A CANDIDATE in the midst of a double degree in law and sustainability is hoping that nifty combination will be enough to impress new Coastal Ward voters to bring a little youth onto Fremantle council.
“Studying law has taught me a lot about how to read policy and the importance of getting policy right, which is obviously important in council when you’re putting through local laws and approving different things,” says South Fremantle’s Jemima Williamson-Wong.
Sustainable development has further reinforced her understanding of balancing the economic, environmental, and social aspects of developments, which she sees as crucial for Fremantle’s future growth and its ability to adapt to climate change.
Ms Williamson-Wong says she’s had an interest in running for council since she was in high school; it was an era when former mayor Brad Pettitt was bringing a new focus on sustainability to the city, demanding buildings lower their carbon footprint and urging higher density to curb the sprawl on the edges of the metropolitan area; his policies were challenging for some Portsiders, but Ms Williamson-Wong believes it was the right direction.
“I’ve always seen local government as a place to make a positive contribution,” she said.
“I think the leadership from Freo council has always inspired me to look at the positive change I can make more generally.”
One of Ms Williamson-Wong’s key priorities is addressing affordable housing, especially for young people. She says new developments should cater to community engagement and opportunities, rather than simply maximising density.
We don’t want to see big towers go up that are simply there to maximise density as quickly as possible, because we know that it’s not going to last.”
She says a recent successful campaign, led by local architects, against the designs of the proposed Monument East development on Amherst Street in White Gum Valley, is an example of how an “engaged” Freo community can help shape how it grows in a positive way.
“I also think these new developments link very closely with how we revitalise the city centre; shops need people to work in them and we also need people to spend money in our city centre. The more people we bring into Fremantle to live, means the more people that will work here and contribute to our local economy.”
She says that can also help address the decline in the city’s economic diversity.
Ms Williamson-Wong, who’s in her early 20s, recently ran sessions for Fremantle council’s Community Strategic Plan review with other young people and says they were keen to see vibrant community spaces that extend beyond traditional alcohol-based venues.
“Young people are wanting spaces for community theatre, workshop spaces, and maybe that goes back to the green spaces. How do we design better green spaces so people can feel comfortable to go and hang out there and feel like it’s an inviting place to be?” she says.
Ms Williamson-Wong has a long history of climate volunteering and says that has reinforced the urgent need for councils to prepare for the future.
“When I view any problem, I’m looking at it through that climate justice lens. How is this going to affect our future? How is this going to affect us intergenerationally and those less advantaged already?”
Part of that means advocating for active transport and sustainable urban planning. She envisions a Fremantle with better walkability and bike infrastructure, reducing the carbon footprint and supporting the local economy. She believes that Fremantle’s identity as a walkable city should be preserved and enhanced.
by STEVE GRANT