In what no doubt will be a very controversial decision the Full Council of the City of Fremantle this evening decided to stop the Australia Day fireworks immediately and find alternative ways of celebrating the national public holiday in January.
I believe it is a very brave and the right decision by Fremantle Council that acknowledges that Australia Day is not a day of celebration or reconciliation for our indigenous people. The time for European immigrants to say that Aboriginal people should just suck it up and get used to it is well and truly over, and Fremantle Council is showing great leadership on this divisive issue.
There were very passionate speeches by indigenous people who pointed out the massacres and rapes, the atrocities at the Rottnest Island Quod gaol and the Roundhouse, and as one of them said “We should all be proud of belonging to an ancients culture.”
Fremantle Chamber of Commerce board member Ra Steward was quite outraged that the fireworks might be stopped saying it showed blatant disregard for businesses and it would be a disaster if shops closed on Australia Day.
Mayor Brad Pettitt said the end of the fireworks would be a great opportunity for a new event and that we can get a better bang for our buck. He said that we could benefit culturally and socially as a community and move forward.
Councillor Jon Strachan pointed out that the fireworks on Australia Day are the single most expensive day on Fremantle’s events calendar and that stopping them would help us move further down the path of reconciliation.
Councillor Sam Wainwright paraphrased author Richard Flannagan that a worst day could not be found to celebrate Australia Day.
Councillor Dave Hume was the only Elected Member who spoke who did not agree with cancelling the fireworks. He said that Australia Day was a public holiday by the Federal Government and Fremantle as the festival city should celebrate it. “We do things on public holidays!”
I have no doubt the debate about this will continue and what alternative event(s) the COF might want to put up during the long weekend in January, but showing real respect for our indigenous culture and realising the hurt the British invasion has caused, is in my opinion a significant step forward, so I congratulate Fremantle Council!
The intention of the City of Fremantle to outsource the management of the Walyalup Aboriginal Cultural Centre(WACC) at Arthur Head is questionable as reports to Council suggest the centre won’t be financially viable in its current location.
I believe it is fair to say that WACC has been a disappointment as it has neither created an Aboriginal experience for overseas tourists, nor created a community centre for the local Whadjuk Noongar people.
An investigation by Dr Bryn Roberts of the KOYA Aboriginal Cooperation into the feasibility of WACC should be considered before handing over the centre to an organisation that will require City of Fremantle financial support for up to five years.
Dr Roberts refers quite often in his report to a business model of April 2013 by Urban Aesthetics that states that viable management of WACC would need to create $ 200,000 income a year to cover expenditure.
Urban Aesthetics also recommended J Shed as a better location for an Aboriginal centre than a small Pilot’s Cottage at Captain’s Lane, as the cottages were places to live and sleep and not fit for the purpose of an Aboriginal centre. UA also believed the closeness to the Roundhouse was unacceptable because of its history.
J Shed would provide a more flexible space with higher visibility to attract more visitors and would also be easier for parking and dropping off Aboriginal Elders, UA states.
Dr Bryn Roberts writes that this history is relevant to the report as KOYA cannot see the Walyalup Cultural Centre become financially viable over the next ten years(if ever) in its current location.
I believe it would be remiss of the City to invest ratepayers’ money into WACC when expert advise it that it is in the wrong location and won’t succeed there. I warned about this when the city was contemplating to start WACC at Arthur Head, initially in the cottage at number 11 Captain’s Lane that was occupied by the Fremantle Society.
If the proposed tavern at J Shed by Sunset Events does not get approval of the State Administrative Tribunal the City of Fremantle should seriously consider moving WACC to the number 1 studio there, invest in building a cafe with outdoor deck and Aboriginal art gallery to create income. The large outdoor space is also very suitable for Aboriginal events and even the Wardarnji Aboriginal Festival during the Fremantle Festival.
It is not good enough for the City to realise the WACC is not working in its present form and its present location and shift finding solutions for it to a private or community organisation. What needs to happen first is for the City in collaboration with Noongar elders to create a long-term concept for WACC and decide if it even should be moved to a more central location in the CBD.
The Ngala Maya-Our Place-community event was held at the lovely Booyeembara Park in White Gum Valley, Fremantle on Sunday afternoon. Great to see so many people coming to the park as it is not frequented as much as I anticipated when it opened.
Nyoongar elder Marie Thorn, who named the park, opened the procedures with Mayor Brad Pettitt, while organisors Councillors Ingrid Waltham andDave Coggin kept themeslves busy, with Dave giving kids a ride in his cargo bike. I bet his calves are a bit sore this morning, hey Dave!
There were stalls, Aboriginal dancing, music and the weather was brilliant, so a great evening for the valley.