Australian Institute of Criminology

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Executive summary

In this National Homicide Monitoring Program (NHMP) annual report, the nature and context of homicides occurring throughout the 2008–09 and 2009–10 financial years are described. This report is the first to be published since a review of the NHMP in 2009 recommended a move to a biennial reporting cycle. As such, unlike those before it, this report details homicide cases for a two year period. Although much of the data are presented in the aggregate, figures for each financial year are provided in some circumstances to aid the monitoring of trends. Ongoing monitoring of homicide allows the identification of changes over time and just as importantly, places short-term changes within a larger timeframe. It also enables policymakers and law enforcement personnel to identify changes in the risk markers associated with incidents, victims and offenders. This facilitates targeted intervention/prevention policies in the areas likely to have the greatest impact.

Key findings from this report include:

  • From 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2010, there were a total of 510 homicide incidents—253 in 2008–09 and 257 in 2009–10.
  • These incidents involved 541 victims and 611 offenders—262 victims and 293 offenders in 2008–09 and 279 victims and 318 offenders in 2009–10.
  • Since 2001–02, there has been a downward trend in the homicide rate, decreasing from 1.8 per 100,000 in 2007–08 to 1.2 per 100,000, which is the lowest recorded since the inception of the NHMP. The homicide victimisation rate remained at 1.2 incidents per 100,000 population in both 2008–09 and 2009–10.
  • Consistent with previous years, males continued to be overrepresented as both victims (n=366; 68%) and offenders (n=538; 88%).
  • Knives continue to be the most commonly used weapon, with 37 percent of all homicide incidents in 2008–09 involving knives/sharp instruments. This increased to 41 percent in 2009–10.
  • During the period 2008–09 to 2009–10, approximately one in 10 (n=65; 13%) homicide incidents involved the use of a firearm; of these, only 14 percent involved a handgun. The majority of all firearms used in homicide incidents were reported by the police as unregistered and/or unlicensed. Overall, firearm involvement and in particular the involvement of handguns in homicide incidents, remains at an historical low.
  • The most common relationship between homicide offender and victim throughout 2008–09 and 2009–10 was friends/acquaintances (37%), closely followed by domestic homicides (36%); stranger homicides (including persons known for less than 24 hours) comprised 13 percent of homicides. Overall during this period, there was a similar proportion of domestic and friends/acquaintance homicides, whereas historically there have typically been a higher proportion of the latter.
  • Of the 185 domestic homicides recorded between July 2008 and June 2010, 66 percent (n=122) were classified as an intimate partner homicide, 12 percent as filicides (n=22; 7 of which involved the death of a child under 1 year of age), 11 percent as parricides (n=20) and two percent as siblicides (n=4).
  • Female victimisation decreased from 1.0 per 100,000 (n=112) females in 2007–08, to an historic low of 0.7 per 100,000 (n=80) females in 2008–09. However, females remain overrepresented as victims of intimate partner homicide.
  • Sixty homicide victims throughout 2008–09 and 2009–10 were identified as being Indigenous Australians (34 males and 26 females). Even though the number of Indigenous victims and offenders decreased compared with previous years, Indigenous people continue to be overrepresented in both cohorts. At a national level, the rate of Indigenous victimisation in 2009–10 (4.1 per 100,000) was close to four times higher than non-Indigenous victimisation (1.1 per 100,000).
  • Forty-nine children aged 17 years and younger were killed throughout the period. Overall, the rate of victimisation and offending among those aged 17 years and younger has remained stable over the history of the NHMP, with the exception of those aged between 15 and 17 years, which has decreased to an historic low in the last two years (n=5).
  • More than one in 10 (n=65; 13%) homicides were committed during the course of another crime, including other violent crimes (n=15; 3% of all homicides), robbery (n=13; 2%) and drug offences (n=11; 2%).