Women in prison Queensland 1970-2010

Vulnerable Groups in prison: Women in Queensland

A Statistical and Policy Account 1970 - 2010


No information was found regarding women in prison in Queensland in the 1970s



Female Division – HM Prison opens

In 1982, a Female Division opened at HM Prison Brisbane, replacing the old women's prison. (In 1990 it was renamed Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre - BWCC).


Commission of Review into Corrective Services in Queensland 1988 (Kennedy Report (Final Report) (August 1988) & Interim Report (May 1988))

The Kennedy Review into corrective services in Queensland resulted in extensive changes to the system - including new legislation, a new organisational structure and the creation of a series of new policies and procedures.

Neither the Interim nor Final Reports considered the position and circumstances of women within Corrective Services.  In the portion of the Final Report dealing with prisoner welfare special needs groups were identified.  These ‘special needs’ groups included Aboriginal people, long term prisoners, intellectually handicapped prisoners and drug and alcohol dependant prisoners.  Women were not included here, nor mentioned in any other part of the Report(s).

It was not until 1992 that Queensland Corrective Services Commission accorded special status to women prisoners (see below). This was four years after the Kennedy Report recognised prisoner ‘special needs groups’ and two to three years after the first Women’s Community Custody Programs were established in Townsville.

Women prisoners’ needs study undertaken (requested but not made available)

Two social workers undertook a study into the needs of female prisoners.


Townsville Correctional Centre accommodates women

Until 1988, all women prisoners were incarcerated in Brisbane. Women were first imprisoned at the Townsville Correctional Centre in 1988 in an effort to locate North Queensland women closer to their homes.

Women and children

Some women were permitted to have their young children with them in custody. 

Helena Jones (Albion Community Correctional Centre) opens

In 1989-1990, Tudor Lodge in the Brisbane suburb of Albion (a former private hospital for the intellectually handicapped) was opened as a low security community-based facility for women.  It was first known as the Albion Community Correctional Centre and later re-named the Helena Jones Community Correctional Centre (see below).  This marked the beginning of the Women’s Community Custody (WCC) program.



National Women’s Consultative Council on the Health Status of Women in Queensland Prisons (requested but not made available)

Queensland Combined Community Agencies Report on Conditions within the Women’s Correctional Centre

This report was submitted to the Director General of the Corrective Services Commission in 1990. 

A group of community agencies (including legal services, Aboriginal agencies and church groups) attended a seminar held over four days in Brisbane Correctional Centre in February/March 1990.  Inmates and Corrective Services Commission representatives also attended. The seminar was initiated to respond to distress arising as a result of the murder of a female inmate in the Women’s Correctional Centre in January 1990.  Concerns raised during the seminar (in particular by inmates) were incorporated into this document. 

The report sets out a ‘list of needs’ for maximum and medium security inmates and also includes detailed discussion about a possible way forward to address health, legal, welfare and other needs of prisoners.  (The health component appears to have also been used in a submission to the National Consultation 1990, referred to above).  Where policy had been recently improved there was some acknowledgement (including in terms of increased health services, for instance, or the decision to appoint a full time Programs Manager at the women’s facility).  Recommendations included appointment of a full time Education Officer and increased educational opportunities for women; appointment of an Aboriginal social worker for ATSI inmates; provision of information on parole and other aspects of the criminal justice system to women; clarification of guidelines underpinning classification decision-making; and a review of the current leave of absence and other provisions made to ensure a mother maintains contact with her children.  The fact that a leave of absence was only available half way through a lengthy sentence and the inadequacy of current facilities for women and their children were noted. 

Inmate Committees

The Department of Corrections introduced inmate committees at Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre, with inmate ‘convenors’ elected following self-nomination.  The committees dealt with different issues such as health or education and met with the Centre’s General Manager regularly and (monthly) with a Community Advisory Committee. 


Women granted special needs’ status - Review Committee established to give effect to this status – publication of the Queensland Corrective Services Commission Report of the Women’s Policy Review (1993).

In 1992, the QCSC granted female prisoners ‘special needs’ status. This gave them access to women's health services and to counseling that dealt with issues prevalent among their population, such as dealing with domestic violence and drug issues.

A Review Committee consisting of QCSC staff and female prisoners was established in response to this ‘special needs status’.  The Committee completed a report in 1993 - Report of the Women’s Policy Review (N/A)– reviewing all policy, rules and procedures and making 44 recommendations. Recommendations were implemented during 1994-1997 and included the establishment of open custody facilities and a women’s community custody program.

Shaw, Manager of the Women’s Unit at the time of its establishment, has criticised the 1993 review and the classification of women as ‘special needs’ offenders.  Although the review was effective and influenced other jurisdictions a significant increase in prison rates and the corporatisation of corrections and subsequent reversion of the latter to being a government department affected its implementation.  It was ‘one of the first things to ‘fall off the desk’ when other crises and pressures intervened’ according to Shaw. Over time, as women’s incarceration rate was climbing the 1993 review was re-visited and ‘became the seed’ for the establishment of the Women’s Policy Unit in 2000 (Shaw 2000). 


Public Sector Management Commission's Review of the Queensland Corrective Services Commission 1993

As mandated by legislation, this Government-commissioned review of the QCSC was conducted in relation to the operation of the structure and achievements post-Kennedy Reports of 1988 (see above).  The final report made specific recommendations relating to a range of matters, including women.

The Review identified women (as well as others such as young offenders, sexual offenders and offenders with drug and alcohol dependencies) as having particular needs.  In relation to ‘special needs’ offenders, women were particularly disadvantaged due to the requirement that they serve their sentences, regardless of their respective classifications, in maximum-security settings (other than those in Albion correctional centre).  The Review recommended that a separate sentence management system apply to women based upon individual behavioural and risk assessment factors.  Problems with accommodation were noted such as inadequate facilities for women with children, as was the lack of community correctional centres; distinct program options for women; women’s work opportunities which were not vocationally useful including a lack of work release for women; inadequate visiting arrangements for women to keep in touch with family; and lack of female staff in correctional centres.  

