Aug 23, 2016 - News    No Comments

A lesson in national healing

Berlin wall memorial

Berlin wall memorial

There are a lot of useful lessons that can be learned from Germany about healing and reconciliation after terrible national trauma.

It has been fascinating and deeply moving to visit the sites where terrible atrocities occurred under the Nazis and in the aftermath of WWII, to see them remembered, explained and memorialized.

Many memorials are only in German, because they are not designed for tourists, but for Germans to acknowledge understand. With the help of my local guide who translated, I watched as a mother explained to her young son what Berlin’s book burning memorial was all about.

Jewish memorial, Berlin

Jewish memorial, Berlin

German students learn about the atrocities of WWII, not to feel ashamed and guilty, but to understand and ensure they are never repeated.

I have been watching with interest as Fremantle debates how it should celebrate Australia Day, and I am deeply disappointed I am not there to participate.

I believe we need to acknowledge the sadness that many feel on Australia Day and recognize that the day marks the beginning of an injustice and trauma within our nation. By acknowledging and understanding it, we do not need to feel guilty. You or I didn’t invade Australia and commit genocide on the Aboriginal people, but to ignore this is to continue the hurt.

Memory stones across Berlin - to mark the homes from which Jewish people were taken

Memory stones across Berlin – to mark the homes from which Jewish people were taken

We have a very special anniversary coming up in 2017. May 27 marks fifty years since the referendum that resulted in Indigenous Australians being given the same rights as all other citizens. To me this is the day we truly became a nation. It is hard for me to comprehend that there are people alive in our community today that were not given the right to vote or be counted in the census just because they are Aboriginal.

While the issue of what date our national celebration is held on is not what we are trying to resolve now, I hope that next year we can mark this special anniversary proudly and celebrate it widely.

How we chose to mark this anniversary, and Australia Day could be a useful step towards acknowledging the injustices of the past and making peace and reconciliation and creating a better future.


Aug 20, 2016 - News    No Comments

Reflections from Vauban: utopia or ‘tofu ghetto’?

the infamous light rail

the infamous light rail

When I arrived at my Airbnb in the heart of Vauban, I asked my host what it was like to live there. He called it a ‘tofu ghetto’ – a monoculture of wealthy, white middle class academics – not what I expected at all!

He knew it was a great place to raise a family, but he was concerned his kids would not be raised surrounded be different languages, experiences and points of view (he is from Venezuela).

quality design and sustainability go hand in hand in vauban

quality design and sustainability go hand in hand in vauban

Vauban does a lot of things right. Most famous is the implementation of alternative transport options from the commencement of the development, with light rail was built through the centre of the district as the first of its 5500 residents moved in.

My tour guide Steffan described the history of citizen activism that made Vauban the exemplar community it is today. Through a series of protests and interventions, the community successfully made the case to use the government owned land to create a community they wanted to live in, rather than what developers wanted to build. And the result is outstanding.

the community garage - only 3 out of 4 planned were built

the community garage – only 3 out of 4 planned were built

About 60% of the development area is car free. Three multi-story community car parks are on the edge of the neighbourhood, available for residents in the car free zone to purchase bays. Interestingly they were required to provide space for the legal minimum required car bays per dwelling, but they didn’t need to build it all until the demand matched. An area of land was set aside for the fourth multi-story car park, it is a point of pride within the community that demand for the additional car park has not occurred, and instead a community garden  occupies its place.

baugruppen built housing

baugruppen built housing

One thing I didn’t know about Vauban is that about half of the development area was built through Baugruppen,  housing designed and developed by the residents who will live there rather than commercial developers. It makes a real difference to the streetscape and you can tell the Baugruppen developments from the commercial developments because they are a much higher quality of both design, materials, functionality and performance.

a solar pv pergola

a solar pv pergola





Most Baugruppen included solar power, passive design and other useful innovations. For example: one had a co-working space on the second floor for residents of the building who work from home to have an office outside the home; one had a ‘guest apartment’ visitors plus a function room that residents could book for a small fee; many had communal gardens with a play area for kids, with an emphasis on nature play.

funky architecture and pedestrian streets

A network of paths and walkways weave throughout the district, most exclude cars, others are shared streets with a 30km speed limit. As a result people primarily walk or ride within the area, kids play on the street and there is a sense of community, safety and friendliness. The streets are quiet apart from the sound of kids playing and bikes are everywhere.

Social interventions through community housing developments have sought to address essential needs within the community. For example: a development includes assisted living for people with dementia – so they can live safely with support within a community; a development for families who have a child with a severe disability – with the ability for that child to transition to onsite semi-independent living as an adult, enabling independence and reassurance.

community hub

community hub

There are kindergartens built into developments, small businesses, yoga studio’s, art studios and offices, plus cafes, a mini-supermarket and even a community canteen that serves low cost lunches with an aim to build connection within the community.

