CRC funded reports
The Council received reports from 15 completed research projects during the year 1985-86. Summaries of these reports are given below. These reports are held by the Australian Institute of Criminology's JV Barry Library and are available on inter-library loan. For full bibliographic information on any report, search the Library's Catalogue.
- An econometric technique for estimating true criminal offence rates
- The impact of Australian criminal law on remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory
- An analysis of juvenile vandalism in two selected regions of Adelaide
- An inquiry into the operation of s.99 of the Justices Act
- Evaluation of the Aboriginal justice of the peace scheme in Western Australia
- Detected young offenders
- Evaluation of the living unit concept in use
- The effect of media publicity on the incidence and characteristics of drug abuse in Melbourne
- Tenants' perceptions of the security of high-rise living
- Avoiding delay in magistrates' courts
- The potential for bicycle theft reduction in Victoria and Australia
- The effectiveness of education in corrections: case studies of two youth training centres
- An action research project to promote positive Aboriginal/police and community relations: two case studies
- Crime prevention strategies for services for unemployed youth
- Evaluation of the honorary probation officer service in Victoria
Report title: An Econometric Technique for Estimating True Offence Rates
Grantee: Dr J. C. Baldry, Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics, The University of New England, New South Wales
Criminology Research Council grant ; (3/78)
This research project concerned the feasibility of estimating true criminal offence rates (the sum of recorded and unrecorded rates) via an indirect statistical (econometric) method. The method involved specification of a model of the generation and control of crime, which incorporates a model of the crime recording process. In the complete model, it is postulated that the actual number of offences (of a given type) committed per period is largely determined by the level of enforcement (affected by the size of the police force), by the types and sizes of sentences imposed on those convicted, and by various socioeconomic factors (level of unemployment, population density, etc.). It is also postulated that the proportion of actual offences recorded is largely determined by the resources available to and workload of the police: the less the workload of the police, the more likely are they to record petty offences, and to investigate reports (to ascertain Whether or not the reports of offences are likely to be valid); also, a lighter workload makes the police more 'accessible' to the public and is likely to encourage victims to report offences.
It is possible to summarise these notions in a statistical model, then to manipulate the model so that its parameters can be estimated by applying standard statistical (econometric) procedures to published data. Most importantly, by following this procedure, it is possible in principle to infer the true offence rates for particular crimes, or to infer the ratio of the change in the true rate to measured changes in the recorded rate.
In practice, the procedure itself throws up a number of acute statistical problems which seem impossible to resolve. The problems are complex, but revolve around the point that for the procedure to be capable of yielding the type of estimates required, a very limited range of options for mathematically specifving the complete model are available, and each of the options themselves throw up other statistical problems. A test of some of the most appealing options led to disappointing results which could not be sensibly regarded in any way as 'reasonable' (using extraneous information-from victimisation surveys for example-to assess 'reasonableness').
The main conclusion of the study then is that the econometric technique is not likely to offer a cheap and practical alternative or complement to other methods for estimating the amount of unrecorded crime. However, some further work in this area will proceed, using a more disaggregated approach, in the hope that something useful can be salvaged.
Report title: Alcohol, Accidents and Criminality in an Aboriginal Community (PDF 1.5MB)
Grantee: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies (Prof. Colin Tatz), Canberra
Criminology Research Council grant ; (2/81)
The report appeared as a chapter in the official report Aboriginies and Uranium, Consolidated Report on the Social Impact of Uranium Mining on the Aboriginies of the Northern Territory 1978-1984. A chapter by Sue Kesteven entitled 'Alcohol and Family Life' which appeared in the same publication should be read in conjunction with the chapter by Professor Tatz.
The original grant was to enable
- a study of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal 'criminality' in the Northern Territory;
- an assessment of the impact of uranium mining on levels and prevalence of Aboriginal-committed offences; and
- an evaluation of the impact of our criminal and its procedures on remote Aboriginal communities.
These proposals were frustrated by the existing system of statistics in the Territory. The police force, since August 1980, has kept a record of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal arrestees, and those observed or believed to be alcohol and non-alcohol related offences. However, the Law Department maintains no such distinctions, so that arrestees could not be followed through the courts to conclusion.
