Women in prison Western Australia 1970-2010

Vulnerable Groups in prison: Women in Western Australia

A Statistical and Policy Account 1970 - 2010


Women’s Rehabilitation Centre opened 1969



Opening of first women’s prison – Bandyup

Bandyup Training Centre opened in 1971.  This was the beginning of the current Bandyup Women’s Prison in metropolitan Western Australia.

The Office of Inspector of Custodial Services (OICS) provides some detail about the successive approaches to female imprisonment over recent decades – indicating that the 1970s and 1980s reflected a ‘paternalistic’ approach with ‘stereotyped views of women and femininity’.  The male-centric ‘preoccupation with risk and security’, however, in the 1980s influenced the way women prisoners were dealt with and there was then greater emphasis upon custody and containment. Further, there was little attention to female-specific needs – ‘women who were prisoners became prisoners who happened to be women’ and thus subjected to management schema devised for male prisoners (OICS 2002: 12).


Mother/Infant Program commences at Bandyup

The program involved accommodating women with their infants at facilities located to one side of Bandyup Women’s Prison and consisted of one-bedroom apartments with common living room, bathroom and kitchen. The infants did not have an outside area.  Regional facilities were apparently non-existent or ‘makeshift’.  Hartz-Karp conducted an evaluation of the program in 1981 and found that management had been ‘slow to back the programme with finance and personnel’. Problems included inadequate facilities; lack of clear eligibility criteria; lack of information amongst inmates about the program; and the possibility that the judiciary may incarcerate a woman because she will have access to the program (and thus suffer no great hardship in terms of forced removal from her infant) (Hartz-Karp 1981; 1983).

See the detailed current DCS Policy Directive 10: Prisoner Mothers/Primary Carers and their Children (n.d.)




Ombudsman’s Inquiry into Bandyup Women’s Prison – N/A

An extensive inquiry into the management of Bandyup Women’s Prison by the State Ombudsman resulted in new policies and a different management structure for this facility.


Last person sentenced to death in Australia – Brenda Hodge

Brenda Hodge was the last person sentenced to death in Australia after she shot her abusive partner, policeman Peter Rafferty, in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.  She spent ten years in prison after the Western Australian Government abolished the death penalty.  Hodge published a book – Walk On – about her experiences (Hodge 2005).


Laurie, V, ‘The road to redemption’, Weekend Australian, May 2005: 20


Unrest at Bandyup

At Bandyup Women’s Prison, prisoners refused to enter their cells as a result of an alleged incident of mistreatment of an Aboriginal prisoner.  Structural damage was also caused as a result of a fire lit by prisoners in the remand section.



In 1991, just under 1/5th of people arrested in Western Australia were females.  In this year 12% of prisoners received were female and 59.2% of these women were Aboriginal who were more likely than others to be imprisoned for defaulting on fines.  Females constituted a higher proportion of sentenced persons received into lockups (21.2%).  Of the latter, 86.8% were Indigenous women (Wilkie 1993).

During the 1990s, the female prison population in Western Australia rose rapidly within a five-year period - from 5% to 7.6% of the overall prisoner population.  The number of women in the total prisoner population more than doubled - from 111 in 1995/96 to 237 in 2000/01. At a national level, the proportion of women in the prison population rose from 4.8% in 1995 to 6.6% in 2002.  Salomone wrote in relation to this rise that while ‘women’s offending profile is slowing changing, the increase of women prisoner populations in part reflects sentencing changes driven by a more serious response to less serious offences’ (Salomone 2004: 2-3).

For statistics from 1998 -2006 go to CRC:


 See also http://www.correctiveservices.wa.gov.au/about-us/statistics-publications/default.aspx


Research – pre-release training at Bandyup

The Department conducted a research survey with inmates at Bandyup in relation to the employment, education, training and personal needs of inmates at pre-release.  This information was to be used to design and develop prison programs.  Prisoners were asked about the type of vocational skills they required; preferred prison employment; and any significant problems they foresaw upon release  (Smith et al 1991).  


Crime Research Centre - Women Social Security Offenders report

The higher than average representation of women in Western Australia in offence categories of fraud and ‘other theft’ prompted this CRC research study into women social security offending.  The latter offending related, in part, to charges of ‘knowingly obtaining’ a benefit which is not payable.  The study considered the position of sole parents receiving pensions under social security legislation and suggested that the ‘cohabitation rule’ prohibiting sole parents from claiming benefits upon a change of circumstances, as defined, was ‘discriminatory, complex and uncertain’ as well as ‘capable of arbitrary and capricious application’ (Wilkie 1993: 115).  Some women offenders in this context saw offending ‘as a rational response to living in poverty’.  Further, contrary to what occurred in Western Australia with respect to offending women generally, women social security offenders were more likely than men to be imprisoned (27.5% of women and 21.3% of males).  For those not imprisoned, men were more likely to receive a fine and women to be placed on probation or a good behaviour bond (Wilkie 1993: 117).  Women social security offenders were also likely to be in receipt of Sole Parent benefits and men on Unemployment benefits; and women’s offending related commonly to their roles as mothers and partners.  Overall, the author found that the ‘quality of justice in social security cases has been overwhelmed by excessively punitive attitudes and mechanistic legalism’ (Wilkie 1993: 124).


Chief Justice’s Taskforce on Gender Bias

Recommendations of this report implemented by Government include establishment of a family support centre and 24-hour nursing coverage at Bandyup Women’s Prison.

Ministry of Justice’s Women’s Plan

This strategic plan outlined actions relating to women in the court system (calling for improved services such as child care facilities); the ‘unintended consequences’ attached to the minority status of female offenders within the general correctional population (such as no prisoner transfer options for women and the inclusion of minimum with maximum-security inmates); the need to address the ‘victim’ status of female offenders in programs and the specific need of women in community corrections programs, and the health and well-being of female prisoners (with their high levels of drug use, situational depression and self-harm history); and means of addressing over-representation of Indigenous women in prison.  Other issues concerned ensuring extended visiting rights for children of prisoners and access of women to pre-release programs and rehabilitation programs.  The particular impacts upon women arising from legislative provisions, was also noted. 

