FREMANTLE council is considering a new indigenous cultural centre for Arthur Head.
This week the council’s finance, policy, operations and legislation committee endorsed $50,000 to be spent on a feasibility study and business case for the centre, which would be of ‘state’ significance.
A report to the committee said Arthur Head and Bathers Beach, known to Whadjuk Noongar people as Manjaree, had great cultural significance as a place where tracks converged and formed part of the important dreaming story Walyalup Dreaming.
The council has also been tossing up what to do with the J-Shed on Arthur Head following last year’s collapse of Sunset Events’ plans to establish a tavern there.
A visioning report by Richmond Consulting also looked at Pioneer Park and
Victoria Quay as alternative locations, but councillors voted to concentrate on J-Shed.
The council says it has consulted the Aboriginal community and key stakeholders to get support for the centre’s location, but the Fremantle Inner City Residents Association only discovered the plan when looking in this week’s agenda for a separate item.
FICRA spokesperson Maryrose Baker said she was a bit surprised not to have been informed about the councils plans, particularly after the five years the organisation devoted to fighting the J-Shed tavern.
But while FICRA hadn’t yet had a chance to discuss the indigenous cultural centre, she personally felt it was an exciting opportunity.
“It’s clearly got a long way to run, though and there are great funding implications,” Ms Baker said.
Councillor Rachel Pemberton acknowledges the King’s Square redevelopment has tied up too many of the council’s funds to tackle a cultural centre for the foreseeable future, but says this gives it the opportunity to make sure the project is well considered and planned.
She said elders originally asked for something more modest, but were encouraged to “think big” by the council on the understanding it was a long-term plan.
“If we do a robust proposal, then we can take that to other funding bodies when the opportunity arises,” Cr Pemberton said.
The visioning document looked at whether the J-Shed could be converted, or whether a purpose-built centre could be constructed on site, offering up the potential to connect it with the top of the cliff near the Roundhouse and existing Walyalup Aboriginal Centre. That would require the relocation of the heritage-listed shed.
The committee’s recommendation and the visioning report will be considered by the full council later this month.
by STEVE GRANT