Several conclusions, however, were made. First, the Aboriginality' of the offender and his/tier alcoholic state at arrest depends 'on the observation of the arresting officer and includes people who are part-Aboriginal'. Second, the mining of uranium as such has had no significant effect on the adjacent Aboriginal community at Oenpelli and jabiru. But access to royalty money has had a significant effect: there is money to buy vehicles and more alcohol, and there is now, proportionate to the whole population, a serious vehicle-alcohol-accident-injury-sometimes death relationship. Third, of the 1806 Aboriginal arrests recorded at Oenpelli and Jabiru between 1977 and 1981, Aboriginal alleged crimes against the person formed 1.6 per cent of all arrests; behavioural offences accounted for 4.6 per cent; 4.31 per cent were for offences against property; 6.20 per cent liquor and vehicle offences; 13.17 per cent were for possessing liquor on a reserve; and some 69.93 per cent of all arrests were not for offences against the law, but were 'protective custody' cases-a drying out till sober procedure under s.33A of the Police and Police Offences Act. In short, in the uranium province, Aboriginal drinking is a major personal and social problem, not criminal behaviour.
Report title: A Report on a Study of Juvenile Vandalism in Two Selected Regions in Adelaide (PDF 1.1MB)
Grantee: A. I. Patience, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, School of Social Sciences, The Flinders University of South Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (17/81)
This study was based on interviews with two groups of adolescents in two selected regions in Adelaide. The first group had been charged with 'wilful damage' offences and had been dealt with by the authorities (e.g. police, Juvenile Aid Panels). The second group were known to be offenders by street workers (social workers) but had not come to the attention of the authorities.
The interviews were designed is in-depth studies of the family and socialisation backgrounds on the subjects, and a phenomenological approach to the subjects' understandings of the meanings of their wilful damage or vandalistic actions. Interviews were conducted by trained research assistants. Subjects were interviewed individually, in a variety of venues, including homes, community welfare offices, coffee shops. In a few cases subjects were paid out-of-pocket travelling expenses to attend the interviews. Before the interviews were conducted, each subject was assured of strict confidentiality about his/her responses to the questions. In addition, each subject was asked whether he/she was a willing participant in the interview.
The most salient finding of the study was the way in which the subjects closely identified with the prevailing ('respectable') values of their respective communities. They saw their actions as essentially bad, stupid or anti-social. On the whole, they saw their actions as one-off expressions of anger, disappointment or alienation and, on reflection, experienced considerable guilt.
It was argued, in the final report, that to reduce levels of juvenile wilful damage in the two regions examined in the study, a process of extensive youth consultation, preferably through a structured or institutionalised framework, should be set up, to identify the recreational and extra-educational desires and needs of young people. Further, it was argued that young people ought to be actively involved in the establishment and on-going management of the recreational and extra-school educational facilities in the regions under examination. This would give the young people a sense of belonging, or citizenship, which they demonstrably do not have at present. Further, it would enable them to develop skills and capacities to participate integratively in the community.
Report title: Domestic Violence and the Law: A Study of s.99 of the Justices Act (South Australia) (PDF 8.2MB)
Grantee: Women's Adviser's Office, Department of the Premier and Cabinet, South Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (14/83)
The project aimed to evaluate a 1982 amendment to s.99 of the justices Act as a form of legal protection for victims of domestic violence. As an initiative of the Women's Adviser to the South Australian Premier, the study was particularly concerned with the ability of the law to deter violent behaviour directed at women. Section 99 functions as a legal remedy for domestic violence by giving any person the right to apply to a court for an order instructing a named person to refrain from specific forms of offensive conduct. Breach of that 'restraining' order by the person named therein may result in their arrest and imprisonment.
The research design comprised a series of questionnaires and interviews about the value of s.99 as a deterrent to the violent spouse. Opinions were sought from two populations: persons employed in various capacities to advise about, and to enforce the legislation as well as applicants for restraining orders. The first group included welfare workers, legal practitioners, and police officers. The sample of users of s.99 was drawn from women's shelters throughout the State and from the clientele of the Crisis Care Unit (South Australia's mobile crisis counselling service).
