Checking Freo’s pulse

A NEW snapshot of Fremantle has found surprising pockets of disadvantage amidst the port city’s affluence.

The Fremantle Foundation this week launched Vital Signs, a report based on a Canadian model that checks out how a city’s fairing in health, learning, belonging and the gap between the rich and the poor.

It found that more than 22 per cent of portsiders rely on government support as their primary source of income, while 10 per cent live in social housing—more than double the state and national average.

• Dylan Smith and Hannah Fitch-Rabbitt from the Fremantle Foundation say there’s surprising pockets of disadvantage despite the port city’s affluence. Photo by Steve Grant

Rental stress

Almost 22 per cent experience rental stress, which is defined as spending more than 30 per cent of their income on housing costs, while the unemployment rate has risen from 5 per cent to 7.3 per cent in the last five years.

And it’s worse if you’re a woman, as you’ll earn on average a quarter less than men.

Given those statistics, it’s no wonder the great Australian dream of owning your own home is out of bounds for many, as only 4 per cent of all real estate sold in Fremantle in the last year was affordable to households with an income less than $68,000.

On the health front, the foundation found almost a third of young people aged between 10 and 19 years old were referred for depression counselling in the past 12 months.

• Caralee Community School pricipal Jason Shapcott and Melville High School Aborginal and islander education officer Michelle Kickett at the Willagee Library Homework Club. Photos by Jean-Paul Horré

It also painted a grim picture for people living tough on the streets, with 54 per cent of homeless people having a combination of serious health concerns, while they’re four times more likely than the rest of the population to suffer from asthma.

But foundation CEO Dylan Smith says there’s not all gloom and doom in the report, with some positives coming out of the community involvement, with more Fremantlites volunteering than the state average and there’s a plethora of charities for them to channel their generosity.

“It’s a snapshot, not an extensive report,” Mr Smith told the Herald.

“One of the key concepts is that it’s ongoing, so we can build up the picture over the years and add different areas.”

He says in Canada where it originated in the community foundation movement 15 years ago, they’ve already evolved the process to look at a dozen aspects of the community, but the foundation was advised to start small.

The former Docker says another key aspect of the report is that it’s designed to be easily digestible by the community, as he’s wanting people to become engaged—and start thinking about what they see around them.

“Some of the questions it asks people are what stands out, what creates a reaction and what do they care about, what makes them angry or inspired, and more broadly, what can we all do to continue to address these areas,” he says.

Mr Smith says the information can then be used by the foundation to help donors target their funds at organisations and projects in areas that concern them most.

Already some has been used to target problem areas.

It was discovered that four local primary schools in the greater Fremantle area have high absentee rates which was affecting kids’ learning, which to some extent had been masked by high scores across the rest of the area.

With the help of the South West Metropolitan Forum, Melville council, Caralee Community School and Melville Senior High School, the foundation helped set up a homework club to divert kids who’d been disruptive at the Willagee library where they were getting free wifi. As a result school attendance rates have increased 20 per cent.

For more information about the report and to get updates, log onto

Mr Smith says people can already make donations to the Vital Fremantle Fund which has been set up to support the initiative, or they can start their own fund to target key issues they care about.


One response to “Checking Freo’s pulse

  1. So I guess the diversity of Fremantle is already good

    So why does the council keep pushing this?

    Clearly Fremantle has a high land cost
    So why does the council keep wanting to pull more people into an area that has high land cost unless they can afford it

    It’s not like there is any new Job market opening up in freo, quite the opposite the jobs have left in droves

    We see people on welfare is already high what does council hope to achieve by trying to attract more

    Sounds very irresponsible to tempt people to come to a suburb to struggle

    This is one weird council

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