Implementation of this Plan included completion of the Report on the review of services to adult women offenders (see below).

Fines, Penalties and Infringement Notices Act

In addressing the large numbers of persons being incarcerated for fine default in Western Australia, this legislation removed community work and prison as an option for fine defaulters.  Licences were to be suspended and property confiscated in lieu of payment and offenders were able to negotiate ‘time to pay’.  This legislation apparently helped to reduce women’s incarceration rates on the basis of fine defaulting – with women making up 9% of the prison population after its introduction compared with 11.4% in 1994/5.  In 1995/6, 5% of women in custody were serving a sentence of three months or less compared to 54% in 1994/5. However, the lower socio-economic status of women, it is suggested, meant that they are still more likely than men to be incarcerated under this new scheme because less likely to have a driver’s licence, have property that can be seized in lieu of payment, and, ultimately, to be able to pay fines (Ministry of Justice 1997; for further detail on this legislation see Commonwealth Law Bulletin (1996))


Women’s Forum established

Ombudsman’s Report - Bandyup Prison

The report considered the circumstances leading to miscarriages suffered by two inmates at Banyup, allegedly as a result of their working conditions and inadequate medical care.  Relevant allegations had been raised in Parliament in Western Australia.  Prisoner ‘W’ had attributed her miscarriage to being assigned to heavy work in the garden at Bandyup, despite her pregnancy, and inattention by prison nursing staff. She also claimed not to have been offered counseling at the prison post-miscarriage.  The allegations of Prisoner ‘E’ were similar; that heavy lifting during the course of her work duties may have contributed to the stillbirth of her baby and that she had been provided with inadequate medical attention in custody. 

The Ombudsman concluded that in neither case were the women forced to complete the work tasks in question and this exonerated the Ministry.  There was also difficulty in proving that the miscarriages were the result of the work completed. Recommendations made by the Ombudsman included that information about prisoners’ obligations to work and available health services should be given to inductees at Bandyup and that the Ministry of Justice consider introduction of more formalised procedures for allocation of work to pregnant prisoners. 

WA Families – Our Future: Report of the Taskforce on Families in Western Australia

The Taskforce on Families included Bandyup in its visits to prisons in Western Australia.  The Report indicated, inter alia, that the impacts of imprisonment on families is severe and contributes to family breakdown. Courts should be required to consider this impact in all sentencing decisions.  Further, the maximum-security rating of Bandyup was noted along with the detriments imposed upon women who were not classified at this level as a result (including, for instance, having to comply with maximum-security rating visiting procedures which preclude any physical contact between mothers and children).  The Taskforce also called for a more ‘flexible approach… towards allowing children to remain with their mothers in prison’. 


Future Directions Report, Towards Integration

The Offender Management Division within the Department of Justice sought ‘future direction’ in terms of integrating the various parts of the Division.  This internal report noted that the justice model approach to corrections had been popular in the 1970s, with few opportunities for rehabilitation of offenders.  It suggested that internationally there had then been a shift towards ‘what works’ as a philosophy in terms of addressing re-offending and that relevant strategies could, in fact, reduce recidivism.  Risk-need intervention programs for offender management were required for all, in this context, but the report emphasised the need to develop appropriate models of assessment and management for women offenders given the low-risk they generally posed to the community.

Mandatory Sentencing legislation introduced (three strikes legislation)

The legislation provided that when convicted for a third time or more for a home burglary, adult and juvenile offenders must be sentenced to a minimum of twelve months imprisonment or detention.  Mandatory sentencing remains in place, despite its abolition in the Northern Territory in 2001



Ministry of Justice  - Report on the review of services to adult women offenders

The Policy and Legislation Division at the Ministry prepared a report considering services for women offenders and what might be done to improve the same.  This report was commissioned in 1995 as part of the Ministry’s Women’s Plan (1994) and in response to the Gender Taskforce report and to the Ombudsman’s report relating to health services at Bandyup (see above).  It was to provide a ‘stocktake’ of services in courts, prisons and community corrections.

The report called for a change in the ‘mind set’ of Ministry staff in terms of their orientation and understanding of the specific needs of women.  It contained 53 recommendations, prioritised in order of urgency in terms of implementation.  Those recommendations included gender awareness training of court staff; development of improved community corrections options for women in light of their child care responsibilities; improving information for women in contact with the court system; improving services and programs for women incarcerated in regional institutions; staff training around women prisoners’ needs; re-thinking of the then-current classification system for women; provision of ‘integrated’ health care services for women in custody; and expanding of activities to encompass the cultural needs of Indigenous women.

UN Association (WA) Status of Women Reference Group - comment

This voluntary group sought to make public comment on the status of women within the criminal justice system in Western Australia by releasing this document.  Their disadvantage within this system was said to reflect their social disadvantage, more generally.  Issues relate to inequity of access to legal services and legal information; harsher sentencing for women who are seen to have stepped ‘outside their defined roles as wives and mothers’; imprisonment of women for offences of poverty (social security fraud, for instance); the lack of attention given to the children of female prisoners; lack of post-release programs for women unless they are under community supervision; and lack of accommodation for women transitioning post-release.  


Nyandi opens – low-security facility for women

In December 1998 a facility that had previously accommodated juveniles was opened for low-security adult women prisoners as a ‘spill-over’ for Bandyup – at that time the only ‘dedicated’ female prison in Western Australia. The incarceration rate for women at this time had risen to 138 (daily av. number) and all women, regardless of their classification, were placed in Bandyup.  Nyandi provided a minimum-security, pre-release facility for women. 

The Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services (OICS) inspected Nyandi in 2002 and criticised the lack of employment opportunities, the orientation program, and the relative under-representation of Aboriginal women in the facility.  At this point in time, however, Government had indicated that Nyandi was to be replaced with a new facility.  Nyandi Women's Prison became Boronia Pre-release Centre for Women when expansion works were completed on the site in May 2004 (see below). Salomone also writes critically of Nyandi.

This ‘temporary’ measure provided a relatively less restrictive environment for low-          security women in the metropolitan area, however facilities were nevertheless grossly          inadequate for adult women, particularly those with children.  While policy permitted          accommodation of infants with their mothers during the crucial first 12 months of life,          the inadequate facilities meant relatively few children were able to remain with their mothers in prison…..Despite its limitations, the facility helped manage a rate of women’s imprisonment that has been nearly double the national average (Salomone 2004: 2)

OICS report available at:



Ministry of Justice: Women’s Accommodation Strategy

The Ministry developed a 20-year accommodation strategy for prisons in Western Australia. As part of this, a separate Women’s Plan had to be developed.  The Ministry developed a Women’s Accommodation Strategy in response to rising female imprisonment rates and in recognition of the specific needs of women in custody.



The Standing Committee on Estimates and Financial Operations in the Western Australian Legislative Council considered imprisonment rates in its 2000 report and made note of the considerable overcrowding in WA prisons (Nevill 2000).  The WA prison population was at 3000 in June 1999 (a 29% increase in the prison population of 12 months earlier) (18).  Overcrowding had led to mattresses being placed on floor spaces near toilet facilities at Bandyup Women’s Prison and to the use of the gymnasium at Bandyup as dormitory-style prisoner accommodation.  Western Australia had the fastest growing prison population of any Australian jurisdiction, according to the Committee, with a 29% increase during the financial year 1998-99.  It also had the fastest growing rate of imprisonment – three times the national average, imprisoning women in particular at twice the national average (Nevill). 

The Office of Inspector of Custodial Services also indicated that the rate of imprisonment of women had increased by about 135% compared with 55% for men over a period spanning 1993-2003 (OICS 2002: 4).

 For statistics from 1998 -2006 go to CRC:


Also look at Profiles prepared by Government of women in prison, commencing in 2002 (see below).  The 2006 Profile, for instance, indicated that between 1991 and 1996, the female prison population had been at around 5%.  In 1999/2000, the proportion of women in prison represented 7.6% and by 2004/2005, it was 8%.

The number of women in the total prison population more than doubled between 1995-2001.  The av daily number of women in prison was 111 in 1995/96 (5%) and 237 in 2000/01 (7.6%) (Ministry of Justice, Annual Report (2000/01)).

In 2009, DCS prepared a Background Paper for the 2009 Women’s Strategic Plan (see below).  Therein, DCS indicated that between 1991-1996 women constituted only 5% of the prisoner population but in 2008 that figure had increased to 8%. In April 2008, 54% of women prisoners were Aboriginal (with Indigenous Western Australians only constituting 2% of that State’s total population).  The rates of recidivism for women released from prison without supervision had also risen significantly between 2006-2008 (32.9% compared with 40.3%) (DCS 2009:5).

As at 2010 women currently made up approx 8% of the overall population - 4862 prisoners overall and 391 female, 252 of who were at Bandyup.


Nevill Report: Financial Management of Prisons

The report was not female-specific, but made some points relating to women.  For instance, it was recommended that community supervision services be adequately funded so as to provide specialised programs and interventions for women offenders.  The report noted that in 1998 approximately 57% of Indigenous women prisoners were sentenced for fine default (Nevill 2000).

WA State Ombudsman – Report into Deaths in Custody

This Report by the State Ombudsman examined the large numbers of deaths and suicides in Western Australian prisons over a recent period of time, and made recommendations relating to parole, health services, and prison programs, inter alia, directed towards addressing this issue (Allen 2000). 

The main recommendations in the Report included:

  • ensuring provision of appropriate accommodation and services for special needs groups of prisoners such as those suffering the effects of substance abuse, those with a psychiatric disorder, and female prisoners;
  • improved facilities and services for female prisoners in regional prisons and;
  • increased education, employment and training opportunities for women at all prisons.

The recommendations were the subject of discussion and negotiation with the Department. A number were implemented although others were dependent on the availability of funding (see Department of Justice: Suicide Prevention Taskforce Report (2002) below; Dear et al 2001).

Community-based services – women-specific initiative

Community-Based Services (Ministry of Justice) opened a specialised program (including child-minding facilities) to assist women with special needs to complete their community service requirements (Ministry of Justice Annual Report 2000/01).

Roeburn upgraded – mother and child unit

A new Mother/Child Unit opened at Roeburn Regional Prison.


Women’s Accommodation Strategy – Ministry of Justice – Roeburn Prison

As part of the Women’s Accommodation Strategy, the Ministry earmarked $1.7M (out of $8M) for capital improvements for women’s accommodation in regional prisons in order to improve equity in services and accommodation for women in these areas.  Roeburn Regional Prison (with both male and female prisoners) is specifically considered in this particular Strategy, with recommendations relating to increasing cell space through use of transportable accommodation for female prisoners. 

McGinty fact-finding mission overseas – proposal for low-security facility for women

In 2001/02 after a change of government, the new Attorney-General McGinty travelled internationally in search of best practice in relation to women within a correctional context.  There was a particular interest in the Canadian approach to female incarceration.  A proposal was developed upon his return for a purpose-built, low security prison for women – aimed at ‘development of a progressive new philosophy… to achieve world’s best practice in management of women prisoners’ (McGinty 2001; McGinty 2003).

