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Immigration Centre

Courtesy Alan Pearce, Fremantle Ports, from Facebook.

My snap 22 May 2022.

The first Immigration Office & Information Centre, 1906.
Library photo no. 976 c. 1909:
The Western Australian Immigration Office and Information Bureau on the Fremantle wharf at Victoria Quay. It was completed 29.11.1906 at a cost of £1002. It stood near the C shed for six years and was then moved to the Railway reserve at the Market Street bridge. In 1907 there were 949 assisted and nominated passages to Western Australia and in 1911, 9578.

Hutchison 2005 photo from Walks.

My 2017 photo.

22 May 2022 + public toilet on the right. The building is fenced with wire + barbed wire. The toilet is boarded up.

Jack Kent 1991 assessment:
The Immigration Office, currently being used as a police station, was built in its present location in cl912. The first Immigration Office, together with an Information Centre was originally constructed nearer the quayside approximately 200m west of the present position which had to be demolished in 1912 to allow for the extension to ' C' Shed. It is possible that some materials and elements were recycled into the ' new' building when the service was relocated to the new position near north end of the Market Street bridge.
The front verandah/colonnade is clearly indicated on the PWD plan 26519 revision 1928 but seems to be omitted on PWD plan 17630 revision August 1920. It is therefore possible that this verandah/colonnade was added between these dates and this would also be supported considering that the architectural style of the colonnade would be classified as typically 1920s.
The main body of the building is timber frame construction with external walls clad in weatherboard. A small amount of fibre-cement sheeting is used as wall cladding immediately below the gutter line and above the verandah roof. The main roof is covered in clay tiles. The verandah/colonnade is constructed in brick and concrete, and it is possible that the fibre cement sheeting and clay roof tiles were installed around the same time as its construction. The original cl912 roof would probably have been corrugated metal sheets.
In terms of aesthetic value, the Immigration Office is a pleasantly proportioned building, attractive in its own right. It is ' domestic' in scale although its character has an appropriate air of officialdom.
Historically, the Immigration Office is physical evidence of a major past function of Victoria Quay, that was, the receiving of new immigrants to Australia.
Even though the building is no longer used for its original function it is significant in as much that it demonstrates the original mode of immigration prior to public air travel.

Former Immigration Centre ('Old Police Station')

Accorded 'Moderate relative degree of significance' in the 2000 Masterplan.

From David Hutchison's Fremantle Walks, 2006:
On the back of the quay, opposite the space between B and C Sheds. The state appointed its first immigration officer, A.O. Neville, in 1906. An Immigration and Information Bureau was erected on Victoria Quay at the western end of where C Shed now stands. In 1912-15, to allow for extension to C Shed, it was moved to a site at the end of the overhead bridge, which provided access for pedestrians crossing to the Railway Station. In the 1920s, colonnades were added to the front of the building, and new waiting rooms were erected on the western side. Following the decline in immigration during the Depression, the signage was changed to read ‘Government Tourist Bureau’. During World War II, it served for military purposes and after the war, until 1947, it was used by the navy for the repatriation of Royal Navy personnel and war brides. Government officers, including the Tourism and Immigration Agent, then returned to the building, in preparation for the mass migration scheme. From 1947 to 1970 ships brought nearly two million immigrants to Australia from Britain, Europe and Commonwealth countries. The Tourist Information Bureau vacated the premises in August 1966.
In 2005 there were plans to refurbish this and adjacent buildings as part of the new commercial precinct.

Former Immigration Centre and Waiting Room, public toilet in between. Click/tap.

Jack Kent 1991 assessment:
The construction date of this building is so far unknown, although a detailed drawing of the Quay, PWD26519 dated 1928 does not show this public toilet. Most of the old drawings of the Quay referred to in this study are at such a small scale that this building may have been omitted from the drawing even though it may have existing. However, it can be assumed that it was constructed after 1928.
The public toilet is of timber frame construction, the roof is clad in 'custom orb', the lower walls clad in weatherboard and the upper walls in fibre-cement sheeting. The timber joinery is competently detailed and in a fair state of repair.
The public toilet is a compact little building demonstrating good building skills. It is a nicely proportioned and carefully detailed building and mimics the style and architectural character of the large goods shed. This uncanny resemblance, contributes significantly to its aesthetic and townscape value.
Its historical association with the Immigration Office gives this building historical significance since being a public building relating to this previously major port function.

The Waiting Room (present use unknown, possibly a store) appears on a PWD plan 26519 dated 1928 but not on PWD plan 17630 revision 1920. Its construction therefore is traced to between these dates. The windows and doors in the northern, brick elevation appear later than this period. It is possible then that the building was constructed with ' fashionable' elements c. 1928 or alterations, at least to the north elevation, have subsequently been made since its original construction.
The main body of the Waiting Room is of timber frame construction with a mono-pitch roof. The roof is pitched down from a brick parapet wall on the northern elevation. The remainder of the external walls are clad in weatherboards and the roof is corrugated pressed metal. A canopy is suspended from the parapet wall with asbestos cement sheet cladding to the soffit and fascia. The western end of the building is probably a later extension constructed to match the original weatherboard detailing.
The Waiting Room is utilitarian building providing support accommodation to immigration activities and as such has historical significance. Its aesthetic value can be seen in terms of its utilitarian design - similar to railway and wharf architecture - and also how its materials and character are sympathetic to the other wharf buildings contributing to Victoria Quay's coherent townscape.

Waiting Room, to the right (west) of the Immigration Centre, 2017, neglected.

This is 'Not deemed to warrant assessment [i.e. retention]' in the 2000 Masterplan.

The Waiting Room @ 22 May 2022, still unused and now fenced, but at least painted.

References and Links

Dowson, John 2001, Fremantle: the Immigration Story, Fremantle Society.

Dowson, John 2011, Fremantle Port, Chart and Map Shop Fremantle.

Hutchison, David, with Jack Kent, Agnieshka Kiera, Russell Kingdom, Larraine Stevens, Tanya Suba, 1991, Victoria Quay and its Architecture its History and Assessment of Cultural Significance, City of Fremantle.

Peters, Nonja 2004, 'The immigration buildings Victoria Quay 1906-1966'Fremantle Studies, 3: 40-52.

Stevens, J.W.B. 1929, The History of the Fremantle Harbour, A Romance in Port Building, in Hitchcock, qv.

Fremantle Ports website.

Fremantle Ports, 50 Years Administration Building booklet, online.

Wikipedia article on Fremantle Port Authority.

Garry Gillard | New: 12 May, 2022 | Now: 22 October, 2023