and management plan. This pointed out the lack of reference to the Burra Charter and urged that any further planning be in accordance with Charter principles; it condemned the anonymity of those doing the planning (in contravention of the Charter), and it demanded to know why Jim Kerr’s expression of interest had been ignored. It also condemned the proposed unwieldy management structure that appeared to consist of politicians, public servants and local government officials and provided for no input from community members or historians with special knowledge of prisons or of the convict era in Western Australia.

The submission was sent in May 1989 to the State Planning Commission, from which the draft document appeared to emanate, and to David Parker as Member for Fremantle. Copies were sent to relevant ministers, the chair of the Australian Heritage Commission, the WA Museum and other organisations interested in the state’s heritage.166 There was a rapid response. The Prison Group was invited to meet with the representative of the State Planning Commission, Gerard MacGill, and architect Ralph Hoare, who had been appointed project manager by the Building Management Authority, which at that time ‘owned’ the prison. Ironically, both Gerard and Ralph had strong links to the Fremantle Society, each having been vice-president, and Ralph had played a major role in conducting a massive photographic survey of Fremantle buildings. Ralph had also won particular kudos when in the previous year he led the project to replace the

page 102

140-year-old jarrah roof on Three and Four Division roofing after the prison riot and fire. The government had been seriously considering replacing it with a flat iron roof, or even demolishing the prison altogether.167

The meeting was followed by another with the State Member for Fremantle, David Parker, who was also a member of the ministerial committee set up to provide an overall direction for the project. The Prison Group got reassurances that the heritage value of the prison was not in question, and that any future use would be strictly subordinate to this. However, it failed to get any commitment that sufficient funds would be made available for restoration of the complex, or that the Fremantle Society and other community groups would be appointed to the policy-making bodies involved.168

The Group did receive advice from the State Planning Commission that the project team would be seeking input from Jim Kerr, that the final conservation and management plan would be based on Burra Charter principles and that the project manager would shortly be convening a meeting of Fremantle community groups to brief them on the project and discuss ways that the community could continue to be involved.169

As a result advisory groups were set up to advise the planning team, and the first advisory group meeting was held in June 1989. There was an impressive lineup, with representatives from the WA Museum, the National Trust, Fremantle Chamber of Commerce, Fremantle Prison Museum, Fremantle Prison, ICOMOS-UWA, Royal WA Historical Society, the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, the Institution of Engineers, the Australian Society for Historical Archaeology - and, of course, the Fremantle Society.170

This was the first of six such meetings, but despite the undoubted expertise represented in the advisory groups the feeling was increasingly that they were not really achieving much; rather, they were only being told what had already been decided and done. By the end of the year attendance had shrunk to less than half.171

Nevertheless, the principle of community participation had been established, and in July Fremantle Society Prison Group members Dianne Davidson and David Hutchison were invited to take part in a tour of the then still functioning prison, together with, among others, local political representatives John Dawkins MHR and David Parker. Dianne and David found the experience harrowing; the overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia, the overcrowded, primitive cells and the sense of misery and anger that permeated the prison were hard to forget.

page 103

The real triumph for the Fremantle Society came when Jim Kerr was at last invited by the project team to visit and advise on the prison. He acknowledged the Society’s role in his participation by contacting the Prison Group directly on arrival in December 1989 and spending the afternoon and evening in discussions and a soiree hosted by Les Lauder, as well as attending a dinner on the second last day of his five-day visit with the Prison Group at newly elected Society President Jenny Archibald’s home at Dalkeith House.172

It was Jim Kerr’s introduction to a long-term association with Fremantle Prison. The prison was decommissioned at the end of 1991, and in 1992 he was asked by the Building Management Authority (BMA) to prepare ‘Fremantle Prison - a policy for its conservation’. This was revised in 1998, and has remained the principal guiding policy document for any conservation work done at the prison.173

The Society's push for community involvement in decision-making was ultimately less successful than anticipated. Initially there were hopeful signs when Jim McGinty replaced David Parker in 1990 as State Member for Fremantle and the following year was appointed Minister for both Heritage and Construction, the two prison-related portfolios. McGinty came as an advocate of democratic and community processes and as a heavy hitter in trade union politics. During the by-election campaign in 1990 Premier Carmen Lawrence had made a commitment to keep the prison for public purposes, dismissing suggestions that the site might be sold for development as suggested in the 1970s by Liberal Police and Prisons Minister Bill Hassell and others. McGinty saw the prison as a major heritage asset, and dismissed the commercial options as ‘absolute rubbish’.174

The omens seemed good for an independent Prison Trust to administer the prison, particularly as Jim McGinty had been on an unstoppable run as heritage minister; he even ordered the reinstatement of the facade of the illegally demolished heritage-listed Railway Hotel in Perth. However, when the prison reopened as a heritage site in January 1992, there was no sign of a Trust: Jim McGinty had failed to get funding in the state budget for such a body. The prison

page 104

was to be administered by the BMA.175

An advisory body was established to advise the minister on ‘conservation, management and future uses’, but it was advisory only. It was headed by Jenny Archibald who had by then been elected to Council and was chair of the planning committee, and it included a variety of community members. Its task was ‘to provide advice to the minister in relation to conservation and interpretation, attracting visitors and compatible uses, promotion of the precinct as an educational resource and integration into Fremantle.’ 176 Patrick Howard, a clinical psychologist, was the first representative of the Fremantle Society, and Ron Davidson the next.

For the following ten years the heritage professionals worked towards a serial world heritage listing of the prison and other convict sites. This effort

page 105

was to finally bear fruit in August of 2010 when the UNESCO committee met in Brazil and announced that Fremantle Prison had been placed on the World Heritage List.

During those ten years, a cash-strapped state government put forward a number of schemes which would have destroyed world heritage prospects, even if they funded much needed maintenance. A good example of this came in 2000 when the former ‘David Parker attitude’ of not wanting the prison to be a burden on the state surfaced again. It was a large-scale accommodation project that involved new constructions on the site. This secret proposal was defeated by carefully controlled leaks from the community representative on the Prison Trust Committee. After three headline treatments about new hotels the proposal sank. It was a narrow escape.

When Labor returned to power in 2001 it quickly set in train a masterplan process for the prison. It was the resolve of the Fremantle Society and the Fremantle History Society (which had been formed in 1994 and was becoming a major player in the prison game) that saw the emphasis shift from development to conservation and world heritage listing. Writing as the Fremantle Society representative, Ron Davidson drew attention to three questionable aspects of the masterplan — the change of the name, the stripping of the razor wire and the concentration on the convict period — in a letter to Jim McGinty. Now Attorney-General, McGinty supported the Society’s claims. He said there was no golden age of the prison and refused support of the Cabinet memorandum while it contained the three objectionable aspects.177

It was a pyrrhic victory. The community representative was apparently too politically adept in securing the Attorney-General’s support. Such community input was evidently unwelcome, and in 2004 the government moved to replace the Prison Trust Committee with the Prison Advisory Committee from which all real community representatives had been dropped, to be replaced by the mayor of Fremantle or his elected representative.

Chapter 12: Issues and Initiatives

page 106

A major concern for the rejuvenated Fremantle Society was the continued lack of progress of heritage legislation. A bill had finally been tabled in December 1987, but by the beginning of 1990 there were still objections and amendments being lodged by the Liberal opposition. The 1989 Annual General Meeting saw local resident and geologist Jenny Archibald elected president, and the new committee set up a specific Heritage Group, convened by planner David Wood.

The group met at Jenny Archibald’s home at Dalkeith House, and became involved with the drafting of the final legislation through a liaison officer for state government, Angus Hopkins. Members of the group also went to see the leader of the National Party, Hendy Cowan, who turned out to support the concept of heritage legislation, pointing out that in fact most country towns had buildings that people were strongly attached to and wanted to see preserved.178

The Fremantle Society and the Fremantle City Council also sponsored a public

page 107

meeting in March 1990 to call for the speedy passing through parliament of the Heritage of Western Australia Act. The meeting was well attended and included as speakers the Mayor John Cattalini, Minister for Heritage Kay Hallahan and Professor Norman Etherington from UWA. There was general agreement that the proposed Bill would provide reasonable protection for heritage buildings and should be passed as soon as possible.179

By the middle of the year there still seemed to be little progress, so the Society decided to organise a demonstration in July to lobby for the passing of the legislation. They chose as the site the Old Essex Street Flour Mill, which had been classified by the National Trust and was on the Australian Heritage Commission’s Register of the National Estate. There had been a long debate between the owners of the mill and the Council, who had approved some time before a proposal to

page 108 contains an image

page 109

convert the complex into a restaurant and coffee shop. However, the owners had allowed the buildings to fall into disrepair and ignored Council requests to make the site weatherproof and safe. It was felt to be a perfect example of the sort of historic buildings which would be protected by the proposed legislation from deliberate neglect.

It was a very successful event, despite the seven-foot corrugated iron fence the owners erected the night before with ‘Trespassers Prosecuted’ in large letters scrawled over it. The demonstration went ahead anyway, and was attended by both the Federal Member for Fremantle John Dawkins and newly elected State Member Jim McGinty. There were streamers, balloons, placards and live entertainment, notably by Fremantle’s historic Fu-Fu Band.180 A postcard was created featuring the demonstration, and members were urged to send it to the Premier, the Minister for Heritage, and all members of parliament, demanding that the Heritage Bill be passed as soon as possible.181

The Heritage of Western Australia Act 1990 was finally passed towards the end of the year. It was in many ways an unsatisfactory document, particularly as it vested the powers of listing and de-listing in the Minister for Heritage, making heritage a political issue. This was unlike legislation in other states that left such decisions in the hands of the relevant expert body set up to assess heritage significance. Nonetheless, it was a first step, bringing Western Australia into line with all other Australian states where heritage legislation had been in force for some time.

The other major issue which preoccupied the Fremantle Society in the early 1990s was the proposed construction by Caltex of four gigantic ‘super tanks’ for fuel storage on the North Fremantle foreshore. Caltex first announced this proposal in March 1990, and it was immediately denounced by the president of the North Fremantle Community Association, Ann Forma, as unacceptable both socially and environmentally.

The Fremantle Society agreed, and put a strongly worded submission to the Environmental Protection Authority, pointing out among other concerns that the chemicals to be stored gave off toxic gases when heated or if they caught fire. The submission queried how such toxic fumes would be dealt with in an emergency, with sea breezes blowing fumes towards residential areas. It also viewed the building of the tanks as ‘an improper and potentially dangerous use of a valuable public asset’ since the twenty-year lease proposed for Caltex would rule out more appropriate uses of the land such as residential subdivision. The

page 110

Society emphatically agreed with the slogan the North Fremantle Community Association had coined - ‘Super Tanks, No Thanks’.182

However, in June 1991 the Fremantle Herald announced that the Environmental Protection Authority had given Caltex cautious support for the erection of the tanks.183 Doubts then emerged about whether the final decision on the project could be made without amendment of the Metropolitan Region Scheme, since the state planning department had ruled in the past that railway reservations could only be used for railway purposes apart from minor short-term alternative uses. Former Fremantle Society president Jenny Archibald, who had been elected to Council in 1990 and had become chair of the planning committee, considered the Caltex proposal to be a major, long-term change to existing land use. This would need the approval of both houses of parliament, and the ALP government had a majority only in the lower house.

