Australian Institute of Criminology

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Violence as a public health issue

Media Release

23 August 2000

The Australian Institute of Criminology has today released a report suggesting that violence should be seen as a public health issue as well as a criminal justice concern.

In releasing the paper, Violence as a Public Health Issue by David McDonald, AIC Director Dr Adam Graycar said "Interpersonal violence is now widely accepted as a public health problem, rather than being seen entirely, or mainly, a matter for the criminal justice system."

"This paper points out the importance of a rigorous focus on the well-being of populations, and public health's use of population-wide data to aid understanding of the problems and identifying solutions. In this way, public health can make a valuable contribution to violence prevention and cover a much broader spectrum than can the criminal justice system alone", Dr Graycar said.

Practically, public health approaches to violence tend to focus on investigating the causes of violence (hence developing interventions) while criminal justice approaches are more focussed on addressing the consequences of violence (hence focus on retribution and rehabilitation).

Ideologically, the criminal justice system approach focuses on moral responsibility and blame, while the public health approach focuses on understanding the causes and/or risk factors that lead to violence.

Dr Graycar noted that the implications of these two divergent approaches to violence are critical in terms of addressing violence.