The Review found that:

  • women prisoners were disadvantaged by current security classification procedures and limited alternative correctional settings;
  • women prisoners had a range of special health, program and social needs which were insufficiently addressed by current services, policies and procedures; and
  • the 1993 Report of the Women’s Policy Review provided a sound basis for addressing the range of institutionalized disadvantages experienced by women prisoners (145).

It recommended that the QCSC consider a sentence management and classification system specifically designed for women prisoners and that the QCSC also outline details for implementation of the 1993 Report of the Women’s Policy Unit recommendations.

Available at: http://www.correctiveservices.qld.gov.au/Publications/Corporate_Publications/Reviews_and_Reports/index.shtml


Open custody centres for women established in Townsville and Warwick Women’s Work Camp established

Open custody centres were established for women in Townsville and The Warwick Women’s Work Camp (WWWC) were established in 1995, with offenders sourced from Helena Jones Community Corrections Centre. 

The Work Camp has been highly praised by offenders and the Warwick community through both positive media coverage of the camp and evidenced by changes in the behaviour and attitude of the women attending the camp.  Factors said to be contributing to its success included the fact that it seeks to ‘normalise’ the relevant environment and ‘minimise the impact of imprisonment’, as well as its level of community involvement (Noordink & Ward 2000: 6-7).


Numinbah opens

In 1997, the Numinbah Correctional Centre began accommodating women as an open custody centre, creating a prison farm option for suitable ‘low risk’ female prisoners.

Methadone program for women

A Trial Methadone Program was introduced at BWCC.


Corrections in the Balance: A Review of Corrective Services in Queensland - A Commission of Inquiry, Queensland Corrective Services Review (Peach Inquiry)

In 1999, a Commission of Inquiry into Corrective Services was established to conduct a review of the system that had been reformed by Kennedy (see above), as required by the Corrective Services Act 1988.  The Peach Inquiry ultimately made 58 recommendations relating to a broad range of matters, including female offenders, and led to the reformulated Corrective Services Act 2000.

The Review recommended recognising ‘the special needs of women offenders, Aboriginal offenders and Torres Strait Islander offenders by modifying the system to provide culturally meaningful and gender relevant deterrents and a stronger likelihood of rehabilitation’ (3).

Women offenders are otherwise referred to in relation to establishing a special assessment and programs unit, the role of which would include providing specialized programs and interventions, ‘particularly to women offenders’.  This would assist in increasing diversions from custody (89).

Available at: http://www.correctiveservices.qld.gov.au/Publications/Corporate_Publications/Reviews_and_Reports/index.shtml

Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre opens

In 1998, the Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre at Boggo Road was closed and the prisoners were transferred to a new centre at Wacol – Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre.  On this site, a ‘residential’ unit for eight mothers and babies was established to allow suitable prisoners to care for their babies.  Children are able to remain in this centre, under certain circumstances and if it is in their best interests, until school age.   Numinbah and Helena Jones are attached to it.

The Centre also incarcerated women under Federal migration legislation.  But following the Palmer report, the Minister for Corrective Services indicated that Queensland prisons would not be used to detain immigration detainees. 

See also below – Current Facilities.

Hanging deaths in female facilities

A 28 year old female inmate serving eleven days in Townsville Correctional Centre for defaulting on a fine option order and a 33 year old female inmate awaiting trial on three charges of armed robbery at Wolston Women’s Correctional Centre (near Wacol) both committed suicide in 1998.



In 2000 women prisoners accommodated in secure and open custodial centres constituted 5.8% of the total prison population or 273 prisoners in total. Women offenders were disproportionately represented on community supervision order numbers (c.f. men on such orders and women on custodial orders).  More than 21% of offenders under

community supervision  were women in comparison with 5.8% of women on

custodial orders. There were 4330 women under community supervision.  The adult female imprisonment rate in Queensland was 16.7 per 100,000 adults.  This was well above the national average of 12.5 per 100,000 for female offenders (see DCS Profile 2000 below).

In 2008 there were 425 women in Queensland prisons or 7.7% of the total prison population.  This was an increase from 1998, when women constituted only 4.8% of the prison population.  Further, between 1998 and 2007 the male prison population in Queensland increased by 20% compared with an increase of 99% for women in Queensland over this same time period (Office for Women (Qld) (2009)). 

More specifically, in 2008-09, there were 326 women in high security facilities and 81 in low security facilities.  Approximately 28% of women prisoners were Indigenous and 72% were non-Indigenous (Queensland Corrective Services 2009: 49).


Corrective Services Act 2000

Changes introduced by this legislation, which completely repealed the 1988 corrections legislation, were based on the Peach Review (1999) and included abolition of remissions and restrictions on eligibility for parole, as well changes to prison operations more generally.

For women, sections 20 and 119 of the Act provided that when new prison amenities were being developed, accommodation units for female prisoners must be designed so as to enable them to keep their young children with them; and women were to be informed upon admission of their right to apply to have pre-school aged children accommodated with them in the correctional facility.  Section 189 also states that policies and procedures must take into account the special needs of female offenders.

Women’s Policy Unit established (along with ATSI unit)

The Unit was established as a result of the recommendation of the Corrections in the Balance report (1999) in relation to gender relevant needs of female prisoners and became operational in January 2000.  Initially, the Unit was asked to develop a statistical profile of female offenders in community and custodial supervision in Queensland (see below – Profile of Female Offenders (2000)), and a needs analysis was then conducted which would form the basis of a five year strategic plan relating to female offenders.

The Unit became the Women’s Services Team and was then abolished (along with the ATSI Unit) as a result of recommendations in the DCS Business Model Review (2004).  The latter suggested that having discrete units for particular ‘special needs’ groups was not effective as the units developed policy allegedly in isolation from those who had to implement it on the ground; and, further, other relevant target groups may be excluded.  It was recommended that policy workers from the women’s unit form part of the proposed Strategic Policy and Analysis and Research and Evaluation branches (42). [1]

(For a critique of the Women’s Policy Unit needs analysis and the then-current direction of the department with respect to women, see Pereira et al 2000)

DCS Profile of Female Offenders Under Community and Custodial Supervision in Queensland

The DCS Women’s Policy Unit developed a statistical snapshot of women offenders in Queensland  – Profile of Female Offenders in Queensland in 2000.  The Unit Manager indicated that this was the first such report in Queensland.  The Profile reported the following.

