EDDIE ALBRECHT slaves away as a sub-editor of ‘foreign’ stories for Kerry Stokes’ West Australian and is the proud father of one of Freo’s latest national sporting champions. During his trip to watch his son compete in Tasmania he noticed a difference in the behaviour of the locals and reckons Fremantlians (and Sandgropers in general) can learn a lot from their relaxed cousins across the Tasman.
I had the pleasure recently of spending three weeks in Hobart recently and was impressed by the city’s relaxed and inviting ambience—a vibe which Freo used to have in spades and which it desperately needs to rediscover—and I’m not talking about spending millions of dollars on buildings but utilising what it’s got.
The similarities between Fremantle and Hobart are immediately apparent—apart from both being ports. They share a magnificent architectural heritage and rely to a greater or lesser degree on tourism. But they also boast a fantastic residential component. And they both have magnificent waterfronts. Freo’s port sheds are a world class asset and are under-utilised.
In a recent survey by one of Australia’s major airlines, Hobart was voted the seventh friendliest city in Australia, while Launceston took out top spot.
Taswegians can be justifiably proud and give credence to the belief that it’s not about the buildings but the attitude.
Freo, and Perth in general, has somehow, almost imperceptibly, developed a heavy vibe.
During our stay in Hobart we went to the world-renowned Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) and the museum’s music festival, MONA FOMA, an eclectic five-day festival that showcases cutting edge art and music, much in the vein of the museum/gallery it takes its name from. (For those interested this year’s festival culminated in a two-hour gig by David Byrne of Talking Heads fame, paired with indie rock dynamo St. Vincent (a.k.a. Annie Clark)and a 10-piece band featuring eight brass.)
The festival is not only kid friendly—table soccer, table tennis, tyres and games in an outdoor area—but parents with a child under 12 pay just $70 a ticket while single adults pay $90!
In fact MONA’s owner David Walsh has given back massively to Hobart and in particular Berriedale, a working class suburb where he built MONA and where he grew up. Tasmanians can enter the museum free, the rest pay $20 (not excessive).
I’m not saying we don’t have praiseworthy philanthropists in WA but none seem to have made their largesse available to all as Walsh has done.
Anyway back to MONA FOMA and the point I’d like to make is the friendly and helpful disposition of the staff—from front office to bouncers.
Plus—and this has been my biggest bugbear about Perth festivals for years—is that you can come and go as you please once you’ve bought your ticket and entered the festival grounds/shed.
And that’s a bonus for the adjacent Salamanca tourist precinct and its pubs and eateries.
No question here of monopolising food/drink sales—what’s guaranteed in life anyway?
Let people enjoy themselves and if they’ve forked out for a ticket then they should be free to come and go as they please, not to be boxed in.
Even the police were low key and unthreatening, and there was no question of invasive bag searches or not being allowed to take in your own food or water.
Which brings me to the main point which is that this helpful/friendly attitude rubs off and everyone soaks up the nice vibe, making the overall experience overwhelmingly pleasant, fun and memorable.
And this extends in the wider realm to Hobart’s pubs and restaurants—and fun and memorable translates into a great tourist experience and a return visit.
So come on Freo, (and Perth) let’s get back to being fun and considerate and extend a welcome hand to all our visitors before we’re just left with lots of pretty buildings and not much else.