Les Lauder had been resurrected in mid-1991 to take over the presidency of the Fremantle Society from Jenny Archibald, and he and Ann Forma called a public meeting in the Town Hall in response to the Environmental Protection Authority decision. The meeting was held in August and attracted over seven hundred concerned residents. Strong views were expressed about the inferior environmental protection standards prevailing in Western Australia, and the majority of those present felt that any rise in fuel transfer and transport posed

page 111

potential threats of atmosphere and ground water contamination. The meeting was chaired by resident George Seddon and was attended by Member for Fremantle Jim McGinty and Planning Minister David Smith, as well as by Liberal frontbenchers Colin Barnett and Richard Court. Colin Barnett, Member for Cottesloe, had by and large been supporting the objections of residents to the super tanks.

The meeting passed unanimous resolutions calling for an overall cohesive planning approach to the future of Fremantle, rejection of the Caltex proposal, full evaluation of options for a container port, and for a delegation from the community to meet with Premier Carmen Lawrence on port planning, the latter to be arranged by Jim McGinty and Colin Barnett.184

More action followed the public meeting, with a petition against the tanks bearing over five thousand signatures being presented to parliament by Colin Barnett. Meetings were held with the Minister for the Environment, the Minister for Planning, Jim McGinty, the Liberal Shadow Cabinet, Fremantle unions and Fremantle City Council. The two community groups featured prominently in the media. In the end, opposition to the tanks included the East Fremantle, Cottesloe and Mosman Park councils, the Liberal Party, the Green Party, some Fremantle Port Authority officers, various trade unions and many members of the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce. In February 1992 the Fremantle City Council rejected the proposal on planning and environmental grounds.185

Les Lauder also organised intensive lobbying of the Trades and Labor Council. With the help of Tony Cooke, later to become the TLC secretary, he addressed a full meeting of the Council in June 1992, exhorting it to help the community in its battle with Caltex and accusing the WA government of making behind-the-scenes deals with the multinational corporation. In a unanimous vote the TLC expressed its strong opposition to the project and undertook to lobby the relevant state ministers.186

A month later Caltex accepted defeat and decided not to proceed with the super tanks. The Fremantle Herald hailed this as a great victory for public opinion over a multinational company and the state government: ‘a local grassroots movement gathered pace, captured the imagination of the Fremantle community and beyond, and became “giant killers”.’ Ann Forma and Les Lauder featured prominently in its list of ‘local heroes’.187

page 112

There were other issues in the early 1990s. Driver House, a magnificent turn-of-the-century riverside building in East Fremantle, was about to be restored in 1990. It was built by Tom and Fanny Carroll, with Tom’s boat building business next door, and had been purchased by the state government in the 1970s for public open space and subsequently vested in the East Fremantle Council. The Council had attempted unsuccessfully to lease the building for many years; it was finally leased to a developer planning a combined restaurant and tavern complex, and the proposed restoration plans were published in the local press in late 1989.

On seeing these plans the Society wrote to the Minister for Planning objecting to what looked more like renovation than restoration; it also contacted the East Fremantle Council to offer advice and a photograph of the original building. The Council’s Town Planning Committee called a meeting, inviting the project architect to attend, as well as a representative of the East Fremantle Council’s Advisory Panel, which had been set up in the mid-1980s to advise the Council on aesthetic, heritage and planning issues. However, in the meantime the developers had sold their interest in Driver House to Clough Engineering, who assured concerned community members that the house would be properly restored.

page 113

Once ‘restoration’ was under way, the Fremantle Society soon discovered that verandah posts, doors and windows would be nothing like the original, and the stonework on the ground floor had been rendered rather than restored. With criticism of the work mounting, in May 1990 leading conservation architect Michael Patroni was called in by Clough Engineering to advise on bringing the exterior at least up to Burra Charter standards. The Society commented in its newsletter: ‘That this sorry catalogue of disasters can occur in relation to a building of such historical significance, which is owned by the government and vested in a council, is nothing short of scandalous.’188

While today’s exterior may still not be completely faithful to the original, Driver House has nevertheless found a prosperous new life as The Left Bank cafe.

The Eastern Bypass debate also preoccupied the Fremantle Society at this time. This was part of a project to build a six-lane highway from Stirling Bridge to Mandurah, via Fremantle. The Fremantle section involved a new road from High Street to Roe Highway in Hamilton Hill, cutting through White Gum Valley and Beaconsfield. It had been part of the Metropolitan Region Scheme since 1973, with the City of Fremantle condemning it from the late 1970s as unacceptable socially, environmentally, and on planning grounds.

The Fremantle Society members were divided on this issue, with the committee finally resolving not to support deletion of the bypass, on the grounds that at some point it may become necessary. The general feeling on the committee was that it would be preferable if traffic could be improved using other measures like traffic calming and better public transport. In its newsletter in June 1992 both sides of the issue were argued by two passionate Society members, Heather Smedley and Curtin academic Bob Pokrant. Heather had been elected to the Fremantle City Council in 1991 campaigning largely against the bypass, while Bob had been actively lobbying to retain it as an option.

page 114

Jim McGinty had been a strong opponent of the bypass during his election campaign in May 1990, promising to ensure its deletion if elected ‘with a stroke of the ministerial pen.’189 The Fremantle and East Fremantle councils also maintained their opposition to the bypass, and in October 1992 the State Planning Commission deleted the planned extension at the request of the Minister for Planning, fulfilling McGinty’s promise. However, the bypass story was to be a long-running one: after the defeat of the Carmen Lawrence government in 1993 the bypass was reinstated by the incoming Liberal government, but was deleted again by the Labor government of Geoff Gallop, this time by an amendment to the Metropolitan Region Scheme. It remains a contentious issue, but its reinstatement seems unlikely given that much of the reserve land intended for the bypass has been sold.

As well as dealing with major issues after its revival, the Society instituted a regular schedule of social events, with seminars, wine and cheese nights, a champagne breakfast, mulled wine and supper at the Maritime Museum in the old Commissariat building in Cliff Street and pub dinners with poetry readings at the Sail & Anchor. Especially memorable was an election fundraiser in March 1990 at His Lordship’s Larder where local identity and real estate agent John Dethridge called a ‘candidate race’, proving he had missed his true calling as a racing commentator. There was also an unforgettable Christmas feast at the home of Society President Jenny Archibald where the roast pig and lamb on the spit almost set fire to the building. During Jenny’s presidency in 1990-91 social events were largely orchestrated by the irrepressible and inventive Shavda Pemberton, whose husband Paddy was then the Society’s treasurer. After Shavda’s departure from the committee in 1991 social gatherings were more commonly structured around talks and seminars, including an important talk by former Liberal Shadow Minister for Heritage Phillip Pendal in July 1993 on a review of the Heritage Act.

The Fremantle Society sustained a serious loss in January 1993 when Sir Paul Hasluck, who had been an active and involved patron of the Society since 1974, died at the age of eighty-seven. His replacement in 1994 would be the former Prime Minister whose government had first promoted the concept of heritage in Australia - Gough Whitlam.

There was also an important initiative taken by the Fremantle Society in 1992: the Interiors Project. The Society had always been proficient when it came to using photographs. Michal Lewi’s magnificent collection of photographs taken in

page 115

the 1970s became an important part of the Society’s campaigns to protect iconic buildings like the Orient Hotel, Victoria Hall and the Fire Station. They also became important as fundraisers. Later thousands of images were taken by volunteers and classified, ensuring there was a complete record of all Fremantle buildings. This eventually provided the basic data for the City’s inventory of heritage places required under the Heritage of WA Act. Generally the Society placed greatest emphasis on the age, external appearance and history of buildings.

The 1992 Interiors Project was something different and sought to record the interiors of some of Fremantle’s major buildings that were about to change. It was funded by a small grant of $3000 from the Heritage Council of WA and it

page 116

was timed to anticipate the arrival of Notre Dame Australia, which was going to make major changes in big parcels of buildings, like the eight J & W Bateman buildings in Croke, Henry and Mouat streets.

This proved to be one of the Society’s most ambitious, important and difficult projects. The subcommittee appointed to deal with it comprised Michael Patroni (convenor for 1992), Ralph Hoare (convenor 1993-96), Les Lauder, John Dowson and Wayne Jacks. It was a stellar line-up of Fremantle’s architectural and heritage expertise. The completion of the project in 1996 was handled by Ralph Hoare and John Dowson.

Originally it had been intended to begin an archival photographic study of West End buildings on the State Register of Heritage Places, significant buildings not on the register and a sample of those outside the West End conservation area. It was soon apparent that this would provide an impossibly large sample of several hundred buildings. This was reduced to twenty buildings by restricting choices to buildings from the West End Conservation Area west of Market Street, for which owners’ permission to enter had been granted. Buildings chosen included the Old Customs House and the Dock Building at either end of Phillimore Street, the elaborate Lionel Samson building, the classical Lilly building, and the Herald building, all in Cliff Street, and 10 and 16 High Street and the old Bank of NSW building with its wonderful jarrah ceiling. The Workers Club in Henry Street, with its tiles and 1950s architecture, was the exception in the sample. At this time the West End was still vibrant with artists’ studios, restaurants and pubs - but in need of repair. The notion that NDA was moving into a deserted village was wrong.

The selection of buildings for study came from small geographic areas allocated to Curtin University of Technology’s fourth-year architecture students as part of their assessed course work. A photographer was employed to complete the volume of photographs, which included many pressed tin ceilings, timber balustrades and other details. There was another volume of fine drawings done by students.

When the project was complete all the relevant material was lodged with the City of Fremantle’s Local History Collection, its Planning Department and with the Heritage Council of WA, providing a remarkable resource for planners and restorers.190

An important aspect of the Interiors Project was that it brought back on stage the next president of the Fremantle Society, Ralph Hoare, and introduced his successor, John Dowson.

Chapter 13: 'Anti-football Traitors'

Ralph Hoare came to the Fremantle Society presidency in 1994 with a considerable provenance. He had joined the Society in 1978 when Les Lauder was still touring Fremantle and East Fremantle, dropping in at houses where good things seemed to be happening outside and usually signing up the occupants. The following year Ralph found himself installed as vice-president. He was also soon involved in a photographic survey of four thousand Fremantle homes, and later in the CBD Interiors Project that recognised interiors were important too. And, of course, he had overseen the difficult process of decommissioning

page 119

the Fremantle Prison and having it accepted as an important heritage site.

It was fortunate that Ralph had this experience. He was stepping right into one of the Society’s most difficult battles, one in which there was not a demolition in sight. This battle saw the Society, and particularly Ralph, branded as something akin to Fremantle traitors; they were labelled ‘anti-football’.

