Fremantle’s Round House turns 190 today

Volunteer guide Christopher Hon and I inspect the Round House canon, which the I will fire at 1pm today to mark the Round House’s 190th birthday.

Western Australia’s oldest public building – the Round House in Fremantle – is turning 190 years old today.

Opening on 18 January 1831, the Round House was the first permanent public building to be constructed in the Swan River Colony.

Originally built as a jail, its later uses included a police lock-up, living quarters and storage facility for Fremantle Port before being opened to the public as a tourist attraction.

The Round House accommodated both colonial and Aboriginal prisoners, including Nyoongar leader Yagan, and was the site of the colony’s first public execution of a European settler – 15-year-old John Gavin.

It was also used as a lock-up for Aboriginal prisoners from all over the state being transported to Rottnest Island.

I will have the honour of firing the gun deck canon at 1pm today so come on down if you are n the area.

The Round House was one of Western Australia’s most significant heritage sites. Because of it’s role as a prison and police lock-up, some of the history of the Round House is pretty grim. But it still stands as an important reminder of Fremantle and Western Australia’s past, and the volunteer guides do an amazing job of bringing that history to life for the thousands of people who visit each year.

It’s great that the state government has recently provided matching funding with the City of Fremantle to undertake much needed work to stabilise the Arthur Head cliffs that surround the Round House. We’ll continue to talk with the government about the conservation work required for the Round House itself, because in 10 years’ time we want it to still be here and looking great for its 200th birthday.

The Round House was designed by the Swan River Colony’s first civil engineer Henry Willey Reveley and took just five months to build.

The prominent site at Arthur Head was chosen to emphasise the role of law and order in the colony and was intended to physically and psychologically dominate the community.

In 1837 the Fremantle Whaling Company requested a tunnel be cut through Arthur Head to connect Bathers Beach with High Street.

Following the arrival of convicts in 1851 and the completion of the Fremantle Prison in 1857, the Round House ceased to be used as a jail and was used as a police lock-up until 1900.

The building was saved from demolition in the 1920s and was managed by the state government before it was deeded to the City of Fremantle in 1982.

The Round House is open daily from 10:30am-3:30pm, with a team of friendly volunteer guides on hand to welcome visitors, answer questions and point out interesting features.

The Round House is one of the stops on the City of Fremantle’s school holiday Time Travel Adventure Trail. For more information go to

Pedal for our Planet on Saturday 23rd.

Its time to get on your bike for a mass ride – for our Planet!

Meet at South Beach for some bike maintenance and screen printing, then pump some tunes while we pedal the streets of Freo.

We will return to South Beach for some a swim and some live local music.
Bring your friends and family.

Theme is Oceans are Rising, so get creative with your dress (sea creatures, bathers, blue)

Sun Goes Down on Nukes Celebration Event

You are invited to celebrate the many people, many ways, and so many years of effort for this international shift to ban nuclear weapons, culminating in this day, January 22, 2021 as the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons enters into force in international law.

There will music, speakers and the sunset over the Indian Ocean at Bathers Beach, from the Kidogo Arthouse deck.

Join us, enjoy the view and company and historical moment for our precious planet’s next step towards removing the threat of nuclear weapons.

Speakers include noteworthy members of our community who have been involved with issues of peace and social justice in local and international realms.

Dr Tarun Weeramanthri is a distinguished leader of public health policy and practice. A former Chief Health Officer for the WA Department of Health, he brings a wealth of experience to share with us on vital public health issues both international and local, and now is putting this experience into action as the medical delegate on International Humanitarian Law Committee of WA branch of Australian Red Cross, and as the President of the Public Health Association of Australia.

Melissa Parke is one of us! Born in Donnybrook, she became  a human rights lawyer, who worked in the front line in such drastic war zones as Kosovo, Lebanon and Gaza.  For 9 years she was Fremantle’s vocal Federal Member, where she kept up her representation of and advocacy for the powerless and the oppressed. Always a supporter of MAPW, she became an ardent Ambassador for ICAN, taking our message of hope and practical action into fora local, national and international.

Supported by the MAPW (Medical Association for the Prevention of War), ICAN (International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons), Mayors for Peace Fremantle, and Conservation Council of WA, amongst others.

If you are interested in supporting this event, and maybe have questions, please contact –

Sun Sets on Nukes, January 22, 2021 Fremantle Tickets, Fri 22/01/2021 at 6:00 pm | Eventbrite

First stage of Arthur Head conservation works completed

Heritage Coordinator Gena Binet, Project Manager Paul De Young and I admire the completed first stage of the Arthur Head conservation works.

