May 6, 2013 § Leave a comment
It started with a public meeting and finished with a war cry : ‘We Have A Vision For Fremantle’
Two weeks ago the Fremantle Inner City Residents Association (Ficra) called a public meeting, chaired by Dick Baynam, to discuss three major issues which may affect the city’s future development: The Wardens’ Cottages in Henderson Street; the issue of a youth plaza and it’s placement on The Esplanade and issues surrounding the development of Arthur Head as an arts and heritage precinct.
The meeting was well organised and former councillor John Dowson made five-minute presentations prior to the discussion of each issue. It had the potential to show what can be achieved with public input. Inexplicably some of the 200 attendees jeered the mayor, Dr Brad Pettitt, as he attempted to clarify issues.
In hindsight Ficra must see it as an error of judgement to discuss three major issues at one meeting. The net result was that two points, those related to the cottages and Arthur Head were completely lost in what amounted to a slanging match between West End residents and about a dozen skateboard park supporters who sometimes struggled to be heard.
While the meeting didn’t quite descend into chaos the mayor and Dick Baynam did have a heated discussion when the meeting closed.
Councillor Coggin: ‘We’re Not Mad’
The following Wednesday a general meeting of the Fremantle City Council was held and important lessons must be learnt from it. Principally Ficra and the Fremantle Society must realise if they wish to gain any traction against changes in Fremantle they have to understand the power of social media and the necessity to deliver messages succinctly across a broad base of residents.
With little effort the supporters of a Youth Plaza were able to encourage approximately two hundred skaters into the council chamber. Skaters confirmed they had responded to a Facebook posting. Well briefed enthusiasts, parents and teachers outlined their reasons for a skateboard park to be constructed in Fremantle, supporting the council’s preferred site of The Esplanade. The case was eloquently repeated by skaters aged anywhere between 15 and 40 who were greeted with rousing applause.
To coin a skateboarding term they effectively ‘kick flipped’ Ficra out of the debate. The evening finished with majority vote by councillors in favour of the skateboard park to be built on The Esplanade. Councillor Dave Coggin, in a moment of Churchillian eloquence and speaking on behalf of a united council effectively concluded the debate with a rallying cry:
“We are not mad. We know exactly what we are doing. We have a vision for Fremantle as a vibrant, creative and welcoming place. For more people living, working and recreating in Fremantle. Children and Youth are a core part of that vision, which is why we are welcoming them into our hearts with the Esplanade Youth Plaza”.
A point made after the meeting by Councillor Andrew Sullivan was that nobody, at any point in either debate, had offered a realistic alternative to the Esplanade site.
He said: “Objectors are telling us they’d support the Youth Plaza if it were built somewhere else but they’re being disingenuous because the only sites they mention are on the fringes of the City. Those who oppose the Esplanade would be even more outraged if we moved it to Kings Square, Pioneer Reserve or Princess May Park”.
Will Ficra and Fremantle Society Fightback? An Opportunity For Strong Leadership
Now that Roel Loopers has resigned from the Fremantle Society presidency (for the second time) there is a real opportunity for the society to elect a strong, unambiguous, leader.
Build on Overwhelming Vote
Former deputy mayor John Dowson said: “It is sad council has not put this out for public consultation” but in agreeing that residents want to have good youth facilities in Fremantle he reiterated the feelings of the previous night’s meeting at which an overwhelming vote against the Esplanade site was recorded.
The vote at the public meeting was close to unanimous. Several councillors who attended would attest to that but without a well organised campaign it is unlikely that challenges to current planning will be effective.
April 26, 2013 § 1 Comment
Mums, Dads, Diggers, Kids, and Memories
Anzac Day in Fremantle is always a little less precise on military precision but full of camaraderie. Poignant moments sometimes give way to gentle humour.
Here are a few photographs from yesterday’s Esplanade assembly point.
Finally a favourite from 2011. An old digger (sailor actually) was wheeled onto the parade ground but before he took his place in the parade he whipped out a hip flask and took a slug. The last picture was taken in 1977 in Perth. The parade was over and this old fellow walked over to what may have been his old regimental flags, took off his hat and stood silently, looking at them for a few minutes….
April 17, 2013 § 2 Comments
Ramped Up With Nowhere To Go.
My family had a virtual season ticket to Fremantle Hospital’s emergency ward. There were times when we felt we should have an apartment there, it may have been cheaper all round. We’ve had broken bones fixed; more stitches than a Chinese sweatshop could produce; cat bites treated and holes in the head patched up more than once. I doubt many people within striking distance of Freo’s hospital can be too critical of the service they have received. I can even remember the hospital being built. That would have been back in the mid 1970s and I can forgive it for being ugly with it’s overpowering neo-communist functional architecture.