The battle began soon after the Australian Football League in Melbourne added a sixteenth team to its competition, in December 1993. The team was to be based in Fremantle because of the port city’s one-hundred-year-plus enthusiasm for the Australian game. The Fremantle Society president saw this as ‘strengthening one of Fremantle’s strongest social traditions.’191 But there were also difficulties with implementing the plan. The traditional Fremantle rivals, East and South, were to be foolishly ignored as the bases of an AFL team by those whom Zoltan Kovacs called, in his retrospective analysis in the West Australian, the ‘football bureaucrats’. That rivalry was wrongly seen as a problem for a new team rather than a strength. So a football corporation, like corporations elsewhere, arrived with a strong public relations thrust. Kovacs wrote: ‘an intense marketing exercise produced the Fremantle Dockers who were neither Fremantle (in the traditional sense) nor dockers (the local word usually applied to wharf workers was wharfies).’192

The bureaucrats were poorly versed in another strong Fremantle tradition - community consultation. This meant that when the Dockers set down their perceived needs and plans for Fremantle Oval they failed to notice their potential intrusion on a Fremantle heritage icon - Fremantle Prison. There was no one to tell them. The Dockers, aka Fremantle Football Club, wanted a new training area and administrative headquarters and a highly visible retail outlet. This was all very well, but they wanted it on a small patch of land in the north-west of the ground near where William and Fairbairn streets meet, right behind the existing turnstiles in Parry Street.

Ralph, with his experience working on the prison, said the new two-storey building would dominate the scene, destroy a large old Moreton Bay fig, diminish F.W. Burwell’s grandstand and, most importantly, block the compelling views of the prison gatehouse. It was planned to extend over the footpath in Fairbairn

page 120

Street. The same building would fit comfortably at the southern end of the ground where the Society believed it should go.

Ron Davidson, the Society’s vice-president, was summoned to a so-called compromise meeting with the Dockers’ CEO David Hatt, who had come to his job from the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, where he had been a person of influence. However, Ron discovered that the Dockers were prepared to concede nothing. Indeed, the Dockers bureaucrats refused to budge even when James Semple Kerr (the expert on colonial prisons), George Seddon (the Fremantle planner, author and enlightenment man) and Peter James (an authority on World Heritage listing) all stepped forward to support the Society’s position.

David Hatt seemed to have convinced former Society president Jenny Archibald, who had now become Mayor, and the City Manager Patric de Villiers that if the Dockers couldn’t build on the northern side they would take themselves and an estimated $5 million of annual income for the city and go elsewhere. No one questioned whether a team called the Fremantle Football Club or the Fremantle Dockers could feasibly operate in a substitute suburb like Murdoch or Claremont.

The Society took a crippling blow when, just before the Council was due to decide on the location of the clubhouse, the City Manager received an ‘informal advice’ letter from the director of the Heritage Council, Ian Baxter, which was critical of the southern site favoured by the Society, and named the northern site as the least damaging in terms of heritage. The letter was circulated to all councillors, and the Council meeting on 22 August 1994 voted 11-7 to approve the northern site despite strong opposition by the City of Fremantle’s own heritage architect Agnieshka Kiera.193 Interestingly, at this stage the Fremantle Society had a very strong presence on Council; Ann Forma, Sue Bennett-Ng, Susan Hoare, Anne Rimes and June Boddy were all very active members and strongly supported the southern site. However, several other Society members voted in favour of the Dockers’ preferred option.194

Ralph felt that the Society had been robbed. He accused Ian Baxter of passing off his own opinion as official Heritage Council advice, without going through proper channels, and wrote to the Heritage Minister, Richard Lewis, protesting in the strongest terms.195

page 121

Ian Baxter for his part denied any impropriety, and claimed that six of the nine Heritage Council members had inspected the sites and agreed with his assessment. The plan of the building had not yet been produced: the Heritage Council would again become involved in the issue when this had been submitted.

Fremantle Chamber of Commerce president and former footballer Bob Shields took a free kick at the Society, saying it did not speak for all Fremantle people, ‘and certainly not for the business community which made its voice heard on this occasion.’ He urged Ralph and the Society to ‘accept the umpire’s decision.’196

However, by November when the building plans had been submitted, the Heritage Council considered the two-storey building too large for the site and recommended ways of reducing its impact. The Fremantle Council’s planning committee still recommended approval, despite the former Heritage Council’s chair Ian Molyneux describing the building as a ‘glorified dunny’. Ralph Hoare also attacked the committee, saying it was preparing to contravene the Heritage Act, which stipulates that the building had to have the approval of the Heritage Council.

There was nothing for it but to try a last desperate throw. Society member Nicolas Gurr, soon to become a very long-serving vice-president, decided to organise a ratepayer poll, and got together two hundred signatures on a petition. To build the administrative and training facility the Dockers needed to borrow $950,000 - a loan the Fremantle City Council would organise but which would be repaid by the Dockers. A Society advertisement in the Fremantle Herald urged voters to vote against the northern site, assuring them that their ‘No’ vote would not mean that they did not want the Dockers in Fremantle. The advertisement’s message was endorsed by the Fremantle Prison Trust, Jim Kerr, George Seddon, ICOMOS Australia chief Ian Stapleton, city architect Agnieshka Kiera, and sixteen other prominent Fremantle architects, including Ian Molyneux.197

The poll proved a disaster. To get a valid result there had to be a ratepayer turnout of at least fifteen per cent. It was a hot January day in 1995, and the turnout was only ten per cent. The poll was therefore declared null and void; but in any case the ‘No’ vote did not get a majority. There were 567 ‘No’ votes against 634 ‘Yes’ votes, with seventy informals.

page 122

The Dockers’ CEO David Hatt had been a class hockey player and he took the opportunity to have a ‘free hit’ at the Society. He told the Fremantle Herald that a small unrepresentative body was prepared to do everything possible to drive the Dockers out of town, and that all fair-minded people would support the Dockers’ position. Some ‘fair-minded’ residents thought this was not altogether fair: Ralph Hoare and Nicolas Gurr were among the earliest to sign on as Dockers members, and the Society strongly supported the Dockers coming to town. It was the choice of a site for their change rooms which was problematic.198

But in any case the Dockers themselves were having second thoughts about the northern site. It had become more expensive because of conditions imposed by Council and the building planned was already looking too small. David Hatt was spending time at the southern end of Fremantle Oval - between the Victoria Pavilion and South Fremantle Football Club. By mid-February 1995 he had gained from the Council permission to build there.

This time the Fremantle Society supported the application but approval again came with conditions. David Hatt described it as the first step in deciding between the northern and southern ends of the oval.199 The conditions imposed on the new site again proved too costly for the Dockers.

Meanwhile the Council had belatedly commissioned a conservation plan to guide any development on Fremantle Oval, with the Fremantle Society representing the community on the steering committee. The resulting conservation plan blocked building close to the Victoria Pavilion. This ruled out the sites on both the northern and southern sides of the stand. The Dockers abandoned their earlier sites and went for an interim solution. They refurbished the change rooms under the Victoria Pavilion and waited for their financial position to improve before building on a site behind the southern goalposts. It was a win-win situation for both teams.

Chapter 14: Green Spaces and Industrial Cathedrals

page 123

In 1983 the Fremantle Society had first floated the idea of modifying its constitution to protect Fremantle’s endangered natural heritage as well as its better-publicised built environment. Incorporated bodies like the Fremantle Society needed to keep their constitutions up-to-date otherwise legal protections provided by the state would lapse. Interest was quickly swamped, however, in the flood of investigative work which came with fighting against the Anchorage Octopus, the arrival of the University of Notre Dame, and being distracted by the Society’s own near-death experience in 1988.

It was 1996 before formal steps were actually taken again to preserve the natural as well as the built environment. The Annual General Meeting that year

page 124

ratified two changes to the constitution. The first altered one of the Society’s objectives to make a building’s setting and gardens part of its heritage and, where interesting, of concern to the Society. The second inserted a new objective into the Society’s constitution: ‘To encourage the preservation of the natural heritage of the Fremantle area.’200

This constitutional change allowed the Society to promote broader environmental concerns like the Fremantle Green Plan, North Fremantle access to the river foreshore, Clontarf Hill in Beaconsfield, Cypress Hill in North Fremantle and the Swanbourne Street reserve where public artists had over the course of ten years converted oil tanks and a water cistern into a colourful series of impromptu art galleries. The trees and shrubs (particularly the limestone-loving templetonia) on the limestone crest in Swanbourne Street reserve provided an island of green on the highest point of the city.

Not surprisingly, the inspiration for this environmental push came from Society Vice-President Bryn Davis. Bryn liked to call himself an intergenerational environmentalist: he wanted to leave something for the next generation. He also wanted Fremantle people to be able to stay living in Fremantle. He had led the successful campaign to preserve the South Perth foreshore. Less successful

page 125

was his effort to prevent the Burke government from permitting the building of large houses on the natural bushland that marked the border between Mosman Park and Fremantle. Bryn was absolutely fearless in his defence of this bushland barrier. Even the threat of Westpac sooling their massive financial power against Bryn in a damages writ did nothing to silence him.201 He also clashed with other Society members over a management plan which would have had removed a number of mature trees and one very sick old tree from around the prison. A grumpy compromise was reached in the name of a clear view of the prison gatehouse.202

Bryn had been promoting a linking of existing parks and reserves in Fremantle to create a wide circular park - an idea that was taken up and expanded by the Fremantle City Council in its Green Plan. The plan proposed to link the river foreshore, Cantonment Hill, the Army Barracks, the Fremantle Arts Centre, John Curtin land, Monument Hill, Stevens Reserve, the Lefroy Street tip site and former bus depot to Clontarf Hill. From there it would connect to the South Fremantle tip site, South Beach and then follow the coastline past the Esplanade, the Round House, the harbour front and back to the river foreshore. This Green Plan was endorsed in 1997, together with an allocation of money in the budget for preliminary work. A very promising start - but a decade would pass with no action being taken.203

Bryn then turned his attention to Fremantle’s industrial heritage. In the May 1997 newsletter he wrote that if the destruction of major industrial buildings continued people might be led to believe that Fremantle was no more than a coastal town, not an important industrial, commercial and warehousing port city. Industrial heritage at either end of town was exemplified by the grain silos in North Fremantle and the South Fremantle Power Station. Both were under threat of demolition.

The South Fremantle Power Station was an industrial heritage landmark; only the state government’s money shortage had saved this striking industrial cathedral so far. Ralph Hoare had a friend at Western Power who appreciated the late-art-deco features of the building embellishing the sand hills. In 1997 Ralph offered to take members on a stunning Society walk. So many turned up that a second walk had to be quickly organised for later the same morning.

Yet another walk followed, organised by Ralph and Bryn, but this time with Premier Richard Court, Heritage Minister Graham Kierath and other relevant ministers. The Premier seemed to be impressed. Minister Kierath soon announced

page 126

interim heritage listing in November 1997. However, Ralph was saddened when the Premier rejected the power station as a new maritime museum and home of Australia II. This would have been an ideal use for the building, situated as it was on the oceanfront; it would have cut the bill for the maritime museum by $30 million, and there was a potential rail link with Fremantle.204

The Society had been successful in saving the South Fremantle Power Station. It now led the push to retain the iconic North Fremantle silos. These had heritage significance: they pointed to a major WA industry and had considerable architectural merit. The earliest building had been used as a signals platform during World War II, then kept growing south and north. Local artists had frequently featured the silos in their artwork.

