This week’s announcement of $411,000 in Australian Heritage Grant funding for Fremantle Prison is a welcome contribution to further improvement of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed site, especially with respect to the critical area of Indigenous heritage.
The grant will support Fremantle Prison in delivering both its Aboriginal Heritage Management and Accessibility Inclusion plans.
Through historic research, stakeholder engagement, recording and documenting of oral histories, the Aboriginal Heritage Management Plan will identify cultural and historic heritage values and provide policies to guide culturally appropriate interpretation.
The Accessibility Inclusion Plan will address the needs and requirements of people with disabilities to improve accessibility to services and buildings.
Last year I wrote to the Minister for the Environment to call for the inclusion of heritage infrastructure investment within the government’s national COVID recovery plan, and I was glad $1.6 million was provided for overdue heritage works at Fremantle Prison.
Fremantle Prison is a treasured part of our community’s heritage, and it also provides a focus for visitors from near and far that will be more important than ever as we emerge from the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Taking care of our natural and cultural heritage is critical to our character and history. It’s how we connect our stories and identity to the physical world, and it has a key role in the ongoing journey of reconciliation. When we consider the brutal mistreatment of Indigenous people through the colonial justice system, we should apply ourselves to the national shame of entrenched injustices that still see appalling and unacceptable rates of incarceration and deaths in custody.
While this project funding is welcome, it falls short of meeting the estimated $5 million still needed to address urgent basic works at Fremantle Prison and serves as a reminder that many local environmental and heritage projects need better protection and better support.
Each year, the Australian Heritage Grant programme delivers around $5 million in funding across the nation to natural, cultural and built heritage sites. This year saw $2.4 million granted to WA sites.