Australian Institute of Criminology

Skip to content

The year in review

Director’s overview

Dr Adam Tomison

It is my pleasure to present the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) Annual Report 2014–15. With the completion of my term of office on 12 July 2015, this will be my sixth and final report as Director. As such, I take this opportunity to reflect on the work of the AIC this year, as well as some of the AIC’s achievements since 2009.

The year 2014–15 has been a watershed year for the AIC; it is likely that in 2015–16 the Commonwealth Government will take a decision to merge the Institute with the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) as part of its Smaller Government Reform Agenda. The proposed merger will radically change the roles and function of the AIC and is designed to boost research in Commonwealth law enforcement priority areas and make best use of the existing Commonwealth analytic capacities provided by each agency. It is therefore likely that the AIC as it has been known for almost 43 years will undergo a significant reformulation.

Since the AIC was advised that this proposal would be scoped out in early 2015, substantial AIC human resources have been devoted to working with the ACC and Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) on exploring and shaping elements of the proposed merger. Despite this, the Institute has produced another highly successful year of work, progressing effectively across all functions and managing a high volume of quality research projects, publications, events and corporate services developments.

Research

Over the past six years the AIC has undertaken between 40 and 50 research projects each year and this year was no exception, with the Institute initiating, progressing and concluding a large number of projects in relation to each of its six priority themes—crime prevention, criminal justice responses, substance abuse and crime, transnational, organised and cyber crime, violent crime and vulnerable communities. Significant projects were undertaken for clients including: CrimTrac (a series of performance measurement projects designed to assess all major CrimTrac information databases); the Parliament of Victoria (extensive support for a methamphetamine inquiry); the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse; Corrections Victoria; and the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department (projects on issues including identity crime, re-estimation of the costs of crime, and fraud). A detailed summary of the AIC’s research program in 2014–15 is provided in the Research Performance section.

A cornerstone of the AIC’s research program has been the long-term monitoring of specific crime and justice issues. A range of changes have been made to the scope of monitoring programs over the past six years, including rephasing the production of monitoring reports from annual to biennial distribution as a cost-saving measure. While two monitoring programs have ceased since 2009—firearm theft and armed robbery—core monitoring programs have been maintained and continue to prove their value. In 2014–15 the AIC reached the milestone of having monitored homicide incidents over a 25-year period through the National Homicide Monitoring Program.

In addition, the importance of the Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) program was reinforced through its contribution to the national discourse on methamphetamine, delivered through an assessment of detainee interview data to assess crystal methamphetamine markets, methamphetamine production and offenders’ ice usage. Further key reports released during the year included a report on deaths in custody for the 2011–12 and 2012–13 period; the latest AIC assessment of the costs of crime to the Australian community ($47b, using 2011 data); two reviews of sexual offences legislation prepared for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse; reports on the nature of forced marriage and servile marriage in Australia; and the first studies of the experiences of, and outcomes for, victims of crime based on analysis of the AIC’s new Database of Victimisation Experience (DoVE), which was derived from the NSW Department of Justice victims of crime compensation database.

Increased focus on Commonwealth interests

Reflecting the Commonwealth’s greater interest in crime since 2000, particularly transnational organised crime, over the past six years the AIC work program has been more oriented toward meeting the Commonwealth’s research needs while maintaining a key role in meeting those of the states and territories. I have been particularly pleased that the AIC’s investment in performance measurement and rigorous evaluation and analysis practices has enabled us to provide confidential analysis to a number of law enforcement agencies to assist them in assessing crime trends. AIC research staff have also been seconded to AGD and the ACC to enable specific sensitive projects to be undertaken for the Commonwealth, in what have been successful partnerships.

However, as access to Commonwealth law enforcement projects and data can be difficult to arrange on a regular basis, the AIC has also worked to better address broader Commonwealth crime and justice research needs, undertaking work for, or in partnership with, agencies including AGD, Foreign Affairs, Health, Human Services, Education, Social Services, Prime Minister and Cabinet, law enforcement agencies such as the AFP, CrimTrac, the ACC, Customs and AUSTRAC, and the Australian Tax Office.

