Australian Institute of Criminology

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The year in review

Chairman's overview

Professor Richard Fox AM Chair Board of Management Australian Institute of CriminologyThis is the last overview I will be offering as the independent Chair of the Board of Management, a position I have held for the past 13 years. As the longest serving Chair, it is appropriate to take a broader view of events than simply accounting for those that occurred in the preceding fiscal year. Nonetheless, nothing has been more significant in the life of the Australian Institute of Criminology than the abolition, on 30 June 2011, of its Board of Management in a legislative restructuring of its governance. Happily, the vital input from state, territory and Commonwealth stakeholders will still be available to the Director under the revised structure through their representation on the new Criminology Research Advisory Council. This is explained more fully in the Director's report which follows.

When in 1965 Sir John Barry, regarded as the father of the Australian Institute of Criminology, put forward the proposition, 'that there should be established in Australia an Institute of Criminal and Penal Science, founded and maintained and administered by the Commonwealth of Australia' and, in 1969, the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth announced that the Commonwealth and the states had agreed to establish an autonomous national Institute of Criminology, it was implicit that the primary focus would be on problems in responding to state-based crimes rather than ones proscribed under federal law.

Then, as now, there were nine criminal justice systems functioning in this country. None has a monopoly position in serving the national interest, but the states and territories account for over 90 percent of the criminal justice business in Australia.

The early training and research priorities of the AIC were to bring together representatives of these diverse jurisdictions to acquaint them with the benefits of undertaking research into their common problems and in drawing on lessons derived from the natural experimentation that occurred within the Australian federation when various jurisdictions responded in different ways to recurring issues.

To reduce duplication of research effort that might otherwise be undertaken by these stakeholders, the AIC established ongoing national monitoring and research programs to determine trends in crime areas such as armed robbery, deaths in custody, drug use, firearms theft, homicide and juveniles in detention. These programs identified emerging forms of crime and changes in criminal activities that have been helpful in predicting demand for law and justice services in Australia at a federal, state and territory level. The AIC has also assisted the states and territories through reports on domestic and family violence, offending and victimisation patterns in Indigenous and general populations and through the compilation of an evidence base to inform policy for more effective criminal justice responses and crime prevention strategies.

The establishment of the AIC under the Criminology Research Act 1971 predated the Australia Federal Police Act 1979 by eight years and that of the office of the Director of Public Prosecution Act 1983 by 12 years. These later Acts were some of the first markers of federal recognition of the need for national law enforcement responses and the consequential expansion of Commonwealth involvement in criminal justice.

A main driver was the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union which was established by the Australian Government in 1980 to investigate tax evasion and organised crime which flaunted the jurisdictional barriers of the Australian federal system. The findings of that commission led to the creation of the National Crime Authority in 1984 as a federal crime investigation agency. This was later superseded in 2002 by the establishment of the Australian Crime Commission as a national criminal intelligence and investigation agency to combat serious and organised crime such as corruption, the illicit drug trade, money laundering and terrorism.

In its work on emerging forms of organised and sophisticated cross-border crime in a rapidly changing digital and globalised age, the AIC was already leading with research and publications on cyber-crime and other forms of high-tech crime facilitated by the internet, such as identity fraud, paedophilic online child grooming and sex tourism, people smuggling and trafficking in persons. Given the resources to do so, it will continue to keep an eye on what is coming over the horizon in crime.

Therefore it should be no surprise to find the activities of the AIC shifting more in the direction of Commonwealth concerns with national and international conceptions of what constitutes serious crime. It is in the national interest for it to assist in achieving a better understanding of the scope of transnational crime and its impact on Australia, as criminals here and around the world exploit the ease with which they can transact dishonest business in the world's markets.

Only a decade or so ago it was not an offence in this country to launder money within or outside Australia, or to commit sexual offences abroad, or to engage in bribery and corruption of foreign officials overseas. The need for research to underpin policy aimed at facilitating the cross-jurisdictional pursuit and prosecution of such offenders will remain forever urgent.

Transnational crimes of special interest for the AIC can be expected to include ones that involve:

  • threats to the technological infrastructure of society, particularly by undermining data security and integrity in computer networks and communications systems
  • threats to the stability of financial markets and capital flows through large-scale fraud, money laundering and tax evasion
  • threats to government and political development through corruption of public officials
  • threats to particular populations or minority groups
  • threats to immigration policy
  • threats to the environment.

If the state and territory members of the Criminology Research Advisory Council continue to be generous in their support of the Director and in their understanding of how the AIC has to adapt its research priorities to address the national and international concerns of the Commonwealth in relation to global forms of crime unheard of in Sir John Barry's time, while still preserving the cooperative federalism approach on which the AIC has been based for the past 38 years, it and the nation will continue to be well served in the future.

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

Director's overview

Dr Adam M Tomison Director Australian Institute of CriminologyIt is my pleasure to present the Australian Institute of Criminology's 2010–11 annual report.

