Activism at her heart

Cathy Hall had many strings to her bow, but at the heart of each was her community and its next generations.

Tributes flow for Cathy Hall

FREMANTLE mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge has paid tribute to former Fremantle Society president Cathy Hall who died this week from cancer.

Ms Fitzhardinge told Wednesday’s council meeting Ms Hall had been an “incredible combination of care and activism”.

“What was special about Cathy was that as well as being hands-on, she was heart-in,” Ms Fitzhardinge said.

“There was nothing she did that wasn’t filled with care and concern for the wellbeing of others and of the planet we share. Her enthusiasm for justice and change was borne out through collective action and through inspiring us to see the world and humanity as connected and interdependent.”


Ms Hall was a trained nurse who set up the B9 North medical wing of Fremantle Hospital, drawing on her experience as a patient carer and advocate.

She also had no reluctance chastising a young Barry Marshall for keeping his eggs, with their helicobacteria pylori, in her ward’s drug fridge, despite the fact his research would one day land him a Nobel prize.

Although the rigours of nursing forced her to retire early, Ms Hall was soon immersed in a swag of activities, a phase of her life Fremantle will most remember.

Local photographer Peter Zuvela said Ms Hall roped him in to work on Deckchair Theatre’s archives when financial pressures brought the final curtain down.

She’d been a fierce advocate as a board member and spent hours curating the archives to ensure the company’s memory was safely stored at the WA Library.

A generation of kids will remember the South Fremantle Kite Festivals she helped organise. Herald editor Steve Grant, who’d co-ordinated the festivals, said her commitment to grassroots community participation was a tonic to the existing trend of corporatising festivals.

“People were always telling us it was their favourite festival and they loved its Freo flavour, but you’d never find Cathy big-noting herself for its success; she’d just humbly go from task to task with a beautiful, contented smile,” he said.

In more recent years, following studies in sustainability, people will remember Ms Hall as the climate activist who was arrested twice for occupying a fossil fuel company’s headquarters. While that was a headline-maker, she also spent hours behind the scenes making submissions and writing to MPs on all things environment.

A long-term member of the Fremantle Society, she became president in 2005 and was also on the committee of the Fremantle History Society.

She was one of the driving forces behind Freo’s One-Stop-Shop drop-in centre for over 55s, and a driving force behind the Remake sewing group, which made pouches for bushfire affected joeys, shopping bags to replace plastic bags, then facemasks for Covid. Latterly she was a board member and advocate for business incubator Enkel at the Naval Store.

Ms Hall, who was awarded a Premiers Active Citizenship Award in 2012 for her outstanding community service, will be remembered most for her tireless love of Fremantle and its community, and fighting for what she knew was right.

Ms Hall’s funeral will be at West Chapel, Fremantle Cemetery, Thursday August 4 at 10.30am.

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