• The Roebourne Regional Prison has limited air-conditioning. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Inmates at Roebourne Regional Prison had to withstand temperatures above 50 degrees in cells after authorities ignored recommendations to install air-conditioning.
Douglas Smith

14 Jan 2022 - 2:22 PM  UPDATED 14 Jan 2022 - 2:26 PM

Inmates at Roebourne Regional Prison in Western Australia have sweltered through the hottest day in Australia in 100 years with the facility only having a limited amount of air-conditioning. 

Yesterday in Onslow in WA's Pilbara region, temperatures soared to 50.7C, matching the town of Oodnadatta in outback South Australia, which hit 50.7C on January 2, 1960, while Roebourne soared to 50.5C.

The prison in Roebourne, which has around 80 per cent Indigenous inmates, has no air conditioning in cells, meaning guards have to monitor inmates throughout the day. 

In 2020, a report by the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services recommended the prison install air-conditioners in all residential units at the prison. 

The recommendation was ignored by the Department of Justice who said the installation of air conditioning was not a priority.

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Ngarluma man from Roeburne, Tyson Mowarin told NITV News on Friday that the condition of the prison needed to be upgraded to suit the climate of the region.

"To me, it seems like the design of the prison is just a carbon copy of a prison that's built down south in the cooler climate, so they obviously didn't think about the different climate up here," said Mr Mowarin. 

"There's a to of [my] friends and family in there, a large Indigenous population of inmates but others obviously a lot of other people in there as well.

"It would be pretty hard on all of them sitting in there with no air-conditioning.

"The inmates in the prison, they would've no doubt felt the heat.

"They must have built it [the prison] in the wintertime."

WA's Aboriginal Legal Services Acting Director, Alice Barter said Roebourne's medium-security prison would have air-conditioners if the majority of people in the facility were not Aboriginal.

“The department has said prisoners in the region are acclimatised to the conditions,” she told WA Today.

“We are saying they are accepting a lower standard for Aboriginal prisoners and that is not acceptable ... and therefore racially discriminatory."

In a statement, the Human Rights Watch said it was "deeply shameful" that the cell in the prison didn't have air conditioning.

"Western Australia is a wealthy state that had a record budget surplus this year," it said in a statement.

"How in good conscience can the department continue to refuse to install this? The McGowan government should fix this immediately, these prisoners at Roebourne cannot continue to be treated in this manner."

With temperatures set to continue to soar in the town, a department spokesperson said it would employ a number of effective controls to manage heat risk.

"At Roebourne, this includes fans in every cell, air-conditioning in the recreation hall, shade structures in the main areas of the prison and a flexible routine to adjust to the Pilbara's heat conditions," the spokesperson said.

"There are a limited number of air-conditioned cells available for prisoners with medical conditions and air-conditioned transition cells for Section 95 prisoners who undertake full-day outdoor physical activities."

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