The Fremantle Society wanted to show them off at close quarters one Sunday in April 1999. Along the way sixty members and friends stopped at the Railway Hotel in North Fremantle for breakfast. There have never been breakfasts quite like those at the Railway at that time: name how many eggs you want and in what

page 127

state, multiple slices of bacon and a sausage, or two, or three, a scoop of baked beans, three slices of toast, jams - all for six dollars and cooked by staff well into their second or third can of beer for the morning. Members learned after the visit that the Railway Hotel was in the way of a new railway cargo loop and, as a consequence, was scheduled for demolition (the Society would eventually manage to save it). Later the crowd walked off the breakfast on the way to the majestic silos. Bryn believed the silos would make a spectacular home for the Port Authority, and in later years could possibly be turned into a magnificent hotel. He also pointed out that everyone, including the Heritage Council and Mayor Richard Utting, wanted the silos retained and that the Fremantle Port Authority as an unelected body had no business to make unilateral decisions about heritage buildings which ‘belong to everyone in Fremantle.’205

However, his advice was falling on deaf ears. Heritage Minister Graham Kierath was ignoring the advice of his expert body, the Heritage Council, that the silos should be placed on the heritage register and refused to list them, thus highlighting the shortcomings of a Heritage Act which allowed such political interference.206 The Fremantle silos were demolished; the more recent spectacular refurbishment of similar silos in Bunbury highlights the degree of official vandalism inherent in this decision.

An important local government initiative emerged in the 1990s. There had been debates about community involvement in local government, with scandals and corruption being uncovered in councils at Stirling and Wanneroo. There had been experimentation in North Sydney which had been subdivided into local precincts, with residents’ representatives meeting monthly, being informed about council initiatives in their area and acting as advisory groups to council officers and elected members.

At the end of 1992 Society committee members Les Lauder, Natalie Hug and Anne Rimes, who was also on Council and represented the City of Fremantle, attended a seminar on precinct-based consultation. They submitted a generally very favourable report in the Society’s newsletter, but did not go as far as actually recommending implementation of such a system.207

page 128

However, in November 1996 the City of Fremantle issued a charter setting up a precinct system. This divided Fremantle into twelve precinct areas, and included the Fremantle Society as a non-geographic city-wide ‘virtual’ precinct, focusing on the celebration and management of Fremantle’s heritage. A new era seemed to have arrived in community consultation.

In 1998 Premier Richard Court announced the allocation in the budget of $35 million to finance a grand new ‘Premier’s Vision for Victoria Quay’. The Vision’s primary objective was the construction of a new maritime museum to house Alan Bond’s America’s Cup winning yacht Australia II, but it was planned to include other maritime and multicultural elements too.208 The Society’s plea to use the South Fremantle Power Station for this purpose went unheeded.

Nor could the Society persuade the Fremantle City Council to enforce its West End height restrictions on Victoria Quay. Despite its strategic planning committee’s recommendation that such restrictions should apply, the full Council allowed the projected museum to soar to seven storeys if necessary. Mayor Utting shrugged off protests by precincts including the Fremantle Society and claimed that the museum needed space and that in any case most people would be in favour of relaxing height restrictions.209 The Society and its president Ralph Hoare could do little but accept the inevitable, though Ralph did lodge a complaint that the whole project involved only token consultation with the community before the final museum outcome was decided.210

The museum was not the only looming problem on Victoria Quay. The ‘Premier’s Vision’ also involved a ‘significant site dedicated to the performing arts,’211 a concept enthusiastically promoted by Mayor Richard Utting, the City’s CEO, Ray Glickman, as well as the Chamber of Commerce. The team of consultants employed by the City proposed a $15 million complex behind the Fremantle railway station comprising a four-hundred-seat theatre, a three-hundred-seat adaptable performance space and three art galleries, all under one roof where they would ‘spark off each other.’

Ralph argued strongly that such a large amount of money should be spent directly on the arts or on restoring existing unused heritage buildings and making them appropriate for use as separate theatres and art galleries. A similar position was taken by the precinct representative on the arts project’s steering committee. Mayor Utting, usually in favour of heritage preservation, disagreed strongly in this case, arguing that restoration of old buildings was no substitute for a purpose-built performing arts centre.212

page 129

The arguments resulted in a dramatic showdown. The City of Fremantle had posted the consultants’ report on the proposed new centre on its website and invited comments. When the preliminary draft of the community response was released, the consultants objected to its contents and took legal action. The Fremantle Society was horrified, with Ralph Hoare pointing out that the matter went ‘to the very heart of democracy’ and demanding that the City fund the defence of the community representatives. The Society also rallied round, collecting donations and organising fundraisers to meet the legal costs involved, including a barbeque in the inner-city garden of former councillor and Fremantle Society member Bob Hewitt.213 The City of Fremantle eventually agreed to cover any costs, but it had been an alarming wake-up call, alerting community activists to the dangers of offering opinions when asked for input about projects in the future.

Then the Fremantle Ports effectively vetoed the use of Victoria Quay as a venue for the performing arts centre, citing safety concerns and possible dangers to visitors, as well as the need of a buffer zone for the port. The projected building was now to be constructed on the site of the Italian Club, which was keen to take part in this joint venture.214

page 130

In any event funding for the performing arts centre never materialised. There was an election looming in a little over a year, and Jim McCinty had warned that there were no votes in spending money on performance centres, only on health and education. Meanwhile Minister for Education Colin Barnett was pushing for a performing arts space to be incorporated in the John Curtin High School.215 This eventually happened, and the galleries were forgotten altogether.

The Fremantle Society was also involved in an ongoing protest against a yet again expanding Fremantle Hospital. The hospital had given constant reassurances that it would not expand further and yet from the early 1990s continued to quietly acquire houses on the southern side of Alma Street for hospital use, thus progressively destroying the residential nature of the street despite strong opposition from residents. In late 1995 the Fremantle City Council and the hospital engaged consultants to prepare a study of the Alma Street precinct.

The resulting report alarmed the Society, as it appeared to show no regard for the wants and needs of the community and recommended that the hospital should continue buying houses on Alma Street ‘to form a buffer’. The Society newsletter commented angrily:

A buffer to what? Alma Street is already the buffer. These houses are the homes of Fremantle residents who enjoy living where they are without the unacceptable threat of being acquired to enable the Hospital to expand.216

The Society raised the alarm among locals, who quickly formed an Alma Street Action Group with the support of the Society. The group was able to gain the acceptance and cooperation of the City of Fremantle, but despite strenuous efforts was denied access to the Minister for Health. The Society vowed to ‘remain ready to do battle to preserve this tiny neighbourhood,’ but its chances were slim. Experience had shown before that hospitals win over community concerns.217

Two major milestones occurred during Ralph Hoare’s presidency. In 1994 the Fremantle Society received the annual heritage award from the Heritage Council of WA - the first time the award had gone to a group rather than an individual. Founding president Les Lauder accepted the award on behalf of the Society, outlining in his acceptance speech its history and achievements. Current president

page 131

Ralph Hoare pledged the Society’s continued enthusiasm and vigilance.218

The second was the Society’s Silver Jubilee in 1997. The year before, Bryn Davis had suggested a major exhibition of Fremantle artworks to mark the City’s Heritage Week, but it was decided that a quiz night would be easier to organise. However, Bryn’s idea seemed perfect for the Jubilee, and a subcommittee was set up to oversee the celebration, headed by committee member and local bookshop proprietor Judith Wheeler.

The exhibition, ‘Fremantle 6160’, occupied the entire Fremantle Arts Centre, which was also celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary, and contained new and old artworks commemorating Fremantle and featuring its history, heritage and lifestyle. The exhibition, which was also supported by the City of Fremantle, was officially opened in style on 19 October 1997, and featured a giant cake in the shape of the Society’s longstanding logo, the Round House.219

In 1999 the Society’s patron since 1994, Gough Whitlam, suggested to Ralph Hoare that his time as patron might have come to an end and urged the Society

page 132

to find a new patron who could be more involved with its activities and offer it better support. By coincidence Ralph Hoare had also decided that he had served his time - he had been the longest-serving president since Les Lauder - and handed over the reins to a new style of chief, John Dowson.

Chapter 15: A Different President

page 133

John Dowson had a different background to previous presidents of the Society. He had grown up in Mosman Park and gone to school in Claremont. His interest in Fremantle was kindled when he was taught Australian history by Geoffrey Bolton at UWA, but it would be many years before he became seriously involved with Fremantle. He taught history for ten years at Australia’s oldest school - Kings School, Parramatta - and got involved with environmental organisations while living in the United States from 1986 to 1990, before deciding to settle in Fremantle. In 1991 John undertook the restoration of the 1901 Adelaide Steamship Building in Mouat Street, which would become his permanent home.

He had become seriously interested in Fremantle through his long-term passion for collecting ephemera, photographs and books during regular visits to book fairs in London, Paris and the United States and through discovering through family stories that many of his family members had lived or worked in Fremantle.220

page 134

John joined the Fremantle Society committee in 1993, and was vice-president in 1995 before going overseas for a time to run a chateau in France. He was back on the committee in 1998, and took on the presidency on Ralph’s resignation at the end of 1999. Since the Society also lacked a patron with the departure of Gough Whitlam, John persuaded local academic star George Seddon to act in this capacity until the end of 2001 when Society founder Les Lauder took over.

By an interesting coincidence the Mayor of Fremantle at the time John assumed the presidency was Richard Utting, who was another unusual personality. Richard was a barrister with strong interests in human rights cases, and had run an ABC talkback radio program which quickly improved from very ordinary to extremely good. He had a touch of flamboyance and came in from left field; he liked to wear jeans and disliked the trappings of authority, including the wearing of mayoral regalia. Richard could come across as very cool, particularly when defending some unfortunate youth chained to a tree near Pemberton.

Jenny Archibald decided not to stand again as candidate for mayor in 1997 after a year from hell being abused by boisterous opponents when the Council had tried to introduce fortnightly rubbish collections. Richard Utting became a strong candidate with a good heritage program and the support of members of the ALP and the Fremantle Society, as well as real estate agent and former football star John Dethridge. The result was a win for Richard against a big field that included Peter Tagliaferri, who would eventually take over from him as mayor in 2001.

John Dowson and Richard Utting had both been educated at Christ Church Grammar School, and both had at one time been taught by Fremantle

page 135

Society stalwart David Hutchison. John’s passionately committed personality and Richard’s determination to win crucial arguments would ensure lively debates and confrontations during the last two years of Richard’s term as mayor.

John expressed his dissatisfaction with the City of Fremantle officers even before he became president. In a Fremantle Herald ‘Thinking Allowed’ he comprehensively criticised the Council staff for taking no action to improve the appearance of Fremantle despite large amounts of money being spent on consultants whose reports he believed were largely ignored:

Our streets remain an unsightly collection of uncoordinated clutter. Nowhere has signage, street furniture or paving improved, and certainly none of the more heritage-orientated suggestions such as historical interpretation for pedestrians with information boards or photos, or blue plaques on famous buildings as in London, or heritage lighting of significant facades been implemented.221

He went on to point out that with the high salaries being paid to council officers Fremantle residents had a right to expect better service.222

Right from the start of his presidency John maintained a very high media profile, featuring almost every week in the local

page 136

papers, beginning with a raft of issues such as whether the proposed maritime museum would be built on the site where Captain Fremantle originally landed,223 the lack of heritage project allocations in the 1999-2000 budget while $2 million was to be spent in upgrading toilets, and the lack of any heritage-related pamphlets for tourists at the Fremantle Tourist Office.224 He also began agitating for the purchase by the City of Fremantle of Victoria Hall, the prospective owner of which was wanting to turn it into a furniture store.225 This was to bear fruit when the Council eventually purchased Victoria Hall in 2000 as a home for Deckchair Theatre.

