Abandoned Riverbank Prison in Perth, WA

The roots of Riverbank Prison, also known as Riverbank Maximum Security Centre, can be traced back to 1960 when the Western Australian Child Welfare Department envisioned a secure detention facility catering to male offenders between the ages of thirteen to eighteen. 

The History of Riverbank Prison, Caversham

Riverbank’s establishment was initially based on looking after the welfare needs of young offenders and the reformation of their offending behaviour. But by 1979, its aims had been defined to include the care of child offenders, children on remand for alleged offenses or uncontrolled children.

The CWD reported in 1968 (Signposts, p.439) that programs at Riverbank also sought to ‘teach more socially acceptable behaviour’ and commented on the ‘paradoxical situation’ of trying to do this while the boys were living in an isolated institution. A series of events that brought community members in for dances, sports, and social evenings was arranged. Socially-acceptable recreation options (such as weightlifting, photography, stamp collecting and badminton) were also introduced.

Riverbank Prison Youth Camp in 1986
Riverbank Prison Youth Camp in 1986

By 1970, the facility accommodated 43 boys and by 1979 over 1,000 boys had been placed at Riverbank with an average stay of nine months. 

Between 1975 and 1976, the number of Aboriginal boys admitted to Riverbank grew from 14.5% to over 50% and by 1977, authorities were reporting their concern that many of these young people were being re-admitted.

In the 1980s, Riverbank reported (Signposts, pp.443-444) that a majority of admissions were re-admissions and that those boys who were re-admitted were sent back to Riverbank twice in any given year.

The CWD also reported (Signposts, pp.439-443) that Riverbank was admitting “more younger, damaged boys with a greater number of offenses” than previously.

By 1995, Riverbank still maintained accommodation for approximately 34 boys. The facility was de-commissioned in 1996 and replaced by the Banksia Hill Detention Centre as the only detention Centre for offenders aged 10 to 17 years in Western Australia.

In 1998, Riverbank was re-commissioned as an adult prison.

After its re-commissioning, Riverbank was reported to house a high proportion of intellectually disabled prisoners.

Currently, the prison is well-maintained and is being used for police training. 

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