The death of a child is always tragic, but the death of a child by violence is horrifying to everybody. One in twelve homicides in Australia involves a child under the age of 15, and children under one are the most vulnerable. Data from the National Homicide Monitoring Program at the Australian Institute of Criminology reveals that in Australia during the period July 1989-December 1993, there were 108 known child homicide incidents. About one-fifth of these involved multiple victims, sometimes the mother, sometimes another child. Many of these homicides occurred in circumstances of poverty and an unstable family environment. Obviously it is not possible to predict in which families homicide may occur, but this Trends and Issues paper identifies some patterns in the circumstances surrounding these incidents and suggests strategies for the prevention of child abuse, often the forerunner of child homicide incidents.
Over time, the Institute will provide further analyses of this significant data set as a contribution to policy development.