ROEL LOOPERS is Freo’s most opinionated blogger and a volunteer guide at the Roundhouse. In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED, he says it’s about time the state and federal governments put their hands in their pockets to look after the historic Roundhouse–WA’s oldest public building.
WHILE federal politicians have been making pledges during the election campaign of huge financial support for all kinds of WA projects, Fremantle’s historic Arthur’s Head and WA’s oldest public building the Roundhouse, are languishing without any proper care and government support.
The Arthur’s Head cliff face is dangerous to the public because of rockfall, and heritage officers admit it has been piecemeal maintenance for the last ten years, and probably longer than that.
Urgent repairs are needed to the Roundhouse walls, the Whalers Tunnel and the entire cliff face, but the City of Fremantle simply does not have the ratepayer base to pay for it.
Millions are being spent on the new museum in Perth–and it will be great when that is ready–Rottnest Island is also getting hundreds of thousands of dollars of upgrades and investments, but one of our state’s most significant historic precincts gets nothing, zilch, zero, nada from the state and federal governments–and that is an absolute disgrace.
While Fremantle council keeps talking about how to activate the West End and Arthur’s Head, just 30 mainly senior volunteers keep the Roundhouse open for tourism 363 days a year.
And that is done just from gold coin donations from visitors with no financial support from anyone. Around 150,000 visitors walk through the door yearly.
We know exactly how many because we click every single one of them on our counter.
But the Roundhouse and Arthur’s Head can’t survive without significant financial contributions from Perth and Canberra. We are hoping a grant application to Lotterywest will give us the funding for new historic interpretive displays in the Roundhouse, but that is meaningless if the building is falling apart and access made difficult because of the neglected condition of Arthur’s Head.
It would also be great to get universal access to the Roundhouse with a small lift for disabled people.
The state government is so Perth-centric that hardly any money goes to Fremantle, even the Tourism Commission ignores Freo as it believes that sterile Elizabeth Quay is more attractive that historic Fremantle–and that is bollocks.
Most tourists I talk with, when volunteering at the Roundhouse, say Perth is nice but just another big city, while they love Fremantle’s unique heritage character.
Many lament the lack of sufficient hotel accommodation in Freo, so please hurry up SKS Group and Silverleaf Investments.
Fremantle has for far too long been the Cinderella of WA, the unloved step child that gets less funding than Bunbury and Albany; although Freo is one of the major tourism attractions in Western Australia. That needs to stop.
It is about time heritage minister David Templeman and tourism minister Paul Papalia showed some real interest and did a tour of Arthur’s Head and the Roundhouse.
They were sent a written invitation from the Roundhouse volunteer guides over six months ago, but there was not even a reply, which shows Freo is not on the radar of our state government. Arthur’s Head and the Roundhouse need money–we need it now, urgently and as a priority.