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CRC funded reports

1997-1998

The Council received reports from 9 completed research projects during the year 1997-98. 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.

  1. Violence and police culture in Australia
  2. Child homicide in Victoria 1985-1992
  3. Household income, neglect and juvenile crime
  4. A longitudinal evaluation of the alternatives to violence program in Moreton prison, Queensland
  5. Young people and the criminal economy
  6. Pilot project to assess the effectiveness of computerised domestic violence data recording systems
  7. A study of child abuse allegations in custody and access disputes before the Family Court of Australia
  8. Adolescent socialisation processes: behaviour patterns, attitudes and beliefs amongst young urban Aboriginals
  9. Peer networks and other influences on Aboriginal juvenile offending

Violence and police culture in Australia

Report title: Police Culture and Violence / Steve James and Ian Warren. 1996 (PDF 18.2MB)
Grantees: Dr Steve James and Ian Warren, Department of Criminology, The University of Melbourne, Victoria
Criminology Research Council grant ; (17/92)

For nearly a decade from 1987, the Australian State of Victoria was witness to an extraordinary number of shootings by its police department. For many observers, these shootings have come to be the defining symbol of the propensity of police to act violently. The public discourse on the shootings has been replete with a range of contentious issues: the strict legality of the shootings, their necessity, their moral and ethical parameters, the training of police in use of force, and speculation on the existence of a culture of violence within the Victoria Police.

The fact of the police shootings, and the public discourse which surrounded it, stimulated the Violence and Police Culture project. Popular commentary on the shootings revealed simplifications and confusions which reflected inadequately the accumulating scholarly knowledge on police violence. The principal project officers identified the need to draw together the threads of that knowledge. In particular, they explored the intersections between broad criminological contributions (predominantly analyses from legal, cultural and structural perspectives) and philosophical insights into violence, ethical behaviour and moral decision-making.

The research project has had several constituent parts. With the assistance of the Victoria Police, CRC funding enabled a series of focus group discussions in 1993 and 1994 with police officers of varying rank, gender and experience. The discussion groups were presented with an academic model of police culture, and were then invited to reflect upon and describe their occupational and organisational environments in terms of that model. The focus group discussions were reported to the CRC as a monograph (James & Warren 1995). Another component of the project was the writing of works on police ethics by a Centre for Philosophy and Public Issues research fellow ([now] Professor Seumas Miller). These works have been compiled into a volume on police ethics, with acknowledgment to the CRC for initial support (Miller, Blackler & Alexandra 1997). The centrepiece of the project was a two-day workshop in June 1996 which brought together legal scholars, criminologists, philosophers and police to present papers and discuss the phenomena and understanding of violence and police culture. The papers prepared by the participants to that workshop have formed the basis of an edited volume to be published by Melbourne University Press in late 1998 or early 1999 (Coady, James & Miller forthcoming). Other products of the project which have benefitted from CRC funding are listed below. The intentions of the Violence and Police Culture project have been not only to generate original research and gather together the scholarly and applied work in the area, but also to offer a published account of that work which is accessible to both specialised and general audiences. The work produced in the forthcoming volume is designed to stimulate a more profound discourse and understanding of violence and policing both within and outside police agencies.

References

Child homicide in Victoria 1985-1992

Report title: The Killing of Children in Victoria 1985-1995 / Christine Alder and Ken Polk. 1997 (PDF 2.6MB)
Grantees: Assoc Prof Ken Polk and Dr Christine Alder, Department of Criminology, The University of Melbourne, Victoria
Criminology Research Council grant ; (32/93-4)

The report from this project is a compilation of publications and papers based on analyses of data derived from the files of the Office of the Coroner in the State of Victoria, Australia, for the period 1985 - June, 1995. The report identifies a number of different forms of child homicide committed by both men and women and considers the significance of gender for an understanding of these events. Of the 89 child homicides, 58 (65%) were filicides. The remaining one-third (31 cases, or 35%) were homicides in which the child was killed by someone other than a parent. The cases involved 79 known offenders, of whom 29 were female and 50 were male. The most apparent differences in child homicides committed by women and those committed by men are the age of the victims and the relationship between the perpetrator and the offender. Women almost always killed children under the age of 10 years and virtually all of the teenage victims were killed by men. Most women killed their biological children, while the children killed by their male carer tended to be the child of a de facto partner. However, just over half (56%) of the men killed children of whom they were not parents or guardians.

