FREMANTLE’S RSL says it might have to leave the port city after 100 years because it’s not the hip, young arts organisation the local council loves.
The club recently put in a bid to lease a council property on Beach Street opposite the East Street jetty, but lost out to Art on the Move, a not-for-profit art organisation from outside Freo.
RSL Fremantle vice president and former councillor Rob Fittock said it was clear from the outset they wouldn’t be successful.
“With the exception of two councillors, I have never stood to present a statement in front of such a deadpan and disinterested group of people as I did at the last ordinary meeting of council who were simply never going to support FreoRSL,” he says.
“The head lease went instead to an out-of-town government funded outfit, Art on the Move armed with a very slick Expression Of Interest, promoting the visual arts and duplicating the Fremantle Arts Centre’s programs….but that’s another story.”
“…they [council] turned their backs on a 100-year-old Fremantle organisation steeped in social heritage which has provided services to the Fremantle community by helping them to rebuild their lives and in return they helped rebuild Fremantle after the Great Wars and the more recent conflicts….freedom comes at a huge human cost.”
Mr Fittock says the chairperson of Art on the Move is Jim Cathcart, who is also the director of Fremantle Arts Centre.
The RSL complained to the council Mr Cathcart’s roles had created a conflict of interest, but an internal review found the process had been fair.
Mr Fittock says that while no details of the internal review were given, the RSL accepts the city’s decision and will “move on”.
He says he’s frustrated the council props up other tenants, like the Fly By Night Club, which has been plagued with financial troubles for years, while the RSL is ready to start paying rent but keeps getting overlooked.
“You can’t just keep coming cap-in-hand to council,” he says.
“Council should now be put under intense scrutiny to see where it goes to from here with the Fly By Night Club,” adding that building assets should be leased to organisations that run a tight financial ship.
The RSL has been looking for a home since 2016 when it lost the lease to the Wyola building on High Street. It’s currently squeezed into a smaller space at the Legacy Building on Parry Street.
Mr Fittock says the RSL is grateful to Legacy, which cares for the families of deceased and incapacitated veterans, but the building can’t house both groups indefinitely.
With Christmas and then Anzac Day coming up, the RSL will stay put for now, but will look for a new site after April next year.
“If we can’t find a place in Fremantle, we may look at possibly amalgamating with the Cockburn RSL,” Mr Fittock says.
by EMILEE NEESON