Funding lifeline for Freo Prison

Preservation maintenance is underway at Fremantle Prison. Photo: Katya Minns.

Maintenance and restoration works are underway at Fremantle Prison after the West Australian government allocated $12.6 million in the 2022 WA State Budget towards the iconic landmark.

The funding will cover costs for preservation plans on select locations at WA’s only World Heritage-listed site.

Fremantle Prison heritage conservation manager Luke Donegan says the funding comes as welcome news for the historic building.

“The conservation of heritage buildings traditionally doesn’t receive a lot of funding,” he says.

“This is the first time in the last 30 years since the prison closed that we’ve had such a large amount of funding to put towards some large-scale projects.”

Fremantle Prison is WA’s only World Heritage site. Photo: Katya Minns.

Adjunct senior lecturer in architectural conservation at UWA Ingrid van Bremen says regular maintenance is needed for important places such as the Fremantle Prison.

“Much of it is kept as a museum,” Dr van Bremen says.

“Like most museums, it needs outside support to help fund its repair and maintenance.”

Since ending its use as a working prison, the site has been open to the public as a tourist attraction and cultural hotspot since 1991.

The convict-built prison provides historical insight into the living conditions of prisoners and maintains most original structures.

“The original materials are part of the important story of its architectural and engineering design and construction, and these include innovations like laminated curved timber trusses in the chapel.”

Projects undertaken will include further accessibility for those with disabilities and prevention of building deterioration will be prioritised.

“We want to develop some systems that keep the water away from the limestone buildings and repair roof plumbing,” Mr Donegan says.

“For built heritage places like the prison, it’s all about moisture and keeping as much water away from the buildings as possible.

The works that we’re doing are necessary – and even though they may not look good while they’re being done, once they’re completed they will look fantastic.”

Fremantle Prison will continue to operate as restoration works commence.