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Homicide in Australia, 2010–12

The results presented in this report are consistent with previous NHMP reports but demonstrate some variation across various characteristics of homicide.

Homicide incidents

A total of 479 incidents of homicide were recorded in Australia throughout 2010–11 and 2011–12. A similar number of incidents were recorded in each of the two financial years, with 236 incidents recorded in 2010–11 and 243 incidents in 2011–12 (see Figure 1). From these incidents, 532 offenders were identified and 511 victims were killed. Both the number of victims and offenders is greater than the number of homicide events, due to the fact that incidents may involve multiple victims and/or multiple offenders. Across 2010–11 and 2011–12, there were 83 (17%) homicide events involving multiple victims and/or offenders. At the time of reporting, a total of 34 incidents did not have an identified offender.

The homicide rate has continued to decline (see Figure 2). For the most recent year of data (2011–12), the rate was 1.1 incidents per 100,000. This is the lowest homicide rate since the NHMP data collection began in 1989–90. Over the same time period, there has also been an overall decrease of approximately 21 percent (n=307 cf 243) in the number of homicide incidents (see Figure 1).

The number of homicides recorded in each jurisdiction is generally reflective of population size. Therefore, the largest number of homicide incidents were in New South Wales (n=148), followed by Victoria (n=96) and Queensland (n=96). Those jurisdictions with larger populations also typically demonstrated minimal fluctuation in rates (see Table 1). For example, in Victoria, the number of homicide incidents increased by 10 from 2010–11 to 2011–12 with a corresponding rate increase of 0.1 (from 0.8 to 0.9 per 100,000). Conversely, in the Northern Territory, an increase of two homicide incidents over the same timeframe led to an increase in the homicide rate of 0.7 (ie from 4.8 to 5.5 per 100,000).

Figure 1 Homicide incidents by year, 1989–90 to 2011–12 (n)

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Source: AIC NHMP 1989–90 to 2010–12 [computer file]

Figure 2 Homicide incidents by year 1989–90 to 2011–12 (rate per 100,000)

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Source: ABS 2013; AIC NHMP 1989–90 to 2010–12 [computer file]

Table 1 Homicide incidents by jurisdiction, 2010–12 (rate per 100,000)
2010–11 2011–12
n rate n rate
New South Wales 77 1.1 71 1.0
Victoria 43 0.8 53 0.9
Queensland 49 1.1 47 1.0
Western Australia 32 1.4 34 1.4
South Australia 20 1.2 16 1.0
Tasmania 4 0.8 5 1.0
Northern Territory 11 4.8 13 5.5
Australian Capital Territory 0 0.0 4 1.1
Australia 236 1.1 243 1.1

Source: ABS 2013; AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Homicide incident classification

Several different methods may be used to classify homicide incidents including those that focus on qualitative characteristics (eg the relationship between victim and offender and precipitating events) and those based on more specific quantitative measures (eg the number of victims killed and offenders involved). Further, the triangulation of various victim, offender and incident characteristics complicates the development of homicide typologies such that with the exception of specific legal definitions, which may vary across jurisdictions (such as infanticide), there is no universally agreed method for classification.

In this report, homicide incidents are classified into three primary categories according to the principal relationship shared between the victim and the offender. The categories are:

  • domestic homicide—an incident involving the death of a family member or other person from a domestic relationship. This includes:
    • intimate partner homicide—where the victim and offender share a current or former intimate relationship, including homosexual and extramarital relationships;
    • filicide—where a custodial or non-custodial parent (including step-parent) kills a child (including infanticide, which is defined as the killing of a child under 1 year of age);
    • parricide—where a child kills a custodial or non-custodial parent or step-parent;
    • siblicide—where one sibling kills another; and
    • other family homicide—where the victim and offender are related by family, but are not otherwise classified above (such as a cousin, aunt, grandparent etc);
  • acquaintance homicide—an incident involving a victim and offender, who were known to each other but who were not related to each other, nor living in a domestic relationship; and
  • stranger homicide—all other incidents in which the victim and offender were not known to each other, or were known less than 24 hours.

For the vast majority of homicide incidents that involve a single victim/single offender, classifying the principal relationship is relatively straightforward. However, for multiple victim and/or multiple offender homicide incidents, this process is complicated by the presence of two or more different relationships (one for each unique victim and offender pair). In this report, where an incident involves two or more relationship types, the principal relationship is taken to be the closest known relationship shared between any one victim and offender pair. Where an incident involves two victims (and 2 relationships) within the same category, the closest relationship is chosen for classification. For example, incidents involving the death of an intimate partner and one or more children will be classified as an intimate partner homicide for the purposes of this report.

