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Ceremony marks opening of Derby ‘utopian’ prison
Therese Phillips Ceremony marks opening of Derby ‘utopian’ prison

No one was happier or more relieved to see West Kimberley Regional Prison near Derby opened last week than Shire of Derby West Kimberley president Elsia Archer.

“I would like to firstly thank Chris Kloss for his great idea,” Mrs Archer told the crowd at the opening, recalling how Mr Kloss had urged her and the council to lobby for the prison project.

“This building of this prison is a great success for Derby and will underpin population growth and inject millions of dollars into the local economy.”

Nyikina elder Lucy Marshall performed a welcome to country and waved her handkerchief triumphantly as she unveiled the official plaque, with WA Corrective Services Minister Murray Cowper and Commissioner Ian Johnson.

Men from Fitzroy Valley performed a smoking ceremony, circling the crowd before travelling around the entire “campus” with their fire, and Mowanjum dancers and performed two dances accompanied by singer Mathew Martin.

Corrective Services Commissioner Ian Johnson said he was confident business plans for the $150 million prison would ensure there were “no surprises” and it would have adequate funding to deliver on all programs as promised.

With construction complete despite sweltering heat and delays caused by rain and lightning strikes, Mr Johnson said community expectations were the greatest challenge ahead.

The architects were relieved that they had delivered on their brief to build a “utopian Aboriginal community”.

As a world-first incarceration facility for indigenous people, this involved satisfying cultural needs, incorporating concepts of self-care housing, maintenance of family relationships and allowing inmates to leave with more than what they went in with.