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Fremantle is a port city in Western Australiamarker, located southwest of Perthmarker, the state capital, at the mouth of the Swan Rivermarker on Australia's western coast. It was the first settlement of the Swan River colonists in 1829. It was declared a city in 1929, and has a population of approximately 26,000.

The city is named after Captain Charles Fremantle, the English naval officer who had pronounced possession of Western Australiamarker and who established a camp at the site. The city contains well-preserved 19th-century buildings and other heritage features. The Western Australian vernacular diminutive for Fremantle is "Freo".


Fremantle lies on a series of limestone hills known by the Nyungar people as Booyeembara; the sandplain to the east is Gardoo. The original vegetation of the area was mainly Xanthorrhoea and eucalyptus trees, being fired annually (in late spring or summer) by the traditional owners.

Fremantle is the end of the Fremantle railway line which runs from Perthmarker to Fremantle, run by the WA's Public Transport Authority.

Fremantle is subject to weather and climate relative to seaside communities - to the point that the regular sea breeze is known as the Fremantle Doctor, as it has a cooling effect to provide relief from the summer heat.


Fremantle Town Hall
On 25 April 1829, the ship HMS Challenger under the guidance of Captain Fremantle had arrived in the waters off the Fremantle coast to make preparations for the Swan River Colony.

On 2 May 1829, Captain Fremantle formally took possession on behalf of King George IV of the entire west coast of New Holland in a ceremony conducted just near the south head of the Swan River. A few days later a camp was set up in a bay just south of the head, and Fremantle has been occupied ever since.

A month later, on 1 June, Captain James Stirling on the Parmelia arrived to officially set up the Swan River Colony. The settlement of Perthmarker began on 12 August 1829.

Captain Fremantle left the colony on 25 August after providing much assistance to Stirling in setting up the colony. It was then that Stirling decided to name the port settlement 'Fremantle'.

In 1897, Irish-born engineer C. Y. O'Connor deepened Fremantle harbour and removed the limestone bar and sand shoals across the entrance to the Swan River, thus rendering Fremantle a serviceable port for commercial shipping. Fremantle still serves as the chief general seaport for Western Australiamarker, though far greater tonnages are exported from the iron-ore ports of the Pilbaramarker.

Fremantle has seen many industrial conflicts, the most famous of which occurred in 1919 when rioting broke out during "the lumpers' strike", resulting in one death and many injuries.

During World War II, Fremantle was the second largest base for Allied submarines operating in the Pacific theatre. There were up to 125 US, 31 British and 11 Free Dutch submarines operating out of Fremantle, until the Americans moved forward to the Philippinesmarker. The movements and presence of USS Sturgeon is a good example of such activity.


The Fremantle state seat was continuously held by the Australian Labor Party from 1924 until 2009, when it was lost at a by-election to Greens candidate Adele Carles. The federal electorate has returned Labor members continuously since 1934, including former Prime Minister John Curtin, and is currently represented by Melissa Parke.

The local government of the City of Fremantle consists of a mayor and council. Brad Pettitt has been the mayor since the 2009 local government elections.

Fremantle has been represented by some significant Australian political figures. John Curtin served as Prime Minister of Australia during World War II, and is often described as one of the nation's greatest political leaders. The state's largest universitymarker and a major secondary school in Fremantle are named for him, and his statue stands in Kings Square near the Fremantle Town Hall. A long-serving mayor of the town, Sir Frank Gibson (1919-1923 and 1926-1952), was also a Liberal parliamentarian from 1942 to 1956. Gibson, a pharmacist with a shop in High Street, was admired by all sides of politics for his civic leadership and tireless work for the city, especially during World War II, when he is said to have visited every ship that called at the port. He was a leading figure in many civic organisations and his stepson, Dr Roger Dunkley, was medical officer with the 2nd/2nd Independent Company during the Timormarker campaign in World War II. Carmen Lawrence, the first female premier of an Australian state, later represented Fremantle in the federal House of Representatives.