A Shout Which Couldn’t Be Ignored
A chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link and that link almost broke this week. In fact it may still prove to do so. A friend, I’ll call her Jane Doe for the sake of this article, had been helping my neighbour with some light decorating work, nothing at all strenuous. I was enjoying a quiet gin and tonic on my verandah when my neighbour shouted out in a voice bordering on panic: “Rog, get down here fast, really fast, quick” It was a tone which couldn’t be ignored.
I ran to her house. Jane had collapsed and was unconscious in the garden. Anne my neighbour (not her real name) quickly explained that Jane, who had been sitting chatting, had suddenly complained of a severe headache, looked at Anne, vomitted and fallen unconscious out of the chair in a matter of a second or so (nothing to do with Anne’s looks, she doesn’t frighten people that much). I asked Anne to call an ambulance, tell them it was very urgent. I had checked Jane’s pulse which was very strong and fast and I didn’t suspect a heart attack.
There’s no point in going into finite detail but this was obviously a life threatening situation.
The ambulance arrived within a short time and Jane had recovered some degree of consciousness but could not talk. A paramedic got to work, asked Anne and me some questions which we answered in detail with other information about how this had occurred. The medic said she felt Jane was dehydrated. Without any real medical experience between us we were not going to argue. However, we both felt that was a diagnosis which was way off beam. Jane was treated for about 30 minutes and then taken to the hospital.
Five Hour Wait For Diagnosis
This is where the system started to unravel. It was Monday 8th and by now around 6 o’clock. The ambulance was ramped for at least two hours as emergency was busy, treating cases on a priority rating. Jane was placed in a corridor for three hours and when a doctor finally diagnosed her it was to say there was a suspected aneurism – a life threatening condition. She was quickly sent to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital’s world-class neurological department and immediately operated on to relieve pressure on the brain and drain the cranial cavity of blood. The following day she had a five hour operation to place a stent.
The current situation is there has been an additional five hour operation and Jane is still in danger of not recovering.
Keep The Emergency Ward, Keep the Hospital, No More Ramping.
My argument, and I don’t think too many people will disagree, follows. It is not meant to be critical of the ambulance service or of the paramedic. A paramedic is not necessarily a doctor and they are well trained to deal with emergency situations. However, on this occasion Anne and I didn’t feel the paramedic had listened closely enough to our description of the incident.
However, as result it is likely the ambulance was ramped and Jane, who would have been reported as being dehydrated, would not have been considered the highest level of emergency. It took five hours for the critical nature of the patient to be realised.
The question of ramping at an overcrowd hospital has to be considered as a really weak link in an otherwise excellent statewide service. In this case it could yet cost a life or severe brain damage as a result of the delay.
Thus our new state member of parliament and Fremantle’s council must ensure Fremantle’s emergency ward remains open, ramping must stop and consideration should be given to additional training for paramedics.
Fiona Stanley Hospital will open shortly. Two emergency facilities should be retained … in fact Fremantle Hospital, the medical heart of the city, must be kept pumping.
We live in one of the wealthiest states in the world (if we’re to believe what we’re told). Thus we should be able to maintain a fine medical service for the public.
April 10, 2013 § 2 Comments
Roel Loopers Quits BID Committee
Fremantle BackChat understands that Roel Loopers, the President of the Fremantle Society has quit his position on the board of the Fremantle Business Improvement District (BID) committee. BID is an organisation which has been established to assist businesses in Fremantle and is partially funded by ratepayers.
Loopers resignation, unlike his resignation from the presidency of the Fremantle Society, was made without fanfare. Unlike that resignation he has apparently not been asked to reconsider his BID decision.
Deadbeats And Has Beens
Concerns had been raised about Loopers suitability to be a member of the board. Shortly before he was elected to the BID board the Fremantle based photographer had referred to a group of successful professional photographers and academics, who had organised the Fremantle Portrait Prize, as: ” … a bunch of dead beats and has beens” on social media.
The Fremantle Portrait Prize, run by a group of dedicated volunteers attracted close to 700 entries from 22 countries and world-wide publicity for the city. Though it received no public funding the success of the venture was such that about $6000 was donated to charity. Loopers comments reverberated throughout the Australian photographic industry, were condemned as unethical and unprofessional and prompted one committee member to ask : “Does Roel drink?”
Shortly after Loopers made the comments he was elected to the board of the embryonic BID and questions were asked as to whether a person who had condemned members of his own profession and openly admitted his own business was struggling was a suitable candidate to advise other business owners.
Looking For Work
In a recent blog headed “Fremantle’s Ugliest Man Looking for Work” (Freo’s View 29 March 2013) Loopers intimated that his business has failed and he is looking for work. He said: ” … as my profession has not sustained me … I am keen to find additional work to create regular income”.