  • During the previous five years the rate of growth in the female prison population has outstripped the growth of the male prison population in Queensland. Women prisoners accommodated in secure and open custodial centres made up 5.8% of the total prison population or 273.
  • Women offenders were represented in greater numbers on community supervision orders than on custodial. More than 21% of offenders under community supervision were women in comparison with 5.8% of women on custodial orders. There awere 4330 women under community supervision.
  • The adult female imprisonment rate in Queensland was 16.7 per 100,000 adults. This is well above the national average of 12.5 per 100,000 for female offenders.
  • Indigenous women were significantly over-represented in custody, comprising 2% of all women under custodial orders. Indigenous women do not access community custody options to the same extent as non-indigenous prisoners. The north Queensland female prison population consists of a high proportion of Indigenous women.
  • Significant differences exist in the offending patterns between male and female offenders. Drug offences made up a greater proportion of offences committed by women compared with men.
  • Fewer women than men were convicted of violent offences.  Homicide offences for women had decreased over the previous five years, but robbery and break and enter offences had increased. Fraud and misappropriation accounted for a significant part of all property offences for women. A small number of women were imprisoned in Queensland for sex offences.
  • Women prisoners on average served less time in custodial centres than their male counterparts. In general, the crimes they are convicted of carry a lesser penalty. Admissions of women for fine defaulting had a significant impact on the correctional system.
  • Women had significant health and medical needs and were the highest consumers of health services amongst Queensland prisoners.
  • A high proportion of women offenders report they have been victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse

Taken from DCS Corrections News, June 28 2000: http://www.correctiveservices.qld.gov.au/Publications/Corrections_News/online/archives.shtml

(See also Shaw 2000)


DCS women’s policy -– In Their Own Right 2001-2006

The DCS developed its first women’s policy document - In their own right: a five year framework for meeting the needs of female offenders 2001-2006 - following the recommendation in 1999 that women be accorded special needs status, the establishment of the Women’s Policy Unit and the latter Unit’s work on the profile of women offenders (2000 – see above).  This 2002 policy document states that it is ‘more than a checklist of actions’ and represents a ‘fundamental shift in our thinking about female offenders … which will see them considered in their own right, rather than as aberrations from the (male) prisoner norm’ (Foreword). 

The document sets out a number of principles; indicating that women offenders will be offered programs and services on an equitable basis; will be free from gender discrimination; and will be held under the least restrictive conditions; inter alia.  Key challenges include drug abuse; parental responsibilities; over-representation of Indigenous female offenders; and female health and wellbeing.  Key result areas include rehabilitation and reparation; safety and security (reduced self-harm; placement options which match classification levels, for instance); staffing (female employment); and interagency cooperation. Relevant actions for the key result areas are set out; for instance – development of a culturally appropriate model for Indigenous women’s diversion from secure custody; and development of meaningful and non-traditional industry, work and community service options for female offenders.  Implementation processes are also set out at various levels of the department – including the establishment of a needs of women offenders reference group (with internal and external representatives). 

See: http://www.correctiveservices.qld.gov.au/Publications/Corrections_News/online/archives.shtml


DCS Women’s Policy - Addressing the Needs of Female Offenders Policy and Action Plan 2003 – 2008

DCS adopted the Addressing the Needs of Female Offenders - Policy and Action Plan 2003-2008, which recognised:

... that the experience of female offenders in the criminal justice system is vastly different from that of their male counterparts. The differences between male and female criminality are profound and female offenders present with distinct psychological, health and socio-economic characteristics. Female offenders are recognised in their own right and correctional responses will be based on their identified needs.

The Plan articulated the policy principles that guide the DCS in the management of female prisoners, underpinned by a number of Government policies (including the Crime Prevention Strategy; Women and Girls in the Smart State; and Putting Families First).  At the outset, the Plan acknowledged that the circumstances of women in the community generally need to be improved through a whole-of-government response. 

Key issues for the department with respect to female offenders were drug abuse; parental responsibilities; over-representation of Indigenous female offenders (29% of the female prison population as at August 2002, mostly in secure facilities); planning and service delivery (given the rise in female prisoners from 75 in 1993 to 290 in 2003); and health and well-being (including self-harm, previous abuse, or mental illness).  Three output areas were set out, relating to custodial facilities, community supervision, and reduced re-offending.

  • custodial facilities – actions related to assisting women with homelessness post-release; setting up an Indigenous peer support group; assisting women with health programs;
  • community supervision – included investigation of appropriate sentencing and diversionary options;
  • reduced re-offending – included reviewing programs to ensure that they meet women’s needs; developing community service projects to provide women with work-related experience.

Available at:


DCS/University of Queensland – Female Prisoner Health Study

The Department collaborated with the University of Queensland to conduct the state’s first survey of (female) prisoner health in Queensland, looking at prisoners at all three correctional facilities.  The aim of the project was to develop an understanding of female prisoners’ health (broadly defined) to inform policy development both on a national and state-wide level (including by way of comparison with findings of a similar New South Wales study conducted in 1996 and 2001).  The DCS Health and Medical Unit director said that it was the ‘most in-depth study of the health and medical issues concerning female prisoners ever undertaken in Australia’.  It considered chronic illness, communicable disease, childhood experiences, and issues such as education levels and drug abuse.  [2]  Findings related to issues such a:

  • the high use of drug and alcohol prior to incarceration;
  • high levels of victimization (for sexual offences);
  • poor health generally (nutrition, obesity, smoking);
  • and prevalence of risk-taking behaviour (such as sharing needles, unplanned pregnancies).

The Study concluded that the prison population required ‘over-servicing in terms of community norms for health services’, and that those in prison represented a ‘reservoir of disadvantaged and ‘hard to find’ health consumers’.  Whilst incarcerated, there was an opportunity to address health issues with prisoners (such as education in relation to addictions; health surveillance and screening; health promotion).  It was also recommended that a further follow-up study be conducted in five years time.

