Broome Regional Prison (Broome) is in the town centre of Broome in the far north of Western Australia. The prison population is made up of mostly Aboriginal men and women from Kimberley region, both remand and sentenced and across all security levels – minimum, medium, and maximum-security.
Broome was built in 1894, but only the original ‘bull pen’, a sheltered, caged-in enclosure, remains standing and is used as a recreation area. The rest of the buildings have been replaced over the years. The accommodation blocks were built in 1945 making it the oldest prison in the state.
The prison has experienced 16 years of uncertainty. In 2001, the West Australian newspaper described it as ‘WA’s worst jail’. At the same time, the then-Justice Minister announced the construction a new $50 million prison for the Kimberley. The Minister claimed that Broome was ‘chronically overcrowded and needed replacing’ and that the women at Broome prison were ‘the worst treated prisoners in WA’.
In 2007 the then-Minister announced that a new ‘full service’ prison for males and females would be constructed in the Derby area, 222 km north of Broome. Instead of closing Broome, a further $11.2 million was also allocated to refurbish Broome.
The new Derby prison called West Kimberley Regional Prison (WKRP) opened in 2012, and Broome was downgraded from an independent facility to an annexe of WKRP. The then-Minister for Corrective Services announced that Broome would remain open for three years before closing in 2015.
In 2015 Broome did not close as originally intended and in 2016 it became a stand-alone prison once again. In September 2016, a Superintendent was appointed to manage Broome prison independently from WKRP.