THE Fremantle Whalers Tunnel canopy has been finished.
Along with stabilising the nearby cliff face, the works were jointly funded by the city and McGowan government, which contributed its $500,000 from WA’s Covid-19 Recovery Plan.
Heritage minister David Templeman visited the tunnel on Tuesday, saying it would encourage visitors to share in Freo’s history and particularly its 45,000-year-old Whadjuk Noongar culture which is recognised in the canopy’s artwork by local artist Jo Darbyshire.
“These works are very important because we want Western Australians and its visitors to share in the heritage of our state and to acknowledge the linkages for thousands of years to our First Nations people,” Mr Templeman said.
Ms Darbyshire’s design would encourage tourists to venture through the tunnel to discover Bathers Beach behind, while it was also an important passage for locals, the minister said.
Fremantle council’s infrastructure director Graham Tattersall said it had been a long and complicated job because of the risks to contractors from rock falls, but it had been completed to a high standard.
Fremantle mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge said the project had been finished in time for Fremantle to welcome back tourists able
to get across the state’s borders, and was glad to see the end of scaffolding that had shrouded the cliffs since 2018.
“Fremantle’s story is uniquely about heritage and history. It is one of the things that distinguishes us from a lot of other tourism destinations, so we see these conservation projects as vital to our future,” Ms Fitzhardinge said.
“Not only is the canopy a brilliant engineering solution jointly designed by Atelier JV and Hocking Heritage & Architecture, it’s also a beautiful addition to the Arthur Head precinct thanks to Jo’s stunning artwork.”
Ms Fitzhardinge says more work needs to be done on the weathered Round House, which is WA’s oldest public building.
Following on from her election platform of handing management of the Round House back to the state government, Ms Fitzhardinge said “it is definitely a conversation that we’re very interested in”.
“We know it needs to be a collaborative project … and we do see 2029 and the bicentenary as being a real opportunity to recognise that heritage story that includes the Fremantle Prison, the Round House and Wadjemup (Rottnest Island),” she said.
The Prison, WA’s only built World Heritage site was one of three WA gold medalists at the 2021 Australian Tourism Awards, announced on the Sunshine Coast last week. The convict-built prison closed in 1991 and now attracts around 200,000 visitors a year, as well as hosting a backpackers, The Literature Centre and Fremantle model railway club. It won the Cultural Tourism gold medal for its interpretive displays and preservation of Australia’s past.
by ELIZABETH TAN