For many years and till as recently as 40 years ago Fremantle was known as WA’s harbour city. Prior to containerisation, men were employed in sizeable numbers to man handle Western Australian’s import and export cargo. Freight rail was big in those days and the harbour north and south had a large network of sidings to manage that movement. Bicycles were a major source of transport for adults, and up until the early 1990’s the Fremantle Port Authority had probably the most comprehensive bike repair shop in the State. The footie oval was encircled by a bike track that was raced regularly until the 1960s. Men either walked or cycled to the harbour everyday in the hope of getting a days work, hence, they lived and breathed Fremantle. The port was the major source of employment for a sizeable proportion of Fremantle residents for decades. Like all ports it was a drinking and prostitution mecca. West of Beaconsfield was where the racing horses lived, there was no housing there. The beaches were places to fish for food, and income, eg, beach shark fishing for the fish and chip shops. During the war years South Beach had an enclosed beach and was the source of the classic, now traditional beach holiday weekend, for troops and residents;the race horses were regular early morning visitors.
These make up some of the things Fremantle was well known for, but hardly any are pertinent today.
In the late 1980’s Fremantle began its transformation in preparation for the America’s Cup. Even the Port Authority and Unions, knowing its significance had to change its ways and schedules to welcome and support the running of the events. The hospitality business remained and much of it is still here nearly 30 years later. Although the coming of Notre Dame University has killed off a high proportion of that from the west end, with their mass purchase of every available building and pub in that area. Sadly a very inward looking organisation.
We need to appreciate that the Fremantle Port Authority and the City of Fremantle are no longer joined at the hip. Fremantle as a city is no longer a port city; the Council has no control, authority or even influence over what happens within the port north or south of the river. The port hasn’t been a significant employer of workers for decades. The west end does still house some local offices of major shipping companies, but these are not huge places of employment. The Maritime Union of Australia has its office north of fremantle bridge, but their members are no longer predominantly living in freo suburbs, and their numbers are small anyway, they certainly don’t ride bikes to get to work these days!
Equally sad is the gradual loss of access and control of the coastal and beach areas that adjoin our city. Departments of Marine and Harbours, PTA and FPA control most of that land, with minimal public access and sight lines. When we get it, we are expected to be grateful! Much of that land is no required for any of the uses those Depts are set up to manage. So now they want to behave like Local Authorities in their own right. They want to compete with their neighbouring LA, ie, our City, to do what LAs do best! Made worse that we as a community have just sat back and let them take over, push us out, and our Council seem to be much the same, helplessness prevails!
So, the main point of this background from me, is what do you want Freo to become well known for in the future?
- Do you want our whole local authority to be known by the eventual refreshed and revised City Ward? If not not, what and why?
- Should our city be based on the features and facility for tourists, and secondly guests from within the metro using our services?
- Or should our city be primarily about service provision for ratepayers and residents?
- Should Freo become another place to graze in its shopping areas?
- If grazing isn’t for you, is Lazing in our hospitality outlets, cafes, etc?
- How about weekend events and processions?
- Can we spread the joy (or burden) to other suburbs, eg, make better us of our green spaces outside the City Ward, with a focus on, you tell me, activities?
- Can a city promote itself from multiple high points, or does it need just a single objective, eg, we were a port city, ho hum!
Tell me “What do you want Fremantle to become known for?”, in its post Port city and America’s Cup days. Please be a precise as you can, let’s see if we can avoid spin and motherhood!