Available at

Media ABC:



Legal Aid Queensland review of access to legal services for women and girls in custody

This review, conducted by way of survey of women and girls in custody in Queensland, found low levels of satisfaction with legal services. Responses from participants showed that jail treatment, discrimination and children were the biggest problem areas for participants.  The bulk of the qualitative comment showed dissatisfaction with the way that the service was delivered - such as failure to keep appointments, limited contact with a solicitor and lack of communication between solicitor and client.  The project team felt that there were some simple systemic changes that could be made to the way that Legal Aid Qld provides its services to women in custody that would greatly improve their access to legal services. The review made a number of recommendations relating to a range of issues, including, inter alia, that LAQ work with DCS to install a free call number for prisoners to access legal aid; that LAQ develop a brochure outlining basic information on court/legal process for prisoners; and that the unmet legal needs in relation to discrimination be met by working with Sisters Inside to regularly visit those in Correctional Centres.

Available at: http://www.sistersinside.com.au/media/insideout.pdf

Incorrections Report, Queensland University of Technology

The Queensland University of Technology released a report critical of corrections prison release practice and policy, which was largely discredited by Government.  The report made a range of recommendations relating to issues such as throughcare; programs; partnerships with community-based agencies; and greater accountability and transparency.  

With respect to women, a number of concerns were raised involving rising rates of female incarceration; trauma that women experience in prison (more so than that of men); strip searching; specific needs of women (such as being carers of children); the lack of a crisis support unit for those with mental health needs (and the use of a segregated unit - S4 - as a means of behaviour management); inter alia.  Recommendations referred to the need to develop a better classification system that would not result in the over-classification of women prisoners (as the current ORNI system classifies women at high risk on the basis of their social, economic and psychological ‘deficits’ which are due to social disadvantage (see also Mitchell 2005); to establish a therapeutic crisis support unit for women; to set up three Mothers’ and Children’s Units (in north, central and south-east Queensland) as well as the need to develop better programs for women. 

More specifically, it is suggested that release procedures ought to be developed to take into account the particular social circumstances of female offenders, including the fact that women pose less of a threat to community safety than men and that women are often primary carers of children.  These factors mean that womens’ release experiences are quite different to those of men.  Women need parenting skills training, substance abuse treatment and personal development programs and peer support and they may urgently require housing upon release due to their carer responsibilities (or they may not be permitted to have care of their children).

The Department formally responded to the Incorrections Report, critiquing both the findings and recommendations contained therein. 

Available at:


QUT then provided a further report in response – INCorrections II  - clarifying, for instance, that the current facilities for women and children were inadequate as there were no specific mother-child units (compared with the facility at Emu Plains, NSW) (Walsh 2005).

Available at: http://www.sistersinside.com.au/reports.htm

DCS - Review of Corrective Services Act 2000

In 2004, the Government announced a review of the Corrective Services Act 2000. The review involved public consultation, with relevant consultation papers released between October 2004 and January 2005, including a paper on ‘Prisoners with special needs’.  That document indicated the following:

Over the past 10 years the number of female prisoners has increased from around 75 in 1993 to 356 women prisoners (including community custody) as at 30 June 2003. Indigenous women are significantly over-represented in custody, comprising 25.2 per cent of the total female prisoner population in 2003 compared with 22 per cent in 2001.  Over the years 1995 to 2000, the rate of growth of women offenders outstripped the growth of male prisoners and it is a trend which continues. The high rate of recidivism for female prisoners is also of significant concern. As at December 2002, female prisoners were returning to custody within two years of release at a rate of 27 per cent. The number of female prisoners is relatively small when compared with the number of male prisoners. Women prisoners make up 6.5 per cent of the total prison population and therefore are a minority in a male dominated system (17)

There is a brief overview of other statistics and issues (including those relating to self-harm; mental health; and transgender prisoners).

The final Consultation Report recognizes the need to make ‘particular efforts’ to ensure equity in service provision to female offenders as a ‘central theme’.  Other issues canvassed include whether gender ought to be a factor in risk assessment; the need to clarify the status of children accommodated in prison; and the appropriateness of the categorization of people as being of ‘special need’.

For consultation papers produced in 2004-2005 as part of the review of the Corrective Services Act 2000 (including the consultation paper on ‘Prisoners with special needs’ and the full Consultation Report) go to:


Sisters Inside provided a submission to the review of the Act containing a number of recommendations, with some specific focus upon women as well as general comments in relation to the prison population as a whole. 

The submission points out the inadequacies in the consultation process conducted by the department. For instance, the process did not include preparation and therefore discussion on medical and health needs of prisoners, an issue of particular relevance to women prisoners given their high needs in terms of mental and reproductive health as well as health of children in their care.  Sisters Inside recommend that an independent body provide relevant services as occurs through Justice Health in NSW, for example.  The organization also suggests that the needs of women ought not to be separated so as to, in effect, leave them out of debate concerning broad legislative reform in relation to substantive issues such as classification or visits.  There is some strong criticism about the S4 unit at Brisbane Womens Correctional Centre and its coercive and segregationist nature – a reflection of inadequate facilities and services provided to women with mental health issues. 

Available at:



Palmer Inquiry report released - Cornelia Rau and immigration detention

Cornelia Rau was placed in immigration detention (although within the general prison population) in Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre in 2004 as a suspected unlawful non-citizen under s 189 of the Migration Act (Cth) 1958 as there were no immigration detention facilities in Queensland.  Ms Rau was incarcerated for six months whilst attempts were made to identify her and deport her to Germany, and five weeks of that detention was spent in solitary confinement.

The Palmer Inquiry report set out a number of criticisms of the handling of the Rau case with respect to the standard of care she received from both BWCC and from DIMIA. BWCC (and DIMIA, by default) failed to provide adequate care to Ms Rau and to deal appropriately with her significant mental health issues.  Inadequate formal arrangements between the two governments involved led to a situation where Rau was detained for a considerable period of time, and was also subject to a corrective rather than an immigration detention regime.  The report was highly critical of the managerial operations and culture at DIMIA. 

