Australian Institute of Criminology

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Chapter 7: Criminal justice resources

Justice expenditure

According to the Report on Government Services in 2013 (Reference 20), the total real recurrent expenditure (less revenue from own sources) on justice in 2011–12 was $14b. Of this, approximately $13.4b was spent on criminal justice. The remaining $653.9m was spent on the administration of civil courts. Since 2002–03, expenditure on criminal justice has increased by 49 percent overall and by an average of 10 percent each year.

Police services represent the largest component of the criminal justice system, accounting for approximately 71 percent of total expenditure. Corrective services account for a further 23 percent, while criminal courts administration accounts for the remaining six percent (see Figure 107).

Source: Reference 20

Figure 107 Composition of government expenditure on criminal justice, 2011–12 (%)

Note: Total=$13,364,596

Source: Reference 20


Policing activities are predominantly the responsibility of the state and territory government policing agencies, with the AFP providing a community policing service in the Australian Capital Territory on behalf of the ACT Government. Funding for these services comes almost exclusively from state and territory government budgets, with some specific-purpose grants provided by the Australian Government.

The figures below exclude resource data for the AFP for non-ACT policing functions.


The total recurrent expenditure on police services across Australia in 2011–12 was approximately $9.8b. This amounts to $432 per person in Australia, or $558 per adult. Salaries accounted for 73 percent (ie $7b) of this expenditure.

Real total recurrent expenditure (less revenue from own sources and payroll tax) in 2011–12 was $9.4b; $417 per person or $539 per adult.

Table 11 Expenditure on state and territory police services, 2011–12
Expenditure (including salaries) $‘000
Total recurrent expenditure 9,796.1
Total capital expenditure 550.6
Staff salaries
Average police staff salaries 125,278.61
Average police non-staff salaries 78,547.49

Source: Reference 20

Figure 108 Recurrent expenditure on police services per head of adult population in each state or territory, 2011–12 ($)

  • Across Australia, $558 per adult was spent on police services in 2011–12.
  • Victoria spent $472 per adult on police services in 2011–12; less than any other state or territory. Conversely, expenditure per head of population was highest in the Northern Territory ($1,734 per adult).

Source: References 2 and 20


Most people involved directly in the delivery of police services are sworn police officers (employees recognised under each jurisdiction’s policing legislation). Sworn officers exercise police powers such as arrest, summons, caution, detain, fingerprint and search.

In recent years, there has been a trend towards civilianisation of police services, with some peripheral activities undertaken by unsworn officers or contracted to external providers.

  • On 30 June 2012, the total police services’ staffing in Australia (excluding the AFP) was 65,017. This averages 287 per 100,000 persons (228 sworn police officers and 58 civilian employees).
  • The Australian police services/forces comprised 51,778 sworn police officers and 13,239 civilian employees in 2012.

Source: References 2 and 20

Table 12 Composition of state and territory police services by jurisdictiona, 2011–12 (n)
Jurisdiction Sworn police officers Civilian staff Total Police officers by 1,000km2
NSW 15,642 3,493 19,135 20
Vic 12,478 2,741 15,219 55
Qld 10,503 3,308 13,811 6
WA 4,506 1,032 5,538 2
SA 5,634 1,750 7,384 6
Tas 1,198 316 1,514 18
ACT 690 259 949 293
NT 1,127 340 1,467 1
Australia 51,778 13,239 65,017 7

a: Excludes AFP for non-ACT policing

  • In 2011–12, the NSW Police Force comprised 19,135 sworn police officers and civilian staff. This was the largest police service of any state or territory. However, it equated to only 20 police officers per 1,000km2.
  • By comparison, while the Australian Capital Territory had the smallest police service, it had approximately 293 police officers per 1,000km2.
  • Civilian staff account for 27 percent of ACT Policing—the highest proportion of any police service in Australia.