Heritage buildings

Fremantle's modern maritime museum is located at the harbour's mouth. The city is renowned for its well-preserved architectural heritage, including convict-built colonial-era buildings, an old jetty and port, and prisons; presenting a variety and unity of historic buildings and streetscapes. These were often built in limestone with ornate facades in a succession of architectural styles. Rapid development following the harbour works gave rise to an Edwardian precinct as merchant and shipping companies built in the west end and on reclaimed land.

The Round Housemarker, the oldest remaining building in Western Australia, was built as a gaol between 1830 - 1831. The Round House had eight cells and a gaoler's residence, which all opened up into a central courtyard. In the 1800s, bay whaling was carried out from Bathers Beach below the Round House. As part of the whaling operations, a tunnel was constructed under the Round House to provide whalers with access to the town from the jetty and beach.

The Round House is located in what is now known as Fremantle's West End: a collection of streets characterised by late Georgian and Victorian-style architecture at the tip of the southern end of the port. A process of gentrification in the early 1990s was accelerated by the establishment of the University of Notre Dame Australia, which occupies, and has restored, many of the buildings in the West End.

When the first 75 convicts arrived from Britainmarker in 1850 to support the colony's dwindling population, it became apparent that the Round House was inadequate to house them. The convicts built a new gaol, which was completed in the 1850s and continued to be used as Fremantle's prison until 1991.

Fremantle Prisonmarker was once one of the most notorious prisons in the British Empire. It housed British convicts, local prisoners, military prisoners, enemy aliens and prisoners of war. It is now one of the state's heritage sites. Fremantle Prison was featured on an episode of The Amazing Race in 2006. It continues to be accessible by the public for inspection tours and as a venue for artistic and cultural activities.

The majestic Fremantle History Museum is another building constructed in the 1860s by convicts from indigenous limestone: it is a former Victorian lunatic asylum building on Ord Street, and is one of Fremantle's most significant landmarks. This building was the land base of the U.S. Navy during WWII. It now also houses the Fremantle Arts Centremarker and the Immigration Museum, which aims to preserve the history and stories of all immigrants who arrived in Western Australia.

The Fremantle Marketsmarker opened in 1897, forming a precinct providing handicrafts, specialty foods, dining halls and fish and vegetable markets. The area also hosts buskers and other street performers. The then premier, Sir John Forrest, laid the foundation stone for the markets on Saturday 6 November 1897. Over 150 stalls are housed in the Victorian-era building, which was listed by the National Trust of Australia and the state's Heritage Council in 1980. The adjacent Sail & Anchor Hotel is a historic building which contains a microbrewery.

The National Hotel, one of the city's historic buildings, was almost destroyed by fire on the night of Sunday, March 11, 2007, Though the interior was gutted, the historic facade was saved and its new owners are working to stabilise the building and restore it so the hotel can operate once more.

The National Trust has designated the grave of former AC/DC lead singer Bon Scott a national heritage site, in recognition of the thousands of rock music fans who visit it each year.


Image:National Hotel, Fremantle, Western Australia.jpg|The National Hotel before the 2007 fireImage:Fremantle Markets, Western Australia.jpg|Fremantle MarketsmarkerImage:Fremantle Arts Centre.jpg|Arts Centre


Fremantle has a broadly mixed-class of professions yet high unemployment (10.2%), a multi ethnic population, and an above-average proportion of rented dwellings (43%) of which a larger-than-average proportion is owned by Homeswest (40.1%). Fremantle has supported the Australian Labor Party at both Federal and state elections.

For a city of small size, Fremantle is very diverse. Only 64% of the population was born in Australia. The largest overseas-born population groups come from the United Kingdommarker, Italymarker, New Zealandmarker, Irelandmarker and Germanymarker. There are also sizeable Portuguese(Madeiranmarker) and Croatian communities.

On Census Night 4,485 persons in Fremantle (State Suburb) stated they were born in Australia.
Other popular responses within Fremantle (State Suburb) were 760 born in England, 325 born in Italy, 210 born in New Zealand, 118 born in Scotland and 69 born in Portugal.

Some 57% of the population is Christian, largely Roman Catholic and Anglican.


