This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the Australian Government's first investment into criminology research—passing the Criminology Research Act 1971. Two years after the Act was passed the Australian Institute of Criminology was established and in operation.
Since then Australia's national knowledge centre on crime and justice has generated high-level research in Australian and international criminology, informing further research and policy making and providing crucial evidence-based research for policing agencies, the federal and state governments, practitioners, corrections services and many other stakeholders.
The AIC produces core research for the Attorney-General and specific project-based research for a range of state and federal stakeholders. It also manages grants programs such as the Criminology Research Council's Grants program, the National Drug Law Enforcement Fund (NDLERF) and the Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Awards (ACVPA).
In 2010 the government determined that the AIC's fundamental legislative and accountability structure was to change and on 17 December 2010 the Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 was passed. The legislated amendments to the Criminology Research Act merged the AIC and the Criminology Research Council (CRC) and transferred them on 1 July 2011 from governance under the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 to a single entity regulated under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997. The functions of the CRC were absorbed into the AIC.
These administrative and accountability changes are consistent with government policy for managing statutory agencies. The AIC will continue its role as Australia's knowledge centre for crime and criminal justice, developing and publishing evidence-based research to assist governments and policing agencies in policy development and practice. There will be no reduction in function due to the transfer to the FMA Act. The AIC assumes the responsibility for the annual CRC research grants, which will be determined taking into account the advice of a new Criminology Research Advisory Council.
As part of the changes, the AIC Board of Management ceases and the Director assumes all responsibility for the effective management of the AIC, and the new Criminology Research Advisory Council will begin operation. Comprised of CRC representatives from each jurisdiction, the Council will advise the Director on strategic research priorities, communications and the ongoing criminology research grants program (to be known as Criminology Research Grants).
Under these arrangements, the AIC will retain its capacity to provide high-quality independent research and advice to governments, policing agencies and corrections services and the Criminology Research Grants (CRG) program will continue to foster and support research that is relevant to current and future public policy issues.
Minister, portfolio and Director
The Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, the Hon. Brendan O'Connor, MP, is responsible for the AIC and the AIC sits within the Attorney-General's portfolio.
Dr Adam Tomison has been Director of the AIC since July 2009 and under the new legislative arrangements in force from 1 July 2011, is also the Chief Executive.
The 2010–11 outcome and program objective
The AIC has a single outcome:
An informed government and community through policy-relevant research and the generation of a crime and justice evidence base and national knowledge centre.
The strategy to achieve the outcome is:
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 publications
- working cooperatively with the Attorney-General's Department, portfolio agencies, state and territory criminal justice agencies and other stakeholders
- producing and disseminating crime and justice research and information to policymakers, practitioners, the academic community and the general public in Australia and internationally.
The primary objective of the AIC as stated in the Budget Papers 2010–11 is:
… to inform policy and practice that seeks to reduce crime and promote justice, through research and the dissemination of information. Its secondary objective is to maintain a comprehensive and focused collection in the field of criminal justice in Australia and to ensure that the Institute's researchers and stakeholders have access to the most up-to-date and relevant information.
Relevant policy research
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
- building an evidence base for an effective criminal justice system and crime prevention.
The AIC designs and conducts projects that investigate or highlight particular criminal justice issues of national or Australian Government interest. These can be either primary or secondary research and can be undertaken as core or contracted individual consultancies. Topics vary and the AIC's emphasis is on providing a policy-relevant evidence base.
The AIC's research is primarily funded by the Australian Government but individual projects may be funded by the Australian Government, state and territory governments or 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 AIC's research falls under the Australian Research Council's National Research Priorities and its associated Priority Goals guidelines, specifically National Research Priority no. 4—Safeguarding Australia and particularly Priority Goals no. 1—Protecting critical infrastructure and no. 4—Protecting Australia from terrorism and crime.
Some projects, such as the Anti Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing (AML/CTF) and Trafficking in Persons programs also contribute to Goal no. 2—Understanding our region and the world. Other projects fall under National Research Priority no. 2—Promoting and maintaining good health, with work undertaken under Goal no. 1—A healthy start to life and Goal no. 4—Strengthening Australia's social and economic fabric.
Highlight 1: Direct work with parliamentary committees
During 2010–11 the AIC was involved in the following work with parliamentary committees:
- The AIC made a submission to the Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety on the safety of children and young people on the internet. AIC Principal Criminologist, Dr Russell Smith, gave evidence at the committee's public hearing on 24 March 2011.
- Research into alternative remittance systems that allow overseas transfers of money was examined during a hearing of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee examining the Combating the Financing of People Smuggling and Other Measures Bill 2011.
- The AIC completed a consultancy with the Victorian Parliamentary Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee examining alcohol related assaults in the Melbourne CBD.
- The AIC undertook a consultancy with the Victorian Parliamentary Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee to conduct a longitudinal birth cohort study of Victorian youth, examining contact with the criminal justice system and identifying implications for interventions with high-volume young offenders.