Completed questionnaires produced a clear set of findings which formed the basis of recommendations about the law and its operation for the Attorney-General and the South Australian Police Commissioner. Restraining orders were found to serve a limited purpose: they effectively deter persons who are normally law-abiding from engaging in further acts of violence. However, the persistent offender who has developed cynical attitudes towards the law appears to regard restraining orders with contempt.
While survey respondents generally agreed that there is a limit to what the law can do with the intractable offender, it was also observed that the operation of the law would be improved significantly by changes to the attitude and performance of the police. Accordingly, the key recommendations of the report concerned the formation of a Specialist Police Domestic Violence Unit which would upgrade police training and devise and implement a coordinated statewide police policy on domestic violence.
Report title: That's 'Gardia' Business: An Evaluation of the Aboriginal Justice of the Peace Scheme in Western Australia
Grantee: A. Hoddinott, Planning and Research Officer, Prisons Department, Western Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (5/84)
Since the proclamation of the Aboriginal Communities Act 1979, various Aboriginal communities in the north-west of Western Australia have been participating in the administration of justice within the framework of the Act. Essentially, the Act makes provision for the independent and responsible management of judicial matters in these Aboriginal communities.
Fieldwork was carried out over a six-month period in seven communities in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. The primary aim of the research was to determine whether the JP scheme had reduced the rate of imprisonment of participating communities. In addition the project aimed to identify any discrepancies between the concept and operation of the Act, and to determine if the operation of the Act had caused changes in the social structure of the participating communities.
The Aboriginal JP scheme has developed serious difficulties since it began in 1980. This has been due to a number of factors. The cultural differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal society have not been fully taken into account in the implementation of the JP scheme and this has resulted in conflict. This is undermining the effectiveness of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal justice systems.
The report of this project, which provoked considerable discussion among magistrates and law reformers, proposed that either the Aboriginal J.P. scheme be abandoned or the Aboriginal Communities Act be amended to provide some degree of recognition to tribal law. The latter option, which was favoured by the writer, would allow tribal sanctions to be applied and traditional arbitration to be the norm.
The project was jointly funded by the Council and the Western Australia Prisons Department.
Report title: Detected Young Offenders (PDF 4.1MB)
Grantee: D. Challinger, Senior Lecturer, Criminology Department, University of Melbourne
Criminology Research Council grant ; (21/81)
This project resulted in the publication by the Victorian Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (VACRO) of a book Detected Young Offenders, by D. Challinger in 1985.
The study was based on an analysis of police documents relating to 15 294 official contacts by the police with 13 079 individual youngsters. It is recognised that only a small percentage of youngsters who commit offences are formally dealt with by the police. While official statistics relating to youthful offending in Victoria appear to be levelling out, numbers of - young offenders are still being dealt with by parents, teachers or retailers without police being involved in any formal capacity.
Notwithstanding that, just over 80 per cent of youthful offending dealt with by the police is found to be property oriented. Most notably, 46 per cent of offences relate to theft, with one third of s offences comprising thefts from shops. Burglaries account for 18.5 per cent and car theft for another 8 per cent, but offences against persons (assaults, robberies and sex offences) account for only 3.9 per cent. At the other end of the spectrum, road traffic offences account for 8 per cent with offences relating to mini-bike riding constituting the bulk of them.
Close examination of the police documents reveals that many offences are actually fairly minor in nature, some number of the assaults being described as scuffles, and some robberies involving children threatening others and making off with small amounts of money. However, there are still quite serious instances of each of these offences committed by young people. Vandalism offences provide a good example of the way in which a legal label obscures a variety of events. In this study such offences included causing $3 damage to a letterbox with a brick, causing $10,000 worth of damage to a building under construction, and incinerating a railway carriage worth $200 000.
The study provides a number of general statistics about officially detected offenders and some of the more interesting are listed here. Their average age is 14.6 years, although 16-year-old boys constitute the single largest group.
