Former Wheatbelt resident marks 30 years in WA prisons

30 years: Former Wongan Hills resident Acting Deputy Commissioner Leonie Sinclair reflects on her career milestone. Photo: Supplied.

30 years: Former Wongan Hills resident Acting Deputy Commissioner Leonie Sinclair reflects on her career milestone. Photo: Supplied.

Former Wongan Hills resident Leonie Sinclair never imagined that selling tyres would lead to a 30-year career in WA's prisons, but it was while managing a tyre store in WA's south west that the seed was planted.

"One day a client of mine, who was a prison officer, said they were looking for female recruits in WA's prisons and I should give it a go," Acting Deputy Commissioner Leonie Sinclair recalled.

"At the time, the prisons were on a recruitment drive for women and I put up my hand - it was something about wanting to make a difference, I guess, but whatever it was, I haven't looked back."

The Acting Deputy Commissioner marks 30 years with WA's prisons on Thursday and says it's been a career peppered with challenges and rewards.

"Of course, when women first joined the prisons they copped a bit of backlash from some of the existing officers but, when you look at things now, we've got hundreds of women working across the prison estate. Some are running prisons and some are in other high-level management positions - it's all very normal now."

A/DC Sinclair said growing up in the Wheatbelt gave her a sense of community and taught her the value of working in a team - skills that readily translated to her work in prisons.

"I remember well growing up in the Wheatbelt and, like most teenagers, I had part-time jobs in the local bakery and fruit and veg shop.

"I had so many good friends, some of whom I remain friends with today," she said.

"Life was free and easy, there was a great sense of community spirit - we tended to have shared common goals which were in the best interests of the community and we had a really strong sense of protecting one another."

A/DC Sinclair's career began at Bandyup Women's Prison, where she spent 10 years.

After some other short term posts - including managing a prisoner work camp in her old stomping ground of Dowerin - she was appointed Superintendent at the all-male Wooroloo Prison Farm where she stayed for six years, until her promotion late last year.

As Acting Deputy Commissioner, Operations, she currently oversees areas including the management of prison security and response services.

"When I would tell people what I used to do, their immediate response was usually 'wow that must be a really tough job'. Although some days were harder than others, the truth is it was no harder than any job that involves managing people," A/DC Sinclair said.

"Working in prisons, you have the ability to help change people's lives - to see prisoners learn new skills and gain more education is really rewarding. At the end of the day, we want them to re-join the community rehabilitated and we don't want them back."

Corrective Services Commissioner Tony Hassall said A/DC Sinclair would receive a 30-year Service Medal.