Crime Prevention ASSIST

Focused on supporting and shaping local crime prevention activity, the development of the Crime Prevention ASSIST (advice, support, information and skills training) unit has proven to be a valued addition to the crime prevention research field, providing resources, training and evaluation support for the sector and program evaluation opportunities for the AIC. The unit has generated significant interest in Australia with state and local governments purchasing training, advice and support, and evaluation expertise; internationally it has been seen as a useful applied evaluation approach for the sector. In 2014–15 it continued to provide a framework for training provided to the local government sector in a number of states and for the evaluation of key crime prevention initiatives.

Influence

The AIC has profoundly influenced criminological research, and policy and practice developments, across multiple jurisdictions nationally and internationally. Law, crime and justice researchers and practitioners, international organisations and parliaments continue to seek the AIC’s expert advice and utilise its research, from that produced in the 1970s right through to the most recent publications. AIC research has been utilised in the majority of legislative reviews of crime and justice matters at Commonwealth and state/territory level, and in research, policy and practice reviews and reforms. It is also widely used by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Health Organisation’s violence strategies and many national assessments of key crime matters such as homicide, financial crime, human trafficking assessments for Oceania et cetera. A small selection of the AIC’s significant research projects that have influenced research, policy and practice over the past six years is outlined below.

For the Commonwealth:
  • the ongoing monitoring of fraud against the Commonwealth for the Attorney-General’s Department;
  • a study assessing the victimisation of international students for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade;
  • the development of an identity crime and misuse monitoring framework for the Attorney-General’s Department;
  • an examination of overseas aid fraud for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade;
  • technical support in assessing the quality of grants for the Safer Streets Initiative for the Attorney-General’s Department;
  • the development of indicators of organised crime involvement for the Australian Crime Commission;
  • a study of organised crime involvement in firearms trafficking for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (in partnership with the ACC and AFP);
  • evaluations of the Community Crime Prevention Program and Proceeds of Crime Act Grants Program for the Attorney-General’s Department;
  • studies of migrant sex worker exploitation, forced marriage and marriage trafficking which assisted in the amendment to Commonwealth trafficking and slavery legislation (Trafficking in Persons program);
  • the first monitoring reports on the nature of trafficking and slavery in Australia;
  • costs of crime studies (and costs of organised crime studies for the ACC);
  • the development of a performance evaluation framework and the evaluation of all major CrimTrac information databases;
  • the development of research into cybercrime (financial crime, cybercrime techniques, scams, identity crime etc);
  • the investigation of child exploitation material offending in conjunction with the AFP;
  • anti money-laundering and counter-terrorism financing projects conducted with the support of AUSTRAC and AGD;
  • the production of the bushfire arson program and associated publication series;
  • the assessment of police detainee drug access and usage through DUMA and the provision of important intelligence to police agencies—an early identifier of the heroin drought, the rise in methamphetamine use and drug market trends;
  • an assessment of violent extremism and stakeholder perceptions of preventative strategies;
  • the provision of expert advice to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the conduct of key projects to map sex offences legislative changes against policing and child protection reforms;
  • mapping of the usage of CCTV systems by local governments;
  • exploring barriers to use of unexplained wealth orders in Australia; and
  • an evaluation of Indigenous drug and alcohol treatment programs for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
For states and territories:
  • the development of a drug law enforcement performance measurement framework for a state police force;
  • the development of an evaluation framework for Corrections Victoria;
  • the evaluation of the Community Crime Prevention Program in Victoria;
  • evaluations of a range of specialist courts initiatives in Queensland and alternative dispute resolution approaches in NSW and Victoria;
  • new analyses of the nature of, and trends in, homicide, armed robbery, deaths in custody and illicit drug use (crime-monitoring programs);
  • an assessment of the relationship between alcohol use and arrest (through the DUMA program) for Operation Unite and as part of a series of projects on crime in the night-time economy;
  • the establishment of the Crime Prevention ASSIST unit to inform, train and assist governments and local community crime prevention projects to identify what works and to evaluate their work;
  • the provision of training on crime prevention for local government and other crime prevention officers in Victoria and New South Wales;
  • the provision of specialist analysis and support to the Victorian Parliament’s ice inquiry; and
  • a performance audit of ACT correctional rehabilitation services.
On crime and violence as it affects Indigenous peoples and communities:
  • a series of projects exploring causation and elements of victimisation and offending;
  • an evaluation of the impact of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) on community safety in NT communities (Commonwealth);
  • developing enhancements of evaluation methods—a refinement of culturally appropriate approaches for use with Indigenous communities;
  • reseach on intimate partner violence (including studies of intimate partner homicide);
  • research on young Indigenous people’s victimisation and offending patterns;
  • an assessment of the efficacy of NT Corrections’ recidivism risk-assessment tools for use with Indigenous offenders; and
  • an evaluation of Indigenous drug and alcohol treatment programs (AGD).
On research approaches:
  • the refinement of culturally appropriate research approaches for use with Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse communities;
  • the development of performance measurement systems for law enforcement models of practice;
  • the completion of the first successful project to combine student visa and crime victimisation records to provide quantitative assessments of the risk of crime experienced by international students;
  • the development of DoVE—a case database of victimisation experiences and an important resource for better assessing the impact of violent crime on victims and their families; and
  • empirical modelling of prisoner numbers and cost-benefit studies of corrections approaches.

