How WA’s creative city went from Little Britain to "Black Fingernails, Red Wine".
By
Shane Cubis

6 Oct 2017 - 9:50 AM  UPDATED 6 Oct 2017 - 9:50 AM

Fremantle, on the mouth of Western Australia’s Swan River, is far more than the home town of some sweet '90s and '00s bands. As Secrets of Our Cities host Greig Pickhaver says in his opening voiceover, Freo has always defined itself in opposition to Perth – a place of art, writing and music instead of big business.

Migrant activity has always been at the heart of what makes Fremantle so vibrant, whether that’s the first British settlers struggling on desolate sands, liquor in hand; transported convicts forced to build their own prisons and other public buildings; women sent from Britain to redress the gender balance caused by filling a place with male convicts; globe-trotting gold diggers; circa-WWII American servicemen; persecuted Italians or persecuted Chinese or ten-pound Poms or post-war Maltese, Greeks, Cypriots, Dutchfolk... well, you get the idea.

[SIDEBAR: Obviously they weren’t migrants, but the Noongyar people deserve a mention for being the first persecuted people of Fremantle, crammed into the Round House Prison before being shipped offshore to Rottnest Island for such crimes as stealing sheep and being Aboriginal.]

Into this multicultural melting pot went a melange of influences and out popped creative legends such as AC/DC’s original vocalist, archetypal wildman Bon Scott, and Eskimo Joe’s Kav Temperley, who grew up as part of the controversial Rajneesh community (aka the Orange People) in Fremantle. His full name, Satyam Kavyen, given to him at the age of seven, means “Poet of Truth”, which anyone who’s heard "Who Sold Her Out" could tell you makes sense.

Today, 38 percent of Fremantle’s population were born overseas and the city retains a character that’s built on the constant influx of new ideas from overseas. It’s a city of dockers and Dockers, artists and poseurs, and it’s unlike anywhere else in the world.

 

Watch the Fremantle episode of Secrets of our Cities on Tuesday at 7:30pm on SBS. You can watch previous episodes highlighting Bondi and Fitzroy at SBS On Demand:

More On The Guide
Lifting the lid on Melbourne’s coolest suburb
'Secrets of our Cities' visits Fitzroy and discovers there’s more to Melbourne’s hippest suburb than just Brunswick Street’s cool cafes and fashionable fashion.
5 cities that just disappeared
History still has plenty of unsolved mysteries.