One-quarter of the individual offenders were girls compared with only 20 per cent in 1972. But over three-quarters of the girls come to police attention for stealing from shops compared with only 23 per cent of the boys, indicating an obvious difference in offending patterns for the sexes. Almost two-thirds of all offenders committed their offences in company with other youngsters and three-quarters of them had not previously come to the attention of the police. While some countries (e.g. England, New Zealand, Greece and Turkey) appear over-represented amongst the birthplaces of offenders, Australian-born children of Australian parents seemed to be more likely to re-offend in the 12month period. By contrast Australian-born children of Italian or Greek parents tend not to return to police attention. The majority of offenders were, or had been, students at Government schools, with technical school students being over-represented and private school students being under-represented. The young unemployed appear more likely than the other school-leavers who have jobs, to come to formal police attention. Single mother families account for 18 per cent of offenders' home situations and this constitutes an over-representation. Working mothers are also over-represented in offenders' families, although offenders from such families do appear less likely to return to police attention. In 80 per cent of cases police describe offenders' parents as 'very interested' in their children irrespective of both family composition and the fact that a quarter of the offenders' families have experienced marital breakdown.
Just under two-thirds of the offences ended with an official police caution, continuing the recent trend to use this method rather than a Children's Court appearance for dealing with young offenders.
Cautioning rates are higher for thefts and females but have been increasing for all offences. At the Children's Court there is an indication that offenders are being more rigorously treated than, say, ten years ago, although only 3.5 per cent of all contacts concluded with an offender being sentenced to a Youth Training Centre. The average sentence was 6.4 months.
Report title: An Evaluation of the Living Unit Concept in North American Correctional Planning, Programming and Architecture (PDF 17MB)
Grantee: Professor G. W. Brawn, Professor of Architecture, University of Melbourne
Criminology Research Council grant ; (26/82)
Earlier in his career in North America the researcher had led teams that researched and programmed ways in which more humane and normalised correctional environments could be achieved. A major aspect of the changes was the use of the Living Unit concept for the residential component of prisons, jails and remand centres. The introduction of this concept, or a similar one, the Functional Unit by the USA Federal Bureau of Prisons, was a significant change from the more traditional forms of arranging cells in tiers and ranges or on each side of a long corridor.
The concept was a response to the desire to provide more humane and normalised environments for those prisoners not diverted into non-residential alternatives. It had a number of premises including: a popular arrangement of single cells with outside views around a multi-purpose space (day room) within a secure perimeter, to which food, and some treatment programs and services were brought; that the correctional officers, trained in advanced techniques of people management and correctional treatment would be stationed within the unit, without a secure, enclosed guard post; that with such dynamic, or people, security and a more manageable size of prisoner groups, a less severe and costly architectural environment was possible; that supportive architectural design would reduce senses of institutionalisation and sensory deprivation, and, that the concept would raise the level of prisoner and staff security.
While a large number of facilities have been built in North America in the last 10 years, the attention on prison environments has not subsided because of overcrowding and in the USA because of court orders to remove unconstitutional conditions. With very little published material of the in-use experience of the concept, and with the expanding commitment to new prisons and remand centres in Australia, the opportunity was taken to investigate the responses to the concept.
During a visit to North America on a special studies program the investigator interviewed 38 people and visited 14 facilities. These interviews provided an overview of the current conditions, the differences from the 1970s when the concept was being introduced, and the experiences since then.
Three major differences in the use of the concept emerged. First was whether or not the treatment team approach was used. Second was the use or not of guard posts. Most new facilities seemed to be tending to have them for each living unit, even though in the USA the advisory agencies of the Department of justice were still strongly advocating against them. Third was the role and responsibility of the correctional officers. Where staff were not trained in pro-active management, i.e. to lead and manage the unit through skills in conflict resolution and human relations, the benefits were less than when they were. It would seem that this lack of training and support from institutional management might have been a major reason for both the retreat of staff into guard posts and the unpreparedness to expand the role in new facilities designed as 'barrier-free' environments.
In summary, the investigation showed that the experience of the living unit concept had reinforced the premises underpinning its introduction. Where operated with pro-active management it was seen to have reduced incidences of vandalism, negative behaviour, assaults, escapes, suicides and murders, in both urban multi-floor and rural campus style examples, from that being experienced in more traditional jails and prisons or newer ones with the living unit physical form, but without pro-active management. 'Therefore, even though care is needed in transferring the concept to Australian conditions, there seems ample evidence that its full potential needs to be seriously considered where there is a desire for a maximum increase in humane and normalised conditions.
