Australian Institute of Criminology

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Research reveals complex reasons for Indigenous offending

Media Release

08 April 2010

The latest report into Indigenous offending by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) shows Indigenous people are 15 to 20 times more likely than non-Indigenous people to commit violent offences.

Indigenous perpetrators of violence: Prevalence and risk factors for offending was funded by the Australian Crime Commission as part of the work of its National Indigenous Violence and Child Abuse Task Force.

AIC Director, Dr Adam Tomison, said that where much previous research had focused on the experiences of Indigenous victims, this report looked at the perpetrators of violence, aiming to quantify the prevalence and nature of violent behaviour and examine the relationship between violence and its risk factors.

"We know there are many risk factors linked to violent offending by Indigenous people, including alcohol misuse, illicit drug use, sex, age, childhood experience of violence, abuse and neglect, exposure to pornography, education, income, employment, housing, physical and mental health, geographic location and access to services," Dr Tomison said.

"Alcohol, however, based on the existing evidence, stands out as a problem over and above all the structural factors such as socioeconomic disadvantage."

The report showed that the rate of violent offending by Indigenous people is consistently higher than that of non-Indigenous people, with Indigenous males strongly overrepresented.

Dr Tomison said the report revealed there were large knowledge gaps in our understanding of Indigenous violent offending and more research needed to be undertaken to examine what stops and inhibits such behaviour.

"It is not enough for us to continue to document the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system without understanding the reasons behind it.

"There are many Indigenous people who experience a constellation of risk factors who do not offend and this report recommends further research into resilience and protective factors, as part of a developmental prevention approach to the problem," Dr Tomison added.

AIC media contact: Caterina Giugovaz Telephone: 02 6260 9226; Mobile: 0418 221 798.