Fremantle is a City made up of more businesses than residents. This makes it crucially important that our businesses show up and show their clout by voting at our upcoming local government election on Saturday 19th October 2019, or make sure their postal votes as in as soon as possible.

From a Chamber perspective, we know our members want candidates that are pro development, understand the changing needs of our city – particularly the impacts of both technology and the dramatic social change in the way we shop, dine, gather and entertain ourselves – and the shifts that a different industrial base will have on our future.

Candidates that will work hard to attract more people, provide energy, approve developments that will take us into the future and help share our vision about what our City has to offer and can be into the future at a local, state and federal level.

We put three questions to local candidates last week to help us understand their policy positions below. We also participated in the Local Hotel’s Politics in the Pub Debate around what will make Fremantle a better place from the perspectives of these candidates. The responses were interesting and surprising.

The 3 questions were:

Q1. What do you believe is Fremantle’s economic competitive advantage?

Q2. Do you support increased development to support the attraction of residents and workers to fill our City around the clock?

Q3. What industries do you see will make up the future of Fremantle?

Their responses are provided verbatim below, listed by ward and in alphabetical order of the candidates’ surname – a link is also provided to their electoral profile.

We encourage you to read these positions carefully as you decide how to cast your vote in October.

Beaconsfield ward

Tourism – more work by council needs to be done on this to attract international and national events to bring people to the city, put Freo back on the map. The economic edge is the Maritime industry, both the major port and recreational given the sailing clubs, Freo and Royal Perth annexe, also well served by local up river clubs, Swan and East Fremantle.

I will support sympathetic residential development.  The city needs to develop a strategy to encourage more commercial enterprises considering retail is in decline.

Maritime industry, commercial enterprises similar to West Perth precinct such as professional offices (i.e insurance, medical, architects etc)….

In matters economic, I’m inspired by my dad, who has created numerous successful businesses based on his belief that the story of the product is the best way to build connection with customers.

Fremantle is uniquely rich with stories, built on its history, creativity and cultural diversity, and this to me is what gives us a competitive edge.

Fremantle has most of the advantages of being a CBD but at a more personable scale, making it both a liveable place and an attractive and accessible place to visit. It has a high quality urban realm which is clearly attracting a range of developments from commercial to multi-residential. It also has a long history of a creative economy.

One very successful example of a unique Fremantle offering is Paper Bird which has seen the adaption of a heritage building to create a successful destination bookshop, in an economy where other bookshops are closing down under pressure from the online market. Business that adapt and distinguish by offering experiential retail, countering the online trend, will continue to bring more life in to the city and need to be supported.  

I believe that Fremantle needs to continue to capitalise on its unique attributes to ensure that the world knows our story – driving increased tourism, high quality development and the employment in the knowledge and creative industries.

I do support more well-designed development, not just in the CBD but also in redevelopment areas like the Knutsford Precinct, WGV and the Heart of Beaconsfield. Fremantle is a high amenity area with beautiful natural attributes. With good planning it clearly has the capacity and would benefit from a greater population to support the businesses that bring richness to the urban experience. 

The Knutsford precinct is already taking shape to be an exemplar of medium scale urban planning in context with the existing grain of the city. The market has responded to the scale and typology of this development positively, it appears to be a density our locals feel comfortable with. Looking at independent land lots, the Freo Alternative planning overlay offers an interesting approach to infill housing. With well-considered local planning initiatives, we can continue to grow a range of sustainable housing options, accommodating people at various stages of life.

I believe Fremantle will continue to be diverse mix of industries including a working port, fishing and maritime support services, a strong mix of cultural producers and makers and of course the retail and service elements that support its resident community. 

The way we plan our urban infill and redevelopment can open up opportunity for small business to continue to be creative in the way they re-invent business and continue to house our makers in an urban setting, accessible to the visitors to our city. In planning and in partnership with State Government, Fremantle Council has plenty of scope to continue to foster these aspects of our city.