One of John’s first projects as president was the production of a special Collector’s Edition of the Society’s newsletter Fremantle, which was designed to promote interest in Fremantle’s heritage and to celebrate the City’s Heritage Week in June 2000. It included a potted year-by-year history of the Fremantle Society, many historic pictures and information about various important Fremantle sites. It was also very critical of Fremantle City Council and its apparent lack of interest in heritage and urban design.

This caused a furore. The Heritage Week organisers refused to recognise the publication as part of the festival for various reasons, but mainly because of the criticisms of the Council that it contained. City heritage architect planner Agnieshka Kiera pronounced that the festival was ‘about celebrating heritage, not about debate.’ John Dowson was very disappointed, but promptly arranged for 16,000 copies of the publication to be distributed throughout Fremantle, Cottesloe and Claremont.226

Another snub was to follow. Mayor Richard Utting wrote to John announcing that he wished to have no further communication with him, and that any future contact should be with the past president or the vice-president of the Society. This was unprecedented. The Fremantle Herald reported the mayor as saying, ‘It doesn’t matter how much we do, the Fremantle Society will never be satisfied,’ and that the Collector’s Edition of Fremantle had simply been the last straw. John Dowson hit back at once, saying community members were sick and tired of being on committees and taking part in consultations, all to no effect. He claimed the Society had recently sent submissions to Council on the budget, on an environment plan and on Victoria Hall, all of which had been either ignored or lost.227

However, all this was not as disastrous as it seemed; communication was maintained with the City’s CEO, Ray Glickman, and in fact the mayor and John

page 137

Dowson were often seen chatting at functions.

In an interview ten years later, when asked about the tactics behind his frequent attacks and always being on the front foot, John reflected: ‘I may have been coming across as something of an attack dog. I needed to modify my act.’ This foreshadowed the softer approach he was to take after his election to Council in 2005.228

Conflicts with the mayor and Council aside, other issues loomed. John was concerned about what he called the ‘monoculture’ developing in the West End with the University of Notre Dame Australia buying more and more properties. The original Denis Horgan plan had been to bring a lively commercial and cafe culture to the West End; while this had not eventuated, Notre Dame authorities reacted angrily to John’s condemnation, claiming that when the university moved in, the area ‘was mostly derelict buildings and ruins.’

John Dowson acknowledged that the restoration of buildings purchased had been exemplary, with architect Marcus Collins in charge. He also thought that having a university in the West End was a good thing; but only if it brought people

page 138

and life to the area, particularly at night. He was most alarmed at the purchase by NDA of all the West End hotels, only one of which, the Orient Hotel, was retained as a functioning business. The others - the Cleopatra Hotel (originally Coakley’s Hotel), P & O Hotel and the Fremantle Hotel in High Street, and His Majesty’s Hotel (including the popular restaurant His Lordship’s Larder) in Mouat Street - all closed their doors to the public.

John felt that NDA was ‘swallowing up’ the West End, and shutting out the local community. It had not encouraged other businesses to start up there, or made existing ones viable or even welcome; he complained that the environment being created was ‘as stifling and boring as a pine forest,’ and that there was no reason for anyone to come to the West End on weekends except to use the area as a parking lot.229

Then in May 2000 Premier Richard Court officially released the Fremantle Waterfront Masterplan, which included pedestrian promenades linking Cliff and Pakenham streets to the waterfront, marine-related educational opportunities and new commercial developments.230 John Dowson almost immediately expressed serious concerns about the projected commercial development near the railway station, which was designed to house one thousand office workers, be a ‘landmark building’ with no height restrictions and to include a car park for two hundred cars.

Four hundred and fifty public submissions on this development had expressed the same concerns, but there was no indication of how these would be addressed.231

He was even more appalled when the Fremantle Port Authority applied to the Heritage Council for permission to demolish the immigration building and the C.Y. O’Connor Centre on Victoria Quay to make way for its proposed commercial development on the grounds that the immigration building

page 139

had ‘only moderate heritage significance.’ He immediately contacted Fremantle Society member and Murdoch historian Dr Robert Reece to help him research the real significance of the Victoria Quay buildings.232

The Fremantle Port Authority was also required by the Heritage Council to fund a study of the importance of these buildings, and commissioned heritage architect Alan Kelsall to report on their architectural significance. Dr Nonja Peters, an academic specialising in immigration history in WA, worked with Alan to produce the final report.233

It was a standing joke among Society members that John Dowson never slept; or if he ever did it was only briefly. This enabled him, despite a full-time teaching job, to turn out a 100-page booklet on the rich Australian immigration story to complement the Kelsall-Peters report. Instead of concentrating on the buildings John focused on the social aspect of the immigration story, and included the history of migration through Fremantle, people’s personal stories and experiences, and many photographs. The study showed the important role played by the immigration buildings in the development of the state and called for full heritage protection of the buildings and their restoration as a museum of immigration as was provided in other states.234

However, when advance copies of the booklet were offered to Mayor Tagliaferri and councillors the response was tepid. Only three councillors asked for copies. John Dowson found the lack of interest in the immigration story by Fremantle’s civic leaders depressing.235 Nevertheless, his view was vindicated when the Heritage Council ruled that the immigration building was historically significant and could not be demolished.

Similar protection was not extended to the C.Y. O’Connor building, however, and as serious planning for the commercial development on Victoria Quay began in 2002 John Dowson voiced his concern that the building could well be demolished. Fremantle Ports (formerly the Fremantle Port Authority) assured the Fremantle Gazette that the proposal would not involve the demolition of any

page 140

buildings on the quay, and that community consultation would be an important part of the project.236

John’s worst fears about Victoria Quay seemed to be justified when Gerard MacGill, convenor of the North Fremantle Community Association, released to the paper what he had managed to find out about the real bulk and scale of the proposed development on the quay. The Fremantle Herald in May 2004 showed a vast hulk looming over the railway station, blocking the view of the port, the ships and even the huge cranes on the waterfront.237

A public outcry followed, despite soothing statements from the Fremantle Ports CEO Kerry Sanderson that ‘plans are still in the development stage’ and that there would be public consultations once approvals were being sought. The image was horrific, and few agreed with Chamber of Commerce chief John Longley’s view that it was more important to have continuing regional status and increased commercial activity than ‘pleasant views of cranes and ships’ funnels’.238 Many residents strongly disagreed in letters to the Herald, pointing out that such ‘pleasant views’ was what made living in Fremantle different from living in the suburbs.

However, by this time John Dowson was moving into another phase of his life. In late 2003 the book he had worked on for a long time was published by UWA Press titled Old Fremantle: Photographs 1850-1950. This went on to win the City of Fremantle heritage award for published work as well as the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award (PBA) for non-fiction.

New horizons were beckoning, and John decided not to stand for re-election as president of the Fremantle Society, throwing the Society into something of a crisis.

Chapter 16: Development Onslaught

page 141

Given the very dominant role played by John Dowson, his departure from the presidency of the Society left no obvious successor. Unwillingly and after much hesitation committee member Cathy Hall agreed to take on the role, but only until another president could be found.

Cathy had emigrated from England in 1976 after years of anti-nuclear activism there, and after many adventures in the eastern states and Darwin had ended up in Fremantle in 1981. As she and her partner Jon Strachan were then restoring a house, they also joined the Fremantle Society, but Cathy was kept too busy with her nursing career and university studies to take a very active role for some time. However, when the precinct system was announced in 1996 she helped to establish the South City precinct, becoming its co-secretary. After a move to South Fremantle Cathy became convenor of the South Fremantle precinct, and from the late 1990s she was also heavily involved in community agitation

page 142

about the South Fremantle tip site and its future. She formally joined the Fremantle Society committee in 2003, being nominated by State Member for Fremantle, Jim McGinty.239

For some time before Cathy took over the presidency there had been a growing feeling among prominent Fremantle residents that a more progressive council was needed once again, one which adhered to its stated policies, followed due process and took heed of community and professional advice. Cathy was part of this group, which formed the Fremantle Community Network dedicated to ensuring that the Council would be re-energised in the 2005 elections.240 As a result, the year of Cathy’s presidency saw the election to Council of Fremantle Society founder Les Lauder, former president John Dowson, and Society members Jon Strachan and Alice King.

This happened just in time to avert a major heritage catastrophe; almost immediately after his election Les discovered that the new City Planning Scheme No. 4 that had already been forwarded to the minister for approval had had crucial height limits and heritage and demolition controls removed. How this happened was never fully explained. Quick action from the new councillors saw the Planning Scheme recalled and the important controls reinstated. It was a close call; high-rise buildings would have been legitimised in the West End.241

However, it gave rise to festering ill-feeling. It was four nights before Christmas, and all hell was about to break loose at a Council meeting to consider nominations for membership of advisory committees. It had been decided in May that all memberships on these committees would expire at the end of 2005. When the votes were taken at 12.30 a.m. there were three shocks. Deputy Mayor John Dowson and the other heritage expert Les Lauder had been king-hit and voted off the Heritage and Special Places Committee. It was easy to tell from the grinners who were behind the coup. The impact was exacerbated when popular Councillor Shirley Mackay was dropped from the Sport and Recreation committee.

page 143

There was an immediate public outrage that the two councillors most qualified in the heritage area should have been dropped. More than seventy emails were recorded by John Dowson alone, calling for rescission of the Heritage and Special Places result. Some elected members were alarmed by the overwhelming public outcry and held an informal meeting to decide what to do. Mayor Peter Tagliaferri reported at the next Council meeting in January 2006 that it had been proposed that two extra members be added to the committee. This was put to Council and was approved 7-5, thus avoiding a rescission. The influence of John and Les had not been excised from the committee but it had been diluted.

A very important development during Cathy’s presidency was her decision to take up an old and important ongoing issue - the nomination of Fremantle places for the national heritage register at the very least.

As has been noted already, the state government had shown no interest in supporting either national or world heritage listing, despite the urging of the Australian Heritage Commission that it should do so in the 1980s. In the 1990s the City of Fremantle had taken the bull by the horns and launched a bid for world heritage listing, hoping for state government support given that the heritage-minded Jim McGinty was member for Fremantle. An enthusiastic taskforce was set up headed by then mayor John Cattalini with representatives of the Heritage Council, state planning and heritage ministers and senior council officers. They felt that since the West End of Fremantle was an almost intact nineteenth century port, built at the height of British imperialism, the cultural significance of this was important in world heritage terms.242

However, a visit from conservationist and member of the United Nations committee responsible for approving world heritage listings, Joan Domicelj (later chair of the Australian World Heritage Advisory Committee), cast some doubt on this assessment. While agreeing that the West End had national significance, she was uncertain whether it could be described as having the 'outstanding universal value’243 required under the United Nations heritage charter. More importantly, she had serious doubts about whether either the City of Fremantle or the state government had the necessary powers to police the heritage listing if it was granted. Ms Domicelj was quick to point out, though, that Fremantle Prison would certainly qualify for world heritage listing as part of a serial nomination of convict sites.244

Finally, Federal Member for Fremantle John Dawkins scuttled the proposal at least for the time being in a letter to Mayor Cattalini saying the federal

page 144

government would not apply for world heritage listing for Fremantle until the effects of such listing on the development of areas such as Victoria Quay and the modern expansion of Fremantle as a working port could be clearly assessed.245

Nevertheless the City of Fremantle persevered and employed consultants to report on the feasibility of nominating the port for listing. The report was disappointing: the consultants also agreed that Fremantle Prison should be nominated but not the West End or the port as a whole. It recommended that the City monitor the prison to ensure that its potential world heritage value was not compromised by inappropriate development, and limit development on Victoria Quay to avoid compromising the West End, which it did recognise as being of outstanding value in a national context.246

Fremantle’s heritage importance on a national scale had taken a severe blow when the John Howard government introduced new heritage criteria in its Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999 which made national heritage listing much more difficult. It also mothballed the existing Register of the National Estate, on which so many Fremantle buildings had been entered; the Register would no longer provide any protection against development.