Report title: Drugs, Media and Enforcement: A Survey of the Relationship between Drug Abuse and Media Attention to Drugs including a study of the effects of an attempt to elicit information about drug trafficking from the Australian public (PDF 4.8MB)
Grantee: D. Challinger, Senior Lecturer, Criminology Department, University of Melbourne. (Report by Jane Hendtlass)
Criminology Research Council grant ; (7/83)
The study found that electronic and print media frequently refer to drugs in their new stories and in magazine material and drama programs, but alcohol and tobacco are rarely referred to as 'drugs' and their use is generally condoned. Their advertising ranks eleventh and fourteenth in product advertising expenditure. Prescription and over-the-counter drugs are rarely mentioned in news or drama items but they rank thirteenth in product advertising expenditure. Illicit substances are more often featured in their criminological context.
The influence of the media on drug use and abuse remains unclear. It is possible that some sensationalised public health campaigns may:
- irrationally increase community fear and prejudice which results in their calling for punitive legislative reaction;
- simplify and trivialise the drug situation so that 'easy' answers such as legislation and advertising controls can seem appropriate and long-term prevention measures appear to be overlooked;
- be counter-productive among individuals at risk because they sensationalise illicit drug use.
There is no evidence to suggest that advertising can greatly increase community consumption of any particular substance. However, some effect on the pattern of use among particular individuals cannot be ruled out.
The study also examined Operation Noah which was a one-day, joint media-police operation on 11 December 1982, aimed at eliciting information from the public about drug trafficking in Victoria. Media coverage to the Operation was often sensationalised and inaccurate. Police responded actively to three-quarters of over 400 telephone responses from the community and this involved them in 381 visits to premises, 40 search warrants and 96 searches without warrant. Drugs were found in 33 places; nearly all of these were marijuana. Twenty-two people were charged with drug offences.
There was a 35 per cent increase in the number of drug offenders charged by Victoria Police in metropolitan Melbourne during November, December and January 1982-83 compared with the same period a year earlier. In contrast, only 10 people were charged with trafficking offences alone in November, December and January 1982-83 compared with 23 in the same period of the previous year. Further, there was 29 per cent increase in the number of drug overdose patients taken to hospital by Ambulance Service Melbourne during November, December and January '1982-83, compared with the same period a year earlier. However, the timing of these increases meant that they could not be attributed to the effects of Operation Noah.
Operation Noah had some effect on drug abuse in Melbourne when measured in terms of numbers of drug offenders and drug overdose patients who came to notice of the police and ambulance services. However, in enforcement terms, the Operation did not achieve its objective of eliciting information which resulted in prosecution of drug traffickers, manufacturers and growers in the community. The value of the Operation as an enforcement tool must therefore remain doubtful. However, Operation Noah is a particularly good example of the way police and the media can work together and, in as much as this provides a mechanism through which they can increase their mutual understanding of each other's professional roles, the concept has the potential for development into a useful drug abuse countermeasure.
Report title: Tenant Perceptions of Crime and Security on Melbourne's High-Rise Public Housing Estates
Grantees: S. P. James, Lecturer, Criminology Department, University of Melbourne, and Mr R. W. Wynne, Senior Social Worker, Flemington Community Health Centre
Criminology Research Council grant ; (3/84)
This study investigated the perceptions and experiences of a sample of 103 Melbourne high-rise public housing tenants in relation to matters of crime, fear of crime and security through the administration of a modified victimisation survey questionnaire. Specific issues canvassed included expressed victimisations, precautionary behaviour, knowledge of crime on the estates, fear of crime on the estates, fear associated with particular locations and times on the estates, preferred security arrangements and general views of life on the estates. In particular, changes over time in these perceptions and experiences as a function of the security arrangements and physical renovations were assessed.