The Metropolitan Low Security Prison for Women Project was established in 2001 as part of this process. The overarching aims of the project were as follows (Salomone 2004: 5):

  • successful reintegration of women into the community together with a reduced rate of recidivism;
  • an operational philosophy that recognises and incorporates the needs of women prisoners;
  • reforms in the way women offenders are managed and a women’s perspective in design and operation of prison facilities;
  • integration of the prison into the community and community into the prison;
  • and ‘normalisation’ of living arrangements and management approaches

The facility commissioned as a result was the Boronia Pre-Release Centre (see below). More broadly, it gave rise to a new ‘philosophy’ towards female imprisonment generally (see below; eg. DCS 2003. See also Ministry of Justice Annual Report 2002/03: 9-10). This philosophy was introduced through a change management process into Bandyup.  It was directed towards ensuring that women were able to ‘successfully re-enter the community, reducing the likelihood of re-offending and minimizing the negative effects of their imprisonment upon their children’ (Ministry of Justice Annual Report 2003/02: 82)

McGinty also commissioned a study into the needs of female prisoners in Western Australia (see below: Profile of Women in Prison 2002).


Department of Justice: Suicide Prevention Taskforce Report

In response to a high rate of suicide within Western Australian prisons the Department of Justice established a Taskforce to consider relevant issues. The particular stressors for women prisoners were discussed, including separation from dependent children, children being taken into care and sexist and racist practices.  Suggested strategies to respond to suicide of female prisoners include enabling women to access external agencies, locating women close to family, and undertaking a qualitative analysis of women’s experiences in prison, including self-harm and suicide.

Profile of Women in Prison

Due to a rise in numbers of women in custody in Western Australia, a profile of women in prison was first developed by the DCS in 2001 (and published in 2002). A bi-annual profile update is now completed by DCS so that this issue can be monitored over time, with the hope that the needs of women in prison will be met effectively by the Department and that there will be greater community understanding of women in prison (see Profile of Women in Prison 2006 below).  Each of the Profiles is based upon bi-annual Characteristics and Needs Survey of Women in Prison (2001/2, 2003 and 2005) (although see Profile of 2008 below).

The 2002 Profile identified, inter alia, that the women surveyed were generally young (72% under 36 years of age); a majority (63%) had children under the age of 18 years; most were sole parents (63% single, divorced or separated by time of release); 40% had not completed Year 10 of schooling; 71% were unemployed in the six months prior to arrest; 25% had never held a paid job (51% of the Aboriginal women); 51% reported a previous diagnosis of mental health issue/s; 80% reported frequent use of alcohol/drugs prior to imprisonment; 67% identified a connection between their drug and alcohol use and their offending; and 77% reported a history of abuse either as an adult or a child.

Of particular significance is the intersection of drug and alcohol issues, pervasive          histories of victimization and mental health issues within a clearly highly vulnerable          population.  This population consists of individuals with few skills and resources, and          quite often, sole responsibility for young children.  The lives of those children are          severely disrupted by parental imprisonment, with long term developmental,           adjustment and intergenerational implications (Salomone 2005: 4)

For discussion about the ramifications of this survey in terms of assessing the needs of women prisoners (see Salomone 2004). All profiles are available at:


DCS Prisons Division Strategic Plan for Aboriginal Services (2002-2005)

This document was formulated by the Department of Justice when Corrective Services (Prisons Division) was incorporated within that Department.  The purpose of the Plan was to provide a framework for action to achieve a key set of objectives, and the primary outcome sought was a reduction in the over-representation of adult Aboriginal people in the prison system.  Key Objectives included ensuring that Prisons Division is responsive to the specific needs of Aboriginal women prisoners.  Actions included developing physical and mental health care strategies such as programs for women; auditing regional women prisoner needs; and developing a women prisoners’ mental health strategy (DCS 2002)

Women’s Custodial Services directorate

The directorate provides a means of coordinating provision of services to women accommodated in different facilities.  It is responsible for developing and implementing a new philosophy for female prisoners in the State, providing high-level guidance and ensuring that stated philosophy and actions coincide (OICS 2006a: 22).

Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services – inspection of Bandyup

In its baseline report on Bandyup OICS is highly critical of many aspects of the facility – indeed, overall, ‘when all the details of poor service are stripped away…(a review of Bandyup indicates that) imprisonment in Western Australia is still defined in male terms; Bandyup is in a sense a male prison occupied by females’ (6).  Bandyup is seen as being a prison in ‘considerable disarray’ (19).  For a start, construction work then being carried out at Bandyup in an attempt to improve conditions failed, allegedly, to incorporate the specific needs of female prisoners (for instance, failing to increase available beds for mothers and babies (there were only four available at the time). Health services were described as ‘scandalous’ – with one woman shackled whilst giving birth.  Other issues relate to a failure to address racism experienced by Aboriginal women and the overseas-born women in Bandyup (sentenced for drug-trafficking); classification and how it impacts upon women there; and a still-stereotyped understanding of the work/training needs of women prisoners.  The report also touched upon the disadvantages (mostly Indigenous) women prisoners face in the regional (male) facilities in which they were accommodated.  It was recommended that a multi-disciplinary team develop a ‘women-centred philosophy’ for Bandyup and that the Department develop policy and operational guidelines for women’s imprisonment generally, inter alia.

OICS report available at:


As a result of the report, the Department initiated a female staff-only policy for pat down searches of inmates; addressed staff gender ratios; developed a women’s health strategy; and introduced an anti-bullying policy at Bandyup (Ministry of Justice Annual Report 2004/05: 73).


Women in Prison – DCS

DCS published a document entitled Women in Prison which considered women’s incarceration rates; distribution of female prisoners across regional and metropolitan prisons; and a new ‘guiding philosophy’ – originally developed for the new Metropolitan Low Security Prison (see below and above) but now used to ensure that all initiatives and services for women prisoners focus on women’s needs.  The philosophy emphasises family, community and personal responsibility.  Change initiatives at Bandyup are also highlighted: development of a women’s health strategy; review of use of restraints for women receiving medical attention; and extended day visits for children with their mothers.  This report is no longer available on the DCS website


Drug-free unit at Bandyup

A drug-free unit was introduced at Bandyup, providing ‘an incentive to reduce demand for drugs within the prison environment and normalise drug-free living for prisoners nearing release’ (Ministry of Justice Annual Report 2003/04: 81).