Communications and information dissemination

Research is of little benefit if not effectively disseminated to stakeholder audiences. The AIC maintains a strong focus on research dissemination through a range of channels, particularly through its publications and events program, which is supported by a strong online presence.

Publications

Early in my term as Director, a decision was made to reduce the number of fact sheets and bulletins produced by the AIC and instead focus on producing quality publications based on primary and secondary data collection and analysis by Institute staff. The publication program was also expanded through increasing the number of publications produced through the Criminology Research Grants (CRG) and National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund (NDLERF) programs. In addition, the recognition by the Australian Research Council (ARC) of the Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice (T&I) series as a Level B publication in journal rankings meant a number of unsolicited papers by academic researchers and policymakers with policy and/or practice relevance were also received and published.

This year the AIC again exceeded its targets for our two peer-reviewed flagship publication series, the Research and Public Policy series and the Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice papers, as well as our targets for other types of publication. 2014–15 also saw the publication of the AIC’s 500th Trends & Issues paper. To evaluate the Publications program over time, the period from October 2009 to June 2015 was examined and compared with October 2003 to June 2009. Between October 2009 and June 2015, the AIC published 247 items. This included 124 T&I papers, 24 Research and Public Policy papers, 38 Research in Practice papers, 26 Monitoring Reports and more than 16 special reports (Table 2). Comparing similar publication series in the previous period, there has been an overall 11 percent increase in output over the period.

For five of the six years since 2009 the AIC has produced 30–40 percent more publications than specified under its publication KPIs (23 peer-review publications; 38 other publications). The AIC’s publication program has also been qualitatively enhanced over this period, maintaining a higher standard of publication, a reduction in fact sheets and other simple outputs and an increase in peer-reviewed publications.

When all of the AIC’s publication outputs are considered, including peer reviewed academic journal papers completed by staff and the range of contracted AIC reports published by other agencies, together with the range of non-peer-reviewed AIC publications over the 2009–2015 period, the AIC has conservatively produced more than 230 peer reviewed publications and more than 460 publications of all types.

