One foggy evening… 

John Toohey’s tours take you on a not-so-straight walk around Fremantle’s history. Photo by John Toohey

JOHN TOOHEY is a photographer and a master of arts history from Concordia University in Montreal. He’s put his skills to use producing a series of fascinating audiowalks around Perth that don’t always follow the path standard history lessons have taken us. His latest one on Fremantle is a perfect example. Have a wander and a listen via www.

ONE foggy evening at Fremantle Harbour the police wait in the shadows as a passenger ship docks. 

There are rumours terrorists may be on board. As the gangway is lowered, they rush up it and begin pulling foreign arrivals out from the disembarkation queue. 

The police are as scared as the passengers. An epidemic is sweeping Australia and they’ve heard that people on board may be infected. 

Sound familiar? This was 1901 and Australia was in the grip of two moral panics. The first was that anarchists were coming into Australia to stir up a revolution. The second was that immigrants were bringing in smallpox.

How the police and the press dealt with both is one of the stories in my new Fremantle audiowalk.

Narrated by Monica Main, the eight stories that make up the audiowalk go beyond the standard histories and heritage that Fremantle is known for. 

We’re always told for example that Vlamingh was the first European to enter the Swan, but take the audiowalk and you’ll discover there were two earlier visitors, one who proposed the Fremantle area as an excellent site for a military base. 

And who exactly was the mysterious daredevil Millie Viola? More to the point; how have we managed to forget her?

I got the idea for the audiowalks working on a similar project in Montreal, while writing my PhD thesis on Edwardian photography and landscape history. 

When I returned to Perth I adapted the idea to fit in with the coastal and river paths. 

The Swan was formed in the Cretaceous Period, around 60 million years ago, which was the real age of the dinosaurs. 

People arrived here 50,000 years ago, or this morning so far as the river is concerned.

The deep history, the history of contact between settlers and inhabitants, and the minor players who have left a small but distinct mark are the foundation for the walks, which have been produced in Coogee, Stirling, Melville, the City of Swan and now Fremantle. 

Taking the walks while listening is easy. As you walk, you will be directed to landmarks where you can listen to the stories. As each finishes you’ll receive directions to the next landmark. 

When the directions are finished, you will be asked to press pause and move to the next landmark. 

The walks are free; listen to them through your phone or device, and they are plotted to be accessible to people with mobility issues.

Funded by the City of Fremantle Community Grants Program, the Fremantle audiowalk begins by the E Shed and follows the pedestrian path into Esplanade Park and along Marine Terrace back to Cliff Street. 

This walk is about two kilometres and will take about 45 minutes to an hour. 

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