Available at:








2006 –

Anti Discrimination Commission of Queensland Report: Women in Prison (2006)

After receiving a submission from the advocacy group Sisters Inside Inc. in June 2004, Submission of Sisters Inside to the Anti Discrimination Commissioner for the Inquiry into the Discrimination on the Basis of Sex, Race and Disability Experienced by Women Prisoners in Queensland (Sisters Inside 2004), the ADCQ made a decision to conduct a review into the circumstances of women in Queensland prisons under ss 235 and 236 of the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act 1991.  Noting that the Department of Corrective Services had made a number of improvements in relation to policies and practices that impacted upon female prisoners in the meantime, the Report set out 68 recommendations relating to this issue. The Report also considered the profile of women offenders in Queensland, indicating that the most common offences for those in prison are theft (fraud and misappropriation (35.2%); homicide (16%); assault (18.8%); and drug related offences (10%).  Indigenous women constituted 24.8% of the total prisoner population.  Other details are provided. 

The final report is quite extensive, dealing with discrimination in a range of areas, but the main areas of concern for the ADCQ were as follows:

  • women (particularly Indigenous women or women with mental illness) are likely to be over-classified as a result of classification systems currently in operation
  • the best interest of children are not being addressed in sentencing or policy decisions
  • mental health issues for women are being ignored in the prison system
  • the needs of Indigenous women need to be better addressed, including, for instance, through alternatives to incarceration

The Report acknowledged the work that had been done by DCS to date to improve the circumstances of female offenders, including permitting young children to stay with their mothers in certain circumstances; special escort procedures for pregnant or nursing prisoners; a target of 70% of female staff for female prisons; participation of female prisoners in community custody programs that are not open to male prisoners convicted of certain offences; no maximum security facilities for female offenders, and DCS procedures state that women prisoners should not be classified maximum security. Prison facilities for women are given a higher level of access to forensic mental health services than facilities for men, and methadone, which is not broadly available to male prisoners, may be provided to female prisoners, with pregnant women receiving priority.  However, broader, deeper cultural change was required within the Department, which administers a system designed to meet the needs of a ‘large, more homogenous and high risk male population’. 

Recommendations set out in the Report placed an onus on the Department (and Government, where appropriate) to undertake the following:

  • prioritise developing smaller facilities based on community living and establishment of work camps for women;
  • place women in the least restrictive environment possible and give priority to the needs of children of prisoners;
  • takes steps to address potential systemic discrimination issues within the control of the prison authorities, such as valid classification assessments; access to culturally appropriate programs; and development of viable release plans, which may ensure that Indigenous women are granted conditional release and post-prison, community-based release at the same rate as non-Indigenous women;
  • consider introduction of less intrusive methods of searching to replace strip-searching, and ensure that women are not treated less favourably than men in being subjected to a greater number of such searches;
  • improve opportunities for social reintegration and rehabilitation, as well as those relating to work and industry;
  • expand the Drug Court to provide greater opportunities for female offenders;
  • ensure that there are greater diversionary opportunities for female offenders with mental health issues and that there are also improved services for such offenders once in custody;
  • ensure that the needs of Indigenous women are considered in designing facilities and programs, and that there are more Indigenous female employees in the system;
  • ensure that young girls under 18 years are not placed in protective custody in adult institutions;
  • ensure that the needs of women from CALD backgrounds are met; and
  • consider custodial alternatives for women with children (including home detention, community service orders and periodic detention).

Available: http://www.adcq.qld.gov.au/pubs/WIP_report.pdf

Departmental Response to the ADCQ Report

The Department in responding to the ADCQ report did not accept many of the findings and recommendations contained therein, and pointed to recent reforms and reviews that DCS had itself engaged in to improve the circumstances of female offenders (in relation to throughcare; prison infrastructure; changes to the corrections legislation in relation to community release and prisoner classification, for instance, which will impact positively upon female prisoners; changes to programs (to better meet the needs of women) as a result of the DCS Offender Programs and Services Reform Agenda).  DCS defended current practice (in relation, for instance, to strip searching and programs designed to assist women with children).  DCS also stated that female prisoners enjoy ‘comparative opportunities’ in comparison to male prisoners; for instance, more women are classified as low/open; and female prisoners are allocated more vocational educational and training hours, inter alia.  DCS also refuted the findings of the ADCQ that women pose little risk to public safety, pointing out that 34.8% of women prisoners are serving sentences for offences of violence, contrary to the claims of the ADCQ.  DCS responded to specific recommendations.

Report no longer publicly available

Media release by Department (8 March 2006)



DCS Policy and Action Plan – Improving Outcomes for Women Offenders 2008 – 2012

This policy - Improving Outcomes for Women Offenders - Women Offenders Policy and Action Plan 2008-2010 – was released in 2008, and had been preceded by earlier, similar policies dating from 2001.  The Plan acknowledged:

that imprisonment of women can have profound effects on their children and families and broader implications for society.  The Agency is committed to managing a correctional system that is responsive to the issues and challenges relevant to women offenders.  The distinct needs and characteristics of women offenders are recognised and correctional responses will be based on their identified risks and needs.  The (Plan) provides a framework to improve the gender responsivity of Queensland’s adult corrective services system, to improve service delivery to women offenders, to sustain existing initiatives and to develop new strategies in the longer term.

The Plan noted that rates of incarceration for women were climbing – from 218 in 1997 to 420 in 2007; and that new infrastructure which was being developed will be used to accommodate growing numbers.  It is also noted that changes to corrections under the Corrective Services Act 2006 had improved female offenders’ circumstances; for instance, new court-ordered parole gives courts greater flexibility in sentencing low risk offenders (with women being more likely to fit into this category).  In January 2005, only 116 female offenders were on post-prison community-based orders compared with 474 in January 2008.  Female-specific provisions within the throughcare model implemented by DCS and female-oriented programs were also discussed.  Outputs were based upon the same three areas set out in the preceding womens’ policy and action plan -

Available: http://www.correctiveservices.qld.gov.au/Publications/Corporate_Publications/Strategic_Documents/index.shtml

DCS Green Paper – Reform of Low Security Custody (2008)

The Green Paper was prepared by the department to encourage discussion about proposed reform to low security facilities in Queensland (for women, facilities at Townsville and Numinbah), based upon success achieved at work camp sites (Bowen and Warwick for women). http://www.correctiveservices.qld.gov.au/About_Us/The_Department/Key_Initiatives/Work/index.shtml

The proposed new model for Work camps were intended to assist the department to manage growing numbers of female prisoners by providing additional accommodation options for low-risk women offenders until Townsville and Gatton facilities were completed.  It was suggested that Palen Creek (a low security facility for men) will transition to an all-women Base Work camp with capacity for women and their babies; and that the Helana Jones Centre (also low security) would transition to a post-release support accommodation centre for women, operated by an NGO.  So women currently incarcerated in high security facilities would be accommodated in more appropriate low security facilities. 



