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The Female Division was a significant historical development in the post-convict era prison which repurposed the 1850s convict era services buildings of cookhouse, bakehouse, and washhouse. In 1886, these buildings were enclosed by a wall, marking their transformation into Western Australia’s first separate women’s prison. The rising female prison population led to an extension in the 1890s with a new building wing, and an additional upper storey was added in 1909. This division is unique in the prison context as it is a ‘prison within a prison’, maintaining its separate and confined character.
In 1970, when the inmates were moved to the new women’s prison at Bandyup, the vacated buildings were repurposed as offices and classrooms for the Education and Psychological Assessment Centre by the male prison. Following the prison’s closure in 1993, the buildings were adapted for use by the Department of Training’s South Metropolitan College of TAFE’s Art and Design. Since 2015, the building complex has been leased to the Youth Hostel Association (YHA) for short-term budget accommodation, with a segregated portion of the cells used for Prison tours.
The Female Division building complex consists of several masonry structures built over time that have been adapted and extended to meet the changing functional needs of the Prison and subsequent uses. The complex is also distinctly characterized by its external spaces and boundaries.