Freo's View


Posted in city of fremantle, fremantle society, local government, politics, Uncategorized by freoview on July 4, 2020


Fremantle Society president John Dowson is desperate to get some traction for the group that sadly has become irrelevant due to Dowson’s narrow-minded negativity and anti progress stands.

Last week Mister President proudly announced in the Fremantle Herald that the Society had started an art collection. Oops, the Pres had bought one single painting from a high school student, for about half the price it could have received, and he also commissioned the girl to do another painting of the old traffic bridge. Did the FS committee have a vote on starting the so-called art collection? I doubt it.

Now Dowson attacks me and several Fremantle Councillors about a tongue-in-cheek remark I made 3-4 weeks ago on Facebook about the reopening of the Ada Rose brothel, where I questioned how they could adhere to the Covid-19 social distancing rules.

Here some ‘highlights’ of the President’s latest email to Fremantle Society members.

The potty mouthed comments from some councillors, and hangers on like blogger Roel Loopers, need to be called out.

When council acolyte Roel Loopers discussed his penis on Facebook recently, several councillors joined in, with Councillor Sullivan making a comment that drew the Labour member for Beaconsfield Cr Fitzhardinge into making a comment, joking about a “double entendre.”

Arrogance and a dismissive attitude are too often heard.

You are right indeed, John Dowson, that arrogance and dismissive attitude are too often heard in Fremantle-from YOU! You treat our elected members with absolute disdain and disrespect. You engage in name-calling whenever someone like me has a different opinion from yours.

You don’t like the fact that I am trying to be fair and balanced on this blog and that I criticise Councillors when I believe they deserve it, and show my appreciation when I believe they have made the right calls. I also like to stick to the facts instead of distorting them.

Unlike you, John Dowson, I do not believe that replacing the Labor and Greens Councillors in Fremantle with Liberal party members will necessarily make for a better council, because I believe in balance and would love to see party politics removed from local government all together.

I am not an acolyte of Fremantle Council, but unashamedly a very big supporter of Fremantle, and I’ll do anything to try to make this gorgeous city and ever better place to live in, do business in, work in and visit. That includes embracing modern development in Fremantle, instead of wanting to stop change and progress at all cost, as John Dowson does.

I respect Fremantle’s Elected Members, because they have been democratically elected. They are not my mates. I do not socialise with them. I am not a member of a political party either. What about JD’s membership of the Liberal party and the friendship with former Premier Colin Barnett he liked to mention often? Which one of us is actually the acolyte, JD?

Roel Loopers



The building of a new Fremantle traffic bridge is likely to be brought forward, in the State Government’s attempt to create jobs by fast forwarding major public works. A new bridge is badly needed, so I welcome the news, however the Fremantle community and Council should have a say in this matter, because we do not want just any ugly modern functional bridge, but something iconic and very Freo.

We also do not want the demolition of the present bridge because it is part of Freo’s heritage. It should be preserved and used, maybe as a dedicated bridge for pedestrians and cyclists, a viewing platform where we can hold events and markets, and make it a tourist destination.

The destruction of the North Fremantle town centre would be absolutely unacceptable, so one very important question is where will the bridge end in North Freo?

I sometimes disagree with the opinion of the Fremantle Society, but I absolutely agree with what Agnieshka Kiera, who was the City of Fremantle’s heritage architect for 25 years, wrote about preserving the old bridge, so I partly copy her well argued opinion piece.

We want extensive community consultation, and not just Main Roads creating a bridge that can accommodate a lot of vehicles fast!

Here is what Agnieshka Kiera wrote:

  • the historic Fremantle bridge has to stay. Not only for the reason of its heritage significance and, being listed on State Heritage, planning and compliance reasons. It should also stay for its greater importance to the city as the strategic urban feature and gateway to Fremantle, as follows:
    • since its construction the bridge has provided the vital pedestrian (and traffic) connection, not only between Fremantle and Perth but equally importantly between Fremantle and North Fremantle historic town centre; 
    • while the main vehicular traffic connection to Perth has been taken over by the Stirling Bridge, the much-reduced traffic using the historic bridge has helped to keep the North Fremantle’s historic centre accessible and to date a viable local hub of commercial and social activity;
    • the bridge acts as an important entry point and gateway to Fremantle: on the approach to Fremantle by the bridge, the closed vista of Cantonment Hill and the Signal Station, the Fremantle Port to the right and Swan River to the left, all the iconic urban features and Fremantle icons, create an exceptional landscape setting, reinforcing the city’s identity as the historic landmark of Western Australia;
    • the proposed bridge could potentially relieve the historic bridge of the vehicular traffic altogether and let it act as the vital pedestrian/cyclist link with Fremantle proper. There are numerous very successful examples around the world of saving the historic bridges from demolition. And while building new bridges to take on the modern essential role of carrying the vehicular traffic, many cities conserved the old bridges utilising them for the ancillary (mainly pedestrian) purposes. The most famous examples include the Burt Bridge in San Francisco, the Brooklyn Bridge on New York’s East River, Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Pot du Gard in France, Chenguyang Inmud and Rain Bridge in China etc. Each of them was replaced by a new bridge while being preserved for new functions. The same could be done in Fremantle, as freeing the Fremantle Bridge from vehicular traffic would facilitate its proper restoration as the pedestrian/cyclist bridge;
    • However, the plan in Brad Pettit’s blog doesn’t show where the new bridge’s roadway goes. Would it go through the North Fremantle old centre? It looks very likely. Would this result in some massive demolitions of the heritage buildings on its way? That would be the death not only to the old bridge but to the North Fremantle historic centre as well. The Fremantle bridge’s traditional role as a gateway and the significant connection between North Fremantle and Fremantle proper via Queen Victoria Street would be destroyed. That is a devastating prospect and should be stopped.


Roel Loopers



walyalup 1


Brian Shearsmith, a committee member of the Fremantle Society, takes offense in a letter in the Fremantle Herald today to my personal opinion about the City of Fremantle art collection. Shearsmith claims that my opinion here on Freo’s View earlier this week, is an insult to the artists that created them(sic).

I wrote my article after the Fremantle Society committee had unanimously voted to defer the construction of the new Walyalup Civic Centre at Kings Square and instead turn it into an art gallery that would display the City’s art collection.

It is rather hypocritical of a committee member of the Fremantle Society to claim my opinion is an insult to artists, when the Society has been insulting architects and developers for many years, with derogatory remarks about the design of proposed and constructed buildings.

In the meantime the civic centre is developing well, with the main entrance at Kings Square now becoming prominent, as these photos I took this morning show.

Roel Loopers




There is no doubt that the City of Fremantle is having a very difficult financial time with loss of revenue reportedly at $ 2 million a month, which would mean that if the current Covid-19 restrictions remain in place Fremantle would lose $ 12 million over the next six months and will need to drastically reduce expenditure. Freo City management have already done that on a small scale by reducing staff hours and staff numbers temporarily, but there are concerns that for some staff it might mean permanent loss of employment. Senior management and elected members also have taken a 20 per cent pay cut.

It will be extremely hard to prioritise where costs can be cut, and some of it will not be popular with the Fremantle community, but in these unprecedented times unpopular decisions will have to be made.

Word is out that Council might scrap the $ 800,000 per year CAT bus service and that would be very disappointing, but I have little doubt that especially the festivals, One Day Australia Day event, and major works, such as the traffic calming along South Terrace and Hampton Road, will be considered when the elected members discus how and where to save money. The planned new playground at Kings Square might also be cancelled or deferred.

It is of no help at all then when the Fremantle Society comes up with ludicrous suggestions, such as that the completion of the Walyalup Civic Centre at Kings Square should be deferred and the building should be made into an exhibition centre that would show the City of Fremantle art collection.

Does the Society even have a clue on how much money it would take to change the purpose built administration centre into a proper exhibition space? Do they really believe it is just a matter of not putting staff furniture in there and hang some pictures on walls? How naive and silly! And by the way, the Fremantle art collection is not all that flash, as I noticed when I was assigned to photograph most of it some twenty years ago. I asked the consultant curator then why the city had an art collection of which about 70 per cent is mediocre and of Sunday painter quality that is not worth exhibiting.

We do already have an outstanding Fremantle Arts Center that has great exhibitions, concerts and events, and some of the Freo art collection is regularly shown there in the gallery just past the reception desk.

The Fremantle Society president also suggests to redirect the $ 800,000, if the CAT gets stopped, to the repairs of Arthur’s Head, but the CAT would be scratched to save money, not to use it elsewhere.

Council and the administration can use all the help they can get to make good financial decisions, but simplistic and unrealistic demands are not helpful at all, so there is no hope in hell either that council rates will be reduced by 4%, as the Society president suggested.

