Fremantle Stuff > Fremantle History Society > about

Bernadette Flynn, Outreach Officer, published an article about the Fremantle History Society in the October number of the Newsletter of the Federation of Australian Historical Societies Inc., and I republish it here, permission pending. I thank Bernadette and the FAHS warmly.


Fremantle History Society

The Fremantle History Society was established in 1994 to encourage the study, recording and public awareness of Fremantle history and cultural heritage in all its diversity.

The Society promotes the identification and preservation of historical evidence relating to Fremantle, and disseminates this information in a variety of ways.

The Fremantle History Society grew out of a community of heritage enthusiasts that had developed around the Fremantle Society (which was established in 1972). From the start, the Society adopted a broad-based history and heritage orientated approach rather than a local historical societies model. There was a determination not to manage a collection, host exhibitions or run a museum, rather to focus on research and liaison with other history and heritage groups in the area.

The FHS is dedicated to the belief that a greater knowledge of Fremantle’s history enriches individual understanding and helps foster a sense of community identity and awareness. The Society’s objectives are principally to disseminate information about Fremantle history in a variety of forms - public lectures, meetings, newsletters and other publications, walking tours, study days, etc.The FHS has also worked closely with the Fremantle Society towards establishing heritage protection in Fremantle, during different stages of threats to buildings and streetscapes and have worked together on Heritage events.

Social activity is a strong component of the Society with membership around 130. About 45 of these members are active on the committee and in other roles. General meetings are held each month - often in the form of lectures or tours at a venue related to the topic. This gives members an opportunity to visit some of the historic places in Fremantle and learn more about their history.

Pam Harris, secretary of the FHS outlines how the Society encourages the collection of Fremantle’s History by working closely with the Fremantle History Centre at the Fremantle City Library. She acknowledges that since the demise of the Fremantle social history museum there is a need for a history museum in Fremantle. Currently there is no dedicated history collections on display other than those associated with maritime (WA Maritime Museum) and military heritage (Army Museum of WA). Conversations are in progress around a community history space within the New Museum for WA (scheduled to reopen in 2020).

In 2012, the Society inherited the archive of the Fremantle based Deckchair Theatre (an outstanding contemporary Australian theatre group operating for 30 years). The collection covers a range of formats e.g. video tapes, scripts and publicity materials. The Society took on the challenge of organising and the archive obtaining, a community heritage grant to undertake a significance assessment. The intention once the resources are fully archived is to pass them on to the State Library.


Left: contributors and editors celebrating the launch of Fremantle Studies: Michelle McKeough, Steve Errington and Bob Reece (back row); Anne Brake & Pam Harris (middle row); Dr Lenore Layman and Alan Pearson (front), photo: Jon Strachan. Right: front cover of Fremantle Studies, volume 9.

The Society is particularly proud of its publishing achievements and outreach. Fremantle Studies, established in 1999, is a biennial scholarly non-refereed journal, which receives papers from academic historians as well as writers from the GLAM sector and members of the community. The journal has been indexed and is available online.

A newsletter published quarterly is distributed to members and available on the Society website. The newsletter includes articles about Fremantle history and heritage and reflects an engagement with other organisations and their affiliation with the Royal Western Australian Historical Society. In 2005 the Society hosted the annual State Conference of Affiliated Societies and in 2013 they were recognised with the Fremantle’s Spirit of Heritage Award for the publication of 70 newsletters to that date.

A Facebook page and blog (website) are used to spread information about the Society’s activities from which they regularly receive enquiries about local history.

The Society also runs an annual Studies Day where research papers are presented and later published in the Fremantle Studies journal. The 2018 event to be held on 28 October marks the anniversary of the end of fighting in the First World War and will focus on the implications of the First World War for the town of Fremantle.

As one of the challenges is getting younger people involved, the Society offers a Research Scholarship to inspire new researchers to contribute to knowledge of the history and heritage of Fremantle. The Biennial Fremantle History Research Scholarship is valued at $2,000 and has successfully encouraged new, high quality research from local historians, community members and undergraduate and post-graduate students.

Another challenge mentioned by Pam is for people to undertake the varied tasks of the Fremantle History Society. There is a push at the AGM to co-opt people onto the committee and create sub-committees for the varied tasks. Society activity is mainly supported through membership with an occasional grant to help with publishing activities and local business sponsorship for the research scholarship.


Sources: the Fremantle History Society website, interview with Secretary of the Fremantle History Society, Pam Harris, and report from Bob Reece, 'The Fremantle History Society, 1994-2014', published in Fremantle Studies, 9: 79-87.

Garry Gillard | New: 12 October, 2018 | Now: 14 November, 2018