Household income, neglect and juvenile crime

Report title: Social and Economic Stress, Child Neglect and Juvenile Delinquency / Don Weatherburn and Bronwyn Lind with assistance from Simon Ku. 1997 (PDF 3.5MB)
Grantees: Dr Don Weatherburn and Bronwyn Lind, Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, New South Wales
Criminology Research Council grant ; (17/95-6)

The study argued that policies designed to reduce the level of economic stress or attenuate its effects, and early intervention programs designed to reduce the risk of child neglect, have an important role to play in long-term crime prevention.

Findings of the study for urban areas were that juvenile participation in crime (measured as rates of Children's Court appearances for property or violent offences) was positively correlated with the following measures of social and economic stress: poverty, unemployment, single parent families, residential stability, and crowded dwellings.

Rates of reported child neglect and child abuse were also positively correlated with these measures of social and economic stress, and juvenile participation in crime was positively correlated with rates of reported neglect and abuse. These correlations indicate that postcodes with high levels of social and economic stress also tend to have high rates of child neglect and abuse and high rates of juvenile offenders. Using regression analysis, poverty, single parent families and crowded dwellings were found to be the most likely explanatory variables for juvenile participation in crime. Together these three measures accounted for 56 per cent of the variation across postcodes in the level of juvenile participation in crime.

The rate of child neglect, on its own, was found to explain 57 per cent of the variation in juvenile participation in crime across postcodes. When juvenile court appearances for property and violent offences were considered separately, the rate of child neglect on its own accounted for 58 per cent of the variation across postcodes in the rate of juvenile participation in property crime and 49 per cent of the variation across postcodes in the rate of juvenile participation in violent crime.

Neglect was found to account for most of the explained variation in juvenile participation in crime, when included in a regression model as a joint predictor with poverty, single parent families and crowded dwellings. Similar results were found when abuse replaced neglect but this finding was probably due to the high correlation between neglect and abuse. A path analysis showed that neglect was by far the most important causal influence on juvenile participation in crime.

Taken as a whole, these findings indicate that poverty, single parent families and crowded dwellings affect the level of juvenile participation in crime mainly by increasing the rate of child neglect.

The findings indicate that, assuming other factors remained unchanged, an increase of 1000 additional neglected children would result in an additional 256 juveniles involved in crime. Alternatively, and again assuming other factors remained unchanged, an increase of 1000 additional poor families would result in an additional 141 juveniles involved in crime. The increase in juvenile court appearances resulting from such increases in neglect or poverty would be 466 for each additional 1000 neglected children or 257 for each additional 1000 poor families. The increase in criminal offending would be substantially larger given that only a small proportion of offences resulted in court appearances.

The pattern of results for rural areas was generally similar to that found in urban areas, in that neglect accounted for most of the explained variation in juvenile participation in crime across postcodes. However, most of the relationships were weaker.

A longitudinal evaluation of the alternatives to violence program in Moreton prison, Queensland

Report titles: Final Report for the Criminology Research Council of the Alternatives to Violence Program At Moreton Correctional Centre, as at 18th February, 1997 (PDF 200kB) / Patricia Fitzsimons. 1997; and Another Way [videorecording]
Grantees: Patricia Fitzsimons, Faculty of Humanities, Griffith University, Queensland
Criminology Research Council grant ; (24/93-4)

Council funding supported the development of a videotape titled Another Way, which was broadcast on SBS television in May 1997. The video included interviews with inmates in the Alternatives to Violence program in Moreton Correctional Centre in Queensland, to examine complex negative behaviours that accounted for the imprisonment of the cohort of program participants.