Let’s stay calm and be realistic, and let’s not start a blame game about which past Council decisions might have been wrong. No one could even anticipate the global pandemic situation we are in, but we do need to learn from it and the City of Fremantle needs to put away money for unexpected changes in the economy. All it can do now is borrow more money, slash costs, because there is no way they can increase council rates from July. Businesses and property owners are struggling. We all are!

We all need to concentrate on the future and acknowledge that there are councils, such as Fremantle, which need and deserve financial support from the state and federal governments, or a lot of public works will not happen, and we could well lose our festivals and events for some years. That would be absolutely terrible!

Roel Loopers



Fremantle Society president John Dowson has sent emails to the members that argue for the scrapping of the popular CAT bus in Fremantle. Dowson says the $ 800,000 a year for the bus service should go to the repairs of Arthur’s Head.

I am all for redirecting as much money as the City can afford to finally get the stabilisation work at historic Arthur’s Head done, but not at the cost of stopping the CAT bus service.

John Dowson writes that it is only an idea and not the position of the Fremantle Society committee, and that new South Fremantle Councillor Marija Vujcic is willing to put a motion to Council about it.

Dowson claims that Deputy Mayor Andrew Sullivan is also keen to scrap the CAT bus, but when I bumped into that South Fremantle Councillor, with appropriate social distancing, he said that was not the case.

The CAT bus is popular with local Freo people and tourists and a great way of connecting the CBD with South Fremantle, and for people to get to the Arts and Leisure centres.

I am all for keeping the CAT, but the financial situation of the City is precarious, so time will tell what savings need to be made, now that one of the major lines of income, parking fees and fines, has dried up because of the Covid-19 crisis.

Roel Loopers


It is really disappointing to read Fremantle Society president John Dowson’s rants that he emails to the members.

JD writes about the FPOL committee meeting and a question from the public “How, when and where were the Fremantle rate payers involved or included in the planning of a tavern design concept to be located in the cultural and civic centre?” the answer came back: “The City undertook a Kings Square Urban design strategy in 2012/2013 which was developed through community consultation.”

That is correct. I was at several community meetings, including a so-called Citizenship Jury about the Kings Square plans, as the then president of the Fremantle Society.

JD also attacks Council’s suggestion to rename Kings Square and change it to an Aboriginal name: When the suggestion comes to council this Wednesday to rename King’s Square after Midgegooroo, a cold blooded murderer whose execution was even cheered by some Aboriginal onlookers, council may reluctantly give the community a few weeks, but only to give their suggestions for a name change.

History tends to write its own reality, and I remember well that John Dowson some years back defended the reputation of Captain Fremantle in a letter to the Fremantle Herald, when claims were made Fremantle had been a rapist. JD said the case never went to court and Fremantle was never convicted of rape, so let the same fairness apply to Midgegooroo, who was accused of being a murderer, but he was never convicted of that alleged crime in a court of law either, so the Noongar elder was unlawfully murdered by white settlers.

John Dowson is clearly of the belief that if one repeats claims often enough they become reality: The ideological whitewash of traditions and heritage in Fremantle is scarily becoming more and more evident as the rebranding and neglect of heritage gathers pace. When the Fremantle Society was told several years ago that a Fremantle Council consultant had indicated the superb Moreton Bay fig trees in King’s Square had to go as they affected the sight lines to the new administration building, the speaker was not believed. The trees are now gone.

Fact is that the Moreton Bay fig trees at Kings Square were very sick and arborists from the eastern states and WA advised Fremantle Council that the trees were becoming a danger to the community, as big heavy branches had fallen down, so the removal of the trees had nothing to do with sight lines. Every effort was made to try to save them with soil injections, etc, but unfortunately that was not successful and hence they were removed. It was about community safety.

I hear that even some committee members of the Fremantle Society are not happy with the president, so the real danger is that the very important contribution the society has made to Fremantle over decades is now being eroded by a man whose main interest appears to be political council bashing. What a shame, because we need community groups such as the Fremantle Society to scrutinise what is going on in our city, but that has to be done with facts, fairness and balance, not polemic.

Roel Loopers




I hear the Fremantle Society has set up a sub-committee that will concentrate on lobbying and trying to get funding for the urgent repairs of Arthur’s Head, so good on them!

What Fremantle Council has been doing about it is pathetic and absolutely inadequate. The area is vested in the City, but they wash their hands off one of our state’s most significant historic and tourists areas and just wait to see if the state government, or anyone else, will cough up the $ 2 million needed. That is not good enough!

