This Sunday morning I went down to the Naval Base Shacks, the owner’s association had invited the Hon. Kate Doust to tell her about the problems they were having with Cockburn Council and asked me along. Like many other people I had driven past the shacks many times, and even dropped into the little shop for a cold drink, but never being into the ‘village.’ The first thing that struck me was how neat and tidy the place is, the owners obviously take a lot of pride in their places, if only Freo was that well looked after! I really felt I had left the hustle and bustle of city life behind and could instantly feel the place weaving its magic on me.
Since Federation shacks have been a part of Australian life, but alas in recent years many have been removed, either to make way for waterfront developments, or because of the State Governments recently adopted Planning Policy requiring removal of unauthorised beach-side development. The controversy regarding the shacks at Wedge Island and Grey led to a Parliamentary Committee being set up to investigate the issues.
Back to Naval Base, these shacks do have approval, in fact Cockburn Council charge the owners rent, a rent which doubled just before Christmas and owners have been advised it will double annually until the shacks are removed. Council advises that once the shacks are removed the land will become public open space, but the public is welcome to go there now and enjoy the beach and ocean. Cockburn Council acknowledged the value of the shacks by placing them on their Heritage Register at level 2, they now want to downgrade that to level 3, and presumable believing a reduced Heritage value would make their removal easier.
People I spoke to had been there for decades as part of intergenerational ownership. Some of their parents had moved there when the Garden Island shacks were closed to make way for the Navy yards.
I think the Cultural Heritage of these shacks deserves saving and their importance increasing as other shack colonies are being removed, let’s get behind the owner’s association and let Cockburn Council know we support retention of these cultural icons.
Kate Doust with Hilda Shroy, Maureen Heggarty and Paul Babich.