Over a period of several years a number people, mostly friends and colleagues, made generous attempts to assist Loopers but that help and advice, in nearly every instance, was rejected.
Loopers is normally a generous, jovial and gregarious character, prepared to help anybody and to volunteer for many things. He has, as a result, received public recognition in the form of a citizen’s award. He also promotes himself as Fremantle’s most popular blogger using the social media as a cut and thrust, though often one sided and inaccurate, vehicle for his opinions and is frequently outraged when his debatable opinions are challenged.
However, in describing himself as the King of Uglyland he may be advertising another side of his character.
American Journalist Threatened
It has come to the attention of Fremantle BackChat that Loopers has periodically sent emails to members of the community who have agitated him. These emails often contain personal insults and threats of legal action. In some cases [including this writer] he made accusations of bullying and threatened to ‘inform police’. When asked to produce the evidence or to post a comment or retraction to accusations on his blog he has steadfastly refused to do so.
In one instance an American journalist, who wrote an excellent promotional article about Fremantle on the internet, was threatened with legal action for copyright infringement. The journalist was accused of illegally using Loopers pictures to illustrate the Fremantle article. If there was an infringement it was possibly on the part of the people who chose the picture and posted them on the blog, not the journalist. Loopers has never proceeded with his threats against anybody and in that case did not make an apology for his erroneous accusation.
In an incident involving a local entrepreneur Loopers voluntarily supplied a set of pictures, free of charge, to be used on a promotional web site. They were excellent images and did Loopers professional ability no harm at all. However it appears he had a fit of pique, presuming his work was not well enough appreciated. As a result he asked that the pictures be removed from the site and if they were not he would take action for copyright infringement. The email was impolite and his action appeared to have been churlish.
In light of these and other intemperate outbursts it seems that the choice for Loopers to be a BID member may have been poor.
DISCLOSURE: Roger Garwood is a judge for the 2013 Fremantle International Portrait Prize. He was not involved in the organisation of the 2012 event mentioned in this article.
March 31, 2013 § 2 Comments
Dive for Cover – Fremantle’s Street Arts Festival had it all and more.
Easter Weekend showed the best face of the city to the outside world. Streets were packed; the fragrance of hot dogs blended beautifully with the unmistakable scent of a sheep ship in the harbour as tens of thousands of people happily rubbed shoulders and soaked up world class entertainment on their doorstep.
Even a handful of councillors were allowed out alone for this festival, all with smiles. And so they should have for they were strolling around and seeing first hand what people really enjoy. The seedy shadow of the city was well out of sight.
A warning from the Easter Bunny
A few people had experiences which turned their negative impression of the city around. One happy car parker had not purchased a ticket from a meter and the Easter Bunny gave him a parking infringement notice with a zero to pay note and a friendly reminder not to do it again.
Many buskers were armed with their favourite weapons – flaming torches chucked around with gay abandon in a practice called juggling. It’s designed to instil fear into the unwary. The city’s own favourite, the bagpiper from hell, was frightening every living creature within earshot. You can understood why the Scots let pipers lead them into battle, only to find the enemy had scarpered in terror. But no, the world’s only ‘Flame-throwing Punk Rock Piper’, as he bills himself, rapped it out to a massive crowd. I hope he and his somewhat less intimidating and infinitely more attractive fishnet clad partner made a healthy quid in face of the overseas competition.
Whispers Wine Bar in the Essex Street was comfortably full (the customers were not). A group of the city’s musicians, guitars in one hand, glass of red in the other, settled in the small upstairs room and started a small jam session, adding a musical moment
The only train was full of bunnies
In the High Street Mall, not letting the true Easter message be forgotten, a group of Roman soldiers in red cloaks were in the process of torturing a volunteer ‘Jesus’ to death on a large wooden cross. They were not in the least bit phased by a large electric train, loaded up with kids and colourful Easter Bunnies, as it roared at something less speedy than a bullet train, weaving through the crowds and baffling a couple of greyhounds which had to be restrained. There would have been carnage in the carriages had they been let loose.
For reasons which escape people who should know better Easter Weekend is probably the busiest in the year for Fremantle. So why on earth is the rail line closed? It can’t possibly help. This happens with monotonous regularity and the city, with its attendant parking problems, must feel a financial squeeze as a result. We can only conclude The Department of Transport may be few bunnies short of a full burrow.
And so it went on. It was a weekend of buskers, beer, champagne, high spirits and happy faces. The Buskers’ Festival, as it is commonly known, has become a legendary gathering spot for street artists from around the world. They love it and they help to endorse Fremantle’s reputation as the City of Festivals. The entire weekend’s entertainment was held against the backdrop of the West End’s architecture, underlining it’s value as a historical enclave. And yes, in case you were wondering, one of the stalls in Market Street was offering Fig Jam Face Packs. Yukky poo!