Thursday, April 25, 2024

New plan for WA’s oldest public building

A new conservation plan for WA’s oldest public building will be considered by Fremantle Council tonight.

The Round House Conservation Management Plan details an estimated $652,000 worth of works that are required to protect and preserve the 190-year-old building.

Deputy Mayor Andrew Sullivan said due to its exposed location, vandalism and the well-intentioned but damaging repairs carried out during previous decades the Round House was now in urgent need of restoration.

“The Round House has exceptional state and national heritage significance, not just as the oldest public building in Western Australia but also for its role in the establishment of the somewhat brutal colonial system of colonial law and order when it served as a gaol, and as the holding point for Aboriginal prisoners being transferred to Rottnest Island,” Cr Sullivan said.

“This site is so pivotal to who we are as West Australians.  So much of our history since European settlement – the good, the bad and the ugly – radiates out from that location,” he said.

“It’s become a critical place for truth telling and reconciliation as we approach the bicentenary of the founding of the Swan River Colony in 2029.”

The last major conservation works on the Round House were undertaken in 2004, and since then minor maintenance has been carried out each year under the City’s building maintenance budget.

“Because of wear and tear due to the harsh coastal environment, major works are now urgently required for the remediation and repair of the building’s limestone walls, the roof, steps and other fixtures.”

“The upper floor is also currently inaccessible due to safety concerns about the narrow, steep staircase,” he said.

The Round House was one of the first buildings in Western Australia to be recognised and protected as a historic site when it was twice saved from demolition in the 1920s.

“By securing the necessary funding and implementing the actions outlined in the conservation plan we can ensure the building, and the understanding of its important role in the history of the state, is preserved for future generations,” the Deputy Mayor said.

The Round House is included on the State Register of Heritage Places as a part of the larger listing of the Round House and Arthur Head. Arthur Head Reserve, including the Round House, was vested in the City of Fremantle in 1982.

The officer’s report to be considered tonight recommends the council adopt the City of Fremantle Round House Conservation Management Plan recommendations and advocate for an allocation of funds from government and other external sources sufficient to complete all of the required works.

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