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Homicide major cause in infant deaths

Media Release

1 Apr 1996

More infants under the age of one year are murdered each year in Australia than die in either motor traffic accidents, accidental poisonings, falls or drownings.

This finding is included in a new research paper, Children as Victim of Homicide, released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology. The paper is the latest in a series which the AIC publishes, titled Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice.

The figures show that in between 1989 and 1993 an average of 27 children aged under 15 were murdered each year in Australia. Almost two thirds of these children were aged five or less. Around half of all children killed by assault were under one year of age, while for older age groups, firearms and knives were more common methods of killing.

The research finds that just over a quarter of the children were victims of ongoing physical abuse, and half of those were under six months of age. It also finds that fathers not biologically related to their children were grossly over-represented as perpretrators.

Over one third died as a result of family disputes, many of these incidents involving the death of all the members of the family.

The paper, written by Heather Strang, argues strongly for intervention programs designed to counter child abuse and for the early indentification of those children at risk.