Australian Institute of Criminology

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The year in review

Director’s overview

Dr Adam M Tomison Director Australian Institute of Criminology

It is my pleasure to present the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) Annual Report 2012–13, which celebrates our 40th year of operation as Australia’s knowledge centre on crime and justice.

The year 2012–13 was not an easy one in which to operate. Like many government agencies, the AIC again experienced efficiency dividends, which further reduced its budget appropriation. In addition to these reductions, revenues derived from contracted research were significantly below expectation due to the reduced availability of funding for research within agencies at both the state and federal levels.

In order to best manage the decreased revenue while maintaining services, the AIC sought and received approval from the Finance Minister to extend the amount of the AIC’s operating loss in excess of usual depreciation. The additional loss position was approved for 2012–13 and four outer years in order to expend cash reserves tied to the Criminology Research Grants (CRG) Program. For 2012–13, the AIC also requested that the loss amount include provision for voluntary redundancy payments. The operating loss was entirely covered through use of the AIC’s cash reserves.

Other measures taken included the cessation of a small number of staff contracts and one voluntary redundancy which, combined with natural attrition, saw AIC staff numbers drop from 51 to a low of 42. Further, a number of changes were made to the delivery of outcomes in 2012–13 including a restructure of the Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) program, which included reductions in the amount of data collected and a deferral of all data collection for six months, and a restructuring of the Research program from four to three teams.

The significant increase in administrative and legislative compliance and accountability tasks the AIC has experienced since becoming a Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act) agency from 1 July 2011 also continued to impact the agency. In order to meet its ongoing compliance obligations, the AIC recruited one additional administrative officer which, was offset through additional savings, achieved through a restructure and continued assessment of Corporate Services functions.

Yet despite these issues, I am pleased to report that the AIC continued to successfully fulfil its mission, conducting and disseminating research to inform the work of governments, law enforcement and understanding of crime in the wider community. A diverse range of projects have assisted in better delineating specific crime types, what works in preventing and reducing crime, and shedding light on the effectiveness of specific criminal justice system policies and programs. The AIC was again able to exceed its publication and other dissemination targets for the year. These achievements are in no small part due to the dedication and professionalism of the AIC’s staff across the Research, Communications and Information Services (CIS) and the Corporate Services areas.

In 2012–13, research activities undertaken by the AIC included:

  • publication of the 20th anniversary report of the National Deaths in Custody Program (NDICP);
  • a number of evaluations on alternate dispute resolution approaches for the NSW Government;
  • extension of the Crime Prevention—Advice, Specialist Support, Information and Skills Training (CP ASSIST) program to support education, training and research on local crime prevention initiatives;
  • a series of financial and cybercrime projects covering areas including the costs of crime, identity crime, cloud computing risks and corruption; and
  • the first research by the AIC exploring issues in youth gang behaviour and methods to counter violent extremism.

The Research Overview provides a comprehensive account of the range and depth of the AIC’s research program.

With increased contract revenue flowing into the AIC towards the end of the 2012–13 year, a series of recruitments will be undertaken early in 2013–14 to replace some of the staff losses, particularly in the Research program.

Key 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 2012–13, AIC research staff continued as active contributors to government agendas and Inquiries. The AIC also drafted a National Youth Justice Framework for the Australasian Juvenile Justice Administrators (AJJA) group, which it is hoped will be endorsed in 2013–14.

Secondments of research staff

In 2010–11, the AIC agreed to second two AIC research staff on a part-time basis for 12 months to the Australian Crime Commission (ACC). This provided valuable research support for the ACC’s work program, enabling the combining of academic research and intelligence skills to create better analyses of crime problems. One public outcome of this partnership was the release in July 2012 of a joint publication on serious and organised investment fraud.

The AIC also seconded a researcher to the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) in May 2013 to assist them with the development of the new National Crime Prevention Fund, to assist in reviewing grants applications for local crime prevention programs under the fund and to prepare the foundations for an effective evaluation of the fund. The AIC has previously reviewed two earlier crime prevention grants programs for AGD and it was pleasing to be able to engage with the Department and assist in developing the fund early in the process. That this was able to happen quickly and effectively speaks to the strength of the AIC’s relationship with AGD

Heads of Commonwealth Operational Law Enforcement Agencies

Since 2011–12, the AIC has had the role of coordinating the development of research priorities across the Australian Government law enforcement portfolio for the Heads of Commonwealth Operational Law Enforcement Agencies (HOCOLEA). As part of this role, the AIC collects and summarises outcomes of the research on key priority areas undertaken by Commonwealth law enforcement agencies. It is hoped that this new role for HOCOLEA will also enhance the AIC’s already good relationship with the sector and its ability to engage in research with these agencies. A draft research plan was endorsed by HOCOLEA in 2012–13 and early in 2013–14, a secure webportal will be launched to enable agencies to better share research outcomes. The AIC is also considering ways to invest in a dedicated research program with HOCOLEA agencies in order to build on this important partnership and further develop quality research in the sector.

