WAPOU recognises prison officers on National Corrections Day

Friday 18 Jan 2019


The WA Prison Officers’ Union has commended the efforts, courage and professionalism of WA prison officers after what has been a difficult year in prisons across the State.

On National Corrections Day WAPOU recognises the tough job prison officers do to ensure our community remains safe.

WAPOU Secretary Andy Smith said today was an important day to reflect on the extraordinary strengths of our members.

“I would like to make special mention of those officers who were involved in last year’s riot at Greenough Regional Prison.

“If it wasn’t for their bravery and professionalism during last year’s riot, the situation could have been a lot worse.

“It was an extremely traumatic event and officers on duty held their ground while rioting prisoners threw molotov cocktails and bricks at their heads.

“The officers helped manage the volatile situation and held out for four hours until reinforcements arrived. They maintained the line and stopped prisoners taking more control in extremely difficult conditions.

“I would like to congratulate all of our members for their hard work and dedication to the job, prison officers work long hours under extremely difficult circumstances. All West Australians should be very proud of what the staff at Greenough achieved that day.

“For 12 hours a day they live alongside criminals who the rest of society do not want to associate with, it is a tough job but someone has to do it to keep the community safe.

“Our members are extremely hard workers who not only dedicate themselves to community safety but are also passionate about the rehabilitation of prisoners,” Mr Smith said.


Female Greenough Regional Prison Officer

“I had never seen anything like it, we were watching the prisoners on camera during the riot trying to break lights so that the prison officers couldn’t see what they were doing next, it was an extremely frightening situation for those four hours before reinforcements arrived.

“At one point of the riot I was stationed at the gate house and answered a call from female prisoners who were locked inside and could smell the toxic smoke coming from the fire in Unit 3.  It was the worst feeling in the world not being able to go in and help them. It is still hard to talk about without getting upset, but I felt helpless and all I could do was to try and comfort them over the cell call system, tell them they were safe and to take a deep breath and get down on the floor.

“I copped the aftermath of a pepper spray, which prisoners were trying to use as weapons against staff. It was an extremely harrowing and long night waiting for reinforcements to arrive.

“It was both mentally and physically challenging for prison officers on the night, I saw officers who had to stand out on the oval in freezing 5 degree temperatures with just a short sleeved shirt on while supervising prisoners who’d been evacuated.

“Officers feared for their lives, we are all so extremely lucky no one was seriously injured or killed, and I believe that is because we all banded together, looked out for each other and acted quickly by removing risks such as knives from the kitchens.

“Never once did the thought of leaving the prison on the night ever occur to me, it’s my job to keep the community safe and to look after the prisoners who weren’t involved in the riot. It’s also my job to back up my colleagues and keep them safe.

“I fear it could happen again, I am still not confident the prison will be safe once it is back up to full capacity and many officers share my opinion. I never want to go through anything like that again.

“It is nice to see prison officers recognised as part of a national day, we often get forgotten about in comparison to say police officers. Just days after the riot I was in the newsagency and a woman approached a police officer to thank him for keeping the community safe during the riot, the police officer turned around to her and said he was not the one she needed to thank. He then went on to say It was the prison officers who managed that prison for more than four hours, that was such a wonderful thing to hear.”

Male Greenough Regional Prison Officer

“The many emotions staff have experienced from that night have manifested in different ways including, anger, loss of trust in the system, stress, and PTSD.

“Some staff have managed to return to work fairly quickly where as some staff have not returned since the incident. We currently have no idea when they will return, if ever

“Some staff did return maybe too soon and have since gone off again, they are uncomfortable around crowds and often have to await for their medications to kick in to allow them to feel good enough to attend work.

“Prison officers always have to be on their toes, sometimes we get complacent after a long period of nothing happening and develop a false sense of security and then it all blows up.

“The general public do not know a lot about what our job involves, police officers are the white knights who swoop in when criminals strike and they do an amazing job. But prison officers are the ones who have to work 12 hour days with those criminals that the rest of society doesn’t want to live with. Somebody has to do it and it takes a special someone to do that job day in and day out.”