Anti-social behaviour problems in Fremantle stem from a range of sources and will not be fixed simply.
Firstly there is the alcohol-fueled stupidity and destruction from patrons attending some of Fremantle’s nightspots. Then there’s the often intimidating behaviour or just plain loud intoxicated disregard shown from those on our streets in the daytime. In both cases the problem is often intoxication – perhaps we need a sobering up centre in town?
Increased passive surveillance will help reduce some of the nighttime troubles. If Fremantle’s night life is not dominated by those behaving badly but a diverse range of people out socializing responsibly, then people tend to self regulate and the overall tone improves.
This is one of the motivations behind the Cappuccino Strip Street Club, which aims to attract and welcome families, elderly and young people back into Fremantle’s city centre streets at night and make them feel safe, welcoming and fun for all of us (note: The Cappuccino Strip Street Club will return on December 1st for another summer of community-led placemaking).
People also need to be able to get home late at night so they are not left stranded, frustrated and intoxicated – wandering homeward with a path of destruction (and woken residents in their wake). I am currently campaigning to make late night train services a permanent feature on weekends and would also work to make sure Fremantle has adequate taxi services. We must also make sure that lighting is sufficient and working, CCTV is in operation in key hotspots and an effective and constructive working relationship between council and local police.
The bad behaviour in the daytime is far more complex but not an issue to shy away from. It makes me feel so sad to see people slowly destroying themselves in this way, and the aggression and anger they often show each other and the rest of the world. Some of the worst of this behaviour is from a number of Indigenous individuals; a dear old friend of mine is often among them.
We need to enforce the law equally and community expectations of reasonable public behaviour. However we know that simply locking people up, issuing a fine or a move on notice does nothing – when you don’t care about yourself, why would you care about another fine?
So, in the short term I would suggest we look at a sobering up facility, better resourcing for the Noongar Patrol and work with local elders and community service providers to find ways forward.
I am also involved in the placemaking in Kings Square – working to bring more people and uses into that space so that it is not left to be dominated by the negative influences. I would like to see an expression of local Indigenous culture or heritage in that space – a positive Indigenous experience rather than a negative one. I think it will be a good first step towards a longer term solution of reconciliation and respect.
While there are no excuses for violence and appalling behaviour, generations of disadvantage, substance abuse and grief experienced by many Indigenous members of our community must be addressed to achieve lasting results.
On Saturday I ran into a friend I used to work with at the Department of Indigenous Affairs who told me about research he’d done with a local elder about the local Indigenous history, stories and places. I would like to see that history shared and celebrated in our city through signage, public art and customs so that we can begin to heal the hurt, build respect and overcome disadvantage. I would really like to be part of that.