Stirling House

Stirling House

A National Trust of Western Australia property with conservation design by the Trust and adaptive reuse works by Tom Godden Design.

The former North Fremantle Primary School opened in 1894. Designed in the Federation Arts & Crafts style under direction by George Temple Poole the place retains many of its features. The school closed in 1967. The place was used as a bail hostel, then as accommodation by Clontarf Aboriginal College and in 2011 was transferred to the National Trust in a dilapidated state.

A successful partnership between the National Trust and the Schools of Early Learning has conserved and adapted the place as a center for the care and education of young children. The rich social history of the primary school later uses, and the distinctive built heritage features were priorities in the works design and reflected in the interpretation. The partnership has delivered innovative facilities, a creative outdoor environment in a spectacular heritage place.

  • 101 Stirling Highway, North Fremantle WA, Australia

    The Wadjuk Clan used the North Fremantle area as a summer camping place.


    A convict depot was established here in 1851. Convicts from the Fremantle Prison undertook various public works including the construction of the road from Fremantle to Perth (1860) and the first
    Fremantle traffic bridge (1867).


    A Government School opened in a hall in North Fremantle in 1886. Government architect George Temple Poole drew up plans for a new school in 1888, but it was not built until 1894. The design heralded a new era in education in Western Australia where boys and girls attended the same school, although they had separate entrances.

    Just over 100 children started at the new school but by 1898 there were more than 300 children on the roll and up to 80 children per class. Classrooms were added and an infants’ school operated across the road from 1900-26.

    Famous alumni included Ernie Bromley, who played in the Australian XI against England in 1933-34 and Governor General of Australia, Sir Paul Hasluck. Bon Scott, of the rock band AC/DC, had his first public performance playing a recorder duet in a school concert during his time at North Fremantle (1957-58). John Tonkin, Education Minister in the 1940s and then Premier in the 1970s taught at North Fremantle Primary from 1931-33.

    Over time the school fell into disrepair and its position between a busy main road and an upgraded railway line made it an unsuitable location for a school. The new North Fremantle Primary School opened in John Street in 1967.


    In the mid 70s the school was converted to a halfway house for men released from prison. Kui is a Maori word meaning welcome. There were cooking and recreation facilities and men had their own rooms. Up to twelve men paid a small fee to live here. Kui relied heavily on subsidies from charities and government. In 1983 the hostel became the first bail hostel in Australia and the name changed to Stirling House. The hostel was an attempt to reduce the number of people on remand being imprisoned. It was expensive to run, rarely reached capacity and closed in 1995. The Department of Corrective Services stayed on using the place as a training centre for prison officers.


    Children came back to the place in 2008 when the Clontarf Aboriginal College began using Stirling House as one of its accommodation hostels. Aboriginal children from across Australia attending the college in Waterford were bussed to and from school each day. Excursions into the city, to the beach and other destinations were organised for the children on weekends. A new hostel was built at Waterford and opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 2011.


    Stirling House is now home to North Fremantle School of Early Learning. Much more than a child care facility, North Fremantle School of Early Learning encourages children to develop at their own pace, following their own interests in an environment that is stimulating and nurturing, supportive and challenging.

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