New women’s prison proposed – Lockyer (part of Gatton Precinct project)

A ‘state of the art’ women’s prison is due for completion in 2011 as part of the Gatton Precinct project.

See: http://www.correctiveservices.qld.gov.au/About_Us/The_Department/Key_Initiatives/Prison_Precinct/index.shtml



Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre (BWCC)

Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre, located at Wacol, accommodates up to 258 prisoners across two accommodation areas - secure cells and residential cells.  It also acts as the only reception, assessment and placement centre for female prisoners in southern Queensland.  A purpose-built area accommodates up to eight women who are approved to have their children reside with them in custody.  In support of the accommodation of children within the facility and the role of women as primary carers, the centre facilitates a number of programs, activities, events and services related to women and children.  The centre has a structured daily program consisting of industry, education and vocational training programs that provide opportunities to address offending behaviour, and a range of activities designed to enhance personal development.

BWCC is a prison for women who have been sentenced to a period of imprisonment after a full criminal hearing before a judge or magistrate. BWCC also accommodates women on remand, who are being held in custody until their trial, but are yet to be found guilty of a crime.  Aside from the Townsville Correctional Centre, the BWCC is where all female prisoners are first sent when convicted.  BWCC houses both mainstream and protected prisoners.  About 10% of the total prison population are protected prisoners who are separated from other prisoners for a variety of reasons.  These women are housed in another secure facility that is effectively a prison within a prison.   Like all other facilities for women, the BWCC houses female prisoners as young as 17 years.

The Helana Jones Centre and Numinbah (female) Correctional Centre are annexures to this centre.

Helana Jones Centre (HJCCC)

The HJCCC hostel accommodates up to 30 women and regularly has up to six children, sometimes ten, placed with their mothers. The house accommodates eight women. HJCCC accommodates women serving both short and longer term sentences.  Women are usually placed at HJCCC after serving time in BWCC or the Numinbah Correctional Centre. HJCCC has a range of work and programs for women, which are discussed in more detail elsewhere in this report.

Women residing in the HJCCC hostel may work outside the facility or may have work

responsibilities within it. Women living at the hostel with children aged less than five years are eligible to receive childcare and family welfare benefits. A portion of this money is paid to the hostel to cover living expenses and the remainder is held in trust for the benefit of the child.  Children residing at the centre sleep in the same room as their mother.

The HJCCC house is solely used for up to eight women who are on release-to-work. These women are in paid employment, working for normal wages, a portion of which is paid in rent to the centre. These women are issued with a pass to leave HJCCC and travel to work.  Women residing in the house have fewer restrictions than those in the hostel and are able to access weekend leave. They do their own cooking and their daily routines are similar to life outside a correctional institution. 

(See proposals in DCS Green Paper – Reform of Low Security Custody (2008) above)

Numinbah Correctional Centre (low security)

Numinbah Correctional Centre is a low security centre located 100 kilometres south of Brisbane in the Gold Coast hinterland. NCC is an open custody prison for both men and women, situated on an 1800 acre reserve, much of which is a working dairy farm. NCC was built as a correctional centre for male prisoners in 1939 with the addition of a women’s annex in 1998 adjacent to the men’s accommodation.   Male and female inmates share a number of facilities including the reception and visitors’ area, and medical room.  The male centre is annexed to Darling Downs Correctional Centre and female centre is annexed to Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre.  Numinbah provides accommodation for up to 104 male prisoners and 25 female prisoners.  The centre encourages a self-directed rehabilitation model to prepare prisoners for release to the community or community-based supervision.  The facility accommodates as many as 104 men in huts, demountables and two houses.  Up to 25 female offenders can stay in the women’s annex, which has 24 individual rooms each containing two beds and a separate kitchen facility.  Unlike the men’s areas of the facility, which are totally unfenced, the women’s annex is surrounded by a high electric fence erected for the ‘safety and well-being of the women inside. The gates to the women’s area remain open during daylight hours, but are shut when the electric fence is activated from 8pm to 6am. Men and women at NCC are confined to designated areas and do not mix.  Women can be transferred to NCC from BWCC and Townsville Correctional Centre, to serve both short and long term sentences. At NCC, they have access to a number of programs, training and work opportunities that are discussed in more detail elsewhere in this report.

Townsville Correctional Centre (high and low security) (TCC) and Townsville Women’s Correctional Centre (TWCC)

Previously (from 1986), women were accommodated in north Queensland within the secure perimeter of the Townsville Correctional Centre – a high security men’s facility (currently being refurbished).  A new $130 million Townsville Women's Correctional Centre (TWCC) has been developed on land adjacent to TCC.  It is a 150-cell centre, capable of expansion by 200 beds. It received its first prisoners in December 2008.  TWCC can accommodate up to 154 offenders.  It includes a specialist mothers and babies unit featuring two units with four oversized bedrooms in each to accommodate up to eight mothers and babies. The centre also features state-of-the art security including video, audio, biometrics, staff duress tracking, movement control and perimeter security.  Other features include 64 secure cells and 90 residential units; special facilities for prisoners with disabilities; Indigenous meeting place; medical services building; program education building; sentence management building; administration building; new gatehouse; central kitchen and bulk store; covered sports hall; and a visits facility”.

See media:


Work Camps

Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre manages the women’s Work camp at Warwick and Townsville Correctional Centre manages the Work camps at Bowen (women’s).