Study: impact of imprisonment on women’s familial and social connectedness

This report, prepared by Murdoch University and community and church groups, explored the impact of imprisonment upon women prisoners’ children, families and broader community.  Recommendations included the need for secure half-way houses for women exiting prison and improved screening systems to be developed to identify women at risk of self-harm or suicide.  An overarching theme relates to the need to develop non-custodial alternatives for women offenders (Goulding et al 2004).

Report available at:


Boronia Pre-release Centre for Women

Boronia Pre-release Centre was opened in 2004 (and took over Nyandi prison (see above)).

The facility provides a residential-style setting for up to 70 women, who are able to have their children (to age 4) with them, with extended visits for children over 12 years. There is a focus upon community work and educational and personal development and vocational programs.  A Community Advisory Group was involved in development of the Centre. The OICS sets out the guiding principles of the centre as including the following (OICS 2006a: 3):

  • women prisoners will be empowered through the exercise of personal responsibility (realized though offering women choices in terms of education, employment and personal development options at the Centre);
  • women should be encouraged to resume family responsibilities (realized through provision of residential, permanent accommodation for children up to four years, with extended day and overnight visits for children up to 12 years); and
  • women should also be encouraged to resume their community responsibilities (realized through opportunity for involvement in s. 94 community activities).

Salomone wrote of the facility prior to its completion.

  • The prison will set new standards for women’s corrections and represents a new approach to management of women prisoners.  It adopts a forward-looking model that recognises the diverse needs of women, and is intended as a benchmark for reforms across Western Australian prison services overall (Salomone 8).
  • Boronia appears to have been a very successful experiment – praised by the Office of Inspector of Custodial Services in the first inspection report of the facility (OICS 2006a: see further below).
  • There had been (at least initially) some resistance to the ideals of the facility. 

See for example, media: ‘Opposition promises to close “luxury-style” women’s prison”, Wed 9 February 2005, ABC WA, Local News, ABC Online Forum

For media comment comparing Boronia with Bandyup see:

Krien, A ‘Parallel lines [Life in two Western Australian women’s prisons], Big Issue Australia 260, 14-29

For more detail on Boronia - see below under Current Facilities.  For detail about the process of developing this facility, see above McGinty fact-finding mission (2001). 


Mahoney Inquiry into Corrections

In 2005, it was announced that an inquiry was to be held into the management of offenders and associated matters by Hon. D. Mahoney under the Public Sector Management Act 1994.  The inquiry came about as a result of public outcry following a number of prison escapes, an assault upon a female prison officer, and a murder committed by a parolee.  The Terms of Reference required, inter alia, the examination of the corrections system, the assessment of the organisational structure, role, and performance of the Department of Justice (as relevant), and the development of a plan of ‘implementable strategies’.  It was to be read in conjunction with the Inspector of Custodial Services’ Directed Review (2005) (see below).

The specific needs of women prisoners are noted in the report, as follows:

  • the Department should take steps to improve access to, and facilities for, visits between women and their children;
  • prison staff working with women should receive additional training in the management of gender specific issues such as any history of physical and sexual abuse; and separation from, and anxiety about, children;
  • the Department should significantly increase its expertise and capacity in the Programs Branch to develop, deliver and evaluate programs for Indigenous offenders, particularly to meet the needs of women and young offenders;
  • the Department should enter into commercial and non-commercial agreements with Indigenous community groups on remote communities for the provision of correctional services to Indigenous offenders through, for instance, Women’s Pre- Release centres.
  • Government should consider the establishment of separate remand accommodation for women;
  • the education and employment skills made available to women should reflect the nature and likelihood of employment in the communities to which they will return and women offenders and communities should be consulted on their needs;
  • the Department should undertake research to determine the causes of the high failure rate of Indigenous women in relation to community based orders; and
  • any Departmental Indigenous policy or strategy should include separate reference to the needs of Indigenous women, and not simply as a subset of those for women in general or those for Indigenous men (Mahoney 2005).

Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services – Directed Review

The OICS Directed Review (to be read in conjunction with the Mahoney report - see above) dealt with the circumstances of female prisoners in some detail.  Some of the issues raised relate to the poor quality of conditions that women are subjected to in regional prisons; need to recruit more women; need to develop a work camp or pre-release centre in partnership with local communities in the Eastern Goldfields region; need to improve conditions for women accommodated in regional prisons (including by providing privacy from male prisoners while allowing for shared services); and classification of women.

Kimberley Aboriginal Reference Group’s (KARG) initial recommendations toward the Kimberley Custodial Plan (October 2005) – Stage One Report

In 2005, the Minister for Justice established the Kimberley Aboriginal Reference Group (KARG), thereby providing an example of effective Indigenous community engagement in relation to justice issues.  KARG consulted widely with Aboriginal people throughout the Kimberley to provide to Government initial recommendations in its Stage One Report (2005).  A further Stage Two Report was produced for input into a final Kimberley Custodial Plan. 

KARG made a number of recommendations in its Stage One Report, including that consideration ought to be given to establishing community-based facilities for women given their low numbers and a work camp for women (which offers cultural programs, education and rehabilitation programs and the opportunity for practical community reparation) (KARG 2005/2006).

The Kimberley Custodial Plan is to underpin development of the West Kimberley Regional Prison (see below). [1]

Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services Inspection - Bandyup

Following a relatively scathing review of Bandyup by the OICS in 2002 (see above), this report indicates that good progress had been made to improve the facility – in part due to the commitment of the newly established Directorate of Women’s Custodial Services which initiated change management processes at the prison. 