Tenants from three metropolitan estates were sampled. On one estate which experienced new security arrangements, the results indicated a reduction in expressed victimisation, a reduction ill levels of precautionary behaviour, a reduction in fear of crime, and an enhancement of positive perceptions of the housing environment. On the second estate, which experienced physical renovations, the results indicated a reduction in expressed victimisations, a reduction in levels of precautionary behaviour, and a reduction in fear of crime. On the last estate, which experienced neither altered security arrangements or physical renovations, the results indicated increased victimisation and an increase in the fear of crime.
The results were discussed in the context of the available literature on crime, the determinants of fear of crime, and environmental crime control strategies. A number of policy implications were proposed, including the potential utility of specific security personnel deployments.
Report title: Avoiding Delay in Magistrates' Courts
Grantee: E. Sikk, Magistrate, Law Department, Tasmania
Criminology Research Council grant ; (19/76)
The aim of the author was to make an Australia-wide survey of magisterial jurisdiction, to define its place in our legal system, and to predict in which way it ought to develop in the future.
In 1984 the Law Book Company published Summary Justice by Ward and Kelly which is a comprehensive description of magisterial jurisdiction in South Australia from a strictly legal point of view. The Law Book Company has published commentaries upon this work prepared in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania. The author assisted in writing the Tasmanian commentary. Ward and Kelly with its companion commentaries constitutes the first national description of magisterial jurisdiction. For the first time it has become possible to make a quick and efficient comparison of the law between the Australian jurisdictions in any particular respect.
However, it is the author's contention that magisterial jurisdiction can only be fully understood and appreciated in its historical context. Accordingly, a major part of the work is devoted to the history of the magistracy. Chapter I deals with the early history of the magistracy, Chapter 2 with the magistracy punishment, prisons and transportation in the eighteenth century, Chapter 3 with the introduction of the magistracy into Australia and Chapter 4 with the magistracy in the nineteenth century.
One chapter is devoted to committal proceedings and the future direction the law should take. Juvenile crime and juvenile welfare is discussed in another chapter and in particular the recent Carney report (Victoria) and its recommendations are discussed.
The final chapter deals with the magistracy today and in the future. The author contends that the introduction of the computer into lower court systems is imminent and predicts that profound changes will take place. At first the computer will be an administrative tool and effect savings in court time and costs. Eventually it will prove to be a profoundly important method of evaluating the effectiveness of legislation. In order to take advantage of its research potential the adversary system in the lower courts requires evaluation and planning. An office of research will be necessary in each Australian jurisdiction. Such evaluation and planning has already begun in Victoria.
The author contends that the recent achievement of magisterial independence in all Australian jurisdictions except Queensland has brought to light problems not hitherto fully appreciated. Because the government still has firm control over the purse strings, magistrates have de jure but not de facto independence and the possibility of undue influence is still possible. The control of listing of cases before magistrates is another area where undue influence may be exercised as recent events in New South Wales have disclosed. It is the author's contention that modern computer technology can assist to overcome this problem.
Finally, the author contends that hitherto a lack of planning has been the main feature of magisterial jurisdiction in Australia. Other jurisdictions must begin to follow Victoria's lead.
Report title: Bicycle Theft Research Project
Grantee: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies (Prof. Colin Tatz), Canberra
Criminology Research Council grant ; (19/84)
The report asserts that bicycle theft is a major problem. Over recent years in Victoria, reported bike thefts have averaged almost 12 000 per year. Very few thefts are cleared by police and only a small proportion of recovered bicycles are returned to owners.
A victim survey clearly indicated that bicycle owners require education on security measures, whilst an attempt to construct a profile on bicycle thieves was less successful through the inability to make contact with a sufficient number of offenders. The study provides carefully considered recommendations on measures to reduce theft rates and improve recovery rates with a bicycle registration scheme receiving high priority. As a result of this research, the following action was recommended:
- a universal bicycle registration scheme be introduced;
- increased community education regarding the theft problem and preventive measures;
- the provision of a computerised data bank to monitor characteristics of bike theft and assist in property tracing;
- development of strategies to bring about attitudinal changes in the community and amongst police;
- commencement of a campaign to have all new bicycles sold with built in locks;
- modification to SAA standard to include serial numbers on all new bicycles;
- investigation into appropriate insurance schemes; and
- close monitoring of theft records to assist in the apprehension of bike thieves.