Homicides are most likely to occur between people known to one another. Of particular interest to the public and many stakeholder groups is the proportion of homicides that are classified as domestic. Of the the 479 homicide incidents in 2010–11 and 2011–12, 187 were classified as domestic homicides. This is a slight increase in domestic homicides between the 2010–12 and 2008–10 reporting periods (39% cf 36% respectively). One-hundred and seventy-five incidents (36%) were classified as acquaintance homicides and 51 (11%) as stranger homicides (see Figure 3). For the remaining 66 homicide incidents (14%), a victim–offender relationship could not be classified.

Of the 187 domestic homicides recorded throughout 2010–11 and 2011–12, the majority were classified as intimate partner (n=109; 58%). There were also 34 incidents classified as filicide (18%), 22 as parricides (12%) and six of siblicide (3%; see Figure 4).

The proportion of homicide by principal relationship has fluctuated since 1989–90, particularly with regard to domestic homicides (see Figure 5). In 2007–08, domestic homicides accounted for 52 percent of all homicides (see Virueda & Payne 2010) but in more recent years, this proportion has decreased. In 2010–12, it accounted for 39 percent of all homicides.

The proportion of domestic homicides varies between jurisdictions (see Table 2). Over the 2010–11 and 2011–12 period, more than two-thirds of all homicides in the Northern Territory (n=16; 67%) were classified as domestic, as were half of homicides in Queensland (49%; n=47). Over a third of homicides in New South Wales (n=57; 39%) and South Australia (n=13; 36%) were classified as domestic, as were almost one-third of Victorian (n=30; 31%) and Western Australian homicides (n=20; 30%). These findings should be considered with caution as the total number of homicides in each jurisdiction varies considerably and in some cases is very small.

Acquaintance homicides were more prevalent in Western Australia (n=31; 47%) and Victoria (n=42; 44%) compared with other jurisdictions. Again, these results should be considered with caution, particularly for Tasmania, as the actual number of homicide types in these jurisdictions was smaller than in other jurisdictions. The proportion of homicides that occur between strangers varies between jurisdictions but is typically low. Of jurisdictions reporting more than 10 homicides over the reporting period, stranger homicides were most prevalent in South Australia (n= 6; 17%) and ranged between four percent (n=1) in the Northern Territory to 12 percent (n=18) in New South Wales.

Throughout the different states and territories, 14 percent of cases (n=66) were unable to be classified, of which New South Wales (n=24), Victoria (n=15) and Queensland (n=15) had the highest proportion (16%), followed by Western Australia (n=8; 12%) and South Australia (n=4; 11%). No incidents in Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory were unable to be classified.

Figure 3 Homicide incidents by classification, 2010–12 (%)

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Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Figure 4 Domestic homicide incidents by sub-classification, 2010–12 (%)

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Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Figure 5 Homicide type by year, 1989–90 to 2011–12 (n)

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Source: AIC NHMP 1989–90 to 2010–12 [computer file]

Table 2 Homicide by type of jurisdiction, 2010–12 (%)
NSW (n=148) Vic (n=96) Qld (n=96) WA (n=66) SA (n=36) Tas (n=9) NT (n=24) ACT (n=4) National (n=479)
Domestic 39 31 49 30 36 22 67 50 39
Acquaintance 33 44 27 47 36 78 29 0 37
Stranger 12 9 8 11 17 0 4 50 11
Unclassified 16 16 16 12 11 0 0 0 14

Note: Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding

Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Temporal characteristics

Homicide incidents were more likely to occur on a Saturday (n=85; 18%). Monday and Wednesday had the fewest homicides (12% each; n=56, n=55, respectively; see Table 3).

In 2010–11 and 2011–12, over half of the homicide incidents (n=270; 56%) occurred during evening hours between 6 pm and 6 am. The time period between 6 pm and midnight had the greatest number of homicides (n=155; 33%), while the morning hours between 6 am and midday recorded the lowest number of homicide incidents (n=57; 12%; see Table 3).

A more complete picture of the temporal nature of homicides across Australia is provided by the joint distribution of time of day and day of week (see Figure 6). The single largest cluster of homicides occurred from 6 pm to midnight on Sunday (n=32), followed by midnight to 6 am on Saturday (n=28).

Different homicides may have different temporal characteristics (see Figure 7). For example, where both relationship classification and temporal data were known, stranger homicide appeared to be skewed towards the weekends—specifically Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings (from 6 pm to 6 am) with fewer homicides during the week. Domestic and acquaintance homicides were also more likely to occur during the evening; however, the distribution throughout the week was more even. These findings identify that homicides are more likely to occur during periods when individuals are most likely to gather to socialise.

