Homicide between intimate partners in Australia


The National Homicide Monitoring Program database at the Australian Institute of Criminology reveals that during the period 1 July 1989 to 30 June 1996, just over one-quarter of the 2024 homicide incidents, where the offender was known, involved intimate partners. These include spouses, ex-spouses, those in current or former de facto relationships, boyfriends, girlfriends, or partners of same-sex relationships: in other words, all relationships where the underlying dynamics are similar.

In almost 4 out of 5 intimate-partner homicides, the perpetrator was a male and the victim a female. In a little over 1 in 5 incidents, the homicides were committed by a female against a male. A small number corresponded to killings among partners in same-sex relationships. One-third of intimate-partner homicides resulted from conflicts associated with jealousy or the termination of a relationship. The remaining incidents arose from domestic arguments.

By its own definition intimate-partner homicide raises difficult policy issues. Intimate-partner homicides occur in the intimacy of the home where the amount of external social control is very limited, or non-existent. They may also raise questions relating to the availability and use of lethal weapons, as well as to the inter-relationship of family law and criminal justice. This paper forms the basis of a profile of intimate relationships which end in homicide. With expansion, through other data sources such as Coroner’s Reports and Court transcripts, additional knowledge could be gained of the nature of the day-to-day relationships between victims and offenders and the circumstances surrounding the incident. This could, in turn, be used as a diagnostic tool for the prevention and treatment of domestic violence in general.