Notes from the President

Happy 30th Anniversary Freedom Day


The Fremantle Society was invited to Fremantle Prison today to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the decommissioned site.

The top photo shows possibly the best tree in Fremantle guarding the ramp to the prison, the second image shows Speaker of the House Michelle Roberts in the distance behind unlocked doors. Michelle has been involved with the prison for many years and is largely responsible for the $60 million allocated to the new police station just a few hundred yards away, and within the buffer zone of the prison.

The third photo shows one of the original cells. Outside is a ration list of food for the week. No fruit or vegetables on the 1851 list.

The fact that the prison is the top tourist site in Fremantle is due in large part to determined locals and the Fremantle Society who manoeuvred the decommissioning process away from other uses,  into a well restored heritage icon.

That took years of work.

The prison now is in good hands with good staff, though they could do with more. Their exhibits are world class, and perhaps the most astonishing recent addition to their archives are 20 hours of Channel 7 video filmed inside the prison before it was decommissioned. The video was missing for decades as Channel 7 said they didnt have it, and it was only someone clearing out their back shed and handing over boxes of tape, that 20 hours of professionally shot film is now safely with the prison.

IN 1955 the Stephenson Report showed Fremantle Prison eventually becoming Fremantle's new Civic Centre, something supported by Mayor Samson.

Later Brian Burke promised he would give the prison to Fremantle Council, but when he won power in 1983 he reneged on the idea.

Just as Bourke had no interest in helping Fremantle get World Heritage Listing by funding a report for the Australian Heritage Commission as requested by them in 1983, his government wanted the prison to pay its way, and a variety of commercial solutions were floated- convention centre, hotel, Fremantle Tivoli Gardens, Murdoch University, housing, and so on.

Rob McCampbell had been extolling the site's heritage values since 1975 when he stated that "Fremantle Prison has greater potential than the comparable Darlinghurst, Norfolk Island, or Port Arthur."

The 1974 Gray report stated: "The whole Establishment will in time be the most important and interesting feature of the City."

A Fremantle Society Prison Group headed by Dianne Davidson, who died last month, contacted prison expert James Kerr and he was brought to WA to do the report that put the prison onto a heritage focussed track. The Building Management Authority were running the prison, and luckily Gerard MacGill (State Planning Commission) and Ralph Hoare (project manager for BMA) had close links with the Fremantle Society.

Additionally, Agnieshka Kiera, the heritage architect for Fremantle Council, worked tirelessly along with others to get the prison world heritage listed. That bore fruit in August 2010.

The prison is the only World Heritage building in WA.


You are invited to hear one of WA's eminent architects John Taylor talking about (possibly) Fremantle's most famous architect Talbot Hobbs, on Tuesday 30 November  at Victoria Hall following the AGM at 6.30pm.

Further details to come.

We encourage you to consider being an office bearer and volunteering some time to help with the many issues that need dealing with. All positions are available, though there is no salary or superannuation, only lots of cheap wine.

Please contact President John Dowson if interested ( or Secretary Matt Wallwork (0414 235 082).


The Fremantle Society archives have moved and we are very fortunate to have the help of the Museum of Perth to digitise some of the wonderful material sitting in boxes unloved and unread.

Already, a considerable amount of our material can be found on the superb FreoStuff site run by Garry Gillard.

Party Time 2022- Fremantle Society's 50th Birthday

To celebrate 50 years of serving and saving Fremantle, the Fremantle Society is keen to hear from current members as well as former members whose membership has lapsed and who would like to be part of our significant 50th milestone. Any excuse for a party.

If you have ideas please let us know.

The River- The Bridge- The Biennale- The Film

While council sycophants like Roel Loopers are frenetically attacking the Fremantle Society whenever the Society writes and acts about a subject involving Fremantle Council, the Fremantle Society is hard at work researching the important issues, especially at the moment around the riverfront,  which include:

a) completing the $35,000 film project this week to try and save the heritage listed traffic bridge.

b) working with senior bureaucrats to get more respect for the Swan River and its foreshores, and encouraging a Bicentennial project that focusses on the health of our waterways and even  endeavours to bring swans back to the Swan River in numbers.

c) getting better maintenance of existing interpretive signage, replacement of stolen and damaged public art, better public art, and a process that respects residents' wishes.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society

0409 22 36 22


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