Home' Scoop : Scoop 54 Summer 2010 Contents bit of a fanatic and I believed in what we were
doing, and it all seemed wrong.”
In 1974, the Whitlam Government asked him
to represent WA on a new body, the Interim
National Estate Committee. For two years, he
had the job, by himself, of assessing hundreds
of applications for funds to restore heritage
buildings in WA – all of his recommendations
were accepted. He says a highlight was getting
funding to restore the Fremantle markets. Built in
the 1890s, they’d been used as markets until the
1920s, then as a warehouse. To save them from
demolition, the society worked closely with then
city manager Stan Parks – “he was brilliant” – and
it led to a decision to use them as markets again.
Another was getting funds for the council to engage an architect to study
the importance of Fremantle Prison. “The then government wanted to
demolish the prison, retain the g ateway and have highrise flats on the site.”
The consultant confirmed that it was of national, and probably, international,
importance. “You can imagine how thrilled I was this year to find it’s now
gone on to the World Heritage List,” Les says.
He and the society (today, Les is the society’s patron, an honorary role, and
is sought for his advice) weren’t – and aren’t today – against progress, he explains,
but they want development that benefits the community. Historic buildings should
be used – and not only commercial ones. “The best use for a historic house, a
heritage house, is as a house. You keep... the best elements and integrate the
modern facilities. That’s not rocket science, that’s worldwide practice,” he says.
While succeessful, those years spent fighting for Fremantle did take their
toll, however. During Les’ six years on the council in the ’70s, he had a major
illness, and over a two-year stretch was in hospital for 18 months. “I used to
do dramatic things like g oing out of the hospital in my pyjamas and turning
up at council meetings to vote on an important issue,” he says with a laugh.
ABOVE Victoria Hall, built
in 1896, was a society save.
TOP Many other gold-rush
era buildings can also be
seen in High Street.
TOP LEFT In 1974,
Federal Minister for
Conservation and the
Environment Moss Cass
(centre) is shown dumped
scrap metal on Leighton
Beach by the society’s
vice-president Helen Mills
and president Les Lauder.
They also showed him
the city’s historic west
end. (From Fighting for
Fremantle, by Ron and
Full schedule at hopmancup.com
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1-8 JANUARY 2011
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