Table 3 Temporal pattern of homicide incidents, 2010–12
n %
Time of day
00:00–05:59 115 24
06:00–11:59 57 12
12:00–17:59 78 16
18:00–23:59 155 33
Unknown/not stated 70 15
Day of week
Sunday 75 16
Monday 56 12
Tuesday 70 15
Wednesday 55 12
Thursday 70 15
Friday 60 13
Saturday 85 18
Unknown 0 0

Note: Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding

Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Figure 6 Temporal pattern of homicide incidents, 2010–12 (n)

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Note: Missing data excluded

Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Figure 7 Temporal pattern of homicide incidents by type of homicide, 2010–12 (n)

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Note: Excludes missing information

Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Figure 8 Location of homicide incidents, 2010–12 (%)

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Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Table 4 Location of homicide incidents by type of homicide, 2010–12
Domestic homicide (n=187) Acquaintance homicide (n=175) Stranger homicide (n=51)
n % n % n %
Residential
Victim’s home 141 75 73 42 17 33
Offender’s home 9 5 24 14 3 6
Other home 8 4 22 13 1 2
Subtotal 158 119 21
Street or open area
Open area/waterway 8 4 6 3 2 4
Street/road/highway 9 5 22 13 12 24
Sporting oval/facility 0 0 0 0 0 0
Public transport 0 0 1 1 2 4
Car park/garage 0 0 4 2 2 4
Subtotal 17 33 18
Other
Hospital/healthcare 0 0 1 1 0 0
Shopping mall 0 0 3 2 2 4
Recreation venue 0 0 3 2 8 16
Workplace 1 1 1 1 0 0
Private motor vehicle 2 1 1 1 0 0
Corrective institution 0 0 0 0 1 2
Nursing home 0 0 1 1 0 0
Psychiatric facility 0 0 1 1 0 0
Other/not stated/unknown 9 5 12 7 1 2
Subtotal 12 23 12

Note: Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding. The location figures in Table 4 do not necessarily equate to those provided in Figure 8 as there were 66 incidents where the relationship between the parties was unknown even though location was recorded

Note: Percentages may not subtotal due to rounding

Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Location

From 2010–11 to 2011–12, just over two-thirds of all homicide incidents occurred in a residential premise (n=336; 70%; see Figure 8). Homicide incidents that occur in a dwelling shared by both the victim and the offender are recorded as the victim’s home. The next most prevalent locations for homicide incidents were on a street (n=56) or in open areas (n=20).

The location of a homicide is largely influenced by the type of homicide. As might be expected, a larger proportion of domestic homicides (n=158; 84%) as opposed to acquaintance (n=119; 68%) or stranger (n=21; 41%) homicides occurred in a residential location (see Table 4). Conversely, a larger number of acquaintance homicides occurred in a street or open area (n=33; 19%), as did 35 percent (n=18) of stranger homicides. A further 11 homicides involving acquaintances or strangers (18%) occurred at recreational venues (or in the vicinity of these premises).

Cause of death

It is worth noting that cause of death is specific to each victim within a homicide incident and where there are multiple victims within a homicide incident, the cause of death may be different for each victim. Therefore, the information in Table 5 presents the count for both victim and incident. The incident count reflects the number of incidents involving the specific cause of death based on coding used within the dataset.

During 2010–11 and 2011–12, the largest number of victim deaths were the result of stab wounds (n=187; 37%; see Table 5). This was followed by beatings (n=125; 24%) and gunshot wounds (n=69; 14%). A further 34 victims died from strangulation or suffocation (7%) and 24 died from smoke inhalation or burns (5%).

Stab wounds were the most commonly recorded cause of death for both domestic and acquaintance homicides (42% and 39% respectively; see Table 6). Beatings (n=19, 37%) and stab wounds (n=18, 35%) were the most common causes of death in stranger homicides. A greater proportion of acquaintance homicide victims (n=25; 14%) were killed as a result of gunshot wounds than domestic homicide victims (n=13; 7%).

Knives were the most commonly used weapon in homicides where victims died from stab wounds (n=165; 88%). Another 11 victims (6%) died as a result of being stabbed with another sharp implement (such as broken glass).

Since the NHMP began in 1989–90, homicides resulting from firearm use have decreased (see Figure 9). In 1989–90, 25 percent of homicides (n=76) involved the use of a firearm, while in 2011–12 firearms were used in 16 percent of homicide incidents (n=38). By contrast, homicides involving the use of knives have remained relatively stable (32% in 1989–90; 33% in 2011–12).

