Dare to be Different – transforming a city

Located thirty minutes south west of Perth, where the Swan River meets the Indian Ocean, Fremantle is a major Australian port city.

It is a city built on stories stemming back tens of thousands of years to the Whadjuk people who embedded it as a place of ceremonies, cultural practices and trading.

Creating a history and a narrative of resilience and determination, Fremantle has served as a trading hub for wheat, meat and wool evolving to become a gateway to gold, a ship builder in World War II and host to the 1987 America’s Cup defence.

The haphazard growth of the City is evident from the street where ornate heritage buildings loved and lost stand side by side; where cafes, bars and restaurants line streets that house a growing homeless community.

There is nothing like a crisis to unite spirits and stakeholders to revitalise a city and the State-wide softening of the resources sector has brought about a vision and vitality to diversify the local Fremantle economy.

Significant public and private investment not seen since that America’s Cup win has filled the air with concrete dust and created clanging of workers around the clock. Tourists navigate the hospitality and the homeless making the most of serendipity and opportunity.

The goal to create an urban core where residents and workers mingle with ease will take concerted collaborative effort to simultaneously tackle multiple facets of urban life including improved integrated transport, job growth and diversification, enhanced public space and increased supply of affordable housing.

In tackling these critical issues, the underlying challenge is to retain the distinctive character of the city. To use and celebrate its heritage and history to create a modern and innovative place that meets the expectations of locals and its dominant economic providers, tourists and traders.

Serving the some 31,000 city residents and 400 workers, Mayor of Fremantle, Dr Brad Pettitt appears to recognise the inherent risk of homogeneity of place. That it is the distinctiveness of the City that will attract investment, people and interest. That it is what differentiates the city that will enable delivery of the Fremantle vision to be a city that embraces culture and heritage, thrives on diversity and innovation and dares to be different.

That it is only by “leveraging the city’s reputation of being gritty, electric and quirky” in all that we do will the city of Fremantle be a city where citizens thrive.

Katherine O’Regan

Executive Director, Cities Leadership Institute

The City of Fremantle was the host of the 2018 International Cities, Town Centres and Communities Conference.

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Level 23, 45 Clarence Street

Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia

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