Australian Institute of Criminology

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Agency overview

Over the next 12 months, the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) will reach a series of 40 year milestones.

In the late 1960s, deficiencies in criminological data and a paucity of research into crime in Australia prompted the Australian Government to enact the Criminology Research Act 1971,which led to the founding of the AIC and the establishment of the Criminology Research Council. Introducing the bill on 24 February 1971, then Attorney-General, Tom Hughes QC, stated in his second reading speech:

One of the big gaps in our resources both in Australia and overseas is the lack of basic information about the incidence and extent of crime. We do not know, for example, the extent to which statistics reflect increased police efficiency or improved crime reporting standards, bringing out into the light more of the dark figure than was previously known. We do not know the extent to which the figures reflect changing practices in the administration of justice. The recent population growth in the younger age categories has a close connection with the increase revealed in statistics. Nevertheless, if one makes all due allowances for defective statistics, there is in this country a trend of sufficient magnitude to give cause for real concern.

Clearly, the provision of facilities for research into crime is an urgent and pressing need. There is no deployment on a nationally co-ordinated basis of existing facilities in Australia for criminological research

The Act commenced in law on 2 November 1972, with Judge JH Muirhead appointed the Acting Director on 1 February 1973.

Since then, the AIC has worked to fulfil its role as Australia’s national knowledge centre for crime and justice, producing criminological research and analysis of the highest order across a significant range of topic areas for the Australian and international crime and criminal justice sectors.

Through use of its core appropriation funding, supplemented by additional fee-for-service research undertaken for a range of Australian Government and state and territory government agencies (law enforcement agencies in particular), the AIC has continued to maintain a strong platform for crime monitoring programs and a raft of primary and secondary research activity. AIC research has been disseminated effectively through publications, conferences and training events.

In the last few years, the AIC has embraced the use of web 2.0 and other online media as a means of expanding its ‘reach’ (in Australia and internationally) into the crime and criminal justice sector, the broader health, anti-violence and social welfare sectors, academia and more broadly to professional and advocacy groups, and to a variety of commercial and business sectors interested in preventing crime targeted at their businesses.

Over its life, and continuing in 2011–12, the AIC has shaped the legislative and policy agendas of governments, and has informed and shaped the practices of law enforcement agencies, court systems and corrective services. It has also shaped the work of agencies and entities across varied sectors as they seek to prevent criminal activity targeted at their businesses.

The AIC frequently works in partnership with other government and academic research agencies to undertake research projects. It also manages three grants programs—the Criminology Research Grants (CRG) program, the National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund (NDLERF) and the Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Awards (ACVPA). The CRG and NDLERF programs both provide funding on a competitive basis for other agencies to undertake primary research projects. Thus, the AIC is involved not only in undertaking research of significance but in promoting the undertaking of quality research in the Australian academic sector more broadly.

Merging with the Criminology Research Council

From 1 July 2011, the AIC experienced the most substantive governance and administrative changes in its 39 year history when it became a Prescribed Agency subject to the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act) and a Statutory Agency under the Public Service Act 1999. Prior to this date, the AIC was a Statutory Authority under the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 (CAC Act). These legislative changes were made through the Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Act 2010 (the Amendment Act), which included changes to the AIC’s enabling legislation, the Criminology Research Act 1971.

The legislative change also merged the Criminology Research Council (CRC) with the AIC. While these changes did not affect the AIC’s existing functions, the AIC absorbed the CRC’s functions, assuming full responsibility for administering the newly named CRG Program. The AIC modified its outcome statement to reflect this change in function.

The transfer to the FMA Act and Public Service Act 1999 led to a significant increase in compliance and accountability reporting and significant governance, financial, procurement and recruitment policy changes. This required an increase in administrative staff to manage the additional workload and to achieve compliance.

The legislative changes also established the Criminology Research Advisory Council (Advisory Council), which comprises the representatives from each Australian jurisdiction who had previously been on the CRC. The Advisory Council’s role is to advise the Director of the AIC on strategic research priorities, communications and research dissemination strategies and to recommend grants to be made under the annual CRG program. The Advisory Council held its first meeting on 1 July 2011.

Minister, portfolio and Director

The Minister for Home Affairs and the Minister for Justice, the Hon Jason Clare MP, is responsible for the AIC. The AIC resides within the Attorney-General’s portfolio.

Dr Adam Tomison has been the AIC Director since July 2009; since 1 July 2011, he has also been the Chief Executive of the AIC.

Outcome and program objective 2011–12

Within the purview of the Criminology Research Act 1971, the AIC’s objective is to ensure that government and the wider community is informed by policy-relevant research, as well as generating a crime and justice evidence base and national knowledge centre.

The AIC’s single outcome, as stated in the 2011–12 Portfolio Budget Statement, is:

Informed crime and justice policy and practice in Australia by undertaking, funding and disseminating policy-relevant research of national significance; and through the generation of a crime and justice evidence base and national knowledge centre.

The statement expresses the strategy as follows:

The main focus of the Institute is on the conduct of research that is relevant to crime and justice policy and practice. As a national knowledge centre, the Institute disseminates both its own research as well as other national and international information relevant to crime and justice.