Once again, the AIC has successfully fulfilled its role as the national crime and criminal justice knowledge centre, informing the work of governments, law enforcement and the wider community. A diverse range of policy-relevant research has been conducted to improve the understanding of crime, what works in preventing and reducing crime and to shed light on the effectiveness of specific criminal justice system policies and programs.

Despite experiencing the first of two significant reductions to the AIC's budget appropriation, 2010–11 has been another year when a substantial number of research projects have been undertaken and successfully completed, and when there has been a major increase in the number of quality, peer-reviewed research outputs produced. The findings from research have been disseminated widely through a large number of presentations at the AIC and other conferences and forums, and via the AIC website and other online media.

In 2010–11, the research undertaken by the AIC included:

  • estimation of the rate of international student victimisation in Australia, to be published in August 2011
  • completion of performance measurement and program evaluation studies addressing a range of law enforcement and criminal justice programs and functions in areas such as illicit drugs, community safety in Indigenous Australian communities and specialist court systems
  • an ongoing focus on crime prevention research—including the drafting of a National Crime Prevention Framework for government consideration and the development of crime prevention and program evaluation training to be delivered to a range of law enforcement, criminal justice and other stakeholders from 2011 onwards
  • the release of important research on labour trafficking and the publication of various papers that have explored the nature of human trafficking in the Asia-Pacific region
  • successful completion of the final year of a four-year program of research investigating money laundering and terrorism financing, with a number of publications released over the year and further publications to be released in late 2011
  • the release of findings from a national online consumer fraud survey and research investigating computer security incidents experienced by Australian businesses
  • the release of the latest reports for most of the ongoing crime monitoring programs for which the AIC continues to collect data and report on, in the year of the 20th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody
  • the Fraud against the Commonwealth monitoring report, released publicly for the first time in 2011 by the Minister for Home Affairs and Justice. At the same time the government also released the revised Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines and a Better Practice Guide to help all agencies respond to risks of fraud.

Changing nature of the AIC work program

The reduction in core budget appropriation has led to some reduction in the AIC's staffing and the cessation of some capacities. Specifically, the AIC's investment in the development of specialist analytical capabilities (high-order statistical modelling and forecasting) and the creation of expertise in geospatial analysis has been curtailed. There has also been some reduction in staffing (and capacity) in the communication and information services areas, although these teams continue to provide excellent services by embracing innovative service delivery that has seen an increased output of publications, events, the dissemination of library and media activity.

Monitoring programs review

Since 2010 the AIC has been assessing its crime monitoring programs to improve their value and relevance to the sector, and in part, to assess ways to achieve better products in a more cost-effective way. This has resulted in a move to biennial reporting for some monitoring programs. As funding ceased in 2010–11 for the National Firearms Theft monitoring program, the last report of this series will be released in late 2011. In addition, the AIC's monitoring of juveniles in detention, and a complementary report on juveniles' contact with the criminal justice system, will no longer be undertaken as the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Australian Bureau of Statistics are now better placed to produce these analyses. However, the AIC will remain active in undertaking primary and secondary research on juvenile crime and criminal justice issues. Among other projects, work is planned to begin in late 2011 to investigate the increased remanding of juveniles in detention across the nation.

Interagency partnerships

The AIC has a strong history of positive engagements and partnerships with Commonwealth, state and territory law enforcement and justice bodies and a range of university and other research agencies. In 2010–11 AIC research staff were active contributors to government agendas on Indigenous justice, human trafficking, fraud, high-tech crime and organised crime. The AIC was also involved in assisting in the development of a National Youth Policing Model, endorsed by the Ministerial Council on Policing and Emergency Management—Police (MCPEMP) in July 2010.

In late 2010–11 the AIC entered into negotiations with the Australian Crime Commission to second two AIC research staff on a part-time basis for 12 months to the Commission. This secondment will provide valuable research support for the Commission's work program, but is part of a broader memorandum of understanding signed by the agencies that is seen as the next step in facilitating research and analytical work done in partnership. I look forward to what promises to be an exciting and productive relationship for both agencies. Building on our existing relationship with the Attorney-General's Department, in 2011–12 I expect that the AIC will also be positioned to work more closely with the Australian Government law enforcement portfolio as a whole, something which should enhance the AIC's ability to engage in research with these agencies.

The AIC also continues to engage with the academic sector, regularly liaising and partnering with research agencies in Australia and overseas. For example, the AIC has been an active industry partner for the Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security and has also joined a university consortium seeking to establish a proposed Cooperative Research Centre on Social Inclusion, with the outcome of the bid being determined in late 2011.

However, the AIC's expertise is not limited to research functions alone. Corporate Services has continued to successfully provide secretariat services to the Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Awards, and in July 2010 began providing such services for the National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund. The fund promotes quality evidence-based practice in drug law enforcement to prevent and reduce the harmful effects of licit and illicit drug use in Australian society. The AIC also continues to host the Indigenous Justice Clearinghouse and the Crime Stoppers Australia websites, and in late 2011 will begin providing secretariat services for the Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology.