I have been told the action by the Fremantle Society will be bipartisan and trying to get as many people on board as possible, so I will be happy to promote anything the group will be doing in that regard.

I have a suspicion that the WA Labor government is not going to do anything about it until the next state election, but that is too far away.

Arthur’s Head has been looking awful for two years now with all the ugly fencing around it. The look at the Whalers Tunnel and the cliff face from Bathers Beach is a total eyesore, but it has been put in the too hard basket by Fremantle’s elected members. I find that extremely disappointing.

So go for it, Freo Society! Lobby politicians from all parties at state and federal level, look for grants, try to get financial support from the resources industries, etc. because Fremantle deserves better than having to accept a major problem that is not being addressed with the urgency it demands.

Roel Loopers




Fremantle Society president John Dowson is losing all his credibility when he sends these kind of nonsense messages and photos to FS members:

JD perspective

Australia Day Gone – Now Fremantle

Australia Day was cancelled without consultation.

Now, without consultation, the name Fremantle has been supplanted by Wanju Nidja Walyalup Whadjuk Boodja.

The sign above blocking the view of one of Australia’s most important heritage streets, High Street Fremantle, mentions Fremantle as an afterthought.

Mayor Brad Pettitt has been paid over $1 million already to be mayor of Fremantle, not another name that has not been discussed with the community.


Let us look at a more objective perspective, because the reality is that any face-level sign will block the view when one is very close to it, so below the photo I took of the same sign this Christmas morning.

A more objective perspective than John Dowson’s photo.


It is also remarkable that John Dowson must have discovered the Fremantle way-finding signs just now at the end of December 2019 when they were installed in June 2016, so three and a half years ago.

Dowson appears to have an issue with the Noongar message on the signs, and that is astounding for someone who has made his reputation on the protection of heritage. Would Dowson want the City of Fremantle to simply ignore the 40,000+ years of Whadjuk Noongar heritage and pretend it all just started in 1829 when European settlement started?

Roel Loopers




Predictably the Fremantle Society has lodged a submission with the City of Fremantle against the planning approval for a mixed use development of the Woolstores shopping centre site, as the FS  president shared with his members.

John Dowson argues that there is no need to rush the development of the site and that the City should take possession of the six shops near the corner of Elder Place and Queen Street, which was investigated by Fremantle Council last year, but no action taken.

The Society has many arguments against the development, and I too have heard some architects say the plans were disappointing, while others find it acceptable. I believe the development would be a huge improvement to the bland and boring building that is currently there, so that would be a big step forward to modernising that run-down part of Fremantle’s CBD, and for me that is a priority for our city.

Of course the plans could be different and better, and if we asked 25 architects we would get 25 different plans, and everyone of them would receive criticism from the public and other architects. That is the simple reality of life and anything creative. Someone else will always have another, maybe better, idea on how to improve our city.

For example, as a layman, I would have liked to see the corner of the building at Cantonment Street be rounded, to compliment the other corner and also the roundabout there, and there are no doubt many other ideas on how the plans could be improved, but too many cooks…..

I am more interested in the big picture and see the development in context with what is happening at Kings Square, the Little Lane residential development over the road, the proposed Hilton Doubletree hotel development, the Energy Museum development, a possible new use for the Adelaide Plaza next to the Basilica, and maybe a new hotel on the former Spicers site at William Street.

All these developments, once realised, will make that part of Fremantle much safer, and far more attractive and it will start creating the 24/7 economy and lifestyle that Fremantle needs, if our retailers and hospitality providers are going to survive.

We all want perfection and outstanding architecture, but that will not happen overnight. We need to accept that progress is slow and not always perfect, but the plans for the Woolstores are a big improvement for this significant site, and I hope they will be approved, and that Silverleaf Investments will commence with the construction very fast.

Roel Loopers


Posted in city of fremantle, democracy, election, fremantle society, local government, Uncategorized by freoview on September 12, 2019


The biggest surprise at this year’s Fremantle local council election is no doubt that Fremantle Society president John Dowson has nominated for City Ward and will do battle with incumbent Rachel Pemberton.

Dowson spent four years on Fremantle Council previously, so he knows the ropes of local government.

In a city that is going through a bit of a development boom Dowson’s negativity about most new buildings might not sit well with those in the community who believe change is good and necessary for Fremantle, but I have no doubt that the more conservative voters will see Dowson as a good alternative to the Green-leaning Pemberton.

Roel Loopers

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