THE staff have settled in and the flow-on economic effects are just starting to show as new offices for two state government departments were officially opened in Kings Square on Wednesday morning.
Community services minister and local MP Simone McGurk, housing minister Peter Tinley and Youth minister Dave Kelly were on hand as Noongar elder Richard Walley conducted a smoking ceremony to celebrate the opening.
Dr Walley’s presence was also noticeable through the new offices, as he developed a narrative in the design features that acknowledges the Indigenous history of the site.
Ms McGurk said the new offices provided staff with facilities that encouraged a new model of collaboration and innovation.
“I’m confident that the staff will enjoy their new office and the experience of this vibrant community,” Ms McGurk said.
Communities’ senior communications officer Katie McGregor has already discovered she can bring her toddler in when necessary.
“I love the fact it’s got a parents’ room; it’s got a change table in there.”
Ms McGregor’s working days are longer because of the extra drive down from Yokine, but says the “beautiful new office” helps compensate.
“I’m enjoying checking out the op shops – that’s a bit dangerous, you can spend a lot of money.
“It certainly makes longer days, but I’m happy we’ve got a new office, I’ve got a job, so I’m feeling grateful, I’m focusing on all the positives.”
Colleague Tamara D’Costa is also enjoying getting to know Fremantle: “I really like the vibe; even if we have to travel to come from the north, certainly my Freo days are quite enjoyable.”
She says the new building has great facilities, such as a multi-faith room and end-of-trip facilities for people who ride in. The Herald can attest to the great view from the tearoom and its balcony overlooking the port city.
Fellow communications officer Chris Abbott said the city’s homeless population was obvious as they arrived for work each day, but weren’t a deterrent.
“Of course we notice it, but what it does is it gives a real purpose for why our work is important,” Mr Abbott said.
“It gives us the validation that there’s actually work that needs to be done at the ground level and it really repurposes that approach.”
Businesses around Kings Square have reported improving trade since the workforce in the building started picking up; the first staff arrived in March but were almost immediately sent home to work with the Covid-19 pandemic closing in.
Across the road Paul Carroll Shoes have noticed the women in the building prepared to splash out on a new pair of shoes, while next door Gypsy Tapas started offering early morning coffees from a cart; so far it’s just ticking over, but they’re confident if they persist it will pick up by spring.
Boost Juice have benefited nicely, with staff saying it’s been a busy week, although Shephard’s Newsagents haven’t really seen much improvement in sales. They’re hopeful more of the empty shops around them will fill with something a little more diverse than more cafes, hoping that’ll entice the workers to stroll a little further.
Communities director general Michelle Andrews told the Herald it wasn’t surprising there’d be an up-tick for local businesses, 1,700 workers including a relocated maritime unit from the transport department are now in the centre of Fremantle.
Ms Andrews said many staff have been using public transport, while there’s a rolling roster for car drivers to get parking right next door in Queensgate for a couple of months before having a short walk to peripheral car parks.
She said it was great to have brought together the staff under one roof, as they’d previously been housed in a half-dozen offices and they now had the opportunity to create a more cohesive unit.