Improvements included initiating a more formal structure into prisoners’ daily routine and focusing upon increased female staffing levels.  The Bandyup Women’s Prison Business Plan (Bandyup Women’s Prison 2004) appeared to encapsulate a women-centred philosophy, part of the 2002 recommendations. The OICS also referred to a Department-commissioned review of Bandyup by Cant, which measured the prison against current theory and good practice in women’s custodial services, concluding that the philosophy, values and key objectives of Bandyup were consistent with contemporary literature (see Cant 2005). The OICS also praised the Profile of Women Prisoners’ study (see above), inter alia

However, further changes were required according to the OICS – including urgent implementation of case management practice and cross-cultural (Indigenous) training for staff.

OICS report available at:



Profile of Women in Prison (DCS)

The 2006 report was based on information collected for the first two profiles completed (commencing in 2002: see Profile of Women in Prison (2002) above), and through a third survey conducted in late 2005 which gathered information on the attitudes and perceptions of women in Western Australian prisons.

The report indicated the following.  More women believed they were unlikely to re-offend when released back into the community.  Around 90% of women in the 2005 report believed they would not re-offend, compared to 78% in 2003.  This trend was particularly strong among Aboriginal women - 89% of whom did not believe they would re-offend, compared to 64% in 2003.
Women were also more satisfied with the programs they were undertaking in prison. The number of women satisfied or very satisfied with the range of programs had more than doubled since 2001.  In 2005, 76% of women were satisfied or very satisfied with programs, increasing from 34% in 2001 and 45% in 2003.
 Higher satisfaction levels were also reported regarding the recreational activities made available to women in prison.  The number of women who reported they were satisfied or very satisfied with recreation activities increased from 28% in 2001, to 46% in 2003, and increased again to 54% in 2005.  The level of dissatisfaction decreased during this same period (50% in 2001, 33% in 2003 and 22% in 2005).

All profiles are available at:



Office of Inspector of Custodial Services – Inspection - Boronia

At the time of reviewing Boronia, the facility had only been open for two years.  This report by the OICS is positive – the mother/child arrangements are said to be ‘exemplary’; health care services are ‘well regarded’ by the prisoners and follow women’s health care models; staffing policies follow a ‘gendered model’; the prison shop encourages genuine decision-making; and the shared accommodation and self-care model ‘creates a positive environment of responsibility sharing’ (vii).  One of the main (and only) criticisms is that the facility is underutilized and should be made available to more women and a wider range of women.  Recommendations included instigation of an urgent review of the current classification system as it applies to women prisoners; introduction of programs addressing family violence; and an increase in the use of s.94 to enable inmates to engage in community-based work.

OICS report available at:


Office of Inspector of Custodial Services – Digest: Women Prisoners

This Digest was prepared by the OICS, compiled from all published inspection reports completed between 2000-2005.  An overarching point made is that the high and diverse needs of women as offenders must be recognised in order to address female offending and recidivism effectively, but that the fact that women ‘lack critical mass in Western Australia’ (at 7%) impacts upon recognition of these needs.  The particular disadvantage suffered by Indigenous women is also emphasised. Specific issues (based with categories identified within the Standards Guidelines for Corrections in Australia) include classification; staff/prisoner interactions; access to programs; maintaining family relationships; and access to work programs, inter alia.  The circumstances of women in metropolitan and regional facilities are dealt with separately, with women prisoners in the latter facilities constituting 10% of the prison population and facing even greater hardship (OICS 2006b).

Available at:


Bandyup – award for Good Beginnings program

Bandyup and Good Beginnings won an Australian Crime and Violence Award for the Prisoners and their Families program (DCS Annual Report 2006/07).




DCS announces appointment of specialist bail coordinator (women)

The role of the bail coordinator is to explore bail options for female offenders to try to ensure incarceration is treated as a last resort, with specific emphasis on Aboriginal women.  This initiative was praised by the OICS as ensuring that more women are able to access bail (OICS 2008: 43).

OICS Code of Inspection Standards

The Office of Inspector of Custodial Services developed a Code for inspections of custodial facilities and included specific reference to women-centred design, access by women to a broad range of services, women’s health care services and women prisoners with children.

Standards available at:



Inspector Custodial Services - Inspection of Bandyup

The OICS followed up on two earlier reports on Bandyup (2002 and 2006, see above).  Things were seen to have improved over time at Bandyup, according to the OICS. Positive initiatives included the forging of strong links with community agencies by Bandyup.  The prison was seen as falling short with respect to providing opportunities supportive of the maintenance of family relationships and providing appropriate treatment and intervention programs for women.  Further, more work was required to incorporate the needs of Indigenous women within Bandyup policy. Recommendations included establishing a senior Aboriginal management position to facilitate necessary cultural change; improvements in welfare service delivery; and effective implementation of the Women’s Treament and Intervention Model (see above).

Report available at:




Profile of Women in Prison

This Profile differed from the earlier profiles (see above), which were drawn from Departmental statistics rather actual experiences of women in prison.  This Profile collected statistics from the department but also involved discussions with 64 women about these experiences.  Compared with previous profiles, it was noted that Aboriginal women’s offending histories were increasing, non-Aboriginal women’s drug offending had increased substantially and there were lower levels of education and employment amongst this group of women.  The Profile concluded as follows.

An important conclusion is that the women interviewed are generally very          damaged people. They present patterns of mutually sustaining, multiple          deprivations (poor education, limited vocational skills), histories of various          experiences of abuse (physical, mental and sexual), resulting in extensive          amounts of mental distress (post traumatic stress, psychological trauma). Most           of these women are victims in many ways  (Profile: Executive Summary 5)

The Profile noted that women thus require a ‘supportive’ rather than a ‘corrective model’ of management.

These women are a gestalt of problems and issues, and therefore holistic, multiple agency, long-term programmes of restoration are the most suitable response. To address just one problem (eg drug use, abuse trauma, social isolation) is to ignore the co-morbidity between the different issues that dominate these women’s lives (5).

