I believe it is important to acknowledge the work of Labor party legend Tom Uren, who recently died, in the context of the work he did for Fremantle, so I publish excerpts of the speech Fremantle MP Melissa Parke gave in Federal Parliament recently:
It was only a few months ago that we farewelled the great Gough Whitlam, and as many noted it was the Whitlam government that forged new ground in shaping policy for Australian cities and for the protection of Australian history and heritage. Those two imperatives intersected to great effect in the City of Fremantle. Indeed, following from Whitlam’s statement that government ‘should see itself as the curator and not the liquidator of the national estate’, the Prime Minister was subsequently on the record saying that ‘Fremantle will receive special attention as it is one of the few towns in Australia that retains its historic character and is at the same time a thriving community’.
It seems too easy sometimes to mark a person by their achievements—their firsts. But in the case of Tom Uren, they speak to the interests and character of the man, and they certainly resonate with the community I represent in Fremantle. For example, Tom Uren opened Australia’s first dedicated bike path, and he was Australia’s first Minister for the Environment. More directly, as Minister for Urban and Regional Development in the Whitlam government, Tom Uren played a vital role in supporting the conservation and rehabilitation of Fremantle’s West End, now regarded by many as the best preserved 19th century port cityscape in the world.
It was through his department’s Hope Inquiry into the National Estate that a critical record of Fremantle’s historic sites was first produced, in 1973, through the work of the newly created Cities Commission. Two key documents, Fremantle Historical Buildings—Initial Study and Fremantle: Guidelines for Development were produced, and it is no exaggeration to say that they have formed the blueprint and the protective covenant of modern Fremantle. Under the Interim National Estate Committee, the forerunner of the Australian Heritage Commission, Fremantle was the beneficiary of more than $300,000 dollars in National Estate grants, in 1973-74, which included funding to save and restore the beautiful Fremantle Markets and undertake conservation work on the Round House, Western Australia’s oldest building. This absolutely crucial work, led by Tom Uren, was only possible through the local advocacy of the Fremantle Society, an organisation that continues to provide strong and constructive community input—and I acknowledge its members, past and present. I am especially grateful to Ron Davidson for his wonderful recall and storytelling when it comes to Tom Uren’s Fremantle significance, and I thank Ron and his wife, Dianne, for their authorship of the recently published book, Fighting for Fremantle: the Fremantle Society Story.
I note that when Prime Minister Bob Hawke was in Fremantle in February 1987 to open the new customs building and associated Commonwealth offices within the west end, he was accompanied by Tom Uren. On that occasion, the Prime Minister said: ‘I know Tom Uren will be getting tired of me saying this, but it is fitting that he who has played such an outstanding part in working with local government throughout Australia should be here today at the opening of another project that embodies the close cooperation he has built up between the local and federal tiers of government.’
As the member for Fremantle, I express the gratitude of my electorate for the policy and program innovations that have helped save the precious and distinctive built heritage of the port city. The significant federal heritage grants that were provided by the recent Labor government to further conserve treasures like the Princess May Building and the World Heritage listed Fremantle Prison continued this work.
Melissa Parke MP