We were struck by the positive attitude of staff and prisoners at Roebourne, and found a general improvement in conditions and services. However, there was still room for improvement in a number of areas.


Resources issues influencing service delivery and prison performance included:

  • A new, well regarded, leadership team was leading by example. But It was very stretched, and prisoners would benefit from adding an Assistant Superintendent Offender Services.
  • Constraints on female staff and Vocational and Support Officers undertaking certain roles at the prison were discriminatory.
  • Reports of staff conflict and bullying had reduced.
  • Training was much improved but more was still needed in certain ‘soft skills’.
  • There were opportunities for investment in sustainability initiatives that could also reduce costs that should be supported and progressed.


  • Improvements were found regarding: the internal perimeter fence, gatehouse procedures, prisoner/staff relations, and communication from the security team.
  • Despite some works, the gatehouse was still cramped and lacked screening equipment.
  • Section 69 prosecutions were up-to-date, but no Visiting Justice meant Section 70 charges could not be heard.
  • Roebourne demonstrated sound emergency preparedness.


  • Prisoner reception was efficient and property well managed.
  • Poor reception infrastructure created unnecessary risks: the sallyport was too small for the large escort vehicle; holding rooms lacked CCTV monitoring, duress buttons, or cell call systems; and the office layout compromised security.
  • Prisoner orientation had significantly improved, but some parts were often delayed, such as the HIP HOP health program and educational assessments.
  • Welfare arrangements for new remandees and prisoners were weak.


  • Roebourne was crowded with prisoners often sleeping on mattresses on the floor.
  • Refurbishment of most cells and ablutions was complete.
  • Male prisoner hygiene was compromised by the lack of decent eating areas and the amount of bird droppings in the yards.
  • Prisoners were still at risk from heat in their accommodation.
  • The prison laundry worked well, but equipment was ageing.
  • Women were not happy with the clothing supplied, including unsuitable underwear.
  • Prisoner satisfaction with food had improved.
  • Visits were conducted respectfully but the centre was too small for demand.
  • There were too few phones in units, a lack of call privacy and rates to mobiles were expensive. Skype video calls were still unavailable.


  • Recreation was the heart of prison life. Its infrastructure had improved with the dining room converted into an indoor recreation centre and construction of an outdoor fitness gym.
  • Access was a problem – only limited numbers could attend the oval and indoor recreation centre, and it was further restricted by short staffing.
  • Recreation for women had improved and had some excellent elements.
  • A third of prisoners were unemployed and many more were under-employed.
  • Adult basic education was not consistently available, but training went well when not compromised by prison officer staffing levels.
  • Women had even less access to basic education and training.


  • The health service was running steadily and the service appreciated by prisoners, but the health centre was cramped.
  • Access to emergency dental care was good, but not to restorative dental treatment.
  • Mental health services had increased, but relied entirely on in-reach from the public health service. Prisoner counselling and peer support services were strong.


  • Assessments were well-managed and monitored.
  • Resources for program delivery had improved, and a good range of voluntary programs and workshops offered.
  • Good re-entry services were undermined at the time of our inspection by the vacancy in the Transitional Manager position.


  • Staffing arrangements for the care of women had improved; but women’s education and employment were unduly restricted, and there was no access to offender programs.
  • Aboriginal culture and expression was a key focus at Roebourne. Overall the prison had significantly improved, but there was still work to do in employment equity, absence of the Aboriginal Visitors Scheme service and more respect to cultural needs.


  • The work camp was full at last, contributing to the community and the environment. Work experience and training was improving resettlement prospects for prisoners. They also had access to external recreation and in-prison services.
Page last updated: May 6, 2020
128: Inspection of Roebourne Regional Prison