Australian Institute of Criminology

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The year in review

Professor Richard Fox AMChairman's overview

If we counted every person or organisation that has benefited from the Australian Institute of Criminology's (AIC) achievement of its objective of being 'Australia's national research and knowledge centre on crime and justice' by making use of its sources of criminological information through its website or in its many publications, or attending its numerous forums or conferences since its inception 36 years ago, the number would run to tens of thousands. These stakeholders include the staff and students of all Australian universities that offer courses in fields related to criminology that rely on and reference the institute's publications. This group could be subsumed under the single stakeholder head—universities.

However, it is more useful to group the AIC's stakeholders, those with a concern or interest in ensuring the success of the organisation, into three categories. First, there are primary stakeholders based on the AIC's legislative mandate. These are predominantly the federal, state and territory agencies in the nine separate criminal justice systems (each with police, courts and corrections) as well as their local government agencies and non-government organisations which have had ongoing relationships with the AIC in addressing crime problems.

This accords with the AIC's obligation embedded in the Criminology Research Act 1971 s. 6:

to provide information and advice to Departments, agencies and authorities of the Commonwealth, of the States, of the Australian Capital Territory and of the Northern Territory dealing with the administration of criminal justice.

The Act then points to a category of secondary stakeholders by calling for the AIC:

to collaborate, in and outside Australia, with governments, institutions and authorities, and with bodies and persons, in relation to research, or the training of persons, in or in connection with the administration of criminal justice.

These are the private sector bodies and peak organisations that rely on the AIC for guidance on the state of knowledge and good practice in issues of particular interest to them, for example, alcohol and drug abuse in crime, crime prevention, custodial and community-based correctional services, domestic violence, Indigenous affairs, offender rehabilitation and bullying in schools and other contexts. A recent review of the AIC's records on organisations who subscribe to our mailing or email lists, or whose representatives have attended AIC conferences in the past three years, produced over 1,700 entries. To this must be added the many organisations, including universities, who use the AIC website for information and analysis, as well as the resources of the JV Barry Library to inform their understanding of crime and justice issues.

Third, there are over 60 research and administrative staff who must properly be regarded as AIC stakeholders. Like all organisations, the AIC is reliant on the quality of its workforce and the AIC staff have a vital and professional stake in the quality, credibility and relevance of its output, together with an interest in the AIC's future and independence. They deserve applause for their professionalism and commitment to building and strengthening the evidence base that underpins the AIC's provision of objective information and impartial policy advice to its primary and secondary stakeholders and in ensuring that research findings are disseminated in an effective way. A number of AIC staff are profiled elsewhere in this report.

I would also thank the Acting Director, Mr Tony Marks, and the AIC Executive team for their dedication during the year. The absence of a permanent Director can produce a number of challenges for any agency, yet the AIC has continued to provide quality, relevant research to inform policy and practice.

In the course of his tenure as Acting Director of the AIC for 15 months from 3 May 2008, Mr Marks particularly addressed himself to the task of strategic planning and generation of new funding opportunities. He delivered the output of the agency successfully against the Ministerial key performance indicators in line with the budget. He framed submissions to government reviews on a number of criminal justice matters and brought to the Board of Management a new internal audit committee charter which was then implemented.

During the past 12 months, the Board of Management has continued to represent a deep pool of experience and source of helpful advice to the Acting Director on the criminal justice sectors and the AIC's place in servicing their research and information needs. I am grateful to its members for ensuring that Mr Marks has been well briefed on all interests relevant to evaluating competing strategic objectives in the research program.

Professor Richard Fox AM
Chair Board of Management Australian Institute of Criminology

Dr Adam M TomisonDirector's overview

It is my pleasure to present the institute's 2008–09 annual report, my first since being appointed Director. The institute's goal is to act as a national knowledge centre informing government and the community through policy-relevant research and the generation of a crime and justice evidence base.

In the past year, the institute has continued to produce influential research and monitoring reports across a wide range of areas in order to inform governments, policy officers, law enforcement agencies and the wider criminal justice sector across Australia and overseas. In 2008–09, the research undertaken by the institute included:

  • an assessment of online child grooming (for the Attorney-General's Department)
  • running the Australian Business Assessment of Computer User Security survey which assessed Australian business perceptions of cybercrime threats
  • identification of issues and responses to prosecuting trafficking in persons
  • using the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes to assess public confidence in the criminal justice system
  • an evaluation of the Qld Murri (Indigenous) speciality court
  • involvement in national drug law enforcement performance measurement and police performance in domestic and family violence
  • assessment of crime in the Australian fishing industry
  • surveying community attitudes to violence against women (with VicHealth and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs).