Table 5 Cause of death in homicide incidents by victims and incidents, 2010–12
Incidents (n) Victims (n) Victims (%)
Stab wounds 177 187 37
Beatings 125 125 24
Gunshot wounds 66 69 14
Criminal neglect 4 4 <1
Drug overdose 6 6 1
Strangulation/suffocation 31 34 7
Poisoning 3 3 <1
Smoke inhalation/burns 12 24 5
Shaking 1 1 <1
Other (eg hit by car) 17 17 3
Drowning 3 3 <1
Hanging 1 1 <1
Pushed from a high place 5 5 1
Not stated/unknown 28 32 6

Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Table 6 Cause of death in homicide incidents by type of homicide, 2010–12
Domestic homicide (n=187) Acquaintance homicide (n=175) Stranger homicide (n=51)
n % n % n %
Stab wounds 78 42 68 39 18 35
Beatings 42 22 48 27 19 37
Gunshot wounds 13 7 25 14 8 16
Criminal neglect 4 2 0 0 0 0
Pushed from high place 3 2 1 1 1 2
Strangulation/suffocation 17 9 11 6 1 2
Poisoning 3 2 8 5 4 8
Smoke inhalation/burns 6 3 5 3 0 0
Other (eg hit by car/shaking) 3 2 8 5 4 8
Drowning 3 2 0 0 0 0
Not stated/unknown 15 8 9 5 0 0

Note: Excludes 66 incidents where victim–offender relationship and/or cause of death were unknown

Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Figure 9 Weapon use in homicide incidents by year, 1989–90 to 2011–12 (%)

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Source: AIC NHMP 1989–90 to 2010–12 [computer file]

Table 7 Apparent motive in homicide incidents by victims and incidents, 2010–12
Victims (n) Incidents (n) Incidents (%)
Revenge 23 20 4
Jealousy 17 15 3
Desertion/termination 6 6 1
Domestic argument 75 74 15
Money 33 32 7
Drugs 15 15 3
Alcohol-related argument 19 19 4
Other argument 118 111 23
Sexual vilification 2 2 <1
Sexual gratification 3 3 <1
No apparent motive 71 61 13
Unknown/not recorded 129 121 25

Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Motive

Determining the motive behind a homicide can assist in understanding certain situations or factors that may trigger a homicide incident. However, assigning a motive to a homicide event is difficult because the reasons, or lack thereof, may be many, varied and complicated.

In the majority of incidents, the motive either could not be determined or was attributed to an unspecified altercation, either related to an ‘other’ argument (n=111; 23%) or domestic circumstances (n=74; 15%). Only in a small number of incidents was the precipitating cause identified; for example, alcohol-fuelled argument (n=19; 4%), money (n=32; 7%) or revenge (n=20; 4%; see Table 7).

Other situational factors

Over the 2010–12 period, almost three-quarters of homicide incidents (n=351; 73%) were recorded as isolated events and not as having been committed during the course of another crime. Where homicide did occur in the course of another crime (n=72 incidents; 15%), the most common precipitating offence was robbery (n=17; 4%), followed by drug offences (n=14; 3%) and break and enter (n=11; 2%).

Alcohol consumption, by either the offender or the victim, preceded over a third (n=179; 37%) of all homicide events (see Table 8)—a decrease from 2008–09 to 2009–10 findings, which estimated alcohol consumption in almost half of all incidents. Alcohol consumption by the victim was more frequently recorded for acquaintance homicides (n=75; 52%) than for domestic (n=46; 32%) or stranger homicides (n=12; 8%; see Figure 10). Similarly, alcohol consumption by the offender was higher in acquaintance (n=53; 46%) than domestic homicide (n=44; 38%).

Illicit drug use preceded almost a quarter (n=101; 21%) of homicide events. Victim illicit drug use (n=92; 19%) was more commonly recorded than offender drug use (n=54; 12%; see Table 8). However, it is important to note that drug (and alcohol) use by the victim is more easily identified through post-mortem toxicological tests, whereas for the offender, identification of drug use may be based on the subjective assessment of the investigating officers for which there is not usually any toxicological confirmation.

Table 8 Situational factors in homicide incidents, 2010–12
n %
Alcohol
Victim drinkinga 144 30
Offender drinkingb 115 26
Any alcohol use 179 37
Victim drinking unknown/not stated 138 29
Offender drinking unknown/not stated 249 56
Drugs
Victim used drugsa 92 19
Offender used drugsb 54 12
Any drug use 101 21
Victim drug use unknown/not stated 174 39
Offender drug use unknown/not stated 285 40

a: In 197 cases and 213 cases, the victim was not drinking or using drugs, respectively

b: In 81 cases and 106 cases, the offender was not drinking or using drugs, respectively

Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Figure 10 Alcohol involvement in homicide incidents by type of homicide, 2010–12 (%)

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Note: Missing data excluded

Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Table 9 Homicide victims by jurisdiction, 2010–12 (rate per 100,000)
2010–11 2011–12
n Rate per 100,000 n Rate per 100,000
NSW 77 1.1 81 1.1
Vic 47 0.8 59 1.0
Qld 53 1.2 48 1.1
WA 33 1.4 35 1.4
SA 22 1.3 17 1.0
Tas 4 0.8 5 1.0
NT 11 4.8 15 6.4
ACT 0 0.0 4 1.1
National 247 1.1 264 1.2

Homicide victims

Throughout 2010–11 and 2011–12, there were 511 victims of homicide—247 in 2010–11 and 264 in 2011–12. A total of 18 homicide incidents involved the death of more than one victim—12 incidents involved two victims, five incidents involved three victims and one incident involved four or more victims (see Table B1).