Performing these functions offsets some of the costs of the AIC's corporate services while increasing engagement with key groups in the sector and offering in return a quality service and access to the AIC's range of expertise.

Finally, the Communications team has successfully developed a number of conferences and forums, several of which have been undertaken in partnership with government, law enforcement and non-government agencies.

All of these activities have provided positive engagements with the broader sector, allowing the AIC to effectively use its expertise and to disseminate its work as widely as possible.

Communications

A large number of publications were released over the year and were received positively by the sector and government, generating wide media interest. The flagship Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice and Research in Public Policy series are both peer-reviewed, while other publications are not. This year the number of peer-reviewed papers produced by the AIC again increased, building on the increased number of peer-reviewed publications produced in 2009–10. Overall, the AIC produced 34 percent more publications than expected, many of which attracted national and international interest in academia and with other stakeholders, generating strong media coverage.

The AIC held 20 events in 2010–11, including the first International Serious and Organised Crime Conference (ISOC) in Melbourne in October 2010, where the AIC partnered with the Victoria Police, the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Federal Police and CrimTrac—further strengthening relationships with these agencies. With over 280 registered participants, feedback on ISOC was overwhelmingly positive and the AIC is currently planning to run the conference again in mid-2012.

The AIC also partnered with the Victorian Safe Communities Network Inc. (VSCN) and NSW Victims Support Services (within the NSW Attorney General's Department) to hold successful conferences in Melbourne and Sydney. Both conferences were tailored to engage practitioners and academics—in the case of the VSCN on youth, drugs and alcohol and their contact with the criminal justice system, and in the case of the Sydney conference, victims support services. The Minister for Home Affairs and Justice was a keynote speaker at each event.

In 2010 the AIC embraced Web 2.0 online information dissemination and began using Facebook, Twitter and developed its own YouTube site, CriminologyTV. These have been well-patronised and continue to attract an increasing audience. Monitoring of usage and comments made on the AIC's Facebook and Twitter pages identified a clear desire from many users to get to know the AIC better. As a result, in July 2010 the AIC hosted more than 80 criminology students from across Australia for a one-day AIC Student Criminology Forum, which proved to be a valuable way of connecting the AIC with the next generation of researchers, policymakers and law enforcement personnel. The event was a great success. A second forum is planned for early July 2011 and is likely to continue regularly in future years. The AIC also plans to hold similar forums for government stakeholders in early 2012 to improve the understanding of the work of the AIC, expose policymakers from across government to key findings and outcomes of the AIC's research and to enhance existing relationships.

Directions in 2011–12

In 2011–12, the AIC will continue to deliver on its core mandate of delivering and disseminating timely, policy and practice-relevant research. With a further decrease in core appropriation occurring from 1 July, it will be important to ensure that the AIC continues to be awarded (and delivers successfully) contracted research projects undertaken on behalf of the Australian Government, law enforcement, justice and other government agencies and the wider sector.

The AIC will continue to explore ways of reducing the costs associated with running its monitoring programs, while enhancing the usefulness of research products and making better use of these datasets. As has been the case during 2010–11, next year key stakeholders who contribute to or use particular monitoring program outputs will be invited to give their views and to consider options for the future directions for these programs. This will help ensure the AIC's programs are well-structured and efficient and enable the agency to maintain its core set of research interests while meeting the needs of stakeholders.

As noted above, the AIC has an ongoing agenda of enhancing its relationship with Australian Government and state and territory agencies and exploring closer ties with the academic sector. This will continue in 2011–12, as will an increased focus on conducting research into elements of organised crime, the further development of research partnerships with Australian Government law enforcement agencies and ongoing work to create a crime prevention technical assistance program.

Governance changes

During 2010–11 the Australian Government tabled legislative amendments to the Criminology Research Act 1971 to change the AIC, like a number of other agencies, from a Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 agency to a Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 agency. This change, which came into effect from 1 July 2011, affects how the AIC reports to government, but will not affect any of the AIC's current functions, nor will it affect the AIC's place as a statutory independent research agency. In essence, the changes will mean 'business as usual' but with the additional responsibility for the Criminology Research Council's successful national research grants program which will come to the AIC, as part of merging AIC and CRC functions.

With these changes the Director of the AIC takes on full financial management responsibility for the agency as the Chief Executive and the existing AIC Board of Management will cease to operate.

I would like to thank the Chair of the Board, Professor Richard Fox AM, and all board members for their leadership, advice and support over the years, and particularly since I joined the AIC as Director in 2009. I look forward to working with the members of the new Criminology Research Advisory Council, which will provide advice on strategic research priorities, communication and dissemination strategies and will recommend grants to be made under the Criminology Research Grants program.

Dr Adam M Tomison
Director
Australian Institute of Criminology