A comparison of crime in Australia and other countries


Since Australia was first used by the British as a penal colony, there has always been considerable interest in comparisons between crime and punishment in this country and elsewhere. From the early days of colonisation the principle comparisons made were between the convict society, which was viewed by some as a kind of social laboratory, and the English society which had created it. The purpose of such comparisons was then, as now, to judge the relative merits or demerits of the two societies and their criminal justice systems.

In more recent years it has become fashionable to broaden the scope of comparison to include other nations. However, until now, such comparison has proved surprisingly difficult, due largely to the variety and complexity of the criminal justice systems themselves, and differences in the way they record and define their activities.

With the advent of crime surveys, utilising standard sampling techniques and questions to obtain information about victimisation experiences, many of these dilemmas have been overcome as this unique International Survey of Crime Victims vividly demonstrates. The Survey findings reveal that Australia has crime rates which are much more comparable to those of North America than Europe. In a number of cases these rates are the highest recorded among the 14 jurisdictions included in the survey - a result which must surely give cause for concern to all Australians and reinforce the need for the establishment of a national crime prevention strategy.