Report title: Review of Training Programs at a Youth Training Centre (PDF 4.1MB)
Grantee: R. A. Semmens, Head of Special Education Department, Melbourne College of Advanced Education
Criminology Research Council grant ; (4/83)
This study investigated the effectiveness of school and work training programs in a youth training centre to assess their effectiveness in achieving the goal of community re-integration. Both the literature on the transition to the world of work and the previous research evidence on the impediments to low status young persons gaining high status credentials suggest that the educational activities at a youth training centre should be related to the social and economic realities if they are to be effective.
The evaluation of school and work training programs at the Malmsbury Youth Training Centre found no significant differences between young persons who had engaged in school and work programs on the basis of community re-education employment or recidivism six months after release. However, it was found that three different groups of young people could be identified on the basis of institutional history and previous schooling. These groups were: State wards, young offenders and adult offenders. State wards have the longest institution history and adult offenders have the shortest.
With regard to schooling, the 27 adult offenders all completed at least Year 9 whereas none of the 29 young offenders and only six of the 32 State wards stayed at school beyond Year 9. While State wards aspired to higher levels of schooling, their perceptions of their schooling were significantly more negative than was the case with the other two groups.
There was no significant difference between the groups in relation to employment status either before or after detention in the youth training centre. However, the three groups were significantly different in the number of weeks that they worked in the follow-up period after release, adult offenders working most and state wards least.
The study concluded by suggesting that general education theory may not be adequate to raise the expectations of these young persons and the study proposed that the curriculum in youth training centres should be based on multi-disciplinary sources. It is argued that the application of appropriate educational aims should assist youth training centre detainees to achieve higher status employment and a more satisfactory level of community re-integration.
An action research project to promote positive Aboriginal/police and community relations: two case studies
Report title: Aboriginal/Police Relationships in the Pilbara: A Study of Percetions (PDF 8MB)
Grantee: Special Cabinet Committee on Aboriginal/Police and Community Relations
Criminology Research Council grant ; (2/85)
The death of Roebourne Aboriginal, John Pat, in police custody in 1983 focused public attention on what has been a history of substantial conflict in the Pilbara region. This event was the major impetus for the research.
A qualitative study of Aboriginal and police definitions of the situation and their perceptions of one another was conducted. Aboriginal residents of the Pilbara communities of Roebourne and Jigalong participated in the research, as did police and Aboriginal police aides from stations connected with these groups. An Aboriginal researcher conducted the interviews.
The central objective of this action research project was to contribute towards improved Aboriginal/police and community relations in the Pilbara. This was approached on two levels. First, questions in the symbolic interactionist framework enabled misconceptions and conflicts between the two groups to be identified. Interview schedules were designed to ascertain Aboriginal and police perceptions of the nature and seriousness of negative relations between them, the determinants of such relations, and ways to improve them. The data then formed the basis for suggestions for reform.
Second, the research process itself was designed to produce side effects that might promote better Aboriginal/police relations. During the fieldwork period the Aboriginal researcher was able to liaise between Pilbara Aborigines and police, thereby making a direct contribution to improved working relationships. In the course of the research, areas of concern, such as the problematic relationship between police and Aboriginal juveniles, became apparent. On the basis of such information, steps were taken by both groups towards reform.
The research looked at sources of conflict between Aborigines and police in a variety of areas. The Aboriginal Legal Service was criticised by police for its perceived anti-police bias, although more than half the police (and three quarters of the Aboriginal respondents) believed the ALS provided a necessary service to Aborigines.
The Aboriginal police aides scheme was a further source of contention. Most police supported the scheme as it currently operates and were unaware of the level of dissatisfaction with the scheme that the Aboriginal respondents demonstrated.
Questions on women's issues revealed the need for women to function as a care-giving, non-coercive link between male police officers and female Aboriginal offenders. Police, who considered their behaviour towards females to be beyond reproach, were criticised by Aborigines for failing to recognise and appreciate cultural differences in respect of sex roles.
