Lessons to be learned

Notre Dame student Mignon du Plessis.

The City of Fremantle is reviewing its Strategic Community Plan. Freelance journalist RYAN EMERY has been talking to Fremantle residents and visitors about their thoughts on the city’s future. Today’s topic is Learning City. 

“EASY does it” according to Fremantle resident and copywriter Nick Petrou when it comes to expanding learning across the city.

Mr Petrou, 29, is part of a writing group at the city library.

“It fluctuates a fair bit, but the group is quite small,” he said.

“We wanted to kind of strike a balance though, because if there’s too many people that come in, it would definitely lose its charm and we might have to maybe split it up.”

It’s that tailored and considered approach that Mr Petrou believes is key to creating and exploring more learning opportunities in Fremantle without overwhelming them with popularity.

“So try and be aware of it and slow it down where you can,” Mr Petrou said.

“But you know, there are other ways to learn in Fremantle that have been really valuable to me.”

Like going to the pub.

Mr Petrou also writes flash fiction (short stories that are told in up to 1500 words) and has been taking part in Once Upon a Time in Fremantle at Clancy’s Fish Pub: a monthly event of poetry, story and performance.

“You also get to learn how other people express themselves through art,” he said.

“You get to learn the struggles of the poet and the musician and all the other people that were getting up on the stage.

 “So it’s not book learning… it’s a bit hard to grasp, but you’re learning about your self-expression and how important that is in our society.”

In the West End of the city, it’s certainly about book learning for Notre Dame student Mignon du Plessis, 20, who is in the third year of her Bachelor of Science degree majoring in mathematics and medical science.

Just as it has with Mr Petrou, Fremantle has helped shape Ms du Plessis’ learning experience.

It’s why she chose Notre Dame rather than be restricted to a traditional university campus.

“It was a difficult transition when I first started because it was a little bit scary being around people that I wasn’t exactly familiar with,” she said.

“Obviously you come from a high school and it’s very gated and then you’re in the big wide world and it (Notre Dame) is not like UWA or Curtin where it’s the same thing; it’s really students only.

“I’ve definitely seen myself have a better capacity to have hard and difficult conversations with other people that are not students.

“Being outside the very niche bubble of school and not being surrounded by other students, the connections that you build, just within themselves, have really developed my ability to communicate.”

And despite being surrounded by potential distractions, studying in Fremantle helps energise her studies.

“I’ll be super-focused on my lecture, go micro-study for an hour and then I’ll go to a cafe which is 300 metres away and catch up with a friend, have a coffee for an hour, and then go back to doing work or go for a swim and then come back to doing work,” she said.

Ms du Plessis is treasurer of the Notre Dame Student Association and said the learning experience also needed to be shaped by those at the receiving end.

“As much as it’s a town university, it’s a student’s university … I like to say it’s a student-run and staff-facilitated university,” she said.

Ms du Plessis will keep the conversation going about Fremantle as a ‘Learning City’ when she joins the panel at this Tuesday’s Politics in the Pub at The Local Hotel, South Fremantle from 7pm.

Other speakers include Fremantle mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge, Chamber of Commerce CEO Chrissie Maus and Notre Dame vice-chancellor Francis Campbell.

They’ll be discussing Notre Dame’s place in the city and the challenges and opportunities such as the lack of student accommodation and the continued activation of the West End

Fremantle residents can also have their say about Fremantle as a Learning City by visiting mysay.fremantle.wa.gov.au/lets-talk-freo.

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