For some years the state government and Fremantle Ports had been promoting a commercial precinct on Victoria Quay, with alarming rumours of high-rise. Cathy decided that the Fremantle Society should nominate the Fremantle Inner Harbour and Victoria Quay for national heritage listing to provide more protection for this now clearly endangered area. She persuaded the committee to hire a consultant, historian Kristy Bizzaca, to help Cathy, Society Vice-President Nicolas Gurr and committee member Jon Strachan in preparing the complex submission.247

The Inner Harbour’s significance to the nation was described in the following terms:

1. The Fremantle Inner Harbour is one of the most largely intact - and still working - nineteeth century industrial ports with direct linkages to a port town in Australia and internationally;

2. The Fremantle Inner Harbour was the main strategic port for Allied Forces during World War II in the southern hemisphere and as such played an integral role in Australia’s and the Allies’ defence operations;

3. The Fremantle Inner Harbour was the point of entry for hundreds of thousands of people who arrived in Australia as part of the Commonwealth Government’s massive post—World War II immigration program;

page 145

4. Since its major redevelopment in the nineteenth century, the Fremantle Inner Harbour has provided employment for many thousands of ‘wharfies’ and Mumpers’ who not only made significant contributions to the development of Fremantle but also formed part of what is now the Maritime Union of Australia; one of the strongest and most organised unions in the history of Australia;

5. The Fremantle Inner Harbour was the first of the major breakwater ports in Australia and has been recognised by Engineers Australia (formerly the Institution of Engineers, Australia) as a National Historical Engineering Landmark for its innovative design, technological achievement and contribution to the engineering profession; and,

6. The development of the Fremantle Inner Harbour saw it become known nationally and internationally as the Western Gateway into the Australian nation.248

The submission pointed out that the nominated place satisfied six of the nine criteria listed on the nomination form, any one of which could potentially be considered adequate for heritage listing.249

The nomination form was lodged with the Heritage Division of the Department of Environment and Heritage on 15 August 2005, and advice was received a month later that the Fremantle Inner Harbour had been entered in the Australian Heritage Database as a Nominated Place, and the nomination had been referred to the chair of the Australian Heritage Council for assessment.

Having overseen this major step towards national heritage listing, Cathy Hall retired as president and was replaced by energetic town planner Kris Kennedy, who had managed the City of Fremantle’s planning department from 1998 to 2001. Almost immediately he was faced with the wrath of the Fremantle Ports CEO, Kerry Sanderson, who was furious about the nomination of the Inner Harbour and Victoria Quay for heritage listing. She had not been consulted by either the Australian Heritage Council or the Fremantle Society, and she demanded that the Society withdraw its nomination. The Society refused to do this, Kris pointing out that national heritage listing need not affect the port’s operations.250

However, Kerry Sanderson’s protests must have been taken seriously at various government levels, because the nomination progressed no further. The Society was advised in September 2006 that the assessment process had been extended by a year, but when the Finalised Priority Assessment List for 2007-08 was released the Inner Harbour nomination did not appear on it.

page 146

The Society was told that the nomination had lapsed ‘because it had been excluded from two consecutive work plans,’ as the Australian Heritage Council had considered that it was unlikely to have national heritage value. This was contrary to all advice received from heritage experts, including members of the Heritage Council of WA. It was becoming increasingly clear that unless a nomination for national or world listing was supported by both state and federal governments, and any other agencies involved, it would not succeed no matter what its merits were.251

The Fremantle Society did have a triumph in the heritage field though. In May 2006 the Heritage Council gave its prestigious award ‘for contribution by an individual to the preservation of heritage in Western Australia’ to Society founder and patron Les Lauder, making him officially Heritage Ambassador for the year. It was the first time the award had been made to a Fremantle resident, and Minister

page 147

for Heritage Michelle Roberts described Les as ‘the saviour of Fremantle’. In his acceptance speech Les urged the minister to press for more adequate funding for heritage, which he described as having the lowest level in the western world.252

Kris Kennedy took on the Fremantle Society presidency with the stated aim of making a major push to reinstate trams in Fremantle, but events quickly overtook him and he was confronted with a major urgent battle to be fought; the Fremantle Ports and ING commercial development on Victoria Quay.

The commercial development had been foreshadowed for years, with the Ports calling for tenders in 2002 and Minister for Planning and Infrastructure Alannah MacTiernan rejecting the original plans on the grounds that they would not in her opinion be accepted by the local community.253

This concern about community opinion soon evaporated. When the ING plans were revealed by Fremantle Ports in March 2006 they showed a mix of six, seven and eight-storey buildings, in direct contravention of the Waterfront Masterplan of 2000 which had clearly specified heights of no more than two to three storeys so as not to overwhelm the existing buildings.254

Kris Kennedy had been unsuccessfully calling for months for the Ports to produce a simple scale model of the projected development, and he was appalled at the bulk and massive scale shown on the plans now revealed. He immediately set about organising a public meeting for Fremantle electors to express their views on the proposal.

The Town Hall was packed with over six hundred people on 6 June 2006, all expressing outrage at the monstrous high-rise proposal on Victoria Quay. At the request of those at the meeting, the City of Fremantle undertook to:

• Advise the minister it strongly objects to the proposal by ING and Fremantle Ports;

• Form a high-level strategic group to deal with the ING site;

• Seek to have the land brought under the City’s planning control;

• Seek to have the land, which is clearly surplus to the requirements of Fremantle Ports, transferred to the City of Fremantle;

• Support a comprehensive consultation program to assist in determining the best development outcomes for the site;

• Seek the support of local parliamentarians.255

Community outrage had no impact. Alannah MacTiernan announced that ING had ‘dramatically reduced’ their development to four, five and six storeys, and that heritage lobbyists wanting less than this would get ‘short shrift’. Nor

page 148

would the state consider handing over the surplus land to the City of Fremantle or allowing the City any planning control as demanded by the meeting.256

In addition, in November Alannah MacTiernan announced her own version of community consultation. In a Fremantle Herald ‘Thinking Allowed’ column former president John Dowson described the process graphically as ‘Two hundred carefully chosen people were paid fifty dollars each to spend a day considering High-rise Option A or High-rise Option B.’ He emphasised that the Society was not opposed to development on Victoria Quay, but that such development had to be sympathetic, port-related and not overwhelm existing structures.257

Federal Member for Fremantle, Dr Carmen Lawrence, a professional psychologist, agreed with John’s assessment, and described the forum as ‘a sham designed to give a predetermined outcome’ and ‘a manipulative process’ which included no option to reject both choices.258 However, the minister ignored all criticisms and announced that the ING plans had been overwhelmingly endorsed by her forum and that she expected a development application to be submitted to the City of Fremantle and to the WA Planning Commission within weeks.259

By the end of 2006 Kris Kennedy had left Fremantle for Subiaco, and the Fremantle Society was about to acquire yet another new president, and the hope was that it would be for a longer term.

Chapter 17: New Beginnings

page 149

On learning of Kris Kennedy’s imminent departure, Les Lauder contacted former academic and politician Dr Ian Alexander, inviting him to dinner to discuss becoming a member of the Fremantle Society committee. A number of other committee members were present, and after copious amounts of food, wine and chat Ian had agreed not only to become a committee member but to be the new president.

Ian was a town planner by profession, and had lectured at UWA and Curtin University. He had also served on the Perth City Council and had fought unsuccessfully for the retention of significant Perth buildings like Boans, suggesting with tongue in cheek that Jack Mundey of ‘green ban’ fame should be brought over. A response came quickly from a prodevelopment councillor, Rod Evans: ‘you do that and you’ll end up in the Swan River with concrete boots

page 150

on.’260 Ian had also been ALP member for Perth in the Legislative Assembly before becoming an Independent; after leaving parliament he then joined the Greens.

He had moved to Fremantle at the end of the 1990s and had become involved in community activism in 2000 through his opposition to the construction of the Collie Street car park. He quickly learned the tone and feel of Fremantle public debate; ‘What would you know, you’re just a Johnny-come-latelyl’ was the response to his argument against the car park at a Town Hall meeting. But Ian had always admired the fact that Fremantle had preserved its heritage while he had seen developers being allowed to destroy Perth, and he was determined to persevere with his new home.261

page 151

Ian planned to ‘breathe new life and relevance’ into the Society, and to articulate a new vision for Fremantle while becoming more active in planning issues. He also wanted to develop closer ties with other heritage bodies such as the National Trust and the Heritage Council.262

However, he too was immediately confronted with the ongoing problem of the ING development on Victoria Quay; he described the latest plan, two six-storey blocks flanking a single-storey shopping complex, as having ‘Orwellian’ proportions. He believed it would ‘smother’ the city, and was in any case simply yet another boring suburban shopping centre.263

Ian felt that a more comprehensive group than just the Fremantle Society was needed to lobby against the ING commercial development, and he called together what was to become the Victoria Quay Task Force (VQTF). This consisted of representatives from the Fremantle Society, the Fremantle History Society, the Fremantle Inner City Residents Association (FICRA), the South Fremantle precinct, the South City precinct and the Gibson Park precinct, with other interested groups sending representatives from time to time. All were strongly opposed to the proposed development on Victoria Quay, and supported the Fremantle City Council which had voted unanimously that the Fremantle Ports should not lodge any application for the development until a conservation plan for Victoria Quay was approved by the Heritage Council.264

The VQTF began meeting in early June 2007, and initially held weekly meetings, first to organise a large electors’ meeting to debate the Victoria Quay development, since the forum held by the minister had been so flawed and had offered participants only a ‘Hobson’s choice’. Ian had met with WA Planning Commission head Jeremy Dawkins, and had formed the impression that Dawkins agreed that the proposed plan did not conform to the Waterfront Masterplan officially launched by then premier Richard Court in 2000. He felt that this offered a ‘sliver of hope’ that the Planning Commission would reject it.265

page 152

An unexpected source of support for the Society’s and the VQTF’s position emerged when the Vice-Chancellor of Notre Dame Australia, Dr Peter Tannock, put forward his view that the design was ‘totally out of character with the West End,’ and would detract from the ‘beautiful and historic precinct.’266 He claimed it reminded him of the ‘disastrous Convention Centre’ in Perth. Ian quickly went on record to say that he agreed totally with Dr Tannock’s assessment.267

So did large numbers of Fremantle residents. The electors’ meeting organised by the VQTF in August again packed the Town Hall, with around four hundred people attending. It overwhelmingly rejected the ING development yet again, and Jim McGinty, who was present, promised to convey the sentiments of the meeting to the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure.268

The Fremantle City Council at least was listening. At a special meeting in November it rejected the Ports and ING development, despite the feeling of some councillors that to reject outright rather than ask for modifications meant being locked out of future developments.269

However, the combined pressure from the Fremantle Ports and the minister was hard to counter. The WA Planning Commission approved the development subject to conditions, against which ING immediately appealed to the State Administrative Tribunal which cleared the way for the project to proceed by mid-2008.270 Despite repeated assurances to the contrary by the minister, the views of the Fremantle community had made no difference to the outcome.