The decriminalisation of drunkenness was canvassed as a possible means of decreasing the potential for conflict between Aborigines and police. While many Aborigines supported such a move, their primary concern was in the human, rather than statistical dimension-for the victims of alcohol abuse, rather than for the lowering of Aboriginal imprisonment rates. Police did not support this idea.
The selection and socialisation of police was an area where police themselves saw reform as desirable. They said that selection procedures should be improved so that only officers suited to working with Aborigines were sent to the Pilbara. More knowledge of Aboriginal culture and the history of race relations in the local context were also seen as measures which might benefit police working with Aborigines, and hence improve relations.
The report concludes with 27 suggestions for reform, most of which have specifically local application.
Report title: Crime Prevention Roles of Community Training Programs for Unemplyed Youth (PDF 1MB)
Grantee: K. E. Windschuttle, Senior Lecturer in Social Policy, School of Social Work, University of New South Wales
Criminology Research Council grant ; (4/85)
Although some analyses yield conflicting results, the broad statistical picture of advanced industrial countries from the 1960s to the 1980s shows the relative decline of young people's standing in the labour market and the growth of youth unemployment have led youth on the margins of society into a growing incidence of anti-social and criminal behaviour.
Evaluations conducted in North America and Western Europe indicate that training and work experience programs aimed at redressing the labour market position of unemployed vouth and juvenile offenders can make significant reductions in the criminal behaviour recorded among program participants.
In Australia, a range of government funded programs conducted by community organisations have addressed themselves to these issues in the 1980s. The author made a series of visits in 1985 to these programs and had discussions with their officers and participants. He found the results of the local programs confirmed international experience. There were two models of successful programs in Australia:
- skills based programs conducted by experienced educators and combining basic and remedial education with training in specific skills and/or work experience
- personal development programs conducted by social workers and youth workers which combine efforts to develop individual confidence and group rapport with remedial education and vocational training.
These community-based models are most effective when regarded not as vocational training in themselves but as pre-training programs aimed ultimately at directing youth into the formal education system for skills and trade training to enhance their long-term employability.
Report title: The Honorary Probation Officers Service: A Program Evaluation - 1979
Grantee: Professor Ronald Henderson on behalf of the Volunteer Resource Centre of the Victorian Council of Social Service
Criminology Research Council grant ; (4/78)
The grant for this study was made in 1978 to Professor Ronald Henderson in his capacity as Chairman of the Volunteer Resource Centre, a body established by the Victorian Council of Social Services. The research was undertaken by Mr M. Dumais who then held the position of Director of the Centre.
The actual research was largely undertaken in the late 70s, a time when volunteerism was undergoing rapid change. At that time the development of welfare and correctional services were leading to probation being seen less as a remedial program and more as a community-based service. The study reflected these changes and highlighted a form of volunteer activity which had a clear community service role while at the same time provided for the personal growth of the individuals involved.
The aim of the project was to determine the relative health of the honorary probation officer system in Victoria. The study concentrated on the providers of the service and their understanding of the objectives of probation. It did not ascertain whether those objectives were relevant or whether they were achieved. The study was conducted more in a spirit of organisational development than of pure research.
The basic information was obtained from questionnaires completed by 470 honorary and 54 stipendiary probation officers as well as 18 regional superintendents, and a series of structured workshops were conducted. One product of the project was a manual for program coordinators which aimed to increase the effectiveness of honorary probation officers. This manual is appended to the final report of the project.
The study found that there was a lack of clarity at all levels as to what probation was meant to achieve, and there was confusion about who was meant to do what for whom. There was also a lack of documentation on the effectiveness of probation services. These problems were found to be exacerbated by the restructuring of the Department of Community Welfare Services that also occurred at that time.
Throughout the course of the study it was found that there was a great deal of willingness to explore and discuss these issues in a constructive manner. The role of the Probation Officers Association of Victoria was seen as central to the achievement of needed change. Since that time other changes have occurred, most notably the establishment of a separate Office of Corrections. The lessons learned from this study are still relevant to the use of volunteers within the new structure, but further research would be needed to establish whether or not all of the conflicts have been satisfactorily resolved.