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Vision for Arthur Head

Proposal by The Fremantle Society, October 2019

Given the current degraded state of parts of Arthur Head, a lack of cohesion for how the Reserve is managed, and a lack of focus on the national significance of the place from the perspective of colonial and Aboriginal history, the Fremantle Society proposes a joint vision for the Arthur Head Reserve, between the Society, Fremantle Council, Fremantle Ports, and the WA Museum, encapsulating the whole of the reserve.

reserveIt is suggested that the vision presents a document to relevant State and Federal Ministers outlining the national significance of the whole Reserve, and individual elements within it, such as the early colonial and Aboriginal history, particularly the role of the Round House, the whaling industry, the early port, former lighthouse and defence installations, and the former Power Station, with a view to securing funds for its maintenance, enhancement, and promotion.

Since 1829, Fremantle’s Arthur Head has been the iconic landmark of Britain’s first settlement of Western Australia, first known as the Swan River Colony. Visible from many miles out to sea and dominating the historic town centre, the limestone bluff with its sparse coastal vegetation has long been a focus for visitors and townspeople. (Professor Bob Reece, 2019)

The Arthur Head Project: In 1983, ahead of the America’s Cup, Council issued principles for the protection and development of Western Australia’s most significant historic site- Arthur Head. The document stated:

Arthur Head is the State’s most significant historic site for all Western Australians, being the first settlement site of the Swan River Colony. It is also, therefore, an area of national importance as the focal point of European settlement of the western third of the continent ... visitors should be able to enjoy the combination of beach, ocean, vegetation, landforms and historical building as a precinct which offers physical pleasure, relaxation, information, creature comforts and - importantly- an emotional experience. (The Arthur Head Project, Fremantle Council, 1983)

A great deal of work has already been done by Fremantle Council in earlier years that can be drawn upon to refocus attention to the key elements of the Arthur Head Reserve which need attention, including seeking money for engineering works recently identified as essential for stabilising Arthur Head (2019 estimate c $1.8m).

There are many current success stories within the Reserve such as the annual 100,000 plus visitors to the Round House manned by volunteers.

There is the highly successful J shed and the artists there.
There is the art studio of Glen Cowan adjacent to the Round House.
There is the former kerosene store known as Kidogo which hosts exhibitions and events.
There is the highly successful boardwalk and adjacent refurbished Fisherman’s Co-op building.

But there is much unfinished business within the Reserve because the Conservation Plan is not being implemented. There are further opportunities for interpretation, and for example underwater tours off Bathers Beach. There is the unfinished work with heritage trails (see below) such as the Maritime Heritage Trail which aimed to link the Fishing Boat harbour with Fremantle Port, something that would enhance and link those two entities and further promote Arthur Head reserve.


John Dowson, President, The Fremantle Society
9335 2113
October 2019