Fortunately for the community the global financial downturn followed shortly afterwards, putting such projects on hold. At the time of writing there have been no further developments on the Quay, but the proponents are adamant that the commercial development will go ahead.

page 153

There was another heritage setback for Fremantle when in 2008 the South Fremantle Power Station was removed from its interim heritage listing on the grounds that it was now in private hands, although whether Verve Energy could really be described as a private concern is questionable. The Fremantle Society was responsible for its listing in the first place, having made it the Society’s ‘task of the year’ in 1997. Ian Alexander at once expressed concerns about its removal from the listing, and the Heritage Council agreed, having strongly emphasised its cultural heritage significance and the need for its retention on the heritage register. However, Minister Michelle Roberts was not convinced that it was worthy of registration and its fate remains uncertain.271

As well as the commercialisation of Victoria Quay there had been other moves by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure to turn Fremantle into what Ian called ‘another suburban shopping centre and marina development’ with its proposal to expand Fremantle’s three harbours, part of which involved closing off the view to the ocean from Bathers Beach by means of a new breakwater and inserting retail and residential development at the harbours’ edges as well as greatly increasing yacht mooring and stacking facilities. The Fremantle Society and other community groups launched an immediate protest at this gross commercialisation of the oceanfront, and particularly at the closing off of the view of the horizon from Bathers Beach.272

As usual, community consultation had been extremely selective and restricted,

page 154

ignoring the most important part of the community - the users of Fremantle beaches. The project had been on the drawing board since 2006, but most Fremantle residents did not learn about it until over a year later, and the reaction was immediate. In December 2007 a very effective action group sprang into being, the Save Fremantle Beaches Alliance, which at once launched a website urging people to protest and save their access to their beach which was being threatened by an excessive residential and marina component around the three harbours.

The Fremantle Society worked alongside the Save Fremantle Beaches Alliance and also put forward a submission to the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, strongly objecting to the loss of connection to the ocean which would follow such massive residential and marine development, and pointing out the lack of real community consultation.273

The effect of all this community outcry was that when the government began to plan for the development of Victoria Quay from the Round House to the old Traffic Bridge, Alannah MacTiernan set up a special steering committee consisting of representatives of Fremantle Ports, Tourism WA, the Fremantle City Council and the WA Planning Commission, with local Fremantle architect Richard

page 155

Longley as a community representative. She wanted to avoid a repeat of the ING ‘bun fight’. Ian welcomed the appointment of a community representative, but called for more than one, and for an end to secret decision-making.274

In any event the Labor government did not last long enough to embark on any of its plans; it lost office in September 2008, and the incoming Liberal government of Colin Barnett had other priorities.

A great occasion came when the Fremantle Society nominated the iconic Galati family for the City of Fremantle Spirit of Heritage award in May 2008, and they carried off the prize. The family was nominated for their massive contribution to Fremantle over fifty years of trading. Their Wray Avenue shop had become the social hub of the area, and beyond. Sadly the ill health of matriarch Vincenzina Galati caused a long postponement of the celebration of this historic award, but when the occasion finally came a year later it was memorable. Over a thousand people crammed the Fremantle Town Hall; relatives, friends and long-time customers all crowded into the large main hall to celebrate the Galatis. Wine flowed and the famous Galati arancini and other delicious food, much of it cooked by Vincenzina and her friends, seemed to come in a never-ending stream for most of the Sunday afternoon in August 2009. It was a unique celebration of Fremantle and one of its outstanding families.275

There had been other positive developments for the Fremantle Society as well. Ian had reinstated the notion of committees to deal with special issues like planning and heritage, as well as social acitivities, membership, newsletter and website. And the Victoria Quay Task Force was also a major step forward;

page 156

apart from concentrating on the quay it had also been talking about community-based development guidelines for key sites like the Myer-Queensgate complex, the Point Street area adjacent to Princess May Park and the eastern approaches to the city along Queen Victoria and Beach streets. A sub-group of the VQTF had been liaising with Professor Ruth Durack, the convenor of the UWA Urban Design Centre, since early 2008 about these issues.276

An important subcommittee was set up under the convenorship of former World Health Organization researcher Professor David Hawks to investigate how best to pursue the still important goal of national or even world heritage listing for Fremantle or for parts of it. As noted earlier, there seem to be formidable obstacles involved, but the Society has confronted such obstacles before and overcome them.

A very positive development emerging from the VQTF was the attempt at establishing some liaison between state government ministers, the Fremantle City Council, the Chamber of Commerce and Fremantle Ports. This is an ongoing venture driven mainly by president Ian Alexander and ex-councillor and wise Fremantle elder June Hutchison and is hopefully drawing together some formerly antagonistic elements.

Another success story involved Fremantle Park, which came under threat in 2007 of possibly being taken over by the Fremantle Dockers, who wanted a new headquarters and other facilities. Resistance to this from local residents led to a Fremantle Park Task Force being formed, with local resident Graeme Evans

page 157

as convenor. The task force lobbied for the park to be listed by the Heritage Council, and asked David Hutchison to prepare a history of the park. By then several local residents including former Society president Don Whittington had also formed a Fremantle Park Association, so it was felt that the Fremantle Society could disband its task force, keeping contact with the Association to monitor any development.

The Fremantle Society continues its battle for Fremantle as a great place to live. Under Ian’s presidency its membership has almost doubled, and when the Society celebrated the City of Fremantle Heritage Week in 2010 with a revival of its 1970s Mucky Duck Bush Dance, tickets sold out quickly. More than a hundred and fifty people danced the night away at the Town Hall; many were longstanding members, but a large proportion were much younger.

Another Society event during Heritage Week was a tram tour led by Don Whittington as conductor. It started as a single tour of buildings saved by the Society. That sold out immediately, as did tour two and then tour three. The crowd still kept coming, including a couple who travelled up from Bunbury. For Don it was like revisiting the past; he had been there at the beginning when these magnificent buildings, and many houses, were saved from the wrecker. The tram travelled past Dalkeith House, Victoria Hall, the Fremantle Markets, the warders’ cottages, the Fire Station, Fremantle Prison, the extravagant facades of High and Henry streets and the Evan Davies Library, now pivot of the cappuccino strip. The tram chugged on: the passengers cheered.

Fremantle was still a special place.