Conferences and other events

The AIC has continued to support a wide range of stakeholders and has always been ready to provide expert advice to ministers and policy officials. In the last year it has contributed to many working groups and committees, including those associated with:

  • child protection and family violence;
  • consumer fraud;
  • cybersafety;
  • environmental crime;
  • firearms;
  • human trafficking and slavery; and
  • institutional responses to child sexual abuse.

Ten major events were held in 2014–15 covering a range of crime and justice areas, including two international conferences focused on child protection and crime victimisation developed and hosted by the AIC. The Institute also strengthened its international ties by developing and running one of four key workshops at the 13th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Qatar in April 2015. All of these events were highly successful and reflected the skills and expertise of the AIC’s small but expert team.

In recent years roundtables and forums have been held on issues including:

  • armed robbery;
  • aviation responses to aggressive passengers;
  • child exploitation material;
  • crime prevention capacity building;
  • the DUMA program;
  • human trafficking and slavery;
  • Indigenous cybersafety;
  • managing intoxicated offenders; and
  • the National Deaths in Custody Program.

In addition to the AIC annual seminar series and research forums (around 10 per year), over the 2009–2015 period more than 27 significant events have been held. These have included:

  • 16 multi-day international or national flagship conferences;
  • five national sector forums (eg the bushfire arson prevention symposium); and
  • six Student Criminology Forums.

At ACCAN 2015—AIC Director Adam Tomison greeted by a representative of the Ngāti Whātua iwi (tribe) of the Northland Peninsula and Auckland in New Zealand.

Library repository

The AIC’s Information Services section, centred around the JV Barry Library, has been essential to the AIC’s role as the national knowledge centre on crime and criminal justice through its provision of information to practitioners, policymakers, academics, students and the general public. The Information Services team offers fundamental support to AIC researchers, particularly by anticipating their research requirements and proactively sourcing new and authoritative material.

Developments in electronic media and technology have enabled the AIC to continue to extend its reach to an ever-increasing audience who are able to download AIC publications, view our seminars and conference keynote addresses online, and engage with the AIC and our research holdings via social media or our website. More importantly, as demonstrated in the Reach and Influence section, our materials are used to inform research, policy and practice, thus fulfilling the AIC’s purpose—to be of use in understanding crime and developing more effective means of combating and preventing it.

Knowledge transfer across a range of legal and criminological areas has been enhanced by enabling international database providers ProQuest, GALE and Ebsco to distribute AIC material through a fee-for-service arrangement. Their statistics show that the Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice series is frequently referenced and downloaded by educational institutions and government institutions in more than 50 countries around the world, and that this use has been increasing. For example, in 2013–14 Proquest reported nearly 33,000 downloads of AIC works, a 43 percent increase in usage from 2012–13.

Finally, in 2014–15, Information Services continued to ensure that the AIC could draw upon a world-class research collection to inform its research work, which can then be made available to the sector in Australia and to interested agencies overseas. The CINCH bibliographic database is the JV Barry Library’s flagship product, which for 40 years has been the key compendium for Australian criminology and criminal justice literature. In 2014–15 the AIC received funding from RMIT Informit services to pilot the takeover and extension of the electronic DRUG bibliographic database from the de-funded Alcohol and Drug Council of Australia (ADCA). In this way the AIC is continuing an important national collection of online material on alcohol and drugs information and research while extending the breadth and depth of its collection.

Online channels

The AIC has been a significant criminal justice publisher since the mid-1970s; approximately 4,000 AIC publications are available on the website, together with nearly 3,000 conference and seminar papers. During 2014–15, AIC publication landing pages were viewed over 1.1 million times, approximately 45 percent of site usage. Over the past five years, the Institute’s website has seen a 75 percent increase in new users.