In 2010–11, the homicide victimisation rate was calculated at 1.1 victims per 100,000, the lowest rate recorded since NHMP data collection began in 1989–90 (see Table 9). In 2011–12, this rate increased slightly to 1.2 victims per 100,000. There has been an overall decrease of approximately 20 percent (n=331 cf 264) in the overall number of homicide victims recorded over the last 22 financial years.

Victim sex

Males continue to be overrepresented as victims of homicide. Of the 511 homicide victims in 2010–11 and 2011–12, 328 were male (64%) and 182 were female (36%; see Table B3).

The victimisation rate by sex is shown in Figure 11. Both male and female rates have declined since the last reporting period, although there was a small increase from 2010–11 to 2011–12. In 2011–12, the victimisation rate for males was 1.51 per 100,000 relevant population and for females the rate was 0.81. The current male and female victimisation rates each represent a decrease of approximately 40 percent since the NHMP began in 1989–90.

The proportion of male and female homicide victims varies depending on the type of homicide (see Table 10). During 2010–11 and 2011–12, 196 victims were killed by an offender with whom they shared a domestic relationship, of which over one-third of victims were male (n=75; 38%) while nearly two-thirds were female (n=121; 62%). Where both victim sex and relationship classification could be determined, a higher proportion of victims of intimate partner homicide were female (n=83; 76% of domestic homicides), while a greater number of males were more likely to be killed by acquaintances (n=154; 81% of acquaintance homicides) or strangers (n=44; 85% of stranger homicides; see Table 10).

Figure 11 Victimisation rate by sex, 1989–90 to 2011–12 (rate per 100,000)

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Source: ABS 2013; AIC NHMP 1989–90 to 2010–12 [computer file]

Table 10 Type of homicide by sex of victims, 2010–12
Male (n=328) Female (n=182)
n % n %
Domestic
Intimate partner 26 24 83 76
Filicide 21 50 21 50
Parricide 11 48 12 52
Siblicide 5 83 1 17
Other family homicide 12 75 4 25
Subtotal Domestic 75 38 121 62
Acquaintance homicide 154 81 37 19
Stranger homicide 44 85 8 15
Unclassified 55 77 16 23
Total 328 64 182 36

Note: One victim’s sex was unknown. Percentages calculated from subtotal and associated n total value

Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Victim age

The average age of homicide victims in 2010–11 and 2011–12 was 37.9 years of age (see Table 11). There was little difference in the average age of male and female homicide victims (37.6 and 38.6 years of age respectively).

Approximately 13 percent (n=61) of homicide victims were children under 18 years of age. This figure represents an increase from the 2008–09/2009–10 reporting period (n=49; 9%). The majority of these children were between one and nine years of age (n=24; 5% of all homicide victims); 12 victims were under one year of age (3%).

The average age of homicide victims varied according to the homicide relationship classification, from a low of 6.9 years of age for filicide victims (who are predominantly under 18 years of age), to a high of 59.3 years of age for parricides (usually parents killed by adult children; see Figure 12).

Table 11 Age of homicide victims by sex, 2010–12
Age (yrs) Male victims (n=328)a Female victims (n=182)a All victims (n=510)
n % n % n %
Under 1 7 2 6 3 13 3
1–9 13 4 11 6 24 5
10–14 4 1 5 3 9 2
15–17 13 4 3 2 16 3
18–24 42 13 19 10 61 12
25–34 68 21 38 21 106 21
35–49 99 30 52 29 151 30
50–64 63 19 26 14 89 18
65+ 18 6 21 12 39 8
Total 327 181 508
Mean age 37.6 38.6 37.9
Median age 37 37 37

a: One male and female victim age was unknown

Note: One victim sex and age was unknown. Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding

Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Figure 12 Age of homicide victim by type of homicide, 2010–12 (mean age in years)

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Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Victim’s Indigenous status

Throughout 2010–11 and 2011–12, 85 of the 511 homicide victims (17%) were identified as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person (50 in 2010–11 and 35 in 2011–12). Of these, 56 were male (67%), 28 were female (33%) and in one case the sex of the victim was unrecorded (see Table B7). Just under half (n=40; 47%) of Indigenous victims were killed in a domestic homicide event, of which the most common subcategory was intimate partner homicide (n=23; 27%; see Table 12). Approximately 31 percent (n=26) of Indigenous victims were killed by an acquaintance. The frequency of stranger-related homicides has remained consistently low and at times non-existent since the data collection began.