Fremantle is home to the main campus of the private Roman Catholic University of Notre Dame Australia. UNDA occupies many buildings throughout Fremantle, particularly in its historic West End. The use and refurbishment of these buildings by the university assisted in their preservation.

The Central Business District is also home to a major teaching hospital, Fremantle Hospitalmarker.

Secondary Schools

Primary Schools

  • St Patrick's Primary School.
  • Fremantle Primary School.
  • Winterfold Primary School.
  • Christ the King Primary School.

Leisure and Recreation

A jetty and statues in the fishing boat harbour is inscribed, "To the fisherman"
The city is popular with diners, catering for all tastes and budgets. Italian and Asian cuisine is abundant as well as a vast variety of seafood restaurants. There are numerous cafes and coffee shops situated around Fremantle, particularly on its famous 'Cappuccino Strip' - a section of South Terrace given over to alfresco dining since 1977.

The city has an operational fishing boat harbour which contain markets and restaurants, developed as a tourist precinct. Fishing charter boats also operate from this harbour.

Fremantle is a popular place for its nightlife, second only to Northbridge in Perth's CBD. It attracts people from all over the metropolitan region for its pubs, bars and nightclubs.

Fremantle is home to Bathers Beach, South Beach, Port Beach, Leighton Beach and Sandtrax with several of Western Australia's other beautiful beaches nearby on Transperth's Fremantle railway line, most notably Cottesloe Beachmarker, less than ten minutes away by rail.

The city has a large arts community, with a number of small art galleries and musical venues and a community theatre company, Harbour Theatre Inc., which has been performing in the city since 1963. There is also the J Shed situated on Baths Beach. J Shed houses four artists studios.

Local Media

Fremantle is served by a Community Newspaper Group paper, The Fremantle - Cockburn Gazette, as well as an independent local newspaper, "The Fremantle Herald", affectionately known as 'the chook.' Fremantle also has an independent local radio station Radio Fremantle 107.9FM.


In 2011 Fremantle will host the ISAF Sailing World Championships.

Fremantle was the host city for the America's Cup yachting racemarker in 1987, after Australia was the first country to ever win the race, aside from the USA, in 1983. The unsuccessful cup defence was conducted on the waters in Gage Roads, off Fremantle.

Fremantle hosts an AFL team, the Fremantle Football Club (nicknamed "the Dockers") and two teams in the state football league (WAFL), East Fremantle and South Fremantle. Matches are played at Fremantle Ovalmarker and East Fremantle Ovalmarker, and they have a team in the Western Australia Rugby League called the Fremantle Roosters who play at Ken Allen Field.


Fremantle boasts a vibrant live music scene with many local performers and venues. Bon Scott, the lead singer of Australian rock band AC/DC lived in Fremantle as a boy. After his death in 1980 his ashes were interred in Fremantle Cemetery. His grave site has become a cultural landmark.


Container ship leaving Fremantle harbour
( * indicates suburb partially located within City)

See also


  1. Australians generally favour the pronunciation "FREE-mantle" over its English antecedent "Fre-MAN-tle". However, the stress commonly reverts to the second syllable in phonetic compounds such as 'North Fre-MAN-tle', 'South Fre-MAN-tle', etc. "Freo" is pronounced FREE-oh.
  2. Lyon, R. M., A Glance at the Manners and Languages of the Aboriginal Inhabitants of Western Australia, 1833; published in Green 1979 (below).
  3. Green, N. (ed.) Nyungar: The People, Creative Research Publishing, Mt Lawley College, Perth, 1979
  4. Appleyard, R. T. and Manford, Toby (1979). The Beginning: European Discovery and Early Settlement of Swan River Western Australia, University of Western Australia Press. ISBN 0-85564-146-0. (for early history)
  6. Meet your Council Fremantle Focus (official site)
  7. Mission, vision and objectives at Fremantle Prison official site
  8. Welcome to the Fremantle History Museum WA Museum site, with photographs
  9. Bon Scott grave
  10. Australian Electoral Commission 2004 Federal Election Results

External links

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