WHO in their right mind would not think that where a river meets the sea—Arthur Head—is not a place of extreme cultural significance to Fremantle’s original indigenous inhabitants or their descendants who claim traditional ownership.
And to downplay the grim horror or Rottnest Island Prison as a ‘humane alternative’ to Fremantle Prison displays a breathtaking lack of understanding—or deliberate denial—of what took place under the brutal regime of former head jailor Henry Vincent between 1838 and 1867.
In their book, ‘Far From Home—Aboriginal Prisoners of Rottnest Island’ (UWA Press 1997), WA historians Neville Green and Susan Moon write that 127 terrified, starving Aboriginal men and boys at a time—clad only in filthy damp blankets in winter—were crammed without toilets into 27 tiny cells in the ‘Quod’ which, until at least recently, later became tourist accommodation units—a use the authors described as akin to “turning Auschwitz into holiday cottages”.
Hundreds of malnutritioned Aboriginal prisoners died untreated as influenza and measles ravaged their cramped cells over the three decades of Vincent’s barbaric rule—far from official mainland scrutiny.
Other prisoners were forced to line up and watch in horror as five of their number were hanged in the centre of the Quod for ‘crimes’ they could not conceive or comprehend.
Fremantle Round House—to where thousands of Aboriginal prisoners shackled together by heavy iron chains were marched or shipped from all over Western Australia as their traditional lands were forcibly removed by colonial occupation— was the final staging point in what for hundreds was a one-way ticket to death.
The full horror of this shameful episode in WA’s history, as documented in State Archives and academic research, is reported in a 2012 WA Media Awards finalist account published at http://www.wadjemup.blogspot.com.
This is not “revisionist” history but historical fact, and every one of us owes it to future generations to ensure it is never denied, discounted or forgotten.
Freo falls flat
REGARDING the letter, ‘Freo not Mosman Park, old chap’, Herald, June 10, 2017.
My wife and I also have a sad view of Fremantle.
Last Wednesday we visited Freo for the sole purpose of buying some clothes from Bousfields, having been going there for 50 years, and enjoying wonderful service.
Then we went for a coffee in the mall across the road and ordered two coffees.
Sadly we were told, “We don’t serve coffee at lunch time”.
At aged 82, I have travelled all over the world, but this is a first for me.
I won’t name the shop, but I will name Culley’s tea rooms where we had great coffee, great service and a smile.
These two shops are standout companies, but sadly Freo is dirty, run down and even more worrying my wife doesn’t feel safe there on her own.
Lets hope someone can change it
Cunningham St, Ardross
I can see clearly now
A BIG thank you to the lady walking her dog along Blackwall Reach who, finding my lost spectacles, went to the trouble of taking them to the Melville Optical Clinic who’s name was on the glasses case.
I am most grateful.
Birdwood Circus, Bicton