The results of this work showed that the Alternatives to Violence program functions effectively to increase a sense of empathy and connection between participants. Over a period of years, as multiple workshops were held in Moreton Correctional Centre with a population of considerable stability, this had some positive effects on the overall atmosphere of the correctional centre. This conclusion was endorsed by inmates, custodial staff and the programs manager. This effect was possibly increased by the fact that a number of custodial and programs staff had also done the workshops. Even though these workshops were run separately, several people noted the sense of "common ground" that this created in a way that is unusual in correctional centre culture.

Young people and the criminal economy

Report title: Any Which Way You Can : Youth Livelihoods, Community Resources and Crime / Rob White; with Megan Aumair, Anita Harris and Liz McDonnell. 1997 (PDF 5.9MB)
Grantee: Dr Robert White, Department of Criminology, The University of Melbourne, Victoria
Criminology Research Council grant ; (31/93-4)

The report is based on research funded by the Criminology Research Council and the Australian Youth Foundation. The ways in which young people engage in activities within different economic sectors is of major importance when considering issues such as youth offending, life opportunities and livelihood. The central questions raised in this study include: what are the types of income to which young people have access; what are the formal and informal means by which young people augment or supplement their income and general material resources; what are the nature and extent of crimes by and against young people (e.g., drug use, drug dealing, prostitution, theft, employer exploitation).

The report is based on interviews with 550 young people (aged 14-25) who are residents of six Melbourne suburbs (Coburg, Collingwood, Dandenong, Footscray, Knox and St. Kilda). Many families and communities in these areas are experiencing high unemployment rates, low incomes and substantial dependence on social security payments. For the young people, there are many difficulties associated with attaining the basic necessities of life, much less engaging in activities which enhance their overall wellbeing and future prospects.

The report identifies five spheres of economic activity related to the income-generating activities of young people. These are: the formal waged sector (e.g., mainstream jobs), the informal waged sector (e.g., cash-in-hand jobs), the informal non-waged sector (e.g., domestic labour), the welfare sector (e.g., social security, education and training benefits), the criminal sector (e.g., drug dealing, theft). The study examines the extent of involvement in and position of young people in each economic sphere. It is pointed out that each economic sphere offers both benefits and disadvantages to the participant, in terms of the range of activities available, legitimacy, meaningfulness, level of material support, social status, satisfaction, space for creativity and so on. How and why young people engaged in particular kinds of activities depended upon factors such as local work opportunities, skill levels, social connections and the material resources available to the young person.

In the specific case of the criminal economic sphere, it was found that the biggest area of criminal activity as perceived by the interviewees was drug dealing, closely followed by shop stealing. Drug dealing as a source of income appeared to rise with the age of the young people involved, and boredom and a need for excitement were the main motivations for involvement in crimes committed without an economic motive, such as drug use and vandalism.

The study also examined issues relating to social differences based on gender and ethnicity, community life and "youth gangs", assistance provided by developmental institutions such as schools, and the relationship of young people to authority figures such as the police.

The economic positions and social activities of young people are complex and inter-linked at a number of different practical levels. Fundamentally, the crucial issue underpinning the present situation of many young people is lack of the basic means of life. Under these circumstances, young people will act to fulfill their immediate needs, any which way they can - including through criminal activity.

Pilot project to assess the effectiveness of computerised domestic violence data recording systems

Report title: Characteristics of Parties involved in Domestic Violence Protection Orders: An analysis of Court and Police Data / Chilla Bulbeck et al. 1997 (PDF 6.77MB)
Grantees: Assoc Prof Chilla Bulbeck, Dr Anna Stewart and Dr Ludmilla Kwitko, Griffith University, Queensland
Criminology Research Council grant ; (29/94-5)

The purpose of this study was to address a number of questions that cannot be currently addressed by examining criminal justice data bases. These questions concern the contact that people involved in domestic violence protection orders (both aggrieved and respondents) have with the criminal justice system. The study was able to identify information about people involved in cross applications (applications which are made by a person who is a respondent in a previous application), males involved in applications for orders, contact both the aggrieved and respondents have with the police in relation to a non-offending matter and offending histories for both respondents and aggrieved.

