Australian Institute of Criminology

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The year in review

Dr Adam M Tomison Director Australian Institute of CriminologyDirector’s overview

It is my pleasure to present the Australian Institute of Criminology Annual Report 2011–12.

In 2010–11, the Australian Government tabled legislative amendments to the Criminology Research Act 1971 to change the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) and other agencies from being a Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 agency to a Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act) agency. This change came into effect from 1 July 2011.

While this change has affected how the AIC reports to government, it has not affected any of the AIC’s current functions, nor its place as a statutory independent research agency. In essence, it is ‘business as usual’ for the AIC but with the added responsibility of the Criminology Research Council’s successful national research grants program (now known as the Criminology Research Grants program), which came with merging of the AIC’s and the Council’s functions.

The change to operations under the FMA Act did mean that the AIC’s Board of Management ceased to operate and the Director of the AIC assumed full financial responsibility for the AIC as Director and Chief Executive. The new Criminology Research Advisory Council was created to provide advice to the Director on strategic research priorities and research dissemination strategies, and to recommend grants to be made under the annual Criminology Research Grants program. The Advisory Council held its first meeting on 1 July 2011.

The changes also required the AIC to satisfy a significantly higher compliance and accountability regime, particularly in finance and human resourcing. Through much hard work, the AIC ensured it met its compliance obligations in 2011–12. The AIC undertook two internal audits during the year, focusing on its management of the transition process and compliance obligations. These reviews showed that the AIC had put in place appropriate processes and controls to meet the legislated requirements associated with the FMA Act and other regulations and requirements. Successful management of the transition was further demonstrated by the AIC receiving an unqualified audit of its 2011–12 financial statements.

Overall, in its 39th year of operation, the AIC continued to successfully fulfill its role as Australia’s national crime and criminal justice knowledge centre, informing the work of governments, law enforcement and the wider community. A diverse range of policy-relevant research has been conducted to improve understanding of crime and what works in preventing and reducing crime, and to shed light on the effectiveness of specific criminal justice system policies and programs.

Despite experiencing a significant reduction to the AIC’s budget appropriation in 2011–12, a substantial number of research projects continued to be undertaken and successfully completed, and I am pleased to note that the AIC again exceeded all publication and other dissemination targets for the year.

In 2011–12, research activities undertaken by the AIC included:

  • estimation and publication of the rate of international student victimisation in Australia;
  • completion of performance measurement and program evaluation studies addressing a range of law enforcement and criminal justice programs and functions in areas such as illicit drugs, community safety in Indigenous Australian communities and specialist court systems;
  • an ongoing focus on crime prevention research—including the development of Crime Prevention ASSIST, a new research unit that will focus on delivering crime prevention research and evaluations, education and training for a range of law enforcement, criminal justice and other stakeholders;
  • continuation of the AIC’s ongoing trafficking in persons program, including research on marriage arrangements and trafficking, and the beginning of exploratory research into physical labour trafficking vulnerabilities in the Australian construction industry;
  • the second Fraud against the Commonwealth monitoring report, released publicly in early 2012 by the Minister for Home Affairs and Justice
  • evaluation of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 funding arrangements; and
  • publication of the AIC-drafted National Crime Prevention Framework after its endorsement by the Standing Council on Police and Emergency Management.

Changing nature of the AIC work program

Despite a reduction in appropriation funding, the AIC was able to maintain staffing and all core capacities during 2011–12 by reducing or delaying work in some programs and increasing fee-for-service research, secretariat and communications work.

In recent years, the AIC has reviewed its crime monitoring programs to improve their value and relevance to the sector while assessing ways to achieve better products in a more cost-effective way. Previously, this had resulted in a move to biennial reporting for most monitoring programs. In 2011–12, the AIC finalised the review of two more programs. From 2012–13, there will be a reduced data collection and a reduction in associated costs for the Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) program in order to maintain the program within existing resources. Some data collection functions will also be undertaken in-house rather than continue to be contracted out. The proposed changes were made in consultation with key DUMA stakeholders and are designed to preserve the national significance of DUMA and its relevance to law enforcement and academic research, while reducing the financial pressure on the AIC. The AIC has also slowed the delivery of projects under the ongoing Trafficking in Persons research program—completing the agreed work plan over a longer period will enable the program to continue within its available resources.

Interagency partnerships

The AIC has a strong history of positive engagements and partnerships with Commonwealth, state and territory law enforcement and justice bodies, and a range of university and other research agencies. In 2011–12, AIC research staff continued as active contributors to government agendas and inquiries into Indigenous justice, human trafficking, fraud, high-tech crime and organised crime. The AIC was also involved in drafting a National Youth Justice Framework for the Australasian Juvenile Justice Administrators group, which it is hoped will be endorsed in 2012–13.

Australian Crime Commission

In 2010–11, the AIC agreed to second up to two AIC research staff on a part-time basis for 12 months to the Australian Crime Commission (ACC). This provided valuable research support for the Commission’s work program, enabling the combining of academic research and intelligence skills to create better analyses of crime problems. The secondments were part of a broader memorandum of understanding signed by the agencies and was seen as the next step in facilitating research and analytical work done in partnership. Although the last secondment ceased in May, the AIC and ACC will release a publication on serious and organised investment fraud, which was developed as part of the secondment in August 2012.

