Fremantle to debate name change for redeveloped Kings Square

The West Australian

20th February 2020.

A redeveloped Kings Square in Fremantle could be renamed after the father of Yagan, the Noongar warrior who fought against British colonisation.

Fremantle councillors will vote next week on whether to start community consultation to rename the square, with one option being to call it Midgegooroo Place.

Mayor Brad Pettitt said he expected a “robust conversation” on whether the public believed the name should be changed.

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Ben Wyatt said the decision was up to Fremantle residents and the council but he was supportive.

“Assuming that there is Noongar and wider Fremantle community support for the proposed name change, I believe this is a very suitable and highly appropriate way to recognise a significant Noongar historic figure,” he said.

A report to a council committee has also recommended the local government’s new administration building be christened the “Walyalup Centre”.

Walyalup is the Whadjuk Noongar name for the area of Fremantle, with two different meanings often attributed to the word including “place of Woylies” or as a “crying place” because of burials in the area’s sand dunes.

A recommendation to start consultation on renaming the square after Midgegooroo was amended at a committee tonight to open the debate to the public for suggestions for other new names for the location instead of just one option.

Cr Hannah Fitzhardinge believed Fremantle residents should be able to contribute their own suggestions for a name change of Kings Square.

“I have some reluctance about sticking with Kings Square as a name for a couple of reasons,” she said.

“One, there is a Kings Square in Perth which is confusing for people … it is also not a square.”

Midgegooroo was an Aboriginal leader who lived south of the Swan River and fathered several sons, including Yagan.

When two settlers were killed in retaliation for the death of one of Yagan’s brothers, the Lieutenant-Governor Frederick Irwin declared him and his father outlaws.

Midgegooroo was executed in 1833, which was the same year surveyor-general John Septimus Roe drew up the original town plan for Fremantle including a square.

The square is named after King William IV, who reigned from 1830 to 1837.

New names for the square and civic centre were suggested after consultation with Aboriginal elders and the Whadjuk Working Party from the South West Land and Sea Council.

Dr Pettitt said he thought to name the building Walyalup would be logical.

“I think that over time Walyalup and Fremantle (as) being interchangeable, dual names for this place,” he said.

The mayor said a bigger conversation would need to be held over the potential renaming of Kings Square.

“My sense is it’s an opportunity there, one we’d want to move more incrementally on,” he said.

“The church, as a big land-owner, we are keen to talk to (them) about it first.

“There is no one answer to this, we’ll look into it a bit more and come up with a consensus ... this will be, in true ‘Freo’ form, a robust conversation.”

The original St John’s Anglican Church was opened in 1843. Representatives of the organisation have given preliminary support to a renaming, according to the council.

Fremantle Society president John Dowson said it was disappointing to see the council wanting to “tear up” its own history.

“The idea of naming and renaming places is a very delicate issue,” he said.

“Some places have traditions going back many years.

“With Kings Square, I think it’s important to keep traditions,” he said.

Mr Dowson said it was not a “trivial” matter to change a name because of “some ideology”.

The City of Fremantle published a new reconciliation action plan last year which suggested the potential for dual-naming of landmarks and other places within the local government’s boundaries such as the Swan River.

Premier Mark McGowan said at the time he wanted the port city to “remain Fremantle” but was open to the use of interpretative signage.