The study selected a sample of people who were involved in a protection order application in one of four Queensland courts in January 1996. This generated a sample of 1204 people, 602 aggrieved and 602 respondents. These individuals were searched through the court data base for any other protection order applications that they had been involved in either as a respondent or aggrieved. Crime and offending history information on these individuals was then gathered from two police data bases. From this information a statistical profile of the individual's contact with the criminal justice system was developed.

Results are presented concerning the socio-demographics of the sample, the process and outcome of protection order applications, the number and nature of contact these people have with the police and the nature of their criminal histories. The results indicated that as a group of individuals people involved in protection order applications had high levels of contact with both the court system and the police. Since the implementation of the Domestic Violence (Family Protection) Act 1989 (Qld) a third of the sample had been involved in more than one application for a protection order and these applications had generated over 2000 appearances in the Magistrate's Courts. Furthermore, over two-thirds of the sample had contact with the police either as an offender or a complainant. When contact with the police was examined by the gender of the individual, whether or not the person was an aggrieved respondent or involved in a cross application it was found that 65% of male respondents had a criminal history and 25% of female aggrieved had a criminal history. Female aggrieved was more likely to come into contact with the police as complainants rather than as offenders. As a group people involved in cross applications had the highest level of contact with the police.

The data collection generated a unique database which could be interrogated to answer a number of questions concerning protection orders that have not previously been addressed. The implications of the methodology and the results for integrated criminal justice data bases are discussed in the report along with a number of recommendations for future research. A number of suggestions for future research were generated in the report, some of which have been addressed in a recent paper by Anna Stewart. This paper has been submitted for publication in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology entitled "Statistical profiles of individuals involved in single and multiple applications for domestic violence protection orders".

A study of child abuse allegations in custody and access disputes before the Family Court of Australia

Report title: The Management of Child Abuse Allegations in Custody and Access Disputes before the Family Court of Australia / Thea Brown et al. 1997 (PDF 5.7MB)
Grantees: Prof Thea Brown, Assoc Prof Margarita Frederico, Lesley Hewitt and Rosemary Martyn, Monash University, Victoria
Criminology Research Council grant ; (32/94-5)

Over the last decade family courts, worldwide, have become concerned about their difficulties in resolving child abuse issues in custody and access disputes. Research about these problems has been sparse. On the one hand, research in child abuse and child protection has rarely included family courts and, on the other, family court and marital and partnership breakdown research has rarely touched on child abuse.

Family Courts have found these issues contentious and intrinsically difficult, with many serious human problems involved. Achieving secure family relationships for these children has not proved easy. Thus, when approached, the Family Court of Australia was prepared to support this study into child abuse allegations and the Family Court.

The study sought to answer three questions:

To answer the questions the study reviewed 188 custody and access dispute cases with child abuse allegations and 100 custody and access dispute cases without child abuse allegations in two States. In addition, staff in the court and in the state child protection services were interviewed.

The study found that child abuse cases had become core business for the Family Court, comprising 50% of its work in children's matters. Thus, without being aware, the Family Court had become an unacknowledged part of Australia's child protection services. Many beliefs surrounding child abuse and family courts were found to be inaccurate. Allegations were no more likely to be false than in other settings; the abuse was not mild abuse, exaggerated as part of the dispute, but severe abuse, mostly physical and sexual abuse with other violence; most families were not previously known to State child protection services and were not taking issues to another arena.

While the families were similar to others in their region, in terms of ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, and physical and mental health, they did have indications of some very serious problems. Partner to partner violence was high and was the most common cause of separation, male unemployment rates were high, the incidence of criminal convictions, especially for males, was high, and the incidence of substance abuse, especially for males, was high too.

Very many problems were found in the way the court dealt with the allegations. Some of the causes for the lengthy delays, large number of hearings and costs lay with the poor coordination between the two very different types of services, the State child protection services and the Family Court. The State services investigations were slow and the reporting back to the Court was ineffectual. Other causes lay with the Court and the adversarial nature of the process.

The outcome for the children was poor; the lengthy time taken was serious because the children were so young, the incidence of custody changes was high, and emotional distress was very common and severe. Consequently, a new specialised case management system was proposed to provide better outcomes for children, based in part on the most successful of the court interventions.