Further improving our relationships with the Commonwealth sector, the AIC is currently negotiating with CrimTrac to agree a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will facilitate AIC’s working with CrimTrac on a range of performance measurement studies over the coming years. This will be an exciting development and should provide a fertile ground for testing new ways of determining the efficacy of key law enforcement programs.

Thailand Institute of Justice

In August 2012, the AIC was honoured by a visit from Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol of the Kingdom of Thailand, who is also Ambassador and Chairperson of the 21st session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, together with the Thai Attorney General Mr Chulasingh Vasantasingh and other dignitaries as the first steps in establishing a partnership between the AIC and the newly founded Thailand Institute of Justice. (see Highlight box 1)

Since Her Royal Highness’ visit, the agencies have maintained contact and in 2013–14, it is expected an MoU will be signed to cement the partnership. Subsequently, senior executives from the Thai Department of Corrections attended the AIC’s Australasian Youth Justice Conference in part to begin negotiating a research partnership to assist with the development of the Thai youth justice system over the next three years.

The Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University

In May, Dr Rick Brown, Deputy Director (Research) and I travelled to Darwin where the AIC signed an MoU with The Northern Institute (TNI), Charles Darwin University. This MoU will enable the AIC to access NT Government-funded research more easily and build better links for the AIC in northern Australia. It is expected that the AIC will provide training for TNI staff and collaborate with the TNI on research projects providing AIC criminological research and methodological expertise that can be combined with the TNI’s expertise in researching with Indigenous communities. The agencies are already working on a first contract for NT Police undertaking a ‘safe streets’ audit.

Ongoing partnerships

Corporate Services has continued to successfully provide secretariat services to the Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Awards (ACVPA) and the National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund (NDLERF). NDLERF 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, it began 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.

Communications and information dissemination

Maintaining a strong output focus in a difficult operating environment is not easy but the AIC again produced and released a large number of quality publications through the year. First, the AIC has again met (and slightly exceeded) the target for our two peer-reviewed flagship publication series—Research and Public Policy series reports and Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice papers. Second, as was the case in 2011–12 (and reflecting the AIC’s increased focus on contracted research for the sector), the number of contracted research reports increased substantially—part of a large number of non peer-reviewed publications produced during the year. The challenge is to turn this contracted research into additional peer-reviewed publications, a task the AIC is pursuing with vigour. Over the year, many AIC publications continued to attract national and international interest from governments, researchers and other stakeholders, generating strong media coverage.

The AIC held 24 events in 2012–13, including the Australasian Youth Justice Conference in May in Canberra, in partnership with AJJA, which merits a particular mention. I believe all AIC conferences are high-quality events that provide value for participants, but this Conference set a new standard, producing an excellent program of relevance to academics, policy and operational staff that was universally well-received, with many requests that the AIC run the event again.

Finally, the AIC continued to extend its ‘reach’—the effective dissemination and use of AIC research across the nation and across the world. The electronic media have enabled an ever-increasing audience to download our publications, view our seminars and conference keynote addresses online, and to engage with the AIC via social media or access to our website. More importantly, as is demonstrated in the Reach and Influence section (also Appendix 4), our materials are used to inform research, policy and practice, thus fulfilling the AIC’s purpose, to be of use in understanding crime and developing more effective means of combating and preventing crime.

Highlight 1 Thai royal visits the AIC

In August 2012, the Institute was honoured by a visit from Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol of the Kingdom of Thailand, who is also Ambassador and Chairperson of the 21st session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, together with the Thai Attorney General Mr Chulasingh Vasantasingh and other dignitaries.

Her Royal Highness, herself a lawyer and criminologist, has been instrumental in the Enhancing Lives of Female Inmates Project, which was aimed at supplementing the 1955 United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. The Project subsequently led to the Thailand-proposed United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders or the Bangkok Rules, which were adopted by the UN General Assembly at its 65th session in 2010. During the visit, Her Royal Highness presented a collection of books on female prisoners in Thailand and a copy of her doctoral dissertation to the AIC’s Director, Dr Adam Tomison.