No response received to date.

City ward

 Its heritage and character in a small area bounded by ocean and river.

The town needs more residents and workers but in higher quality buildings than currently being provided, given the special nature of Fremantle. Getting the mix right is important, because the easy route is to build more and more alcohol venues to the point where residents would be discouraged from playing their role living in town supporting businesses. The port could run ‘around the clock’ with no problems.

Port, education, tourism, conferences, mental health practitioners, quality office space for medium businesses, boutique shopping, and museums.

Internationally, our advantage is obviously Australia’s stabile, open society. Our environment is still clean and, especially in WA, we are not overcrowded. We are relatively unhindered by burdenous bureaucracy.

In regards the Perth metropolitan area our advantage is our amenity. We are surrounded by and have excellent access to the “water” – beaches, river and port. The Perth CBD makes very little use of its waterfront in comparison. With the Fremantle Doctor, even our summer is mild. All this makes Fremantle an attractive location to open a business, live or visit.

The city has a stock of solid real estate, some of it heritage listed, with the potential to be used for professional offices, boutiques and other shops, galleries, residences and cafes/bars. It also has light industrial facilities within a short drive in O’Connor and Bibra Lake allowing for quick materials supply or fabrication as required. Businesses have all the resources required to operate.

With our residents, those that call Fremantle home attempt to find solutions to problems by thinking outside the norm. They tend to be well-educated, either through schooling or by their own hard work. In general, Fremantlites are tolerant and accepting. So Fremantle has the local personnel to support businesses.

Absolutely. Fremantle has suffered, like all other ports, because of a reduction in the workers required either on the docks or in the surrounding warehouses. Magnifying this is the decline on retail “bricks and mortar” spaces in part due to the rise of internet shopping.

Fremantle is in need of development to keep the city alive. But this statement comes with a caveat. It must be the right type of development.

Within inner-city residential developments, we must attract a more diverse range of inhabitants than recent projects have allowed.

One thought is to have developments with a greater ratio of 3-bedroom, family-friendly apartments. Currently less than 5% of new apartments are 3-bedroom. Very few families will continue to live in 2-bedroom apartments once childcare arrive. A very good metric to judge the stability of a city is the number of strollers being pushed in an evening by resident parents – Fremantle is rating low in this test.

Senior citizens, those with a disability and students should also be a part of this mix. Yet, once again, next to nothing is planned to be provided for them in the current phase of construction.

These new projects also lack the ability of new residents to connect to the street. All are of the same model, regardless of the Green Star rating – a swath of retail spaces on the street and apartments above connected to underground carparking by elevators. We cannot move towards a more pedestrian-centric city until the streets become an extension of our living rooms.

Commercial and retail developments also need to be blurred with the residential, allowing for a variety of work/ domestic relationships.

Developers should give back the community. Most do without planning by-law intervention. But I don’t believe this communal reward will be achieved through the public art requirement, nor an attempt to define “exceptional architecture”, rather through well thought out, uncomplicated, rational planning regulations.

In the near term, the only businesses succeeding are small bars and mass tourism. Professional services are beginning to occupy more commercial spaces as well. However, Fremantle needs to develop a more mature industry base.

Fremantle has lost the small, independent designer/ manufacturers and these businesses, which are unique to a place, need to be attracted back to the city. Numerous other creatives and professionals can also help fill the commercail spaces available in Fremantle.

Tourism will obviously play a role in Fremantle’s business future, but the right balance needs to be found. Value-added tourism provides more to the community than that relying solely on attracting numbers through marketing plans.

The closure of the Fremantle Hospital impacted the surrounding businesses in ways unforeseen (for example, Ian Diffen Tyres leaving Fremantle). If use can be made of all of this building for a community medical project, and other small to medium-size medical facilities can be brought to the city using NGOs, government insurances and incentives, then the growing medical services industry could become a core component of a stable economic base.