Adolescent socialisation processes: behaviour patterns, attitudes and beliefs amongst young urban Aboriginals

Report title: Adolescent Socialisation Processes: Behaviour Patterns, Attitudes and Beliefs Amongst Urban Aboriginal Youth: Final Report to the Criminology Research Council / Sibling Study Consortium [University of Queensland, Griffith University and Research and Coordination division of the Criminal Justice Commission]. 1997 (PDF 2.6MB)
Grantees: Prof John Western, Prof Ross Homel, Prof Paul Wilson, The University of Queensland, Queensland
Criminology Research Council grant ; (3/94-5)

As part of The Sibling Study - a major Australian longitudinal research project on personal, familial, school and community factors involved in delinquency - data were collected for a sub-sample of 119 urban Aboriginal youth.

Preliminary analysis provides confirmatory data on comparative disadvantage, on the extent of extended family networks and relatively high levels of self-report offending in certain predicted categories. More importantly, the data suggest that there are strong family and peer support structures, that there is evidence for an "oppositional culture" operating and that elements of restorative justice are of significance to young urban Aboriginal people. Specific findings suggest that Aboriginal youth are present rather than future oriented but are realistic in their views. They value parental and peer beliefs, are concerned with how others view them and yet have a strong sense of self. These beliefs are counterbalanced by a lack of trust in others, a sizeable minority believing that the law is unfair, and an unwillingness to seek help. This young urban Aboriginal cohort felt that punishment was necessary but that it was important to find out why an act was committed and that restitution should form part of the punishment. Self-reported delinquency of the respondents show that more than between 30 and 50 per cent report status offences (like driving unlicensed or skipping school); around 40 per cent report being involved in drug-related behaviours (using marijuana or purchasing alcohol); over one-third have been involved in a violent offence (such as a group fight); and over one-third concede stealing or property offences. These preliminary descriptive findings indicate that policy options within a restorative justice framework are most appropriate for young Aboriginal Australians.

Peer networks and other influences on Aboriginal juvenile offending

Report title: Peer Networks and Other Influences on Aboriginal Offending / R Lincoln. 1997 (PDF 8.4MB)
Grantees: Robyn Lincoln, Mark Lynch and Emma Ogilvie, Bond University, Queensland
Criminology Research Council grant ; (18/96-7)

Levels of self-reported offending amongst urban Aboriginal people were examined in comparison with the levels reported by a non-Indigenous school based sample and a sample of non-Indigenous "chronically marginalised/disadvantaged" adolescents. Use of these three groups provides a means of comparing Indigenous offending/offenders with two discrete control groups. That is, the school based sample which closely approximates the general population and a sample of seriously disadvantaged, but, non-Indigenous, young people. This research design allows, to some extent at least, for the teasing apart of the disadvantage effect from the race/ethnicity effect. The hypothesis being, that the extent to which Indigenous offending differs from both control groups represents the contribution of culturally specific factors.

It was found that, perhaps contrary to the expectations of some, self-reported Indigenous offending was lower than that found in the non-Indigenous disadvantaged sample. And that, to the extent that predictor factors could be identified, they were different for each of the three groups.

Despite strong evidence that Indigenous offending is increased by offending being viewed as an "acceptable" act of "resistance", peer and family solidarity amongst Indigenous adolescents serves to reduce levels of self-reported offending. It appears that what is culturally specific about Aboriginal culture insulates adolescent members of the community from the propensity to offend.

In sum, Indigenous offending is certainly much higher than that found amongst the (non- Indigenous) general population, but, not as high as that found for the equally disadvantaged non-Indigenous group. And further, and in support of the "culture of resistance thesis", Indigenous offending was disproportionately other oriented (that is crimes against the person/property) whereas for the non-Indigenous disadvantaged it was disproportionately self- oriented (that is substance abuse/misuse).

These findings have been taken into account with respect to the second wave of sibling study interviews to be undertaken in mid-1998. This will then allow for a more sophisticated (multivariate) testing of the research findings.

Taken in toto, the research reveals a very positive message about the importance of what is unique/special about Indigenous culture in terms of reducing levels of criminality in adolescence.

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