Homicide & older people in Australia


The “baby boom” which followed the end of the Second World War produced an age cohort whose members are now entering their middle years. At the latest population census, the people in the age group 65 years and over numbered 2 151 000 or just over 12 per cent of the total population (ABS 1997). This is projected to rise to between 16 and 18 per cent in the year 2021 and then to between 19 and 21 per cent in the year 2031 (ABS 1994).

According to the latest National Crime and Safety Survey conducted in 1993 (ABS 1994), persons aged 65 years and over had a violent victimisation rate barely one-fifth of the national average. In addition, offending by older people is a rare occurrence relative to people from other age groups, as shown by official statistics. Nevertheless, as Australia’s population becomes relatively older, monitoring the extent to which those aged 65 years and over are involved in crime, especially violent crime, is increasingly important.

This paper explores homicide victimisation among older Australians. The analysis is based on data extracted from the National Homicide Monitoring Program at the Australian Institute of Criminology. This database reveals that during the period 1 July 1989 to 30 June 1996, there were 2415 victims of homicide, and that a little less than 1 in 15 of these victims were aged 65 years and over. Despite homicide being a rare occurrence among older Australians, understanding the factors associated with these incidents is important to develop preventive measures. It is instructive to observe that, as it is the case with other age groups, homicide mortality for older Australians is vastly exceeded by other causes of death.

As we approach the International Year of Older Persons (1999), the Australian Institute of Criminology will continue to analyse issues relating to crime and older people, and contribute where possible to reduce their risk of violent victimisation.