The proportion of Indigenous homicide victims who are female has declined since the previous reporting period (33% cf 43% in 2008–10) and is proportionate with non-Indigenous victims who are female.

Rates of Indigenous homicide are derived from projected population statistics prepared by the ABS. In April 2014, the ABS released new estimates and projections to 2026. These latest figures suggest that the population figures used in previous reports underestimated the Indigenous population and therefore, rates provided in this report will not be comparable to previous reports.

Given that the overall number of Indigenous homicides is small, there is greater fluctuation in the annual rate of homicide compared with non-Indigenous victims; however, Indigenous people continue to be overrepresented as victims of homicide. For the 2011–12 financial year, the overall Indigenous homicide rate was 5.0 per 100,000 or five times the non-Indigenous rate (1.0). The victimisation rate for Indigenous males was 6.7 per 100,000 compared with 1.3 for non-Indigenous males. The rate of Indigenous female victimisation was 3.2 per 100,000 compared with 0.7 for non-Indigenous females.

Table 12 Indigenous status of homicide victims by type of homicide, 2010–12
Indigenous (n=85) Non-Indigenous (n=426)
n % n %
Domestic
Intimate partner 23 27 86 20
Filicide 7 8 35 8
Parricide 1 1 22 5
Siblicide 2 2 4 <1
Other family homicide 7 8 9 <1
Subtotal 40 156
Acquaintance homicide 26 31 165 39
Stranger homicide 7 8 45 11
Unclassified 12 14 60 14

Note: Percentages calculated from subtotal and associated n total value. Percentages may not sub-total due to rounding

Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Figure 13 Indigenous status of homicide victims by sex, 2010–12 (%)

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Note: In one case Indigenous status was known but sex was unknown

Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Victim’s employment status

Information concerning employment status was available for 352 individuals (69%). Of these, similar proprtions of victims were employed (n=130; 37%) as were unemployed (n=116; 33%; see Table 13). Two in five victims were receiving a pension (n=75; 21%) and only a small proportion were studying (n=21; 6%) at the time of their death.

Proportionally, male victims were more likely than female victims to have been employed (40% cf 31%), while females were more likely to be receiving an age, sole parent or disability pension (29% cf 17%). Unemployment was also much higher among male victims (38% cf 23%). By age group, victims aged 18–24 and 25–34 years were most likely to be recorded as unemployed when compared with all other age categories (see Figure 14).

Table 13 Employment status of homicide victims by sex, 2010–12
Male victims (n=233) Female victims (n=119) All victims (n=352)
n % n % n %
Studying 10 4 11 9 21 6
Unemployed 89 38 27 23 116 33
Home/domestic duties 1 0 9 8 10 3
Age, disability or sole parent pension 40 17 35 29 75 21
Employeda 93 40 37 31 130 37

a: One employed victim was on leave

Note: Employment status was not available for 93 male and 63 female victims as well as one unknown victim

Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Figure 14 Employment status of homicide victims by age group in years, 2010–12 (%)

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Note: Other includes studying, domestic duties and sole parent, age or disability welfare recipients. One victim in the 50–64 years age group was on leave and one case is missing as employment status was missing. A total of 166 were excluded as victim was under 15 years of age

Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Homicide offenders

There were a total of 532 identified homicide offenders in 2010–12. At the time of reporting, 34 of the 479 homicide incidents that occurred from 2010–11 to 2011–12, did not have an identified offender. Of the 445 incidents with an identified offender, 378 (85%) had one offender, 51 involved two offenders (11%) and 16 events had three or more offenders (4%). By relationship status, homicides involving multiple offenders were more prevalent among strangers (n=15; 29%) than those in either a domestic (n=10; 5%) or acquaintance (n=32; 18%) relationship (see Table 14).

Sex of offenders

Across 2010–11 and 2011–12, there were 453 (85%) male offenders (85%) and 79 female offenders (15%) (see Table C3). This is consistent with historical trends, which have seen males comprise more than 80 percent of all known homicide offenders.

The rate of offending demonstrated relative stability among the female offender population (approximately 0.4 per 100,000). For male offenders, the rate of offending has continued to decline (see Figure 15). In 2011–12, there were approximately 2.0 male homicide offenders per 100,000. This has decreased by approximately 20 percent from 2.5 per 100,000 in 2009–10 and by approximately 47 percent from a peak of 3.8 per 100,000 in 1992–93.