The first stage of important conservation works being carried out by the City of Fremantle at one of Western Australia’s most significant heritage sites has been completed.

Since 2018 the severely eroded limestone cliffs at Arthur Head, the site of Fremantle’s historic Round House, have been fenced off due to the safety risk from falling rocks.

Last year the City of Fremantle and the state government committed matching funding of $500,000 each for urgent works to stabilise and repair the cliffs.

The first stage of the conservation works was to repair the huge limestone wall on the eastern side of Arthur Head to the north of the Whalers Tunnel.

City of Fremantle Heritage Coordinator Gena Binet said a lot of effort was made to restore the wall to as close to its original condition as possible.  

“The work involved filling in the badly eroded sections of the wall and repointing it with a lime mortar, while also preserving the visible areas of natural cap rock,” Ms Binet said.

“We chose to use a lime mortar and render because it will allow the surface to breathe and naturally expel moisture, unlike the cement renders used in previous decades which contributed to the degradation of the wall.

“The pointing style is based upon existing physical evidence, knowledge of tradition building techniques and documentary evidence from historic photographs.

“We trialled a number of different combinations of local sands to achieve a mortar colour that most closely matched remnants of the early pointing in the area, with the mortar on the main face having a more pinkish tone while we used a whiter tone for the wall built around the top of the cliff face.

“Historically the sand for mortar was collected on site. The pinkish sand, called Terra Rosa or Spearwood Red, is found in pockets in the limestone cliffs while the white sand is found in eroding parts of the cliff face and also throughout coastal areas of Fremantle.

“The variation in mortar colour between the main face and the top wall is thought to have occurred because the original works were undertaken at different times as separate projects.

“I think the final result is an excellent outcome which preserves the heritage significance of the wall and also makes it structurally sound and safer for the public.”

Although the restoration of the wall is now complete the car park at its base will remain fenced off and used as a set-down area for the next stage of the project, which is due to begin in March.

The second stage will involve extending the limestone retaining wall to the south of the Whalers Tunnel near the railway line.

This will be done by covering the exposed cliff face with plastic fibre reinforcement, extending the limestone retaining wall by about 15 metres and filling the gap between the wall and the cliff with concrete.

The final stage, scheduled to begin in May, will involve stabilising the cliff face above the western entrance to the Whalers Tunnel, reinforcing the entrance to the tunnel and building a new rockfall canopy.

The new canopy will be clad in corten steel and have Aboriginal artworks incorporated into the design. It will be supported on custom-made hydraulic buffers to cushion the impact in the event of a rockfall.

The project also includes the removal and restoration of the steel gates at the western end of the Whalers Tunnel and additional fencing around the site.

Planned future stages that are subject to further budget allocations include repairing the limestone walls around the top of Arthur Head, restoring the stairs and the eastern entrance to the Whalers Tunnel and works to repair and conserve the Round House itself.

A multi-disciplinary team led by Hocking Heritage Architects investigated and designed the solutions to stabilise the cliff faces. The team included structural engineers, historians and geotechnical engineers.

Between 1833 and the 1960s Arthur Head was extensively quarried to provide building material and to facilitate works on Fremantle Port and the railway.

The quarrying left the cliff faces exposed to the harsh coastal environment and has contributed to ongoing issues with cliff instability and erosion.

The Solution to Homelessness is Housing First

There is perhaps no more stark and pertinent symbol of a society’s failings than a tent city.

It unequivocally highlights that, despite the safety nets we pride ourselves on, that too many people still fall through the cracks, unable to access housing and key social services – things that should available to all in a wealthy place like Perth.

We have seen the very human face of this in a central Fremantle park in recent weeks where another tent city has popped up. Of course, it is not Perth’s first. There have been well-publicized tent cities in Rockingham and East Perth as well as others.

While the local governments in Perth and Rockingham largely washed their hands of their tent cities, correctly stating housing and homelessness are a state not local government issue, in Fremantle this is not the best option.

We instead want to collaborate with the state government and service providers to end Freo’s tent city as quickly as possible but in a fair and compassionate way. This ideally should mean getting everyone who needs it into some form of accommodation more permanent than a tent.

But this is no easy task. Especially when WA’s social housing sector is in crisis.  The average wait time for social housing in the Perth metro area is about 100 weeks – almost two years – and that is the priority list! There are over 15,000 people on the wait list for social housing in WA.

This crisis has been exacerbated by the fact that the number of social housing units in WA has declined by over 1100 homes in the last four years.

The result is that around nine thousand people in WA are experiencing homelessness each night, one thousand of those people are sleeping rough in parks, streets and cars across WA.

