There’s no place quite like it in Australia. The port city of Fremantle, or Freo as she is known to locals and friends, is distinctive in many ways. History old and new is part of her charm, from the Indigenous Noongar continuous occupation and cultivation of the area on the mouth of the Swan River for over forty thousand years, her time as an English colonial and convict settlement starting in 1829, a base for an American submarine fleet in World War Two and of course the hosting the America’s Cup Yacht race in 1987. She was also the gateway to the Goldfields of the west after gold was discovered in Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie in the 1870’s. Her colourful past is still evident in the many historical buildings and sites which give form and structure to this city’s vibrant modern day cultural life.Its a place of artists of every type and perhaps because of that fact, seems more accepting of individual eccentrics than other cities in the West or East.
A prolific collection of sculptures dotted around the streets, celebrate the city’s famous sons and daughters. There’s one of John Curtain who represented the city and was Prime Minister of Australia during World War Two, strategically located beside the Town Hall where he must have given many a fiery speech.Fremantle is still an active working port and a place of embarkation and arrival for migrants from all over the world. Some sculptural creations reveal the darker side of this history with the English children forced to leave their homeland during World War Two with glowing promises of “Oranges and Sunshine” and found hell on earth.
When I first visited Freo some years ago I instantly fell in love with its originality. At that time the Mediterranean climate, with the healing afternoon wind wind known as “The Fremantle Doctor”,was a large part of the attraction. My second visit revealed the city’s seamier side. The louche night-life, empty shops, drunkenness and trashy tourist traps. This time I’ve made more of a connection with the strong open hearted community that exists beneath history, geography and first impressions and have discovered just how easy it is to be free and easy in fabulous Freo.
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