Scandalous start to Fremantle Heritage Festival

01 May 2018

Murder, larceny, character assassination and execution. The days of early settlement in Fremantle were marked by a series of high profile crimes that rocked the nation.

Inspired by the colourful crime stories of 19th century Fremantle, The University of Notre Dame Australia joins the National Hotel to launch the City of Fremantle’s 2018 Heritage Festival with a ‘murder mystery’ dinner in the University’s Court House and Drill Hall on Friday 25 May.

During a three-course meal, guests are invited to explore the University’s historic court house (built in 1884), take a seat in the dock and relive some of Fremantle’s most infamous and bizarre crimes.

Coordinated by Professor Deborah Gare, Associate Dean of Notre Dame’s School of Arts & Sciences, this is the first time that a themed dinner has been organised to launch the University’s Heritage Festival program. Last year the University hosted a special screening of Red Dog, featuring a keynote lecture from the film’s creator Nelson Woss.

“Imagine being sentenced to prison: for driving a herd of cattle through Fremantle; for not showing up to work or being a ‘useless hand’; or for having the character description of a ‘vagrant woman of low repute’? These are some of the many interesting cases that guests can explore as part of our murder mystery dinner,” said Professor Gare, who, as an expert on the city’s history, created this exciting Heritage Festival event.

Notre Dame’s Festival theme for 2018 titled ‘Truth and Lies in History’ features a number of free public lectures and tours from 25 May – 3 June – providing insights to the key figures, social troubles, historical landmarks and political influences that has shaped Fremantle for nearly 200 years.

Dr Liz Tynan, winner of the 2017 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Australian History and former journalist at the ABC, will deliver the Keynote Address on Sunday 27 May. In her compelling talk, Dr Tynan will explore the complex web that connected government secrecy, cultural bigotry, international scandal and scientific arrogance in the nuclear age.

In the days that follow, Notre Dame’s academics will provide free talks on Fremantle’s colourful history, including the collapse of ‘Peel Town’, the behavioural norms in Fremantle’s Lunatic Asylum, and the stowaway women of the Enlightenment age. The Heritage Festival program concludes with a walking tour of Fremantle’s sites of battle, cultural warfare and political dissent.

“The Fremantle Heritage Festival is a significant community event on Notre Dame’s annual calendar where we delve into the life and times of one of Western Australia’s oldest communities to ensure its stories live on for many generations to come,” Professor Gare said.

Event list

  • Friday 25 May – Opening Night Dinner ‘Scandal in the Courthouse’ (6.30pm)
  • Sunday 27 May – Keynote address by Dr Liz Tynan (5pm)
  • Friday 1 June – Open Campus free talks and tours
    • 9.30am – Resource stress at the Swan River (Dr Shane Burke)
    • 10.30am – ‘As long as the dishes are washed’, Fremantle’s Lunatic Asylum (Alexandra Wallis)
    • 11am – Historical tour of Notre Dame’s Fremantle Campus (Leigh Dawson)
    • 1pm – Heritage Festival lunch at Notre Dame
    • 2pm – Stowaway women of the Enlightenment (Toni Church)
    • 2.30pm – Finding truth in Picasso’s Guernica (Riley Buchanan)
  • Sunday 3 June – Walking Tour Activists and Agitators (Paul Reilly and Riley Buchanan)

For more information about the events as part of Notre Dame’s 2018 Fremantle Heritage Festival Program and to register your attendance, please visit  

Media Contact – Leigh Dawson +61 8 9433 0569  |  0405 441 093  |

Media Contacts
Beth Kennedy : +61 8 9433 0764 | +61 447 038 958 |