Table 14 Number of offenders in homicide incident by principal incident classification, 2010–12
One offender Two offenders Three or more offenders
n % n % n %
Domestic
Intimate partner 107 98 0 0 2 2
Filicide 30 88 4 12 0 0
Parricide 20 91 1 5 1 5
Siblicide 6 100 0 0 0 0
Other family homicide 14 88 2 13 0 0
Subtotal 177 95 7 4 3 2
Acquaintance homicide 143 82 26 15 6 3
Stranger homicide 36 71 12 24 3 6
Unknown 22 69 6 19 4 13
Total 378 85 51 11 16 4

Note: Percentages are calculated by row. An incident is classified by the principle relationship. For multiple offender homicides, this is the closest relationship between any one of the offenders and victims

Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Figure 15 Offending rate by sex and year, 1989–90 to 2009–10 (per 100,000)

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Note: Calculated as the estimated number of known offenders per 100,000 of the Australian population

Source: ABS 2010; AIC NHMP 1989–90 to 2009–10 [computer file]

Offender age

The average age of all known homicide offenders in 2011–12 was 33.2 years, slightly younger than the average of victims (see Table 15). There was a relatively even distribution of offenders across the range 18 to 49 years of age. The average age of offenders has remained relatively stable since the NHMP commenced, with a modest decrease in mean age between 1989–90 (36 years of age) and 2011–12 (33 years of age).

Overall, there were 17 offenders over the age of 65 years, the oldest being 81 years of age. Sixteen offenders were under 18 years of age, only one of whom was female. The youngest offender was 14 years old at the time of the homicide incident. The age of 25 offenders was not reported or unknown.

Since the 2008–10 reporting period, the average age of female offenders has decreased by approximately three years (34.6 cf 37.8), while the average age of male offenders has remained the same (32.9 cf 32.7). It should be noted that female offender data is more significantly affected by changes in offender demographics due to the relatively low numbers of female offenders.

Table 15 Homicide offender age in years by sex, 2010–12 (n)
Male offenders Female offenders All offenders
Age (yrs) n % n % n %
Under 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
1–9 0 0 0 0 0 0
10–14 2 0 0 0 2 0
15–17 13 3 1 1 14 3
18–24 89 21 14 18 103 20
25–34 133 31 20 26 153 30
35–49 130 30 38 49 168 33
50–64 47 11 3 4 50 10
65+ 15 3 2 3 17 3
Total 429 78 507
Mean age 32.9 34.6 33.2
Median age 32 36 32

Note: Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding. Data excludes 25 offenders whose age was not reported or unknown

Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Offender Indigenous status

Consistent with historical trends, Indigenous Australians were again overrepresented among homicide offenders. For the 2011–12 financial year, the rate of Indigenous offending was 4.7 per 100,000, approximately four times the non-Indigenous rate of 1.1 per 100,000. In 2010–11, 42 offenders (16%) were identified as Indigenous. In 2011–12, this figure declined to 32 (12%).

Like their non-Indigenous counterparts, Indigenous offenders were more likely to be male (n=52; 70%) than female (n=22; 30%: see Table C7). Both male and female Indigenous offenders were overrepresented; however, the extent of overrepresentation was greatest among the Indigenous male population. In 2010–11, the rate of offending for Indigenous males was 8.7 per 100,000 (cf 1.8 for non-Indigenous males) and for Indigenous females it was 3.9 per 100,000 (cf 0.2 for non-Indigenous females). In 2011–12, these rates declined to 6.7 and 2.6 for Indigenous males and females respectively.

The majority of incidents involving an Indigenous offender also involved an Indigenous victim (n=54; 82%). This was evident for both Indigenous male offenders (n=43; 83%) and female offenders (n=18; 82%). The types of homicides committed by Indigenous male offenders were more varied. For example, of the known relationships, 44 percent killed a friend or acquaintance (n=23), 36 percent killed an intimate partner or family member (n=19) and 11 percent killed a stranger (n=6). Four homicides involving male Indigenous offenders could not be classified. For Indigenous female offenders, 67 percent of homicides (n=14) were classified as domestic related, 23 percent (n=5) were classified as acquaintance homicides and only five percent were classified as stranger (n=1). Two homicides involving female offenders were unable to be classified.

Offender criminal history

Throughout 2010–11 and 2011–12, almost one-third (n=161; 30%) of homicide offenders had a prior criminal history (see Table 16). Fourteen percent (n=76) did not have a criminal history. Male offenders (n=150, 33%) were more likely than female offenders (n=11, 14%) to have a prior criminal history.

Where information on types of offences previously committed were available (see Table 16), assault (n=75; 14%) was the single most commonly recorded offence for both males (15%) and females (8%). Although less frequent, the next most commonly recorded prior conviction was for property offences (n=23; 4%). This was followed by, drug offences (n=15; 3%) and robbery (n=11; 2%).

