Urgent works funded

Prison chief Paula Nelson takes heritage minister David Templeman and local MPs Simone McGurk and Josh Wilson on a tour of the world heritage site. Photo by Morgan De Smidt.

FREMANTLE PRISON will get $1.6 million for urgent conservation as part of the McGowan government’s Covid Recovery Plan.

Heritage minister David Templeman announced the funding on Wednesday and said the works would help open up a whole range of festival-style activities and major functions at the world heritage listed building.

“This is a historical site we want to share with the world and a great opportunity for people to come and rediscover,” Mr Templeman said.

Levelling off the prison’s main parade ground to prevent drainage damage would at the same time provide a more suitable space for hosting large events.

“We want to see events focused around this parade area in the future,” Mr Templeman said, adding more than $5m had been pumped into prison conservation in the past year.

Social history

“I am pleased to invest in the protection and conservation of this iconic place of architectural and social history and hope that the Commonwealth can find funding sources to support our contribution and the creation of immediate and future jobs in WA.”

Fremantle federal Labor MP Josh Wilson said the coronavirus pandemic was the perfect time to work on job creation through conserving heritage sites like the prison. 

“The project will support jobs – particularly jobs in heritage trades which are under pressure in Australia,” Mr Wilson said.

“The conservation work will put the prison in the best position to welcome guests and avoid the chronic maintenance needs that build up.”

Fremantle MLA Simone McGurk said: “The site is fragile, it is over 150 years old… once assets like this are gone they can’t be replaced.”

A portion of the funding will also contribute to restoring the old hospital in the northern corner of the prison precinct which dates back to 1867 – currently occupied by the Literature Centre. 

The restoration is expected to start within six months.

Fremantle Society president John Dowson said while the funding was welcomed, it was merely catching up with years of state and local government neglect in looking after WA’s heritage assets.

by MORGAN DE SMIDT 

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