4160.0 - Measuring Wellbeing: Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics, 2001  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/10/2001   
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Contents >> Chapter 9: Crime and Justice >> Population groups

Population groups


Important issues exist in relation to the victims of crime, for example, whether there are particular groups that become victims more often, and why this is the case. It is also important to understand offenders and the factors that influence the transition of people into criminal activity, particularly how and why juveniles may become lifetime criminals. There are also people who are both victims and offenders, and the association between victimisation and offending is of interest, particularly for certain types of crime.


There are issues surrounding the differences in patterns of crime and victimisation experienced by men and women. For instance, there are differences in patterns of offending and in the type and amount of violence experienced by men and women. Men are much more likely than women to be offenders, and hence, more likely to be imprisoned. In terms of victimisation, on the one hand, there are concerns about the high rates of males compared to females who are victims of murder and assault. On the other hand, women are more likely than males to be victims of sexual assault. Trends in crime patterns over time for these groups are also of interest. The differences between men and women can inform crime prevention policy and strategies that aim to minimise offending and victimisation for both men and women.


Patterns of crime vary according to age and there are concerns that younger adults are more vulnerable both to becoming involved in crime, and also to being victimised. This is in relation to both serious crimes and more trivial matters. Young people, particularly young males, tend to be victims of crime more often than older people. At the same time, young people can be reluctant to report crime, or be unsure how to assert their rights in relation to crimes. The reasons young people do not report crime can be very different to the reasons older people do not report crime, and this difference is an important focus for policy formation.


Prior to colonisation, the detailed kinship and ethical laws held in Indigenous cultures and reinforced through oral traditions operated to ensure not only that interactions between people had order, but that each member of the community was deeply obligated to maintain the natural resources on which people depended. Since that time, the social networks and physical landmarks on which this legal system was based have been disrupted. Reintegrating this system and protecting it for heritage, humanitarian and cultural reasons remains an important social issue.

Indigenous people have a high rate of contact with the criminal justice system (e.g. as offenders or victims) compared to non-Indigenous people, and are also over-represented in the prison system. These issues are of concern to governments and communities, and internationally. These high rates may be both a contributing factor to, and an outcome of, the disadvantage that Indigenous people experience across a wide range of social arenas. The fact that these high rates may be reflective of negative cultural attitudes and racial divergence in Australia is also of concern. Also of interest is the extent to which alcohol and drugs contribute to these rates and the feasibility of using alternatives to prison in responding to crime associated with Indigenous peoples. Crime and justice statistics play an important role in monitoring these issues and supporting analysis in this area.

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