THE McGowan government has offered to help produce yet more reports on the state of Arthur Head, but is dragging its heels over funding any remediation.
Recently the planning, lands and heritage department said there could be assistance for a feasibility study and design/drawing works, but it’s essentially the same type of report that Fremantle council already commissioned; quoting $1.8 million to stabilise crumbling cliffs and give the Round House a once-over.
Earlier this year the council wrote to premier Mark McGowan and several ministers, inviting them to inspect Arthur Head and the Round House.
Despite heritage minister David Templeman’s office acknowledging the site as “a key state heritage asset of high cultural heritage significance for the people of Western Australia”, none took up the invitation.
“To date there has been no offer of government funding for the delivery of the physical works but the city remains hopeful,” the council said in a statement to the Herald.
Arthur Head has significance for both European and Indigenous heritage, having been an important spiritual site for Whadjuk Noongar people before colonisation. Known as Manjaree, it was a place where a manjar would be held–a form of fair where people would meet and exchange items.
It’s not well known, but a remnant of the limestone bar blown up to build CY O’Connor’s ambitious new harbour still juts out from behind the WA Maritime Museum; the bar was integral to a major Dreaming story about the clash between the Waugul serpent and a crocodile which created the islands off Perth’s coast.
Charles Fremantle noted in 1829 that Noongar people gave him spears and knives and presented him with dressed fish in bark. In return, they were given knives, mutton, and biscuits. Arthur Head was a point of first contact between Europeans and the Whadjuk Noongar, although it is not certain how early this contact took place.
The Round House, which sits on Arthur Head, was constructed in 1831 and was designed to dominate the landscape of colonial Fremantle.
As well as revealing colonial attitudes about upholding the law, the building is also significant as the oldest public building in the Swan River Colony.
by MIREILLE CHRISTIE and STEVE GRANT