A community housing organisation uses three of the original large French military buildings to provide student housing and affordable housing. Each floor is converted into large apartments with up to 10 bedrooms with ensuites, with a shared kitchen, laundry and social space. Around these buildings a tiny house community has evolved.

People live in parked caravans and trucks, converted rail carriages and quirky tiny timber cottages. A vibrant community life exists with outdoor seating and play areas and live music and meals into the night. Definitely the more radical element and I’m not sure how the immediate neighbours felt about it… It did make me query my hosts’ criticism.

vauban's 'tiny' village

vauban’s ‘tiny’ village

Social diversity is a more deliberate feature in the development at nearby Risefeld. For example, the retrofit of a 16-story public housing development allowed for a trial to try to improve social cohesion in public housing. The  authority engaged the future residents early in the process to give them a say on the specifics of the housing they would receive. Residents could state their preference to face north/south/east/west, what size and configuration the apartment would be and how it would be decorated. Importantly, a ‘speed dating’ event took place, at which future residents met each other to work out who wanted to live with who, people who got along were grouped on the same floor. Empowering residents created a sense of ownership and goodwill, the success means this process has been replicated elsewhere.

vauban overgrown design

simple, quality design and materials plus lots of plantings

While Riselfeld may have achieved greater diversity, the atmosphere of the place is far more stark, less inviting and more functional.  Vauban feels vibrant, has better architecture, better street network, less car dominance, more green space and feels safer compared to Riselfeld.

This is at least in part due to the lack of citizen intervention in the design of the development, it may also be due to the developer prominence in Riselfeld rather than Baugruppen (owner-built) developments in Vauban.

a housing co-op in Vauban for affordable housing

a housing co-op in Vauban for affordable housing

In Fremantle, we have seen great outcomes from citizen intervention in the WGV development.

The result is our very own world-class demonstration project that promises a high quality of 21st century living. However it is at risk of being a ‘tofu ghetto’ due to a limited degree of diversity of housing stock or social intervention. Apart from the Gen Y home and SHAC, the majority of properties for sale at WGV are family sized homes that cost well over $600,000.

the guest apartment and function room for co-op residents

the guest apartment and function room for co-op residents

An excellent opportunity lies with the development sites at Knutsford Street and the Council Depot.

A rep from Landcorp, the proponents of the development area, said they consider Knutsford St as an opportunity for “WGV on steroids”. I am keen to hold them to this statement.

Freo people are good at community activism, so I propose that we get active on creating our own version of utopia at Knutsford st, but let’s make sure we avoid making it a ‘tofu ghetto’.

Aug 13, 2016 - Development, News    1 Comment

Is Tiny Sprawl possible? Lessons from BedZED and the UK

One thing that concerns me about the growing popularity of Tiny Houses is the potential for Tiny Sprawl.

Like me, many people love the idea of a quaint little cottage surrounded by garden that would be both affordable and sustainable. However that means we continue to develop outwards, using land in an inefficient manner at the expense of our wetlands, green spaces and urban bush. We need to make better use of the existing urban footprint.

UK from the sky2

Typical urban development in the UK

As I travelled through the United Kingdom last week, it struck me how much green space, fields, woods, farms and even castles there are between each of the towns and cities.

The UK has a population of 64 million people, two and a half times that of Australia, and it’s land mass is just 243,610 km². Meanwhile, just 9- 15% of the land area is classified as urban or is built on. This reflects my observation about the vast amount of green space in the densely populated country. To compare, Australia’s population is 24 million and land area is 7.68 million km².

So how do they do it? House a mammoth population on a tiny island and keep the local character and green belt in tact? Read more »

Jun 14, 2016 - News    Comments Off on Diverse housing discussion – coming soon

Diverse housing discussion – coming soon

innovative housingDiverse and innovative housing continue to be a hot topic.

This week I was on ABC radio to talk about what the City of Fremantle is doing on diverse and innovative housing.

You can listen to the interview here

In September we will be undertaking extensive consultation with the community on these issues.

The Council is currently conducting a survey on the topic – tell us what you think.

Read more »

Mar 23, 2016 - News    Comments Off on South Beach swimming zone – success!

South Beach swimming zone – success!

south beach 2The Department has supported the overwhelming Community feedback in favour of a swimming zone the entire length of both beaches at South Beach.

It was the most number of submissions they have ever received on an Aquatic Use Review with 2533 submissions received. There were 750 in support of the DoT proposal (with the boat channel at the north of little dog beach) and 1650 opposed (120 were neutral)

“This is a great outcome for the whole community. The Department of Transport is to be commended for supporting the community and the Council’s wishes to make South Beach a safe swimming zone,” said Cr Rachel Pemberton.