The outcome is achieved by:

  • undertaking impartial and policy-relevant research;
  • keeping the Minister fully informed of the AIC’s research and publications;
  • working cooperatively with the AGD, portfolio agencies, state and territory criminal justice agencies and other stakeholders; and
  • producing and disseminating crime and justice research and information to policymakers, practitioners, the academic community and the general public in Australia and internationally.
    Table 1: AIC submissions to Parliaments
    September 2011 Standing Committee on Social Issues, NSW Legislative Council. Inquiry into domestic violence trends and issues in New South Wales
    November 2011 Submission in response to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Discussion Paper Connecting with Confidence: Optimising Australia’s Digital Future
    February 2012 Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety, Australian Parliament. Inquiry into cyber-safety for senior Australians
    March 2012 Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Australian Parliament. Inquiry into marriage visa classes
    May 2012 Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Australian Parliament. Inquiry into marriage visa classes

Research relevant to policy and practice

Research undertaken by the AIC informs policy and practice in the crime and criminal justice sectors through:

  • monitoring trends in crime and the criminal justice system;
  • building knowledge of offending and victimisation;
  • identifying emerging or changed criminal activity; and
  • building an evidence base for an effective criminal justice system and crime prevention.

The AIC designs and conducts projects, and funds research through the CRG program, that investigate or highlight particular criminal justice issues of national or Australian Government interest. Although research topics and methodologies vary, the AIC’s emphasis is always on providing a policy-relevant evidence base.

While the AIC’s research is primarily funded by the Australian Government, individual projects may be funded by the Australian Government (or agencies), state and territory governments (or agencies) or a range of academic and non-government agencies.

The AIC receives significant in-kind support from state and territory governments for long-term monitoring programs and research projects. This is often in the form of access to, or provision of, data. The Australian state and territory governments, together with the Australian Government (which makes a contribution through the AIC’s core appropriation) also fund the CRG program each year.

AIC research contributes to the Australian Government’s national research priority area no 4, Safeguarding Australia and in particular that priority’s fourth goal, Protecting Australia from terrorism and crime. Programs such as Anti Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing (AML/CTF) and Trafficking in Persons contribute to the priority’s second goal Understanding our region and the world.

The AIC also contributes to national research priority area no 2 Promoting and maintaining good health, through the priority’s fourth goal Strengthening Australia’s social and economic fabric.

Organisational structure and functions

Research services

The AIC conducts timely and policy-relevant research on crime and justice issues for the Australian Government and other key stakeholders. The strategic priorities of its research are to:

  • provide information on, and analysis of, the criminal justice system and the causes, control and prevention of crime;
  • develop innovative products and services, including consultancy, in the field of criminological research and information to better meet the needs of clients and stakeholders; and
  • anticipate the needs of major stakeholders by conducting research into emerging areas of crime, including maintaining the ability to respond quickly to the needs of government.

On July 1 2011, the Deputy Director Research, Dr Rick Brown, took up his appointment to oversee the research team and research functions of the AIC. During the year, the AIC Research Services program was organised into the following four teams:

Crime Reduction and Review—reflects the AIC’s commitment to promoting research, evaluation and knowledge exchange among crime reduction practitioners and policymakers in Australia.

Global, Economic and Electronic Crime—provides information on, and analyses the causes, extent, prevention and control of, transnational criminal activity, economic crime, cybercrime and other complex and sophisticated criminal activity.

Crime and Populations—seeks to identify the nature and extent of particular crimes within specific sections of the community (such as juveniles or Indigenous communities) and the community as a whole.

Violent and Serious Crime Monitoring (VSCM)—enhances and promotes knowledge of Australia’s central crime issues, including homicide and other violence, firearms theft and illicit drug use and crime, and identifies the number and characteristics of people detained in custody and those who die in custody.

Figure 1: AIC organisation chart

Figure 1: organisation chart

Research activities

Research activities within the AIC fall into two main categories:

  • national monitoring programs; and
  • crime and justice projects.

National monitoring programs

National monitoring programs are core research activities of the AIC. They involve the collection and analysis of specialised crime and criminal justice data not available elsewhere. Most monitoring programs release a biennial report analysing trends and characteristics revealed by the data. These reports are widely used to inform whole-of-government reporting on the crime and justice sector and to support policy initiatives across all levels of government.

National monitoring and reporting is currently undertaken in the areas of:

  • trafficking in persons;
  • deaths in custody;
  • fraud against the Commonwealth;
  • drug use and the socio-demographics of police detainees;
  • homicide; and
  • armed robbery.

Crime and justice research projects

Crime and justice projects are limited-duration, major primary and secondary research activities. In 2011–12, projects undertaken by the AIC included:

  • research on international student victimisation;
  • further research on trafficking in persons, building on the 2010 report into labour trafficking;
  • evaluation of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 funding arrangements;
  • finalisation of the AIC’s review of AML/CTF functions and regulations in Australia;
  • development of performance measurement frameworks to be applied by law enforcement agencies and to inform crime prevention strategies;
  • drafting of the National Crime Prevention Framework for consideration by the Ministerial Council for Police and Emergency Management; and
  • research into the involvement of organised crime in firearms, conducted in partnership with the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission (ACC).