This was an important meeting undertaken to strengthen ties between the AIC, the Thai Government and the Thai criminal justice sector, with a specific focus on exploring how the AIC might assist the Thai Ministry of Justice in the establishment and development of the newly created Thailand Institute of Justice.

Dr Tomison briefed Her Royal Highness and the delegation on the governance, structure and extensive body of high-quality research conducted by the AIC over the past four decades. He noted that over its 40 years, the AIC has undertaken and/or assisted in the development of evidence-based criminological research in the Asia–Pacific region in a range of areas, including environmental crime, trafficking and illicit drugs research. He also welcomed the establishment of a new research institute for the Asia–Pacific region and committed the AIC to looking for opportunities to work cooperatively with the Thailand Institute of Justice.

In order to progress this agenda, Dr Tomison again met with Her Royal Highness and Ministry of Justice officers in Vienna as part of an overseas trip undertaken in September, before holding further meetings with the Ministry of Justice senior executives in Bangkok to continue discussions regarding potential partnerships between the AIC and the new Thailand Institute of Justice.

Adam and Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol

Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol of the Kingdom of Thailand and Dr Tomison, August 2012

Directions in 2013–14

In 2013–14, the AIC will continue to assess the crime and criminal justice environment to ensure research is oriented to meet the needs of key stakeholders. The challenge continues to be to undertake strategically significant longer term research while balancing the need to undertake fee-for-service research that offsets costs and is of value in the short and medium term for government stakeholders and the wider research field. There will be three specific areas of focus.

1. Maintaining a research program of significance to the nation

The AIC must maintain a research program of relevance to the Commonwealth and states and territories. The nature and extent of the research to be covered has increased markedly, as the Commonwealth has significantly increased its role in the past 15 years through a strong focus on transnational organised crime and the development of new federal legislation and regulation of the nation. While maintaining a program of research of significance for state/territory governments and justice systems, the AIC must also be responsive to the Commonwealth sphere and has developed various research programs in support of that sector, such as the Fraud against the Commonwealth monitoring program, facilitating the HOCOLEA research group, a human trafficking and slavery research program, regular work undertaken on a range of financial crime (eg identity crime, fraud, money laundering), crime prevention and cybercrime topics, and working towards the development of a memorandum of understanding to undertake research with CrimTrac.

2. Further development of the AIC’s strategic research program

The AIC regularly reviews its research priorities and research plan. As part of this exercise, it works with the Minister, takes advice from the Criminology Research Advisory Council and key stakeholders to ensure the agency is able to maintain its role as the national knowledge centre on crime and criminal justice, and that the AIC’s research programs produce findings of significance to governments, law enforcement and the research community.

A key element of this in recent years has been to review the AIC’s ongoing crime monitoring program to ensure that it remains relevant, to explore alternative investments that couldbe made to investigate violent crime and to find new ways to enhance our working with Commonwealth law enforcement. Three areas will be considered in the next financial year:

  • fostering closer relationships with Commonwealth law enforcement agencies by seeking to develop a research program in conjunction with HOCOLEA;
  • exploring options to facilitate greater research collaboration with state and territory police agencies via a new national policing research agenda being developed for Police Commissioners by the Australian and New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency (ANZPAA); and
  • the development of an Australian Crime Panel Survey that will enable the AIC to regularly survey a cohort of Australians online regarding a range of crime and justice issues related to fear of crime, experiences of victimisation and participation in criminal behaviour, engagement with the criminal justice system and knowledge and awareness of national crime-related initiatives.

3. Collaboration—the importance of access to data

In order to fulfil its research function effectively, the AIC must be able to access law enforcement and other justice data to undertake research of benefit for government and its agencies. The AIC negotiates this access on a case-by-case basis as there is no legislation that provides a right of access, unlike that provided to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The AIC wishes to increase access, particularly in the Commonwealth sector, which has seen the AIC explore ways to increase the level of collaboration and partnership with the sector, and which will remain a priority. This has included:

  • ensuring the AIC Executive and all senior AIC research staff have Secret or Protected-level security clearances;
  • AIC managing the HOCOLEA research group;
  • co-partnering on conferences and other events (eg the 2nd International Serious and Organised Crime Conference with ACC and AGD scheduled for July 2013); and
  • undertaking contracted and joint research projects to ensure quality research outcomes for the sector.

Enhancing linkages and building interagency trust is vital in assisting in the further development of relationships and to enhance the AIC’s access to information (with the appropriate information sharing safeguards).

Dr Adam M Tomison
Director (Chief Executive)
Australian Institute of Criminology