Table 16 Prior criminal history of homicide offenders by sex, 2010–11
Male offenders (n=453) Female offenders (n=79) All offenders (n=532)
n % n % n %
Murder 3 <1 0 0 3 <1
Sexual assault 6 <1 0 0 6 1
Other assault 69 15 6 8 75 14
Robbery 11 2 0 0 11 2
Drug offences 15 3 0 0 15 3
Property offences 20 4 3 4 23 4
Other offences 15 3 2 3 17 3
Any criminal history 150 33 11 14 161 30
No criminal history 55 12 21 27 76 14
Criminal history unrecorded 248 55 47 59 295 55

Note: Percentages may not total due to rounding

Source: AIC NHMP 2010–12 [computer file]

Offender employment status

The employment status of 273 offenders was recorded. The remaining 254 offenders’ employment status was not known or not stated by data providers at the time of reporting (see Table C6). Of those offenders whose employment status was known, one-third were employed (n=91; 33%), nearly half were unemployed (n=131; 48%) and 39 (n=14%) were recipients of age, disability or sole parent pensions.

By contrast with historical trends, which found unemployment more prevalent among male homicide offenders, the prevalence of unemployment was slightly higher among female homicide offenders (n=20; 49%) compared with male offenders in 2010–12 (n=111; 47%). Only female offenders were recorded as undertaking domestic duties at the time of the homicide event (12%).

Offender suicide

Of the 532 homicide offenders identified in 2010–11 and 2011–12, 31 committed suicide (6%) at the time or shortly after the homicide event. This represents a modest proportional increase in 2010–12 compared with the 2008–10 reporting period (n=20; 3%). The majority of these offenders were male (n=24; 77%). All of these suicides were committed prior to the arrest of the offender. The majority of offenders who committed suicide did so following a domestic homicide (n=28; 90%). Of the 28 offender suicides:

  • nine involved the death of a current intimate partner;
  • eight involved the death of a former partner;
  • one involved the death of a current intimate partner and child or children;
  • one involved the death of a former intimate partner and child or children; and
  • nine involved the death of child or children only.

Conclusion

In 2010–12, there were 479 homicide incidents, involving 511 victims and 532 offenders. Of the victims, 327 were male and 182 were female, and of the offenders, 453 were male and 79 were female offenders.

When examined by rate, ongoing monitoring of homicide trends over the last 22 years demonstrates the overall national rate of victimisation has been on a downward trend since 2001–02 and at 1.1 homicides per 100,000 persons is currently at its lowest since NHMP was initiated in 1989–90. Both male and female rates have declined since the last reporting period in 2008–10. In 2011–12, the victimisation rate for males was 1.51 per 100,000 and for females the rate was 0.81 per 100,000.

Of the homicide victims in 2010–12, 85 were identified as Indigenous Australians—56 males and 28 females. The rate of Indigenous homicide victimisation was close to four times higher than for non-Indigenous Australians. However, more recent ABS data suggest the population figures used in previous reports were an underestimate of the Indigenous population and therefore, rates provided in this report will not be comparable to previous reports.

The proportion of domestic homicides has continued to fall, reaching a historic low in recent years. It would appear that the 2007–08 finding that 52 percent of homicides were domestic related was a statistical anomaly from what has otherwise been a downward trend (Virueda & Payne 2010). Of the domestic homicides recorded in the NHMP in 2010–12, the majority were classified as an intimate partner homicide. The frequency of intimate partner homicides has remained stable and while, overall, female victims are not as prevalent as males, they remain overrepresented in this category of homicide.

In 2010–12, approximately 12 percent (n=61) of homicide victims were 17 years of age or younger. This represents an increase of 24 percent in the number of victims for this age group and an overall proportional increase of approximately three percent from the 2008–10 reporting period (n=49; 9%). The majority of child homicide victims were killed by a custodial parent.

Sixteen children 17 years of age or younger were identified as homicide offenders. The majority of child homicide offenders killed a friend or acquaintance.

Other analysis revealed that in 2010–12:

  • Males continued to be overrepresented as both the victims and perpetrators of offences.
  • Knives and other sharp instruments are the most common weapon used in homicide incidents. This has been a consistent finding since 1989–90 (with the exception of 1995–96). The use of firearms in homicide continues to decline, with 69 victims dying as a result of gunshot wounds in the 2010–12 financial years.
  • Alcohol consumption, by either the offender or the victim, preceded over a third of all homicide events—a decrease from 2008–09 to 2009–10 findings, which estimated alcohol consumption in almost half of all incidents. Illicit drug use preceded two in five homicide incidents.
  • Since the last NHMP annual report (2008–10), there has been no change in the average age of male offenders, while the average age of female offenders has decreased by approximately three years.
  • Almost one-third of homicide offenders had a prior criminal history. Male offenders were more likely than female offenders to have a prior criminal conviction.
  • There was a modest proportional increase in offenders who committed suicide in 2010–12 compared with the 2008–10 reporting period. Most committed suicide following a domestic homicide.