Strategic Directions 2008-2012: Health care for women and girls

This framework is directed towards ensuring gender-appropriate care for women and girls and was developed as a result of recommendations made by the OICS after the inspection of Bandyup in 2002. 


Development at Bandyup

A new 36-bed self-care unit was opened at Bandyup – including 26 general self-care beds and 8 beds for mother/baby accommodation.  The new accommodation was developed as providing transition to Boronia from Bandyup for women.



Women’s camp at Eastern Goldfields

A new Women’s Camp was opened so that female s. 95 prisoners at Eastern Goldfields could participate in traditional Aboriginal women’s business in the community.


Women’s Treatment and Intervention Model: Women’s Way Forward

This Model encapsulates the different areas in which the needs of women prisoners are to be progressed, including through case management focusing upon clinical interventions, personal development, skill development and employment, inter alia.

Women’s Way Forward: Women’s Corrective Services Future Directions 2008-2012

This strategic framework provides an overarching philosophical direction for women prisons in Western Australia – containing a vision statement; principles; aims; strategies; and performance indicators, inter alia.

The Background Paper prepared in developing this framework discusses the particular profile of women in Western Australian prisons; emphasises the disproportionate rate of imprisonment of Indigenous women (55% of the female prison population); and indicates that the key outcomes for women should include the following.

  • Women being provided with realistic opportunities to maintain positive relationships and contact with their families and children.
  • Routine delivery of woman-centred services and interventions and purpose designed and developed to reduce women’s risk of re-offending.
  • Allocation of targeted and beneficial programs to all women who are in the corrective system which are culturally relevant to meet the needs of Aboriginal women.
  • A reduction in the number of women on remand and an increase in services to women on remand in particular Aboriginal women.
  • That women in Western Australia’s regional prisons are afforded services that are commensurate with those provided in metropolitan facilities.
  • That there is an overall improvement in the health assessment indicators of women during their time in prison.

The vision of the Women’s Corrective Services Directorate is also outlined as a ‘just and equitable custodial service, where the diverse and culturally unique needs of women are acknowledged and their potential realised’ (DCS 2009).

The Plan itself refers to a new approach of the Department in recognising women prisoners in their own right rather than as ‘prisoners who happen to be women’.  Key principles include ensuring that imprisonment is a measure of last resort for women and recognising the structural disadvantage many women face.  Outcomes include reduced recidivism and numbers on remand, improved services for women in regional facilities, and an increase in women’s participation in educational programs.  Strategies specific to a number of key result areas are set out, such as further developing case management for women and increasing employment opportunities for women on remand or completing short-term sentences.

Inspector of Custodial Services – Inspection of Boronia Pre-Release Centre

The OICS described Boronia as a ‘first rate facility’, noting that it attracts many national and international visitors because it services as an ‘exemplar of women’s imprisonment’ (iii).  However, the OICS warns that the facility must be viewed within the broader context of correctional management in Western Australia, and that Boronia is very much an exception to the general rule in terms of how prisoners are being managed in this State.  Boronia is reducing recidivism (in 2005 it was 10% for those exiting Boronia compared with 45% for all offenders (OICS 2006b)); providing quality educational opportunities to women prisoners; and now operating at capacity.  Specific problems with Boronia include the relatively few Aboriginal women placed there and the inadequate level at which women are engaged in community-based activities at the Centre. 

Report available at:





Womens Custodial Services Directorate - changes

Womens Custodial Services Directorate - The Director Women’s Custodial position was abolished in Jan 2010 with the responsibility for Women’s Custodial matters being placed under the Assistant Commissioner Custodial Operations. Specific roles and duties previously performed by the Director have now been delegated to the Superintendents of Bandyup and Boronia.


As at February 2010:

Women (sentenced) at: Bandyup, Boronia, Broome (all Indigenous), Eastern Goldfields, Roeburn and Greenough Prisons. [3]

Women (remand) at: Bandyup, Broome, Greenough and Roeburn (the latter three all Indigenous only).


Bandyup Women's Prison

Bandyup Women’s Prison is the only female prison in Western Australia that caters for all security classifications. Bandyup holds women on remand awaiting a court appearance, assesses newly-sentenced prisoners, and manages women who are completing sentences. It has managed female prisoners since 1970 when Corrective Services took over the site at West Swan and transferred all the women prisoners from Fremantle Prison. Fremantle Prison could not cope with the overcrowding in its female section, and the women suffered from limited opportunities in the confined facility. Prior to the opening of Bandyup, women had been housed in mixed gender facilities, although kept separate from male prisoners.

Bandyup has a design capacity of 147 females.  The prison works with the Boronia Pre-release Centre for Women, which manages suitable women ready for a minimum-security environment.  As well as standard-living units, women can reside in a drug-free unit, earn privilege self-care accommodation or transitional accommodation, which focuses on developing life skills to assist with the transition to the community or a pre-release centre. A mother and baby unit allows babies up to 12-months old to live with their mothers. 

Prisoners are employed to help maintain the prison, or on contracts for private industry and Government agencies. As part of this, traineeships and vocational skills training are available to prisoners. Bandyup provides prisoners with self-development and therapeutic programs, focusing on such issues as substance use, anger management and self-development. A wide range of educational programs are offered, ranging from basic literacy and numeracy to tertiary level.

Bandyup Women’s Prison was awarded a Certificate of Merit in 2006 Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Awards for the Prisoners and Their Families program.

Boronia Pre-release Centre for Women

Boronia Pre-release Centre was opened in 2004.  It manages up to 70 women and their children in a community-style setting. The centre is built on the site of the former Longmore Detention Centre for juveniles, which was closed in 1997. The adjacent Nyandi facility, a former juvenile detention centre for girls, was a low-security women's prison before it moved to the neighbouring site to become Boronia Pre-release Centre for Women.