The AIC embraced Web 2.0 policy quickly following its promulgation by government and has been at the forefront of the public sector in developing a vibrant social media system to better disseminate the AIC’s work, its information collection and its events. Other Australian and international research agencies have requested briefings on the AIC’s social media footprint to assist in developing their own systems. As of June 2015, the AIC has an online subscriber network of over 20,000 people through Facebook, Twitter, an AIC email alert system and its YouTube channel, CriminologyTV. Over 260 AIC video files (lectures and seminars, keynote conference presentations, seminars and Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Awards, or ACVPA, award ceremonies) have been made publicly available on CriminologyTV to both subscribers and non-subscribers worldwide—substantially expanding access to AIC products.

Corporate services

The significant increase in administrative and legislative compliance and accountability tasks the AIC has experienced since becoming a Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act) agency in July 2011 continued to impact the agency, but was managed effectively. The AIC, together with all Commonwealth Government agencies administered under the FMA Act, transitioned to the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) on 1 July 2014, and the Corporate Services team has spent considerable time managing this transition and upgrading the AIC’s policies, protective security framework and informational technology systems.

Corporate Services continued to successfully provide secretariat services to the ACVPA and the NDLERF. The 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. Further, the AIC continued to host the Indigenous Justice Clearinghouse and provide 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, facilitating the production of additional high-quality research and analysis and offering these external partners a quality service.

Income generation

Over the 2010–11 and 2011–12 financial years the AIC was subject to a 34 percent cut in Commonwealth appropriated funds. This was followed by a series of efficiency dividends in subsequent years. As a result, the AIC’s appropriation in 2015–16 is 36 percent lower in real terms than it was in 2009–10. Generating income thus became a vital issue during my term as Director—a challenge that was met, enabling the AIC to continue to fulfil and expand its core roles of conducting and disseminating research of significance.

Reductions in appropriated funds were offset partly through significant work undertaken by the Corporate and Research programs to increase efficiency and productivity and partly through increased revenue from fee-for-service activity. Revenue totalling $18.209m was generated over the six-year period from 2009 to 2015, from a range of sources including: contracted research for a range of Commonwealth and state and territory agencies, often conducted in partnership with academic agencies and the private sector; the provision of secretariat and grants management services; royalties from database and publication use; and the hosting of conferences. As a result of these activities fee-for-service work, which constituted 20 percent of total budget in 2009–10, increased to 40 percent of budget in 2014–15, allowing the AIC to keep the reduction in available revenue overall to a five percent decline between 2009–10 and 2015–16. A strong focus on generating income has meant that the AIC has not always been able to be as strategic as it would choose to be in selecting projects or in extending work on some projects—although all projects selected had to be relevant to the work of the AIC and offer some value to the field—but did enable the Institute to maintain its capacity, and to generate and disseminate a substantial body of policy-relevant research.

In conclusion

The future merging of the AIC and ACC is a matter for government to decide. If approved, the AIC will undergo a revolution in terms of its nature and roles; and I hope the key elements of what has been a highly successful agency model are preserved and continue to produce high-quality, policy-relevant research.

I end my term as Director with a great deal of personal satisfaction in the AIC’s achievements over the past six years, in terms of both the quantity and quality of the work produced, the impact it has had and will continue to have in enhancing understandings of a substantial range of emerging and current crime and justice issues, and the role it has played in shaping legislation, policy and practice across the crime, justice and related sectors. These achievements are recognised widely in government, academic, justice and law enforcement sectors around Australia and across the world. They are due in no small measure to the hard work of the managers and staff of the AIC, and I take this opportunity to thank them for their fine service to the Institute. I would like to express my gratitude to the various past and present members of the AIC Board of Management and its successor, the Criminology Research Advisory Council, for their support and wisdom during my term of office.

The AIC continues to live up to its reputation as Australia’s knowledge centre for crime and justice and is a world leader in producing and disseminating policy-applied research across a broad range of subject areas. I take pride in having led the highly professional staff of the AIC; in having maintained the Institute’s already high standard of work and refined and extended its work program to ensure it remained the key national centre for crime and justice research. I wish the Institute and its staff the very best for the future.

Dr Adam Tomison
Director 2009–2015
Australian Institute of Criminology