“Fremantle Council designated South Beach a swimming zone in 2015, but we are limited in how we can inform boat users and enforce the safe swimming zone. This decision means that the DoT will now do that.”

“The community is to be congratulated for the tremendous campaign to make all of South Beach a safe swimming zone, as was shown in the overwhelming number of submissions made.”

The Fremantle Sailing Club has also welcomed the decision.

“Fremantle Sailing Club is aligned with the Fremantle City Council in supporting the Department of Transport to ensure a safer environment for both the boating public and beach goers. The proposed speed restrictions and the introduction of restricted access to the beach for powered vessels at South Beach will go a long way to achieve the Aquatic Use Review objectives for a safe, equitable and sustainable use of our important waterways,” Fremantle Sailing Club Commodore Terry Baker stated.

“In conceding access to the beach by powered vessels, the club’s preferred position was to retain a narrow access corridor, but recognise and accept the strong feedback from the local community. We have long stated whatever the outcome, the impact of club members is minimal and going forward believe we can work with the community to build our relationship to our mutual benefit” he added.

The decision has been made but it wont take affect until May when it is gazetted through an act of Parliament.

The Department of Transport’s statement is here.

Read more »

Jan 25, 2016 - News    2 Comments

South Beach safe swimming zone

swimming zoneAlong with hundreds of other people, I swim between the groynes at South Beach and Little Dog Beach almost daily from September to May. Sometimes when the waves are choppy I go off course and end up some way out to sea, beyond the groynes. This doesn’t concern me, other than when there are boats nearby as I fear they wont see me between the waves.

As such, I welcome the Aquatic Use Review. I thoroughly support Fremantle Council’s initiative to make South Beach and Little Dog Beach a swimming zone, excluding all motorized vessels. I think this highly urbanized beach that caters for thousands of swimmers every day warrants this type of protection.

I am somewhat disappointed that the Department of Transport proposal includes a boat access channel in the northern end of Little Dog Beach, therefore excising 120m from the swimming zone. I hope that this proposal will be withdrawn after the public comment and review period, as it is unnecessary and will undermine the swimming zone. Read more »

Dec 6, 2015 - News    2 Comments

Stinger net for south beach?

Stingers make swimming at Fremantle’s beaches a challenge and for some people, a risk with nasty reactions, hospitalisations and scaring from stings. Personally, I find the little ones irritating and they make swimming unpleasant and the large ones are frightening and keep me out of the water altogether!

Fremantle council has been investigating options for a stinger net at South Beach to offer some protection from stingers. A proposal and budget request for a stinger net will be debated by Council this month (Wednesday 9 & 16 Dec) and I’m keen to hear what people think. Read more »

Nov 19, 2015 - News    3 Comments

Plastic free Sunset Markets

I am really proud to be working with the wonderful Georgie Adeane from the South Beach Sunset Markets to make the food market ‘plastic free’ this summer.

Georgie and I hope this initiative will be embraced by customers who will welcome her environmentally responsible approach in the sensitive South Beach environment.

Read more »

Nov 9, 2015 - News    Comments Off on For the record

For the record

For the sake of transparency, and to lay some incorrect assumptions to rest, below is the list of donations I received as part of my election campaign.  Read more »

Oct 18, 2015 - News    Comments Off on Voters speak volumes

Voters speak volumes

light houseI am truly grateful for the support of City Ward voters in yesterday’s election result.

The decisive result was once again a clear indication that this council is heading in the right direction, with Councilors Jon Strachan, Ingrid Waltham and myself all getting over 50% of the vote. It was a tighter contest in Beaconsfield with Cr Hume being returned with 40%.

Sadly, Councilor Fittock lost in North Ward. I have enjoyed working with Rob, particularly as his deputy on Planning Committee, and I wish him well in the future. I don’t know his replacement Bryn Jones, but I look forward to working with him and getting to know him over the next four years.

I also welcome Jeff McDonald to the Council for Hilton. I like him a lot already and think he’ll make an excellent contribution. It’s a shame we couldn’t also have Sam Donovan on the council who would have also done a great job.

While voter turn out was typically low, it suggests that most people are either content enough, don’t care, or don’t think it makes a difference. But I know when people want change, they vote for it and with the exception of North Ward, in this election they didn’t.

So after a long and sometimes nasty campaign, it is a relief to know that the majority of City Ward voters feel I am doing a good job. I thank everyone who put their faith in me once more and I will continue to work hard and serve you the best I can.

What I learned from voters   Read more »