Up to five women live in each Homeswest-style house where they are responsible for cooking; cleaning; budgeting; and buying groceries at the centre supermarket. Women are required to work or study. They can enrol in traineeships in areas such as hospitality, horticulture, retail operations, asset management and retail supervision. Women undertake work in the local community for businesses and not-for-profit organisations.

Boronia is guided by four values and principles: personal responsibility and empowerment; family responsibilities; community responsibility; and respect and integrity. According to the Department, the Boronia model is based on the principle that, ‘while imprisonment serves as a punishment for crime, it also provides an opportunity to maximise each woman's potential to positively, confidently and safely reintegrate with their families and communities following release.’

It is the State's first prison to have a community advisory group. The group is made up of local residents and business operators who meet monthly with Department of Corrective Services staff to provide community input, feedback and involvement into the centre's operations. Community Advisory Group members can be contacted by members of the community to discuss issues, ideas and to present community views at the advisory group meetings. The Community Advisory Group played a role in the design and construction of the facility.

Boronia Pre-release Centre for Women's community engagement and volunteer program is the first program of its kind Western Australia. It involves both local community groups entering the prison to run programs and activities for the women, as well as the women working in the community to support local organisations, such as Swan Village of Care and the RSPCA. In addition, Boronia has a volunteering program, which involves community members entering the prison to work with the prisoners as mentors, visitors, tutors or to help the women enhance their employment skills.

The Centre won the John Curtin Medal in 2006 for its contribution to the community and to corrective services in Western Australia.  For positive evaluation by Independent Inspector of Custodial Services, see above.


Women’s Precincts are located in four regional locations:  Greenough Regional Prison, Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison, Broome Regional Prison and Roebourne Regional Prison.  These precincts, which accommodate variously between fifteen and thirty women at any given time, are collocated in what are essentially male prisons.  Consistent with DCS policy of endeavouring to keep Aboriginal women as close to their homelands as possible, the prisoner profile in these regional prisons is dominated by Aboriginal women.


Broome is a mixed gender prison for all security ratings located in the Kimberley.  It has a design capacity of 66. It is the oldest prison in the state still in operation as a prison.  Prisoners may be employed undertaking supervised community work outside or within prison; domestic duties; and workshop maintenance and undertake educational programs.   It also manages the Bungarun Work Camp.

Broome Prisons Women’s Precinct has been completely rebuilt to provide increased facilities for accommodation, programs and activities. This was completed as a part of a major capital works program in 2009.

Eastern Goldfields

Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison is an integrated minimum-security facility, which has a capacity to manage higher security male and female prisoners for a short term to allow visits or court appearances.  The prison manages a high percentage of Aboriginal prisoners.  It was opened in 1980 and is located at Kalgoorlie-Boulder, 614 km east of Perth. A variety of employment and educational activities are available to prisoners.

See Future Facilities below.


Greenough Regional Prison manages prisoners from throughout the Midwest region, extending from Exmouth in the north to Moora in the south, and east as far as Wiluna.  It was opened in 1984 at Geraldton as a minimum-security prison, 420 km north of Perth. It manages a high percentage of Aboriginal prisoners.

Greenough manages up to 29 female prisoners. Two cells are designed for mothers and babies. Greenough recognises the unique needs of women in prison and strives to provide a supportive custodial environment. The prison offers a variety of educational, vocational and offending behaviour education programs and opportunities.


Roebourne Regional Prison manages male and female prisoners in single, two, four and six-bed cells.  The prison’s catchment area covers much of the Pilbara and the Kimberley regions.  The prison manages a high percentage of Aboriginal prisoners.  It was opened in 1984 and accommodates medium, minimum and maximum (for short term) prisoners.  It is located near Roeburn, 1600 km north of Perth. Prisoners are required to work or study. Trade and workshop skills are an important part of vocational training available. The education curriculum aims to provide prisoners with skills which will help them get a job when released. Roeburn also manages the Millstream Work Camp.


Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison [5]

Government announced construction of a new 350-bed mixed gender prison in Eastern Goldfields, with a commitment to meet the needs of female prisoners as well as, more generally, to address overcrowding within existing facilities.  The new prison will be completed in 2013. It is hoped that it will:

This project will:

  • provide replacement infrastructure for the existing EGRP which is significantly over crowded and no longer fit for purpose;
  • reduce the current overcrowding experienced in metropolitan prisons
  • provide safe, secure and contemporary custodial facilities that contribute to community safety and reduce long-term recidivism;
  • improve rehabilitative training, education and programs for prisoners from the Goldfields regions;
  • develop purpose-built infrastructure designed to engage Aboriginal prisoners in culturally-appropriate programs, education and vocational training courses; and
  • minimise prisoner transport between the Goldfields and Perth.



West Kimberley Regional Prison [6]

Based on the Kimberley Custodial Plan (see above), this $150M development is to be designed to meet the social and cultural needs of Aboriginal offenders and their families, and will house both male and female offenders. The development is part of a far-reaching plan to extend correctional services in the region and is designed to help ease a critical shortage of prisoner accommodation. The prison will focus on reducing repeat offending in the Kimberley by:

building a facility to keep prisoners closer to their families and country providing culturally appropriate programs and services, and linking the prison with the community, service providers, local businesses and industry.


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[1] Go to http://www.correctiveservices.wa.gov.au/prisons/prison-locations/west-kimberley.aspx

[2] Information sourced from DCS website: http://www.correctiveservices.wa.gov.au/default.aspx

[3] DCS Weekly Offender Statistics


[4] Taken from DCS (2009), Background paper for Women’s Way Forward: Women’s Corrective Services Strategic Plan 2009-2012, DCS

[5] Go to http://www.correctiveservices.wa.gov.au/about-us/new-buildings.aspx

[6] Go to http://www.correctiveservices.wa.gov.au/about-us/new-buildings.aspx