Add to this that WA’s eviction and rent moratorium will end late March and that private rental shortages in WA are at an all-time high and it becomes clear that the housing and homelessness crisis will only worsen without strong State Government action.

This means fast-tracking building thousands of new social housing dwellings in the next few years. Currently the WA government plans to build only 260 new social housing dwellings a year for the next 10 years. The evidence is that this is not nearly enough with Shelter WA calling for at least 2,500 homes a year. In contrast to WA, Victoria will pump $5.3 billion into building more than 12,000 homes within four years to tackle homelessness.

It is all about priorities. It is time some of the more than $2 billion projected surplus or perhaps some of many billions planned for road projects instead be put into housing.

Not only can we afford it – it costs more not to do it. Evidence shows that the State Government saves money by getting people off the street and into housing.

The best practice for tackling homelessness is ‘housing first’ –someone can’t address addiction and unemployment issues without first having a safe place to sleep. This is a concept that the WA Government supports; but so far has lacked the willingness to implement at the scale needed.

More housing as an urgent priority is a decision that is right both morally and financially.

Fremantle’s tent city is just a very visual reminder of what needs to be done.

WA records hotter temps in Bureau of Meteorology’s Climate Statement 2020

Interesting to read today, as we swelter in 40 degree temperatures with bushfires burning, the Bureau of Meteorology’s just released Annual Climate Statement for 2020. It confirms it is getting hotter around Australia but especially here out West.

While the year 2020 was the fourth-warmest year on record for Australia, with the nation’s area-averaged mean temperature for the year 1.15 °C above the 1961–1990 average, in WA 2020 it was the second hottest year ever recorded. This is on the back of a record-warm 2019 – meaning the last two years have been the hottest two years on record for WA.

Furthermore, rainfall was below average in the west of the state with the South West Land Division had its seventh-driest April–October on record, and driest since 2012. Metropolitan Perth’s annual rainfall was about 600 mm (almost 10%) below average, with a record-wet November offset by the fourth-driest winter and third-driest October on record.

I have said this before, but it is worth saying again, we are facing a climate emergency and we need to act to reduce our emissions and fast.  

This latest data from BoM just reinforces the need to act.

Smoking ceremony the focus of One Day in Fremantle on Sunday Jan 24th

The smoking ceremony at Bathers Beach at One Day in Fremantle last year.


A traditional smoking ceremony at Bathers Beach will be the focus of the One Day in Fremantle event for 2021.

One Day 2021 will be held on Sunday 24 January at the Bathers Beach and Kidogo Arthouse precinct.

The smoking ceremony will start at 8am and will be followed by Nyumbi – a Nyoongar celebration dance.

There will also be a community barbecue and music at Kidogo Arthouse after the smoking ceremony.

COVID-19 has meant One Day 2021 would have to be quite different to previous years. Before COVID hit we had planned to make One Day’s fifth year a big celebration of how far we have come together but unfortunately this ended up not being not possible.

Due to Health Department requirements around public gatherings and social distancing One Day this year will be on a smaller scale, with a focus on the morning smoking ceremony.

It’s also true that COVID-19 has had a big impact on the local community, so a decision was made last year to redirect the budget for One Day into a program of Neighbourhood Quick Response Grants to help community groups recover from COVID.

But even though One Day will be smaller this year, it will be no less meaningful.

The smoking ceremony is always a very powerful and moving experience, while the Nyumbi afterwards will encourage everyone to join in the dance and have some fun.

The City of Fremantle first hosted One Day in January 2017 as an inclusive, family-friendly event in which all people could come together to celebrate what’s great about being Australian.

In 2019 One Day in Fremantle received an Australian Government award for promoting Indigenous recognition.

The 2019 event was also recognised as one of the best events in Western Australia when it was named as a state finalist in the Best Community Event category at the prestigious Australian Event Awards.

The City of Fremantle will host a citizenship ceremony and announce its Citizen of the Year Awards on 26 January.

Homelessness needs long-term support

I wanted to thank the local community for its outpouring of support for homeless and disadvantaged people camped in Pioneer Park over the festive season.

It is a typical and ‘very Freo’ response to help people in need and I know this has been so appreciated by the people using these services. Now is the time to also show support for the permanent and ongoing services available. 

About 50 tents have been pitched at Pioneer Park after organisers asked the City to allow a 24-hour food service on Boxing Day while some providers were closed.

It is now vital for all levels of government to work together to ensure that their generosity was matched with meaningful and sustainable support.

The state government is primarily responsible for housing and homelessness and we need to ensure there is suitable accommodation and services available for people in this situation.