Source: Reference 20

Figure 109 Sworn police officers by jurisdiction, at 30 June 2011 and 30 June 2012 (per 100,000 persons in that jurisdiction)

  • Compared with 30 June 2011, the proportion of sworn police officers had increased most noticeably in Victoria, rising from 212 to 222 per 100,000 population in 2012.
  • The rate of sworn police officers decreased in Western Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australia Capital Territory. In 2011, the Australian Capital Territory had 210 sworn police officers per 100,000 people compared with 184 per 100,000 in 2012. This equates to a decrease of 12 percent.
  • In 2012, there were 229 sworn police officers per 100,000 people nationally in Australia.

Source: References 2 and 20

Figure 110 Sex composition of sworn and unsworn police staff by jurisdiction, 2011–12 (%)

  • The ratio of male to female police staff in Australia in 2011–12 was approximately 2:1.
  • The Northern Territory and Queensland had the highest proportion of female police staff (36% respectively) compared with male police staff (63% respectively) of any state or territory.
  • Conversely, Western Australia Police had the highest percentage of male police staff (71%).

Source: Reference 20

Court administration

Total recurrent expenditure on court administration services around Australia (excluding the High Court and specialist jurisdiction courts) was $1.4b in 2011–12; approximately $80m more than in 2010–11. Expenditure on criminal courts’ administration was about $810m for 2011–12, an increase from $745m in the previous year.

Total criminal court expenditure less income (excluding fines) was $780m. This amounts to $34 per person in Australia, or $44 per adult.

Source: Reference 20

Figure 111 Total expenditure (less income) on criminal courts, 2011–12 (%)

Note: Total=$779,955,745

  • Approximately half of the total expenditure on criminal courts was spent on the Magistrates’ court in 2011–12. This equates to $396m.
  • The Supreme courts accounted for 12 percent of the total expenditure ($97m), while the children’s courts cost $33m in 2011–12.

Source: Reference 20

Figure 112 shows the average expenditure per case lodgement in the criminal courts. The higher the level of court, the higher the cost associated with each criminal case lodgement. This is because more complex and lengthy cases are generally heard in the higher courts.

Figure 112 Average expenditure per criminal case lodgement by court, 2011–12 ($)

  • In 2011–12, there were a total of 682,548 lodgements in the Magistrates’ court. On average, $580 was spent per lodgement.
  • While there were only 4,949 lodgements in Supreme courts, each cost an average of $19,664.

Source: Reference 20

Adult corrective services

Resources allocated for corrective services in Australia are divided into two broad categories—prisons and community corrections.

Total net expenditure on corrective services in Australia was approximately $3.8b in 2011–12; $3.2b (85%) for prisons, $478m (12%) for community corrections and $103m (3%) for transport and escort services. This corresponds to $169 for every person in Australia, or $219 for every adult.

Source: References 2 and 20

Figure 113 Real recurrent expenditure on corrective services per head of adult population, 2010–11 to 2011–12 ($)

  • Overall, spending on corrective services per head of the adult population decreased in 2011–12 compared with the previous 12 months. Specifically, in Australia in 2011–12, $186 was spent per head of the adult population on corrective services compared with $200 in 2010–11.
  • The most significant spending decrease in 2011–12 was in the Northern Territory, which decreased by 46 percent from $675 per adult head in 2010–11 to $363.
  • Spending increased in two of the eight states and territories. Queensland spent one percent more on corrective services in 2011–12, while the Australian Capital Territory increased spending by 50 percent ($286 up from $191 in 2010–11).

Source: References 2 and 20

Figure 114 Corrective services expenditure per offender per day by jurisdiction, 2011–12 ($)

  • In Australia, in 2011–12, for every $1 spent on community corrections per offender per day, approximately $10 was spent on offenders in prisons. Over the year, approximately $82,538 was spent per prisoner in Australia compared with $8,227 per person in community corrections.
  • Community corrections cost an average of $12 per offender per day in Tasmania. This cost increased to $43 per offender per day in both Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
  • The cost per prisoner per day in prison was highest in the Australian Capital Territory at $313. Conversely, it cost $176 per offender per day to keep an offender in prison in the Northern Territory.

Source: Reference 20