Heads of Commonwealth Operational Law Enforcement Agencies

Building on its existing relationship with the Attorney-General’s Department and Commonwealth law enforcement bodies, in 2011–12, the AIC took on a role coordinating the development of research priorities across the Australian Government law enforcement portfolio for the Heads of Commonwealth Operational Law Enforcement Agencies (HOCOLEA). As part of this role, the AIC will collect and summarise outcomes of the research on key priority areas undertaken by Commonwealth law enforcement agencies. It is hoped that this new role for HOCOLEA will also enhance the AIC’s already good relationship with the sector and its ability to engage in research with these agencies.

Other partnerships

However, the AIC’s expertise is not limited to research functions. Corporate Services has continued to successfully provide secretariat services to the Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Awards and the National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund (NDLERF). NDLERF promotes quality, evidence-based practice in drug law enforcement to prevent and reduce the harmful effects of licit and illicit drug use in Australian society.

The AIC also continues to host the Indigenous Justice Clearinghouse and the Crime Stoppers Australia websites, and in late 2011, it began providing secretariat services for the Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology. Performing these functions offsets some of the costs of the AIC’s corporate services while increasing engagement with key groups in the sector and offering in return a quality service and access to the AIC’s range of expertise.

Finally, in 2011–12, the Communications team continued to develop a large number of conferences, forums and seminars, some of which were undertaken in partnership with government, law enforcement and non-government agencies. All these activities provided positive engagements with the broader sector, allowing the AIC to use its expertise effectively and disseminate its work as widely as possible.

Communications

A large number of publications were released over the year. The flagship Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice and Research and Public Policy series are peer reviewed, while other publications are not. This year, the number of peer-reviewed papers produced by the AIC was again over our target. Reflecting the AIC’s increased focus on contracted research for the sector, the number of contracted research reports increased substantially—part of a large number of non peer-reviewed publications produced during the year. The challenge is to turn this contracted research into additional peer-reviewed publications, a task the AIC is pursuing with vigour. Overall, many AIC publications continued to attract national and international interest, by governments, researchers and other stakeholders, generating strong media coverage.

The AIC held 27 events in 2011–12, including:

  • Crime Prevention and Policy: New Tools for Contemporary Challenges—Sydney, November 2011. This event was organised by the AIC and the Crime Prevention Division of NSW Attorney General’s Department and their colleagues in the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. For a niche event on spatial, statistical and economic tools, the turnout of 130 participants exceeded expectations.
  • Truth, Testimony, Relevance: Improving the Quality of Evidence in Sexual Offence Cases—Melbourne, May 2012. The AIC partnered with Victoria Police and the Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault (Australian Institute of Family Studies), further strengthening its relationship with these agencies. There were over 130 registered participants and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

In 2010, the AIC embraced Web 2.0 online information dissemination, began using Facebook and Twitter and developed its own YouTube site, CriminologyTV. Social media tools were well patronised during the reporting year, attracting an increasing audience. Monitoring of usage and comments made on the AIC’s Facebook and Twitter pages in 2010 identified a clear desire on the part of many users to get to know the AIC better.

As a result, in July 2010, the AIC hosted more than 80 criminology students from across Australia for a one day AIC Student Criminology Forum, which proved to be a valuable way of connecting the AIC with the next generation of researchers, policymakers and law enforcement personnel. The event was a great success and a second forum took place in early July 2011. Given the positive reception by students, these events will continue to be run annually for the foreseeable future. A third forum has now been scheduled for early July 2012. The AIC held a similar forum for government stakeholders in early 2012 to improve their understanding of the work of the AIC, expose policymakers from across government to key findings and outcomes of the AIC’s research and to enhance existing relationships. The intention is that similar events are run for state and territory agencies over time, as resources permit.

Senior staff changes

On 1 July 2011, I was pleased to appoint Dr Rick Brown as Deputy Director (Research) with responsibility for the AIC’s Research Program. Rick’s extensive experience in criminological research in the United Kingdom—in the Home Office and for his own research consultancy business—has been used to effect in refining and shaping the AIC’s research program this year. He has also led the process of reviewing and developing strategic research priorities for the coming years, and orienting the AIC’s Research program to best meet the needs of government and other stakeholders.

In November 2011, Mr Tony Marks, Deputy Director (Corporate) and Chief Financial Officer, resigned to take up a position with Geosciences Australia after more than five years dedicated service. During his appointment, Mr Marks acted as Director of the AIC for 14 months until my appointment. As Deputy Director (Corporate) he led a range of innovations for the AIC in financial management, communications and IT functions, and took a key role in working through the implications of becoming an FMA agency, ably preparing the Institute for the change. From 14 November 2011, Mr Brian Russell was appointed Chief Financial Officer and acting Corporate Services Manager.

Directions in 2012–13

In 2012–13, the AIC will continue to deliver on its core mandate of conducting and disseminating timely, policy and practice-relevant research in a fiscally challenging environment. The AIC has a long history of providing both confidential and public strategic research advice to governments and government agencies, academia and the wider sector in Australia and overseas. This continued apace in 2011–12, through inquiries received and dealt with by the AIC’s JV Barry library, research and executive staff, with the latter providing more strategic advice.

This activity is seen as part of the AIC’s broader ongoing agenda of enhancing its relationship with Australian Government and state and territory agencies, and exploring closer ties with the academic sector. This will continue in 2012–13, as will an increased focus on conducting research into elements of organised crime, further development of research partnerships with Australian Government law enforcement agencies and the extension of the AIC’s new Crime Prevention ASSIST technical assistance program. The challenge is to continue to undertake strategically significant longer term research while balancing the need to undertake fee-for-service research that offsets costs and is of value in the short and medium term for government stakeholders and the wider research field.

Dr Adam M Tomison
Director (Chief Executive)
Australian Institute of Criminology