Catalpa Productions

The Modern Era

From the period of creation of the Fremantle prison (known then as the establishment), the facility has been through different changes under a different administration. The first recorded administration of the facility was that of Comptroller-General Henderson in the 1850s. The administration enjoyed autonomy over the management of the facility, including the affairs of the convicts and how they were used for labour. The main aim of Comptroller-General Henderson was to focus on reforming the prisoners, alongside building and delivering skilled and productive men into the workforce.

The sudden change in the administration and affairs of the establishment started with the appointment of John Hampton as the Governor of Western Australia, his period of 6 years as governor of Western Australia. Hampton formerly served as a Comptroller-General and was in charge of managing the affairs of convicts in Van Diemen between the periods of 1846 – 1855, he was accused of corruption and unlawful engagement of convicts in labour, and profiting off it. Soon enough the son of John Hampton became the new Comptroller-General of the establishment. Their entire period of administration was classified as the dark time of the facility, and this promoted a lot of changes to occur, as well as to meet up with the modern changes.

Significant changes started from the 1890s following a royal commission that saw the enlargement of the prison cells by demolishing the wall between two cells, and walls were also erected in some parts of the cells to allow easy classification of the prisoners. Work opportunities were also expanded in the prison by increasing the construction of new workshops.

The gold rush of the 1980s also facilitated a need to create a new division as a result of increased crime among the large population. The Australian Army also used part of the prison-like detention centres for military personnel and also prisoners of war.

Despite the changes, adjustments, and regulations made, it was impossible to effectively utilize a 20th-century prisoner management system, as the structures were built in the 19th century and suited more like a barrack. All of these contributed to the decision of the Western Australian State Cabinet to close the Fremantle prison, plans were made for the creation of a more appropriate facility, and finally, in 1991 the site was decommissioned.

After the decommissioning of the facility, the building was preserved and made an important cultural heritage, and soon became home for tourism, education, and other ventures. Fremantle Prison is currently being managed by the Department of Planning, Lands, and Heritage.