1 Don Whittington, interview with Ron Davidson, 4 July 2008.
2 Sunday Times, 7 November 1965.
3 Kenneth McPherson, ‘Future Fremantle - a personal view’, Fremantle, vol. 8, no. 4, 1980.
4 Marny Lee, interview with Ron Davidson, 8 January 2009.
5 G. Stephenson, A life in city design, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, Fremantle, 1992.
6 Keith Sinclair, interview with Ron Davidson, 28 July 2008.
7 Peter Yule (ed), Carlton: a history, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, 2004, p. 156.
8 Kristy Bizzaca, ‘A history of the development of the heritage movement and the establishment of heritage policy in the City of Fremantle 1955-1982’, MA thesis, Murdoch University, 1997, pp. 20-23,26-27.
9 City of Fremantle, ‘Fremantle: Preservation and Change’, March 1971, p. 5.
10 ibid p. 6.
11 ibid p. 27.
12 Les Lauder, interview with Dianne Davidson, 23 May 1991.
13 ibid.
14 ibid.
15 Keith Sinclair, interview with Ron Davidson, 28 July 2008.
16 Lois Anderson, ‘Sir Frederick Samson: the Mayor’, in Lyall Hunt (ed), Westralian Portraits, UWA Press, WA, 1979.
17 Les Lauder to Fremantle City Council, 2 November 1972.
18 Les Lauder, interview with Dianne Davidson, 23 May 1991.
19 Marny Lee, interview with Ron Davidson, 8 January 2009.
20 ibid.
21 Andrea Witcomb & Kate Gregory, From the Barracks to the Burrup, National Trust of Australia (WA), University of NSW Press, Sydney, 2010, p. 271.
22 Fremantle Society Newsletter, March— April 1974.
23 Correspondence between Patrick I. Troy and Hon T. Uren MHR, 11 April 1973 and 28 May 1973.
24 ibid.
25 ibid.
26 Personal communication, Patrick Troy to Ron Davidson, 7 January 2009.
27 City of Fremantle, ‘Changing Fremantle*, February 1973, p. 6.
28 Bizzaca, ‘A history of the development of the heritage movement', pp. 43-45.
29 Fremantle Society Newsletter, August 1973.
30 Les Lauder, interview with Dianne Davidson, 23 May 1991.
31 ibid.
32 Fremantle Society Newsletter, vol. 1, no. 6, November—December 1973.
33 Les Lauder, interview with Dianne Davidson, 23 May 1991.
34 Bizzaca, ‘A history of the development of the heritage movement’, pp. 45-49.
35 Fremantle Society Newsletter, August 1973.
36 Les Lauder, interview at Fremantle Studies Day, October 2001 in Fremantle City Library, Local History Collection.
37 Les Lauder, interview with the authors, 25 February 2009.
38 Witcomb & Gregory, From the Barracks to the Burrup, p. 279.
39 Fremantle, vol. 2, no. 6, October-November 1974 (NB This Is the first time the Society newsletter appears with a name).
40 Fremantle, vol. 3, no. 2,1975.
41 Les Lauder, interview with the authors, 25 February 2009.
42 Helen Mills, interview with Ron Davidson, 28 October 2009.
43 Ron Davidson, Fremantle Impressions, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, Fremantle 2007, p. 158.
44 Personal communication, John Troy to Ron Davidson, 6 October 2008.
45 Fremantle Society Newsletter, January-February 1974; Fremantle, October-November 1974.
46 Bizzaca, 'A history of the development of the heritage movement’, p. 50.
47 Fremantle, no. 1,1975.
48 Witcomb & Gregory, From the Barracks to the Burrup, p. 276.
49 ibid.
50 Fremantle City Council minutes, 21 August 1975.
51 Fremantle, vol. 3, no. 4,1975.
52 Les Lauder, email to authors, 2 December 2009.
53 West Australian, 19 February 1974.
54 Fremantle, vol. 3, no. 3,1975.
55 West Australian, 18 December 1975.
56 Fremantle, vol. 4, no. 6,1976.
57 ibid.
58 West Australian, 17 February 1976.
59 West Australian, 12 March 1976.
60 Fremantle, vol. 4, no. 2,1976.
61 West Australian, 12 March 1976.
62 Recollection by Ron Davidson, who was present at the meeting.
63 West Australian, 12 March 1976.
64 Fremantle, vol. 4, no. 2,1976.
65 ibid.
66 Daily News, 17 August 1976.
67 West Australian, 23 September 1976.
68 West Australian, 5 June 1976.
69 Fremantle, vol. 4, no. 3,1976.
70 West Australian, 7 December 1976.
71 Fremantle, vol. 4, no. 3,1976.
72 ibid.
73 ibid.
74 Daily News, 31 August 1977
75 ibid.
76 Recollection by Ron Davidson, who was on the committee at the time.
77 Fremantle, vol. 4, no. 4,1976.
78 Fremantle, vol. 5, no. 2,1977.
79 Fremantle, vol. 6, no. 1,1978.
80 Fremantle, vol. 9, no. 3,1981.
81 Fremantle, vol. 11, no. 1,1983.
82 Winnie (Diane) Dwyer, interview with Ron Davidson, 7 July 2008.
83 Marny Lee, interview with Ron Davidson, 8 January 2009.
84 Fremantle, vol. 2, no. 6, October— November 1974
85 Fremantle Society Newsletter, vol. 2, no. 1, January-February 1974.
86 Fremantle, vol. 2 no. 6, October-November 1974.
87 Fremantle, vol. 3, no. 3,1975.
88 Fremantle, vol. 5, nos 1 & 2,1977.
89 Kenneth McPherson to Secretary, Fremantle Society, no date.
90 Larraine Stevens, interview with Dianne Davidson, 7 March 2009.
91 Fremantle, vol. 13, no. 3,1985.
92 Larraine Stevens, interview with Dianne Davidson, 7 March 2009.
93 ibid.
94 ibid.
95 ibid.
96 Fremantle, April 1995.
97 Karen Lang & Jan Newman, Wharf Rats and other stories: 100 years of growing up in Fremantle, Fremantle Primary School P & C Association, Fremantle, 2004.
98 Correspondence between June Boddy and D.H. O’Neil, Fremantle vol. 7, no. 1, 1979.
99 Fremantle, vol. 7, no. 2,1979.
100 June Boddy, interview with Ron Davidson, 2 September 2008.
101 Fremantle, vol. 7, no. 2,1979.
102 Les Lauder, interview with the authors,
25 February 2009.
103 Fremantle Gazette, 21 June 1979.
104 Fremantle, vol. 7, no. 1,1979.
105 Fremantle, March 1979.
106 Ralph Hoare, interview with Ron Davidson, 8 July 2008.
107 Fremantle, October 1979.
108 Fremantle, vol. 10, no. 3,1982.
109 See Appendix I: Fremantle Society Presidents.
110 Fremantle, vol. 11, no. 3,1983.
111 Fremantle, vol. 11, no. 1,1983.
112 Fremantle, vol. 10, no. 1,1982.
113 Fremantle Gazette, 4 November 1981.
114 ibid.
115 Fremantle Gazette, 9 December 1981.
116 The Future Fremantle, 1978, clause 2.6(h).
117 Fremantle, vol. 8, no.1,1980.
118 Outline of Submission to Fremantle City Council: Objections and alternatives to the proposed Parry Street extension,
15 June 1983.
119 Fremantle, vol. 11, no. 3,1983.
120 Fremantle, vol. 12, no. 1,1984.
121 Fremantle, vol. 8, no. 1,1980.
122 Fremantle, vol. 10, no. 3,1982.
123 Fremantle, vol. 12, no. 2,1984.
124 Fremantle vol. 11, no. 4,1983.
125 Fremantle Gazette, 31 March 1982.
126 Fremantle City Council Minutes,
17 January 1983, p. 16.
127 West Australian, 20 June 1983.
128 West Australian, 1 May 1984.
129 Daily News, 9 January 1985.
130 Fremantle vol. 13, no. 2,1985.
131 Fremantle vol. 12, no. 5,1984.
132 Minutes of Fremantle Society Annual General Meeting, 1985—86.
133 West Australian, 28 June 1986.
134 Fremantle vol. 15, no. 2,1987.
135 Fremantle, September 1987.
136 Special edition newsletter, October 1988.
137 Minutes of Special General Meeting, 23 November 1988.
138 Fremantle, December 1988.
139 Fremantle, April 1989.
140 Daily News, 5 May 1988 and 6 May 1988.
141 Daily News, 8 June 1988.
142 West Australian, 13 August 1988.
143 Fremantle Gazette, 8 November 1988.
144 Fremantle, December 1988.
145 Notes, Ron Davidson, January 1989.
146 Fremantle Focus, December 1988.
147 Notes, Ron Davidson, January 1989.
148 Fremantle Gazette, 13 December 1988.
149 Fremantle Gazette, 10 January 1989.
150 Fremantle, February 1989.
151 Fremantle, April 1989.
152 Daily News, 7 July 1989 and 28 July 1989.
153 Fremantle Society Response to the Submission for Notre Dame Australia, September 1989.
154 Submission to Fremantle City Council from Community Action for Rational Development on the NDA Proposal, n.d.
155 Fremantle Gazette, 3 October 1989.
156 Fremantle Gazette, 30 November 1989.
157 West Australian, 8 June 1990.
158 West Australian, 27 October 1990.
159 West Australian, 26 November 1990 and 28 November 1990.
160 Fremantle Herald, 17 December 1990; West Australian editorial, 19 December 1990.
161 West Australian, 11 January 1992.
162 West Australian, 24 February 1992.
163 R. McK Campbell, The Fremantle Prison: a report on its past, presens and future for the Department of Urban & Regional Development and the Fremantle City Council, September 1975, p. 42.
164 Fremantle, vol 10, no. 1, March 19S2
165 Personal recollection: Dianne Davidson.
166 Fremantle Prison Draft Conservation and Management Plan: submission from the Fremantle Society Inc., 8 May 1969.
167 Ralph Hoare, interview with Ron Davidson, 8 July 2006.
168 Dianne Davidson to David Parker, 12 June 1989.
169 John Forbes, SPC to Dianne Davidson, 31 May 1989.
170 Minutes of inaugural meeting, 15 June 1989.
171 Minutes of Advisory Groups meeting 21 December 1989.
172 Personal recollection: Dianne Davidson.
173 Fremantle Prison Heritage Precinct Master Plan, July 2003, 1.3 Planning history.
174 Fremantle Herald, 11 October 1990.
175 Fremantle Herald, 1 June 1992.
176 Fremantle Prison Heritage Pretinct Master Plan, July 2003,1.1 Introduction.
177 Ron Davidson to Jim McGinty, 23 July 2004.
178 Jenny Archibald, interview with Ron Davidson, 5 February 2009.
179 Fremantle, April 1990.
180 Fremantle, July 1990; Fremantle Herald, 2 August 1990.
181 Fremantle, October 1990.
182 Fremantle, March 1991.
183 Fremantle Herald, 10 June 1991.
184 Fremantle Herald, 19 August 1991; Fremantle, August 1991.
185 Fremantle, June 1992.
186 Fremantle Herald, 22 June 1992
187 Fremantle Herald, 3 August 1992.
188 Fremantle, July 1990.
189 Fremantle Herald, 12 October 1992.
190 Fremantle, June 1992; Ralph Hoare, facsimile to Heritage Council of WA, n.d.; Ralph Hoare to City Manager, City of Fremantle, n.d.
191 Ralph Hoare to David Hart, Fremantle AFL Team, 17 May 1994.
192 The West Australian, 8 May 2008.
193 The West Australian, 24 August 1994; Fremantle Gazette, 30 August 1994.
194 Fremantle, October 1994.
195 Ralph Hoare to Richard Lewis, 25 August 1994.
196 Fremantle Gazette, 30 August 1994.
197 Fremantle Herald, 7 January 1995.
198 Fremantle Herald, 21 January 1995.
199 Fremantle Gazette, 17 February 1995.
200 Minutes of Fremantle Society Annual General Meeting, 1996.
201 Fremantle Gazette, 5 January 1993.
202 Fremantle Herald, 21 February 1998.
203 Fremantle, July 1995, May 1997.
204 Minutes of Fremantle Society Annual General Meeting, 1997.
205 Fremantle Herald, 13 June 1998; Fremantle, May 1997.
206 Minutes of Fremantle Society Annual General Meeting, 1999.
207 Fremantle, February 1993.
208 Fremantle Herald, 2 May 1998.
209 Fremantle Herald, 12 June 1999.
210 Fremantle Herald, 31 July 1999.
211 Fremantle Herald, 2 May 1998.
212 Fremantle Herald, 28 August 1999.
213 Fremantle Herald, 9 October 1999.
214 Fremantle Herald, 15 April 2000.
215 Fremantle Herald, 11 September 1999.
216 Fremantle, July 1996.
217 Fremantle, October 1996.
218 Fremantle, May 1994.
219 Fremantle, August 1998.
220 John Dowson, interview with Ron Davidson, 14 December 2009; John Dowson to Ron and Dianne Davidson, 3 May 2007.
221 Fremantle Herald, 10 April 1999.
222 ibid.
223 Fremantle Herald, 20 December 1999.
224 Fremantle Herald, 8 February 2000.
225 Fremantle Herald, 15 May 2000.
226 Fremantle Gazette, 6 June 2000.
227 Fremantle Herald, 17 June 2000.
228 John Dowson, interview with Ron Davidson, 14 December 2009.
229 Fremantle Herald, 10 November 2001.
230 Fremantle Herald, 13 May 2000.
231 Fremantle Gazette, 13 June 2000.
232 Fremantle Gazette, 12 December 2000.
233 Kelsall & Peters Heritage Assessment of Victoria Quay, April 2001.
234 Twentieth century immigration through Fremantle: the Fremantle Society Report, June 2001.
235 Fremantle Herald, 23 June 2001.
236 Fremantle Gazette, 10-16 February 2004.
237 Fremantle Herald, 15 May 2004.
238 Fremantle Herald, 29 May 2004.
239 Cathy Hall to Dianne Davidson, 16 January 2010.
240 Fremantle Herald, 14 August 2004.
241 Fremantle, Winter edition 2006; Fremantle Herald, 30 July 2005.
242 Fremantle Herald, 22 April 1991.
243 Fremantle Herald, 23 September 1991.
244 ibid.
245 Fremantle Herald, 7 October 1991.
246 Fremantle Herald, 20 July 1992.
247 Cathy Hall to Dianne Davidson, 16 January 2010.
248 Fremantle Society Nomination Form for listing of Fremantle Inner Harbour, 15 August 2005.
249 ibid.
250 Fremantle Gazette, 20 December 2005.
251 Fremantle, September 2008.
252 Fremantle, Winter edition 2006.
253 West Australian, 27 December 2002.
254 Fremantle Herald, 11 March 2006.
255 Fremantle, Spring edition 2006.
256 Fremantle Herald, 15 July 2006.
257 Fremantle Herald, 2 December 2006.
258 Fremantle Herald, 3 February 2007.
259 Fremantle Herald, 25 January 2007.
260 Fremantle, September 2009.
261 Ian Alexander, interview with Ron Davidson, 29 January 2010.
262 Fremantle Herald, 7 April 2007.
263 Fremantle Herald, 16 June 2007.
264 Fremantle Herald, 26 May 2007.
265 Fremantle Herald, 23 June 2007.
266 Fremantle Heriald, 21 July 2007.
267 ibid.
268 Fremantle Herald, 11 August 2007.
269 Fremantle Herald, 10 November 2007.
270 Fremantle Herald, 24 May 2008.
271 Fremantle Herald, 7 June 2008.
272 Fremantle Herald, 15 March 2008.
273 Fremantle Harbours Policy; Submission from the Fremantle Society, 7 February 2008.
274 Fremantle Herald, 12 April 2008.
275 Fremantle, September 2009.
276 Fremantle Herald, 15 March 2008.

Garry Gillard | New: 23 May, 2020 | Now: 14 May, 2021