Finally, simply increasing the number of CBD residents will increase the number of goods and services providers required. If all demographics are attracted to the city through well-planned developments, the result will be a vibrant, varied community. Given that urban residents have been shown to be more satisfied with their lifestyle and have smaller carbon footprints than their suburban neighbours, it is an easy win/ win.

Fremantle is fortunate to have many competitive advantages, firstly the obvious like the ocean, weather and our rich cultural and built character, which lends itself as a highly desirable place to live, work and visit. We also have a diverse industry base within the region that features innovative, high profile and successful brands and businesses. From Easter 2020, the Department of Communities will be based in Fremantle, which could lead to Fremantle becoming a hub for social and community service providers.

Absolutely! But development must be done in a manner that respects our local character and heritage places.

For the future, I see working port and fishing boat harbour and associate maritime industries; expanded health, education, aged care and service industries; innovators, makers, designers, coders and entrepreneurs – especially in the digital economy, arts and sustainability sectors; a strong events, tourism and hospitality sector that adds to local vibrancy as well as the visitor experience; a rich and diverse cultural sector that enhances the community and entices visitors; as well as a diverse and interesting retail sector that provide all the essential needs of local residents. 

East ward

Our harbour attracts people from all over Perth, the state and the world. However, the advantage isn’t being played as hard as it could be.

Fremantle history is something unique too – the good (heritage buildings) and the bad (incarceration). However, the café culture, beaches, parks and markets all together make Fremantle economically attractive.

Increased development, in the form or accommodation and housing, can be hit and miss. The “notion of build it and they will come” has not always been the case in Perth. For example, investment properties remaining vacant or used infrequently or Fremantle assets sold and remaining undeveloped.  

Fremantle needs to play to its strengths and uniqueness. It’s strength is being a “sea side village with a Mediterranean and alternative culture” rather than a “modern city”. Having said that, growth is inevitable and Fremantle needs to ensure services and infrastructure are up to standard.

Fremantle is a tourist holiday destination and these industries are important, as are all the services provided for local residents. The food and drink industry has grown significantly in the city but there is so much scope for diverse industries in the surrounding suburbs.

I think I will heed the advice from a business man when I was out door knocking “Fremantle Council needs to stop interfering and let businesses get on with what they do best”.

A key economic advantage for Fremantle is its diversity. It is: a city by the beach; a port city; a fishing city; a heritage city; a market city; an industrious city; a creative, innovative and learning city; a city of food and flavour; a playful city; and a city with a rich cultural character. There are current strengths in each of these characteristics – and there is unrealised potential. Our opportunity, and our challenge, is to leverage these many qualities to attract new and diverse economic activity, to find and exploit the synergies between these activities, and to effectively promote the right messages to the right part of the market. 

Fremantle’s reputation as a great place to visit, for Perth residents and visitors, is also a key economic advantage but one that must be constantly cultivated with new an positive experiences. This can never be taken for granted.

A “now” advantage in Fremantle is the availability of small commercial spaces which can be used to attract incubator and start-up businesses in the knowledge, creative industries, design and tech sectors. This has been a part of our economy for many years, but has room to grow and become more visible, which in itself attracts more activity. A related “next” advantage is a development pipeline to deliver higher quality commercial spaces to keep these business here as they grow. 

I absolutely support increased development. Growing the population of residents and workers in the heart of Fremantle is critical to reclaim the vibrancy of the city, and will attract and sustain more businesses.

In the short term this means the City needs to continue to have its doors open to development proposals, including innovative ideas. I am not supportive of very tall buildings in Fremantle, and support protection of the west end, but do believe there can be more height and density, to a European scale, in the east end.

In the longer term, we need to be planning proactively and creatively for new opportunities to continue to grow the city. This means good conversations with the community about the best ways to accommodate growth, that delivers the benefits of growth whilst retaining the amenity and character of local areas.