A meeting was held yesterday with camp organisers as well as service providers St Pat’s, Uniting WA, RUAH,and Wungening Aboriginal Corporation along with theDepartment of Communities and WA Police to transition to a more sustainable support network.

The camp at Pioneer Park is not a suitable place for vulnerable people, and it is not in their best interests to stay there. But we recognise they need somewhere to go.

What’s needed now is a direct outreach approach with the people who are currently in the tent city and talking to them about their accommodation needs and what other needs they may have.

This first stage is going to be led by St Pat’s in partnership with the Wungening Aboriginal Corporation. Staff will be at Pioneer Park from today to assess the needs of each of the people in the camp.

Following this and once there is a better understanding of their needs, the State Government is best placed to provide support to get these people into appropriate and sustainable accommodation with the right wraparound services that will ensure that people are able to stay housed and achieve quality of life.”

The City will continue to work closely with service agencies and advocate to the State Government to make addressing homelessness an ongoing priority.

The City and the broader Fremantle community has a long and proud record of providing compassion and support to people experiencing hardship and other disadvantage.

It is incredibly important that we continue to keep the pressure on for long-term solutions to this difficult and complex issue.


Fremantle Leisure Centre is Fifty years old and still going swimmingly

The City of Fremantle’s popular Fremantle Leisure Centre is celebrating its 50th birthday today.

Boasting an Olympic-sized swimming pool, learner and wading pool, trampolines, half pipe skate ramps, public barbecues and a playground, the original Fremantle Aquatic Centre was officially opened by Mayor Sir Frederick Samson on 4 January 1971.

Fremantle Leisure Centre Manager John East said the centre had provided many happy experiences for the community over the past 50 years and remained one of the City’s most popular public facilities.

“Being the only aquatic centre in a 20km radius, for a good five years after it opened it was the coolest hangout in summer, drawing in over 180,000 people annually,” Mr East said.

“But as other local councils cottoned on to the public demand for pools and opened their own centres, and as more people started to get their own backyard pool, the second half of the 1970s saw a drastic decline in attendance.

“That led to a dramatic makeover in the 1980s and the creation of the ‘Aqua Thrillway’, a 122-metre slide and a bumper boat pool, but the thrill was only short-lived and the structures were dismantled and sold off after five years.

“After that the centre made a return to its roots with some simple upgrades such as re-rendering the original pools, adding shade shelters over the grass areas and heated showers in the change rooms.

“These days we offer a great range of range of swimming programs catering for all ages and abilities from aquababies to seniors, as well as a gym, fitness classes and a creche.

“I’m really proud that after 50 years the leisure centre is still such an important facility for the community and that so many people come here to enjoy it every day, with approximately 500,000 visits per year.”

The Fremantle Leisure Centre now has four heated pools – an eight-lane 50 metre outdoor pool, an undercover 25 metre pool, playground pool and a program pool for therapy and rehabilitation.

It also has a fully equipped fitness centre supervised by qualified gym staff, and offers a range of group fitness classes including yoga, pilates, zumba and circuits.

Full membership at the leisure centre includes unlimited access to the pools and fitness centre, entry to group fitness classes, a fitness appraisal and exercise program designed by qualified professionals, use of the creche, free parking and a 20 per cent discount in the sports shop.     

To find out more about Fremantle Leisure Centre visit

Pioneer Park and Homelessness

Happy New Year to you all. I hope that everyone has had a good break and 2021 is treating you well so far. I have recently returned from a nice family break down South and am feeling very rested and excited about the year ahead.

Perhaps the most challenging issue that has emerged over the last week is the “tent city” that popped up in Pioneer Park between Christmas and New Year.

In some ways this brought out the best of Fremantle as a caring community, with volunteers stepping up to provide key services during what can be a really tough time of the year for homeless and isolated people in our community. I have heard firsthand how having this safe and welcoming place to go with food and support during this time has been greatly appreciated by many.

While this has been the good side, having dozens of people sleeping in tents in central Fremantle is not a sustainable outcome, especially as some of the volunteer services are inevitably wound up and regular service come back on line. We need a more sustainable solution, that gets these people into accommodation and better connected to social services they need.

City of Fremantle staff and I will be meeting with key state government and not-for-profit agencies to discuss options today.

I’ve long been of the view that in crisis is opportunity and this very visible display of disadvantage in our community is an opportunity to speed up solving homelessness in Fremantle.  Neither letting the tent city just continue nor pushing its residents back to out of sight, out of mind are a good and sustainable options. We need to use this to drive compassionate, fair and sustainable change that steps us towards solving homelessness in Fremantle and beyond.