Statement on the passing of former Fremantle Mayor Richard Utting | City of Fremantle

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24 May 2024
Statement on the passing of former Fremantle Mayor Richard Utting

The City of Fremantle mourns the passing of former Fremantle Mayor Richard Utting.

Richard served as Mayor of Fremantle from 1997 to 2001.

He came to Fremantle Council in his early 50s, after a distinguished career as a high-profile Barrister and ABC radio host.

As a Mayoral candidate, he offered a ‘strong new voice for Fremantle’, promised to put people first and provide more transparency.

Under the slogan “Working for a Better Fremantle”, he campaigned for:

  • urban infill
  • the return of the weekly rubbish collection and smarter recycling
  • better community consultation on policy
  • a stop to the eastern bypass
  • traffic calming measures on Hampton Road

He beat five other candidates to the top job, which had been vacated by Cr Jenny Archibald.

During his four-year term as Mayor, he:

  • Fought against moves to amalgamate North Fremantle with Mosman Park and Cottesloe
  • Led a rally of 12,000 people to keep the Dockers at their spiritual home of Fremantle Oval, when the WA Football Commission tried moving them to Subiaco Oval
  • Introduced free inner-city parking for residents
  • Worked with the Trust to have Fremantle Prison included on the UNESCO World Heritage List
  • Campaigned for more state government funding for preservation works at the Round House
  • Trialled the closure of the Cappuccino Strip to traffic on weekends, to promote a pedestrian-friendly city centre
  • Was one of many to sign a ‘Sorry Book’, acknowledging the Stolen Generations, a decade before the Federal Government made a formal apology
  • Defended charging parking fees and the $1m plus revenue they delivered Council, when opponents said they were detrimental to traders

The moleskin-wearing Mayor was known for his laconic leadership style. He welcomed robust, concise debate in the Chamber and championed consistency in decision-making.

He had extensive high-ranking contacts on both sides of state politics, which he used to resolve many an issue in Freo’s favour.

He advocated for better recognition and renumeration for Mayors, arguing that the job was more than just chairing meetings, that it also involved attending community events, listening to residents and engaging with state government on advocacy projects, all of which amounted to a full-time role on part-time allowances.

Richard was defeated at the polls after one term as Mayor and succeeded by Peter Tagliaferri.

He shied away from public life after the 2001 local elections but kept practicing law and wrote an autobiography.

The Vietnam veteran and father of two will be remembered as a genuine Freo character who represented the Fremantle community with great gusto and charisma.

We extend our deepest sympathies to Richard’s family and friends.

As a sign of respect the City’s flags will be lowered for the day.