 For the future I see: Port, maritime and import/export (next 20-30 years), Construction, Knowledge and learning industries, Creative industries and design hub, Tourism and hospitality, Coastal, hydrological and environmental engineering/sciences, Light industrial and fabrication, Retail – increasingly food/boutique/bespoke/experiential and Service industries, including personal care.

Hilton ward

As a longtime resident of Fremantle and East Fremantle I have first-hand experience of the transitions our beloved port city has undergone for the past 26 years. In the early 90’s I had an office in High Street above what was the much-loved Roma Restaurant and I worked for seven years in a Point Street office then established an electorate office at the bottom of Wray Ave in South Terrace where I represented the South Metropolitan Region in State Parliament for eight years.

I’ve lived in the suburbs of Hilton, Beaconsfield and more recently, the heritage treasure of the West End. I know what it’s like to find a litre of milk after a long day at work whether you live in Hilton or Henry Street. I’ve experienced the improvements and shortcomings of recycling services as a resident and a business. And I’ve felt a bit of pain and not as much joy of house price fluctuations and tenancy insecurity.

So my responses to your questions come from not only my experience in State Government policy, but from personal experience living and working in Fremantle. I add my perspective of someone who has travelled (not as much as I’d like) accompanied by a curiosity about sustainable cities and an appreciation of heritage. My work in Parliament is a matter of public record, however, I draw attention to my bill for coastal planning laws to prepare for sea level rise and my dedication to solving traffic congestion without destroying our precious environment while preserving the quiet enjoyment of life in the suburbs and my tireless activism against live exports. My representation of people across my electorate included advocacy for social justice, retaining heritage, solving homelessness, making roads safe for cycling, and stopping polluters. All of this experience demonstrates my aspirations for Fremantle and our state.   

Fremantle’s economic competitive advantage springs from being a unique port city in Western Australia. Fremantle is both a gateway and a destination. It is a tourism hotspot, though we have not always offered our best side. It’s my view we have lost some of the unique offerings which once drew Western Australians here every weekend. But we have gained new attractions and clearly the development underway in the heart of the city will dramatically change Fremantle. Nurturing, and diversifying, tourism is key to our future. However, retaining that which makes Fremantle so unique, our port, is equally essential. 

Yes, I support increased development but not at the cost of our heritage or port industry. Many cities around the world, with greater population pressure, manage to chart this course and so can we. As a Councillor I would gain a deeper understanding of the challenges to achieve this, and the commitments we need to make to meet these challenges. Obviously, the knowledge sector has been pivotal to the sustainability of other port cities, like Seattle, for example. The Council has already identified this as a growth industry. Cultural development, along-side basic services (where can I buy milk at this hour?), will be critical to maximising the benefit of workers and residents in Fremantle ’round the clock. I look forward to contributing to Fremantle’s future through genuine engagement with all the people who are dedicated to making our home a great place to live and work. 

Existing Port, historical value, multiculturalism

Yes, I support increased development

Port to stay, encourage more cruise ships to visit. More retail and residential living.

Fremantle is unique in Western Australia and that’s why I love this place. The diversity of industries which exist within the greater Fremantle area provide it with a competitive advantage and enables opportunities for collaboration, innovation and growth.

Absolutely, development is required to ensure that we have populations through all hours to sustain a vibrant economy.

 Fremantle must provide an environment which allows our traditional industries to grow while encouraging new industries to the city which provide services and goods which make use of emerging technologies to enable the development of a sustainable economy for the future. 

North ward

No response received to date

Fremantle’s competitive advantage is its heritage, arts, streetscape, water and beaches make it a much more interesting place to live, work and visit than most parts of the Perth metro area  

Yes, an extra few thousand residents within a kilometre of the city centre would go a long way to supporting retailers and businesses and reducing anti-social behaviour.  

 Administration of Maritime industries operating to the south of us, education, health, arts, media and creative industries and tourism  

South ward

Without doubt Fremantle’s economic competitive advantage is the fact we have; an active business community, world class heritage (literally with ICOMOS listing of the Prison), Beaches, a walkable CBD, night time economy, festivals, arts and music, a working port, Cruise Ships, some of the best sailing in the world and a great community.  Many places have some of these, but NOWHERE else has all of them.  I know this is a simple fact, but it is SO important to remember when promoting Fremantle as a place to set up business.

