Australian Institute of Criminology

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The year in review

Chairman's overview

Professor Richard FoxThe year 2008 marks the 35th anniversary of the establishment of the Australian Institute of Criminology. Although the shape of the Institute and the areas it researches have changed in this time, the original intent of the legislation remains: to undertake cutting edge research, to disseminate the findings of AIC and other criminological research throughout Australia, and to work collaboratively with state and territory agencies to improve understanding of crime and criminal justice and its reduction. The Institute is Australia's leading national research and knowledge centre on crime and justice.

The composition of the Board of Management reflects the involvement of the states and territories, the Australian Government and the university sector in shaping the direction of criminal justice research in Australia. The Board gave in-principle support for the Institute's major research agendas this year, with key areas of inquiry being crime and the environment, alcohol and crime, and community corrections. The Institute's positive relationships with its jurisdictional partners continued this year with each providing crucial access to data for national monitoring programs and other specific research projects. These ongoing, productive relationships demonstrate the responsiveness of the Institute to the research needs of Australian criminal justice agencies.

The Institute also continued to develop its international standing as a key criminal justice information and knowledge agency, particularly through participation in delegations to the Programme Network Institutes meetings of the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

To meet growing expectations regarding the scrutiny of financial performance, during the year the Board restructured its Audit Committee, appointing an independent member and developing a committee charter. This means that the committee is now compliant with changes to the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 which take effect from 1 January 2009.

At its meeting in April, the Board presented a testimonial to the departing Director of the AIC, Dr Toni Makkai, in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the Institute since 1997, and particularly her work as Director since August 2004. Dr Makkai's research and administrative skills went to the heart of the AIC's endeavours. She was deeply committed to the AIC as an independent source of quality advice and information to stakeholders. The Board and the Criminology Research Council deeply appreciate her work at the AIC and wish her well in her new position as Dean of the College of Arts and Social Sciences at the Australian National University.

I thank my Board colleagues, the Acting Director and the staff of the AIC for their dedication during the year. There were some additional challenges, with relocations during the refurbishment of the AIC's premises and the resignation of the Director, but the continuing strength of the Institute's reputation demonstrates its unerring commitment to robust and relevant research, crucially contributing to the evidence on which effective policy can be based.

Professor Richard Fox
Chair Australian Institute of Criminology

Director's overview

Tony MarksThis year marked a record year of high quality research and dissemination from the Institute. As Australia's leading national research and knowledge centre on crime and justice the Institute undertook policy relevant work across a range of areas including drugs and crime, fraud and high-tech crime, transnational crime, crime prevention, and Indigenous issues, as well as emerging issues such as environmental crime. The Institute continued to build its unique national monitoring programs, which provide the data for analysis allowing policy makers and practitioners to observe trends in offending profiles. More than 85 papers, ranging from fact sheets to peer reviewed reports were published, 60 presentations were made to stakeholders, 13 roundtables, two conferences and four occasional seminars were held. In addition, Institute staff published in professional journals and represented the Institute and the Australian Government internationally at UN technical and program meetings and the World Criminal Justice Libraries Network.

Additional funding was provided under the government's National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and Children to investigate domestic violence-related homicides and inform future interventions to protect women and children from violence. Funding was also reinstated for the lapsing Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) Program, which collects empirical data from police detainees on drug use, offending history and socioeconomic circumstances.

As testament to the professional standing of the Institute's research and publications, the Institute received nearly $2 million in contract funding to undertake a range of specific research work for various levels of government, including areas such as substance abuse, offending and diversion in Indigenous communities as part of the National Indigenous Violence and Child Abuse Intelligence Task Force; bushfire arson; the precursor chemical trade in the Oceania region; and online child grooming.

The Institute's research has informed the development of Australian and state and territory government policy such as the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy's National Amphetamine-Type Stimulant Strategy. The comprehensive research report Recidivism in Australia has attracted considerable interest across crime and justice agencies within Australia and internationally. It is being used to inform the work of the Australian Bureau of Statistics' National Information Development Plan for Crime and Justice in developing national recidivism indicators for courts, police and corrections services.

For the first time, under its new obligations under the Commonwealth fraud reporting guidelines, the Institute undertook a survey of Australian Government agencies, receiving a record response to its secure online survey. The Institute reports to the Minister on fraud against the Australian Government and provides support to the Fraud Liaison Forum.

Research capacity was developed in emerging areas of crime with the undertaking of a major national cybercrime survey, the Australian Business Assessment of Computer User Security (ABACUS) to collect information on the type and extent of computer security breaches against businesses and the preventative security strategies utilised. Research was undertaken for the Australian High Tech Crime Centre resulting in publication of the influential and highly cited publication Future directions in technology-enabled crime. Environmental crime research reports were published on crime in the fishing industry and illegal logging in the Asia Pacific.

A new research team was formed during the year, devoted to modelling and forecasting, strengthening the Institute's existing capacity for quantitative methods and analytical research. To further develop the Institute as a knowledge centre, the information services section was enhanced by the addition of communications functions. The Institute commenced development of an open repository for access to data through its website, initially through the provision of selected DUMA data to the public and secure online access for stakeholders.

Over the next year the Institute will continue to develop research in emerging areas and publish findings from work that commenced with new funding this year on anti-money laundering and human trafficking. The important work of providing collective knowledge of best practice state and territory approaches from the evaluation of Queensland drug and Murri courts and Victorian juvenile justice will be completed. A major international conference on homicide, particularly domestic related, is planned, and the successful new research briefings to policy makers and practitioners, which commenced with sexual assault, will continue to be developed. Following consultation and redesign phases this year, a new website to better deliver information to stakeholders will soon go live.

It is anticipated that a new Director will be appointed during the year. I would like to thank the many people whose contributions are essential for building the data collections and knowledge base of the Institute, from the general public, collaborators in the research effort, academics and specialists who undertake peer review of research papers, and state, territory and Australian Government agencies that provide substantial in-kind support through the provision of data. The Institute and I have benefited from the guidance and support of the Chair of the Board of Management, the Chair of the Criminology Research Council, and Board and Council members. I thank the staff of the Institute who remained focused and dedicated to achieving our outcomes throughout the year, despite a lengthy period of relocation and disruption while the building was refurbished.

Tony Marks A/Director
Australian Institute of Criminology

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