New Division was built between 1904 and 1907. It was both a response to overcrowding following the gold rush of the 1890s and an attempt by prison administrators to implement the latest prisoner management strategies of the time.
A new type of practise was implemented in the New Division: the ‘separate system’. Although considered to be outdated in the 1900s, reformists wanted Fremantle Prison to adopt the practices of the 'separate system'. It was already in place in some of the main prisons in the eastern states of Australia. Central to this regime was the concept that prisoners were to be kept in isolation at all times, even during exercise, for the first three months of their sentence. After this they could join the rest of the prison population.
To assist in the isolation aspect of the system a panopticon was built in the New Division exercise yard. It was a circular structure of cast iron and wood. Walls making individual exercise yards came out from a central hub, which provided a single point of surveillance. Inmates were marched from their cells in single file and placed into these separate areas, where they were allowed one hour exercise per day. Although there had been much campaigning for the dated system, many considering it a progressive step in prisoner management, it was not a success and the circular exercise yard was demolished within five years of its erection.
Electricity was installed during the construction of New Division, this was the initial introduction of electricity to the Prison. Following much debate, it was agreed to lay the wires underground.
During the 20th century, New Division was used for a number of different programs. It was commandeered by the Australian Army during World War Two, housed men condemned to death and used to intern inmates that were deemed necessary to be kept separate from the rest of the Prison population.
In 1994 the Coastal Business Centre was established, an enterprise that provides affordable accommodation for numerous small businesses as well as a reception area, administrative offices and meeting rooms.
Conservation and redevelopment work on New Division was funded through a joint initiative of federal, state and local governments. Architectural services and building works were managed by the City of Fremantle through James Vincent Architects. Labour for the project was provided by three employment programs for the long term unemployed. The project was managed by the Department of Contract and Management Services.
(Currently houses: Coastal Business Centre)