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Criminal justice resources

Justice expenditure

According to the Report on government services 2005 (Reference 23) the total real recurrent expenditure (less revenue from own sources) on justice in 2003-04 was nearly $7.6 billion.

The total real recurrent expenditure (less revenue from own sources) on criminal justice in 2003-04 was almost $7.2 billion. The remaining $0.4 billion was spent on the administration of the civil courts. Since 1998-99, expenditure on criminal justice has increased by 19% overall and by an average of 4% each year.

Police services represent the largest component of the criminal justice system, accounting for approximately 72% of the total criminal justice-related expenditure. Corrective services account for a further 22%, while criminal court administration accounts for the remaining 6% (Figure 98).

Source: Reference 23

Figure 98 : Composition of government expenditure on criminal justice, 2003-04

Figure 98

Source: Reference 23


Policing activities are predominantly the responsibility of the police agencies of state and territory governments, with the Australian Federal Police providing a community policing service in the ACT on behalf of the ACT Government. Funding for these services comes almost exclusively from state and territory government budgets, with some specific-purpose grants provided by the Australian Government.

The figures below exclude resource data for the AFP for non-ACT policing functions.


The total recurrent expenditure on police services across Australia was $5.6 billion. This amounts to $276 for every person in Australia, and $359 per adult. Recurrent expenditure on salaries accounted for 75% of this expenditure.

Real total recurrent expenditure (less revenue from own sources and payroll tax) in 2003-04 was $5.2 billion, or $259 for every person and $342 per adult.

Table 7 : Expenditure on Australian police services, 2003-04
Total recurrent expenditure5,554,100
Total capital expenditure322,600
Total expenditure5,876,000
Staff salaries($)
Average police staff salaries78,413
Average non-police staff salaries53,112

Source: Reference 23

Figure 99 : Recurrent expenditure on police services per head of adult population, in dollars, 2003-04

Figure 99

  • Recurrent expenditure on police services per head of adult population ranged from $328 in Victoria to $1042 in the Northern Territory.

Source: References 2 and 23


Most people involved directly in the delivery of police services are sworn police officers (employees recognised under each jurisdiction's Police Act). Sworn police officers exercise police powers such as arrest, summons, caution, detain, fingerprint and search.

In recent years there has been a trend towards civilianisation of police services, with some non-core activities undertaken by non-sworn officers or contracted to external providers.

  • The total police services staffing in Australia on 30 June 2004 was 61,879. This averages 304 per 100,000 persons (235 sworn police officers and 69 civilian employees).
  • There were 47,248 sworn police officers and 13,851 civilian employees making up Australian police services in 2004.

Source: References 2 and 23

Table 8: Composition of police services by jurisdiction, 30 June 2004
JurisdictionSworn police officersCivilianTotalSworn officers per 1000 sq km
Australia (a)47,24813,85161,0998
(a) Includes Australian Federal Police for non-ACT policing (2326 sworn officers and 1147 civilians).
  • New South Wales had the largest police service across Australia, while the Australian Capital Territory had the smallest.
  • The Northern Territory and Queensland employed the highest proportion of civilian staff (32% and 27% respectively), and Victoria and Western Australia employed the lowest (19% and 20%, respectively).

Source: Reference 23

Figure 100 : Sworn police officers, rate per 100,000 persons by jurisdiction, 30 June 2003 and 30 June 2004

Figure 100

  • Generally there is little difference across jurisdictions in the number of sworn police officers per 100,000 population, with the exception of the Northern Territory.
  • On 30 June 2004 the Northern Territory had the largest number of police officers per 100,000 population (423), while the ACT had the smallest (191). However, the ACT had 344 police officers per 1000 square km, while the Northern Territory had only one.

Source: References 2 and 23

Figure 101 : Females in police services, percentage, 1998-2004

Figure 101

  • 21% of sworn police officers in 2004 were female.
  • Between 1998 and 2004 there has been a steady increase in the percentage of female sworn police, from 16% to 21%.
  • In that period the percentage of females constituting total police services increased from 26% to 31%.
  • The percentage of females among unsworn police services personnel remained steady between 1998 and 2004.

Source: Reference 23

Court administration

The total recurrent expenditure on court administration services across Australia (excluding the High Court) was $1.1 billion in 2003-04, approximately the same as in 2002-03. Expenditure for criminal court administration was about $454 million for 2003-04, up from $424 million the previous year.

Total criminal court expenditure less income (excluding fines) was $443 million. This amounts to $22 for every person in Australia, and $29 per adult.

Source: Reference 23

Figure 102 : Total expenditure (less income) for criminal courts, 2003-04

Figure 102

  • Magistrates courts incurred 56% of total criminal court expenditure in 2003-04, compared with 58% in 2002-03.
  • Intermediate courts incurred 30% and supreme courts 14% in 2003-04 (29% and 12% respectively in the previous year).

Source: Reference 23

Figure 103 shows the average expenditure per case lodgment in the criminal courts. The higher the level of court, the higher the cost associated with each criminal case lodgment. This is because more complex and lengthy cases are typically heard in the higher courts.

Figure 103 : Average expenditure per criminal case lodgment, in dollars, 2003-04

Figure 103

  • In 2003-04, average expenditure per criminal case lodgment was $336 in magistrates courts, $4633 in intermediate courts and $12,238 in supreme courts.

Source: Reference 23

Adult corrective services

Resources allocated for corrective services in Australia are divided into two broad categories: prisons and community corrections.

Total net expenditure on corrective services in Australia was approximately $1.8 billion in 2003-04: $1.6 billion (86%) for prisons, $198 million (11%) for community corrections and $67 million (4%) for transport and escort services. This corresponds to $86 for every person in Australia and $121 for every adult.

Source: References 2 and 23

Figure 104 : Recurrent expenditure on corrective services per head of adult population, in dollars, 2003-04

Figure 104

  • Recurrent expenditure on corrective services per head of adult population ranged from $80 in Victoria and $87 in Tasmania to $343 in the Northern Territory.

Source: References 2 and 23

Figure 105 : Corrective services expenditure per offender per day, by jurisdiction, in dollars, 2003-04

Figure 105

(a) Includes both remand prisoners in ACT and sentenced prisoners in NSW.

  • Expenditure per prisoner per day was $162, ranging from $139 in Queensland to $261 in the Australian Capital Territory.
  • Expenditure per offender sentenced to community corrections programs per day was $10. The cost for offenders sentenced to prison was 16 times as high, at $162 per day.
  • Overall in 2003-04, $59,203 was spent for every prisoner and $3,796 for each offender sentenced to community corrections programs.

Source: Reference 23

Last updated
3 November 2017