Up to 13 women (without children) residing in the Helana Jones hostel may live and work at the Warwick Women’s Work Camp. This facility, which opened in 1995 within the Warwick Showground, has two residential buildings, one with dormitory sleeping accommodation, kitchen, dining and living areas, and the other consisting of single room donga with an adjoining open air covered living space.  Women usually travel to and stay at Warwick for nine days, then return to the HJCCC facility in Albion for five days.  At Warwick, women are engaged in a range of community-based activities including building restoration and painting, landscape maintenance and mowing, rodeo and other work. 

The new South East Queensland correctional precinct

The South-East Queensland correctional precinct is a cornerstone of Queensland Corrective Services’ (QCS) prisons of the future.  To accommodate the growth in prisoner numbers – a national trend – the precinct will initially incorporate a 300-bed women’s correctional centre and 500-bed men’s centre, with the eventual potential to accommodate up to 3000 prisoners.  Set on 600 acres of land in the Lockyer Valley, just outside Gatton, the construction of the state-of-the-art correctional facility will be completed in stages, with the first stage scheduled for completion in 2011.  This will be similar to the Wacol precinct project.

This first stage will be the women’s correctional centre, where construction started in October 2008.  When open, the women’s centre alone is expected to create about 200 new jobs in a range of roles including custodial officers, programs staff, administration and intelligence. In 2015, when the precinct is expected to be fully commissioned, it will employ up to 1750 people.




1992 - Boggo Road closed by Prisons Minister Milliner

Minister Milliner had the ‘satisfying duty of closing 109 years of prison history’. Brisbane Women’ Correctional Centre was at that time still located at Boggo Road, and was eventually closed in 1998-9, with a new Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre being opened at that time as a replacement.


Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland, (2006) Women in Prison, ADCQ Queensland


Bogdanic, A, (2007) Strip-Searching of Women in Queensland Prisons, unpublished, available at http://www.sistersinside.com.au/reports.htm

Byrne, E.M. (1990) Unlocking Minds: From Retribution to Rehabilitation. St. Lucia: The

University of Queensland, Brisbane Qld

Civil Liberties Council, (1999) ‘Female Prisoners and Female Police in Watchhouses’ Paper delivered at Second Australasian Conference of Women & Policing. Available in the archive of:


Cox, R. & Carlin, A. (1999) A Review in to the Delivery of Vocational Education and

Training in Queensland Corrections in 1998. Brisbane: Corrections Queensland.

Danby, S., Farrell, A., Skoien, P., & Quadrelli, C. (2000) A Study of Inmate Women's

Accounts of Education on Queensland Correctional Centres. Centre for Applied

Studies in Early Childhood: Queensland University of Technology


Department of Corrective Services, (2002) ‘Accommodation of Children’ Department of

Correctives Services Procedure – Prisoner Services

Department of Corrective Services, ‘Prisoners with special needs consultation

paper’ Legislation Review : Corrective Services Act 2000, Brisbane, DCC, November 2004

Department of Corrective Services, (Queensland), 2000 Needs Analysis: The Needs of Women Offenders Consultation Draft, Unpublished paper.

Department of Corrective Services, (2006) Response to the Anti Discrimination Commission of Queensland Women in Prison Report, DCS, Brisbane QLD


Department of Corrective Services, (2005) Review of the Corrective Services Act 2000: Consultation Report for the Minister of Police and Corrective Services, DCS Brisbane QLD

Department of Corrective Services (Qld) (2005a) Response to the INCorrections Report, DCS Brisbane Qld The response has been removed from the DCS website and is no longer available

Department of Corrective Services (Queensland), (2002) In their own right: a five year framework for meeting the needs of female offenders – 2001-2006, Brisbane DCS

Department of Corrective Services - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s

Policy Unit,  (2002) Options for diversion from secure custody for Indigenous female offenders

Department of Corrective Services, (2002) Women’s Services Options for diversion of Indigenous female offenders from custody: Consultation paper

Department of Corrective Services (Qld), (2003) Addressing the Needs of Female Offenders Policy and Action Plan 2003-2008, DCS, Brisbane Qld


Department of Corrective Services (2004) Business Model Review


De Simone, T., & d’Aquino, C, (2004) Inside Out: The Access of Women and Girls in Custody to Legal Aid Services


Farrell, M.A. (1997) The Impact of Family and Other Support on the Wellbeing of Children of Inmate Mothers. Brisbane: QUT. (Unpublished research).

Farrell, M.A. (1996) A Comparative Policy Study of Incarcerated Mothers and their Young Children in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and England. St Lucia:

Unpublished doctoral thesis, The University of Queensland.

Farrell, M.A. (n.d.) Policies for Incarcerated Mothers and their Families in Australian Corrections

Fin, J, & Kilroy, D (2001) ‘Are Indigenous Women in Queensland Prisons Any Better Off?, 5(8) Indigenous Law Bulletin, 28

Gledhill, Cameron ‘Growing in prison’ (2005) March Queensland Alliance Newsletter, 10.

Hocking BA, Young M, Falconer T, O’Rourke PK. 2002. Queensland Women’s Prisoners Health Survey, Queensland Government Department of Corrective Services and University of Queensland, Brisbane. Withdrawn from website: No longer available

Jacob, S & Sisters Inside, Murri Sistas Inside Standing Tall & Proud: Trauma, Loss and Separation with Indigenous Women in South East Queensland Correctional Centres, Sisters Inside, Brisbane, 2000

Kennedy, JJ Commission of review into corrective services in Queensland: Final Report 1988.

Kilroy, D (2002) ‘Focus on Women in Prison’, 28(1) Hecate 116

Kilroy, D (2004) ‘Women in prisons: a correctional afterthought’, 13(3) Human Rights Defender 10

Kilroy, D (2000) ‘When will you see the real us?  Women in prison’ Paper presented at the Women in Corrections: Staff and Clients Conference convened by the Australian Institute of Criminology in conjunction with the Department for Correctional Services SA and held in Adelaide, 31 October – 1 November 2000

Available at http://www.sistersinside.com.au/reports.htm

Kilroy, D & George, A (2004) ‘Prisons the Perpetrators of Violence and Discrimination Against Women’, paper delivered at Home Truths: Stop Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence – A National Challenge, 17 September 2004, Sheraton Towers Southgate Melbourne

Kilroy, D (2000) ‘Bars Behind Bars: Reflection on the Needs of Women from NESB in Southeast Queensland Corrections Centres’.

