: Prison for Indigenous inmates to open

Prison for Indigenous inmates to open

Alice Drury
Western Australia

West Kimberley Regional Prison (‘WKRP’) in north WA is complete, and was officially opened on 1 November 2012. 
The prison, located near Derby, is the first in Australia designed specifically for Indigenous inmates, in accordance with five guiding principles which support the Kimberley Custodial Plan:

  • respect for Indigenous prisoners' responsibilities under traditional law and culture;
  • recognition of Indigenous prisoners' connection to country, including custodial rights and interests over land, sea and waterways;
  • recognition of kinship and family responsibilities of Indigenous prisoners;
  • acknowledgment of the responsibilities that Indigenous people have to address social and economic issues affecting their community; and that
  • location of new custodial facilities to be close to Indigenous prisoners' land and family.

The prison was built by the state government in response to gross overrepresentation of Indigenous Australians in WA prisons, who make up 4 per cent of the state's total population and 40 per cent of the state's adult prison population. Twenty minimum/medium security self-care units will hold 120 male and 30 female prisoners, who will be grouped according to family ties and language. Spiritual healing, elder mentoring and cultural areas for men and women form part of the programs on offer, as well as work and training programs, life skills, and other mainstream rehabilitation programs.

The project has been completed by the Department of Corrective Services in close consultation with the Kimberley Cultural Advisory Group, comprising representatives from Aboriginal communities across the Kimberley. The group provided expert advice on the design of the new prison, and will assist in identifying programs and services to help keep Aboriginal people out of prison, as well as act as a mechanism by which the Aboriginal community and the department can be kept informed of issues or matters of concern.

The WKRP will replace the Broome Regional Prison as the region’s main prison, with Broome set to close in 2015.

For more information, see http://www.correctiveservices.wa.gov.au/prisons/prison-locations/west-kimberley.aspx

ALICE DRURY is from the State Solicitor’s Office.

(2012) 37(4) AltLJ 292
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