I was a very active supporter of Councils Economic Development Plan.  I pushed initially for business development, for two reasons, firstly getting workers into our town will stimulate the residential market, and secondly residential is the preferred option for the development industry.  In the morning I want to see our train station full of people coming to Fremantle to work, not leaving Fremantle for the day to work elsewhere.  We are only just starting to understand the value of adaptive reuse of our heritage built form.

Obviously State Gov departments such as Housing will bring a lot of people to Fremantle, and also support industries for those departments, but we need to broaden our view.  I see a continuing opening for creative industries, yes, the traditional ons but also high tech such as programmers, IT development and VR.  I dream of our hospital once again bringing key workers back into Fremantle.  I think the film industry could have a great future here.  I am voicing a desire for a tech hub somewhere in Fremantle, not because they generate many jobs, but because they fly the flag that we are looking to the future.  What I don’t see are rows of chain brand cheap clothing stores, because our fashion is so much better than that.

No response received to date

Image: Freo Social

“Intelligence is the ability of a system to adjust appropriately to a changing world” – Christopher Evans, Computer Scientist and Author

Long term Chamber member MG Kailis Group, announced with a heavy heart the passing of the remarkable Patricia Kailis, wife of Michael George Kailis, and co-founder and governing director of MG Kailis Group, a respected medical doctor, researcher, philanthropist, mother and business leader, this week.

Across her remarkable life Patricia Kailis adapted to change and circumstance, and in all aspects made a difference to the world around her. From her decision to study Medicine at Melbourne University in 1958 through to her research into motor neuron disease and muscular dystrophy, introducing predictive testing for Huntington’s Disease, and her extraordinary work at Rocky Bay to her application of medical hygiene principles of epidemiology, which all but wiped out disease in the family’s Exmouth pearl farms, she is a wonderful role model to reflect upon in these times of extraordinary change.

We discussed Kailis Jewellery’s 2019 campaign “inner beauty” at the social media “Set the Month in Motion” Podcast Forum – last November, one of our most popular podcasts to date. The idea of looking below the surface and finding what we can bring to our own business brand identity and to adapt to our challenging times, is an important metaphor. We have been granted time to reflect and consider, whether we wanted it or not, and looking outside the box to draw on our knowledge and make a difference to those around us is such a wonderful part of the legacy that Patricia Kailis leaves.

It is hard to know where to start on what the world might look like come July, so we will need to be ready to adapt to further change – whether that is to start to rebuild our businesses and local economy again, or still be adapting to further challenges brought about by COVID-19.

We launch two important events this week that will be discussing these changes and how they apply to our business. The first is our budgeting event at our online Set the Month in Motion podcast forum, supported by the City of Fremantle’s Business Capacity Building Program, which will run live on Wednesday 6 April. Register Here for Webinar.

The second is the opportunity to still participate in version of our postponed “Export Outlook” breakfast event, Adapting to the times, we can now offer a special webinar on Friday 8 May 2020 with Export Finance Australia’s Chief Economist Cassendra Winzenried on the changing export landscape, the government support packages for exporters and how international markets are looking in this new world. Sponsored by Chamber members Westpac, this Q&A panel discussion with allow for a presentation and direct questions for those participating in the webinar. Participation is limited so email us at to register your interest to attend.

It is pleasing to see there has been so more great progress in our first 45 day pilot for the Doorstep Dinners trial with further great media coverage and wonderful social media support.

We are so grateful to Fremantle Ports for their support of the “Doorstep Dinners” project to the value of $10,000 and hope that other local business leaders will help us keep this important project alive.

Support local and stay safe until next week.


Kailis Jewellery Image credit: Kailis Jewellery’s Inner Beauty 2019 Campaign