Work that the AIC had completed on bushfire arson (with the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre) resulted in a number of publications and proved useful to law enforcement and fire agencies in the 2009 bushfire season and in the aftermath of the tragic Victorian bushfires. The institute's publication Using crime prevention to reduce deliberate bushfires in Australia was the key paper for the Attorney-General's national workshop on bushfire arson prevention that involved state/territory fire and police services and other national representative bodies.

Delivering a strong program of peer-reviewed publications is one of the primary means of ensuring that the AIC's research delivers to key audiences and in 2008–09, the institute has continued to produce a large number of quality products (see Appendix 1) that have drawn substantial attention in the sector and been widely reported by the media. The AIC library and communications programs are integral to ensuring that the AIC's research reaches key audiences and the wider community. In 2008–09, as a part of a continuous improvement strategy, a strategic review of library services was undertaken which recommended:

  • increasing the development of online catalogues of material based on e-documents
  • a focus on reducing hard copy publications
  • further work to enhance existing customer outreach functions.

The AIC's website was relaunched, giving the AIC an updated visual identity. Based on the latest architecture, the new site provides an upgraded search capacity enabling easier access to AIC holdings and the ability to incorporate online searchable datasets and web 2.0 functionality.

The AIC has now made data available online with an interactive tool that enables users to create and graph various data comparisons and analyses. A dataset on drug use and offending was the first to be uploaded and this was followed by a socioeconomic indicator dataset.

The AIC produced brief, a new online newsletter, to keep stakeholders informed of AIC research activity and current events.

Networking and outreach are also vital elements in engaging the wider criminal justice and crime prevention sector. AIC staff have continued to engage with a wide range of government, academic and law enforcement stakeholders to ensure the AIC's workplan is informed by the strategic environment and to explore opportunities to conduct research and/or to provide advice on criminal justice issues. The AIC has continued to run a strong program of conferences and forums over the past year including:

  • The Anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing conference, 1–2 April, Sydney, in partnership with the Attorney-General's Department and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre.
  • Making a difference: responding to need in developing, implementing and evaluating correctional programs, 5–6 March, Melbourne, in partnership with the Victorian Department of Justice.
  • National and regional research forums on trafficking in persons—national labour trafficking forum, Pacific region forum, 21–22 August, Samoa; Asian regional forum, 3–4 November, Hong Kong; and 18 May, Canberra.
  • Criminology: linking theory, policy and practice, the 21st annual conference of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology (ANZSOC), 26–28 November, Canberra (run on behalf of ANZSOC).
  • The International conference on homicide: domestic-related homicide, 3–5 December, Gold Coast.

Although it is typically unnoticed by most stakeholders, the AIC has continued to refine policy and procedures to ensure the agency remains current with the best corporate governance and risk management strategies. In 2008–09, a new Board audit committee was established with a charter based on the Australian National Audit Office's better practice guide and a new document management system (TRIM) was successfully implemented for more secure, efficient and effective management of documents, records and emails. Further, new contracting documents were developed to enable efficient contract management for the AIC and the Criminology Research Council and to improve the AIC's ability to engage the not-for-profit sector and small business.

It is worth noting that while some agencies have a legislative mandate to ensure access to crime and justice data, the AIC does not. It is because of the AIC's enduring reputation for delivering quality research that will benefit law enforcement and other agencies that the institute has generally been able to successfully negotiate access to data. On behalf of the AIC's staff, I would therefore like to thank those who have assisted with the institute's work by providing funding, access to data, participation in roundtables, peer review and interviews. These include the Attorney-General's Department and other Australian Government and state/territory agencies who have provided much of the data, our academic partners and members of the community who have agreed to be participants in the AIC's research projects.

Finally, I would like to thank staff for their continued efforts and the Board for its support and valuable advice, particularly in bringing a multitude of state, territory, federal and other views to the institute.

Directions in 2009–10

In 2009–10, the institute will continue to deliver on its core mandate of delivering and disseminating timely, policy- and practice-relevant research. In what is expected to be a difficult financial environment, it will be important to ensure the AIC's programs are well-structured and efficient in order to enable the agency to maintain its core set of research interests, while ensuring the needs of the Australian Government and other stakeholders are met.

Further, it is vital that the AIC continues to demonstrate value to the sector. In 2009–10, the AIC will look to enhance its relationship with Australian Government and state/territory agencies and to explore closer ties with the academic sector. The AIC will maintain a strategic primary research program that undertakes work on new and emerging areas of crime and justice. However, the AIC will also be reviewing its research priorities to ensure there is a balance so that there is capacity to undertake projects that reflect the immediate research needs of Australian Government and state/territory stakeholders. One outcome of this process is that it is expected there will be a greater focus on serious and organised crime.

I look forward to working with the Board of Management, staff, the Attorney-General's Department and our Minister to ensure the institute maintains its prominence as the national research and knowledge centre on crime and justice.

Dr Adam M Tomison
Director

Australian Institute of Criminology