Corporate services

Corporate services provides substantive functions to deliver AIC outcomes, as well as the more traditional corporate support services, as detailed in the following sections.

Communications

As Australia’s national research and knowledge centre on crime and justice, the AIC seeks to promote justice and reduce crime by undertaking and communicating evidence-based research to inform policy and practice.

The AIC’s communications team:

  • ensures that new research and information is provided to AIC stakeholders, criminal justice practitioners and the general public; and
  • facilitates the communication, transfer and adoption of findings into policy and further research.

The AIC publishes high-quality publications, such as the peer-reviewed series Research and Public Policy (RPP) and Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice (T&I) (see Appendix 1), as well as other material based on its research. The Communications team also develops and manages key channels such as web, social media, events and media inquiries.

Information services

The AIC hosts a substantial collection of criminal justice and related materials. The collection is housed in the AIC’s JV Barry Library and has been made available online through the AIC website and via the CINCH electronic database to inform and assist in the development of evidence-based policy and programs.

The JV Barry Library also provides information and research support services to AIC researchers, academics, policymakers, practitioners and the general public. Its links, via a range of information service and library networks, connect AIC staff and stakeholders to a complete repository of specialist criminological resources in the most efficient manner.

Finance and administration

The AIC’s financial services include:

  • internal and external financial reporting, budget development and management, and project management and reporting;
  • procurement, contracts and legal, including implementation of legislative and compliance frameworks such as the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines, management of intellectual property, administration of grants, National Privacy Principles and insurance;
  • risk management and audit, including strategic risk identification and remediation, oversight of the outsourced internal audit activity, support to the Board Audit Committee and compliance with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines;
  • general and essential support, including facilities and security, travel, records and information management, responses to parliamentary questions and ministerial correspondence; and
  • (in the past year) coordinating, developing and streamlining new FMA requirements as they apply to the AIC.

Human Resource management

Human Resource responsibilities at the AIC include:

  • strategic planning and management;
  • coordination of the outsourced payroll services provider;
  • the drafting of Director’s Instructions, and policies and procedures;
  • implementation of industrial legislative obligations;
  • negotiation of the agency agreement;
  • liaison with the Staff Consultative Committee;
  • monitoring of workplace health and safety issues;
  • recruitment;
  • the staff performance development scheme; and
  • general staff support in the past year managing the transition of the AIC to the Public Service Act 1999.

Information and communications technology

The AIC runs a stable and secure information and communications technology (ICT) network in accordance with Australian Government information security requirements. The ICT team develops interactive datasets for publication and provides web and communications platforms. In addition to the AIC’s website, support and hosting are provided on a fee-for-service basis to other organisations, including the ACVPA Board and since July 2010, NDLERF. The Crime Stoppers Australia website is also hosted on a fee-for-service basis.

Secretariat and grants

The AIC provides secretariat services to the Criminology Research Advisory Council, the ACVPA Board and NDLERF. From September 2011, the AIC has also provided the Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology with secretarial support on a fee-for-service basis.

Highlight 1 Some visiting delegations

IndonesiaIndonestian delegation and AIC staff

On 15 November 2011, a delegation from the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) met with Deputy Director Rick Brown and Principal Criminologist Russell Smith and staff. The delegation consisted of:

  • Dedie A Rachim, Director of Education and of Public Services;
  • Luthfi Ganna Sukardi, Research System Assessment Specialist;
  • Nurul Ichsan Al Huda, Prevention Specialist, Deputy of Prevention; and
  • Bey Arifianto Widodo, Research and System Assessment Specialist, Directorate of Research and Development.

Mongolia

On 2 November 2011, AIC Director Adam Tomison discussed child protection policies with a visiting delegation from the Social Welfare Ministry of Mongolia and the UNICEF director based in Ulan Baator, Rana Flowers. Delegation members included:

  • Mr Dagvadorj Ochirbat, Parliament Standing Committee on Social Policy, Education, Culture and Science;
  • Mr Tsedev Dashdorj, Parliament Standing Committee on Economic Policy;
  • Mrs Dulbaa Altai, Chairperson, National Agency for Children;
  • Mr Sanjaa Narantsogt, Ministry of Education, Culture and Science;
  • Mr Tsedev Tsolmon, Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs;
  • Mr Ognon Khuyagtsogt, Ministry of Finance;
  • Mr Dumaa Namsrai, National Emergency Management Agency;
  • Mrs Baljinnyam Javzankhuu, Adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister; and
  • Mr Urgamal Byambasuren, State Secretary, Ministry of Social Welfare and Labour.

The delegation was travelling with Mongolia’s Deputy Prime Minister, who oversees children’s rights in that country. The delegation visited the AIC to talk about Australia’s regulations and operations in regard to children and to discover the coordination mechanisms in place to manage data on children. The delegation also wanted to identify service delivery modalities to drive standards for children’s rights.

Mongolian delegation and AIC staff