Internal structural review
The Director conducted an internal structural review in September 2010. This identified a requirement for a Deputy Director (Research) role. With this new role in mind, the Director implemented a new organisational structure with Communications and Information Services—as well as the existing corporate functions of ICT, Finance, HR, Security & Facilities, and Secretariat & Grants—coming under the responsibility of the Deputy Director (Corporate).
Highlight 2: Who uses our research?
The AIC’s commitment to rigorous evidence-based research means that AIC research findings and recommendations are widely used and cited. This remained true in a number of important stakeholder reports during 2010–11.
- Australian Parliament’s Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety, 2011. High-Wire Act: Cyber-Safety and the Young
- The Attorney-General’s National Human Rights Action Plan Baseline Study Consultation Draft June 2011
- The landmark Doing Time Time for Doing—Indigenous youth in the criminal justice system report of the Australian Parliament’s House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs 2011
- The West Australian state corrective services Offender Drug and Alcohol Strategy 2010–14
- SCRGSP (Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision) 2011, Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2011, Productivity Commission, Canberra
- Report on Government Services [ROGS] : Indigenous compendium / Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision .
The AIC conducts timely and policy-relevant research on crime and justice issues for the Australian Government and other key stakeholders. Its strategic priorities in research are to:
- provide information on, and analysis of, the causes, control and prevention of crime and on the criminal justice system
- develop innovative products and services in the field of criminological research and information to better meet the needs of clients and stakeholders, including the provision of consultancy services
- 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.
During 2010–11 the AIC Research Services program was organised into the following teams:
Crime Reduction and Review—reflects the AIC's commitment to implementing ways of promoting research, evaluation and knowledge exchange among crime reduction practitioners and policymakers in Australia.
Global, Economic and Electronic Crime—focuses on providing information on, and analysis of, 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, and to identify the number and characteristics of people detained in custody and those who die in custody.
Violent and Serious Crime Monitoring—enhances and promotes knowledge of Australia's central crime issues including homicide and other violence, firearms theft and illicit drug use and crime.
Modelling and Forecasting and Geospatial Analysis—provided higher-order statistical and spatial analysis of crime. These teams were ceased in April 2011 due to budgetary restrictions, with some functions folded into the other areas of the Research Services program.
Research activities within the AIC fall into two main categories:
- national monitoring programs
- crime and justice projects.
National monitoring programs are core research activities of the AIC, involving the ongoing collection and analysis of specialised crime and criminal justice data not available elsewhere. Most monitoring programs release an annual 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. The development and maintenance of monitoring programs relies on extensive in-kind assistance and support from all jurisdictions.
Crime and justice projects are major primary and secondary research activities which, in 2010–11, involved among other things:
- research on overseas student victimisation
- research on violence and child abuse in Indigenous communities
- further research on trafficking in persons building on the release of the 2010 report into labour trafficking
- finalising the AIC's review of AML/CTF functions and regulations in Australia
- the evaluation of specialist courts
- the development of performance measurement frameworks for law enforcement agencies and to inform crime prevention strategies
- drafting of a National Crime Prevention Framework for consideration by the Ministerial Council for Police and Emergency Management
- research into the involvement of organised crime in firearms, conducted in partnership with the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission.
The corporate services line area of the AIC provides substantive functions delivering AIC outcomes, as well as more traditional corporate support services as detailed in the following sections.
The AIC's communications team:
- ensures that new research and information is provided to AIC stakeholders and
- facilitates communication, transfer and adoption of findings into policy and further research.
The AIC publishes high-quality publications such as the peer-reviewed Research and Public Policy series, and the Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice series (see Appendix 1) and other materials based on the AIC's and other research. The communications team also develops and manages key channels such as web, social media, events and media enquiries.
The AIC hosts a substantial collection of criminal justice and related materials. This collection is available online through the website and through the AIC's JV Barry Library, to inform the development of evidence-based policy and programs. The AIC's JV Barry library also provides information and research support services to AIC researchers, academics, policymakers, practitioners and the general public. Its links through a range of information service and library networks ensure access for 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
- 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
- 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
- a host of general and essential support including facilities and security, travel, records and information management, responses to parliamentary questions and ministerial correspondence.
Human resource management
Human resource management within the AIC includes strategic planning and management, coordination of the outsourced payroll services provider, drafting of Director's Instructions, policies and procedures, implementation of industrial legislative obligations, negotiation of the agency agreement, liaison with the Staff Consultative Committee, monitoring of occupation health and safety (OH&S) issues, recruitment, the performance development scheme and general staff support.
Information and communication technology
The AIC provides a stable and secure network in accordance with government information security requirements, 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 CRC, the ACVPA Board and since July 2010, the National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund.
Secretariat and grants
The AIC provides secretariat services to the Board (up until 30 June 2010), the CRC (now the Criminology Research Advisory Council), the ACVPA Board, Crime Stoppers Australia and, since July 2010, NDLERF.