Cold shower for hot library plan

FREMANTLE councillors have put the brakes on library staff who were all geared up to expand the city’s Local History Centre into the Walyalup Civic Centre’s under-used Wanjoo (welcome) Lounge.

The bid for the space comes after a long and concerted campaign from former librarians, researchers and the Fremantle Society who say the centre’s current space is cramped and the city’s extensive archives mostly locked away and difficult to access.

Councillors had put $24,000 aside in this year’s budget to give the history centre a better exhibition space, but when they heard staff were hot to go with the Wanjoo Lounge plans at an informal meeting, they ordered cold showers.

Mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge says it was a question of the original intent for the lounge.

“That space was original designed to be a space that could be booked and used by the community; it can be entered from the outside and the building doesn’t need to be opened.

“We probably haven’t trialled it as that effectively yet,” Ms Fitzhardinge said.”

The mayor said Covid had curtailed bookings for the lounge, but demand had been increasing recently.

Asked if the money for the exhibition space was an acknowledgement the civic centre’s design was flawed – as argued by historians since the plans were first revealed, Ms Fitzhardinge said it was more about getting to know the building after moving in.


“They say when you move into a new house, you shouldn’t renovate for at least a years until you’ve worked out what it’s like to live there.

“And I think we have been working out how the different spaces down in the library function.”

She said the Fremantle Visitor Centre, put into the civic centre when a cafe fell through, had also prompted the council to bolster the history centre.

“One of the things we’ve really noticed is lots of people coming through again, post-Covid, and there’s such an interest in the history of Fremantle.

“One of the things I think we maybe don’t acknowledge, is that the local history centre does – and can do more of – is engage with both locals and visitor about their stories or questions about Fremantle.”

Ms Fitzhardinge said the council would do a needs analysis for an appropriate space for the centre, saying they had to balance accessibility with security.

But Fremantle Society president John Dowson says councillors were “meddling” by pulling the pin on the librarians’ plans.

“The $63 million administration building has been finished for close to two years,” he said.

“Despite $7 million in fees being paid to architects Kerry Hill, the resultant Local History Centre underground is totally inadequate.

“A much better solution is awaiting on the ground floor where the current Remembrance Day exhibition is being held. 

“Adjacent to that space is an area formerly set aside for an over 55s lounge, but which ended up as the King’s Square Deadbeats Drop-in Lounge. The Local History Centre could get going now, and we need it now, but interference from some councillors means that council will now try to make some money for a period of months by seeing if they can rent any of it out. What?”


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