Available at: http://www.sistersinside.com.au/reports.htm

Kilroy, D (2003) ‘The Silenced Few: NESB Women in Prison’

Available at: hhttp://www.sistersinside.com.au/reports.htm

Kilroy, D, ‘Prisons: Australian’s Default Response to Poverty, Homelessness and Mental Illness – Especially for Women’, Refocusing Women's Experience of Violence Conference, September 2005, unpublished.

Kilroy, D (2005) ‘The Prison Merry Go Round – No Way Off’ 6 Indigenous Law Bulletin


Kilroy, “The White Wall Syndrome,” Women in Prison Journal Volume 1, Issue 1, October 2000 pp39-43

Lazarus, Q (1995) Nowhere to go: women leaving Queensland’s prison system, Queensland Shelter, Brisbane Qld

Mitchell, M (2005) ‘Classification or Discrimination? Assessing Risk and Need in Women’s Correctional Centres’,

Available at hhttp://www.sistersinside.com.au/reports.htm

Morgan, A & Cilento, R ‘Evaluation of a Volunteer Program in a Women’s Prison’, Report to the Criminology Research Council: Research Grant No. 2/83, University of Queensland

Noordink, S & Ward, F (2000) ‘Women’s Community Custody Program Warwick Work Camp: Why it Works’, paper presented at Women in Corrections: Staff and Clients conference, AIC Adelaide


Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (1996) Indigenous women within the justice system  Brisbane, ODPP, 1996.

Office for Women (Qld) (2008) Profile: Queensland Women 2009, Qld Government, http://www.women.qld.gov.au/resources/statistical-snapshot/documents/profile-qld-women-2009-chapter09-crimeandjustice.pdf

Palmer, Mick Inquiry into the circumstances of the immigration detention of Cornelia Rau: Report Canberra, Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs,  July 2005. 


Pate, Kim and Debbie Kilroy ‘Developing international norms and standards to meet the needs of criminalized and imprisoned women’ Eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, Bangkok, 18-25 April 2005.

Peach, Frank Corrections in the balance : A review of corrective services in Queensland 1999.

Pereira, C, (200?) Women from non-English speaking backgrounds – a silent minority (unpublished paper) Brisbane, Prisoners legal Service,

Pereira, C and Beri S, (2000) There’s more to it: a response to the Women’s Policy Unit Needs Analysis: the needs of women offenders Brisbane  Prisoners Legal Service and Sisters Inside Inc.


Puusaari, P (n.d.) A cultural and linguistic needs assessment of women from non-English speaking backgrounds under supervision of the Department of Corrective Services in Queensland, Women’s Services Unit, DCS Queensland No longer available online

Queensland Corrective Services Commission, (1993) Report of the women’s policy review, Brisbane, QCCS, Brisbane Qld N/A

Queensland Corrective Services, (2008) Improving Outcomes for Women Offenders  (Women Offenders Policy and Action Plan 2008-2012), QCS Brisbane Qld


Queensland Corrective Services, (2008) Annual Report, QCS Qld,


Shaw, B (2000) ‘The Management of Female Offenders: Achieving Strategic Change’, paper presented at the Women in Corrections: Staff and Clients Conference, Australian Institute of Criminology in conjunction with the Department of Correctional Services SA, Adelaide, 31 October – 1 November 2000


Sisters Inside Inc., Submission of Sisters Inside to the 2005 Review of the Corrective Services Act 2000, Sisters Inside Inc. Brisbane Qld


Sisters Inside Inc., (2004) Submission of Sisters Inside to the Anti Discrimination Commissioner for the Inquiry into the Discrimination on the  Basis of Sex, Race and Disability Experienced by Women Prisoners in Queensland, Sisters Inside Inc, Brisbane Qld

Sisters Inside Inc., (2004) Submission Number 2: Women in Prison Review  - Anti Discrimination Commission in Queensland, Sisters Inside Inc., Brisbane Qld


Sisters Inside Inc, (2008) ‘Responding to Homelessness: Submission in Response to FaHCSIA Green Paper’, Sisters Inside Inc, Brisbane Qld


Sisters Inside Inc., (2006) ‘Understanding the Queensland Women In Prison Report: A Summary Report’, Brisbane Qld


Sisters Inside Inc., (2006) ‘Understanding the Queensland Women In Prison Report: A Detailed Analysis’, Brisbane Qld


Sisters Inside Inc., (2004) Culture within Women’s Prisons, Brisbane Qld


Sisters Inside (2008) Responding to Homelessness: Submission in Response to the FaHCSIA Green Paper, Sisters Inside, Brisbane Qld


Toby, E (2000) ‘Emotional wellbeing: a Murri counsellors perception’, paper presented at Women in Corrections: Staff and Clients conference, AIC Adelaide


Walsh, T (2004) INCorrections: Investigating Prison Release Practice and Policy in Queensland and its impact on Community Safety, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane Qld.

Available at: http://www.sistersinside.com.au/reports.htm

Walsh, T (2005) INCorrections II: Correcting Government’, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane Qld.

Available at: http://www.sistersinside.com.au/reports.htm

Young, M, Waters, B, Falconer, T & O’Rourke, P (2005) ‘Opportunities for health promotion in the Queensland women’s prison system’, Australian and NZ Journal of Public Health, Vol. 29(4) 324-327

[1] Department of Corrective Services (Qld), (2004) Business Model Review, Brisbane Qld


[2] DCS, Corrections News June 2003, 3 http://www.correctiveservices.qld.gov.au/Publications/Corrections_News/2003/june03.pdf).

[3] The following information is taken from the DCS website - http://www.correctiveservices.qld.gov.au/About_Us/The_Department/Custodial_Corrections/index.shtml - and the ADCQ Women in Prison report (2006)