1362.7 - Regional Statistics, Northern Territory, Mar 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/03/2010   
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Crime affects the community in many ways. This article looks at crime in the NT and finds that Indigenous people are more likely to be the victims of most selected personal offences than non-Indigenous people. It also looks at the number of selected offences reported for the NT's major urban centres. The article concludes with a discussion of the NT's imprisonment rates which reveals there has been some recent improvement in the rate at which the Indigenous population is imprisoned compared with the non-Indigenous population.

Victimisation rates in the NT

This section looks at victimisation rates – the number of reported victims per 100,000 people – by Indigenous status for a selected range of offences that came to the attention of NT police and were recorded by them during 2008.

Indigenous people comprise about 30% of the NT's population. In 2008 Indigenous people had higher victimisation rates than non-Indigenous people for all selected personal offences excluding robbery in the NT. (Victims with an unknown Indigenous status are excluded from the discussion below.)

  • There were 5,261 victims of assault in the NT; of these, 59% (3,110 victims) were Indigenous and 34% (1,795 victims) were non-Indigenous. The assault victimisation rate for Indigenous persons was more than four times higher than the rate for non-Indigenous persons at 4,942 Indigenous victims per 100,000 Indigenous persons compared with 1,143 non-Indigenous victims per 100,000 non-Indigenous persons.

  • Of the 372 victims of sexual assault, 50% (186 victims) were Indigenous and 38% (143 victims) were non-Indigenous. Indigenous people in the NT had a sexual assault victimisation rate that was more than three times higher than the rate for non-Indigenous people at 296 Indigenous victims per 100,000 Indigenous persons compared with 91 non-Indigenous victims per 100,000 non-Indigenous persons.

  • Indigenous people comprised 65% (17 victims) of the 26 victims of homicide and related offences in the NT, while 23% (6 victims) were non-Indigenous. The homicide and related offences victimisation rate for Indigenous persons was 27 Indigenous victims per 100,000 Indigenous persons, which was about seven times higher than the rate for non-Indigenous persons at four victims per 100,000 non-Indigenous persons.

  • In contrast, 7% (8 victims) of the 111 robbery victims in the NT were Indigenous while 81% (90 victims) were non-Indigenous. The robbery victimisation rate for Indigenous persons was about one-quarter of the rate recorded by non-Indigenous people at 13 Indigenous victims per 100,000 Indigenous persons compared with 57 non-Indigenous victims per 100,000 non-Indigenous persons.
Graph shows that in 2008 Indigenous people had higher victimisation rates than non-Indigenous people for homicide and related offences, assault and sexual assault and a lower victimisation rate than non-Indigenous people for robbery.

Further information on victims of crime can be found in Recorded Crime – Victims, Australia, 2008 (cat. no. 4510.0).Offences by region

The NT Department of Justice publishes recorded offence data for seven regions in the NT – the six major urban centres (Darwin, Palmerston, Nhulunbuy, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs) and the balance of the NT. This section discusses recent changes for the six urban centres only. (These centres are equivalent to the Local Government Areas of Darwin (C), Palmerston (C), Katherine (T), Tennant Creek (T) and Alice Springs (T) and the Nhulunbuy Statistical Local Area in the 2001 Australian Standard Geographical Classification.)

During the 12 months to 30 September 2009, offences against the person rose by 15% across the NT, but some urban centres recorded a decrease. Katherine recorded the highest percentage increase in offences against the person (up 36% from 545 to 742), followed by Alice Springs (up 28% from 1,160 to 1,481) and Palmerston (up 17% from 393 to 459). Nhulunbuy recorded the largest percentage decrease (down 25% from 163 to 122), followed by Tennant Creek (down 6% from 499 to 467), while in Darwin offences against the person remained relatively steady (down 1% from 1,667 to 1,644).

Over the same period, offences against property fell by 4% across the NT, but again some urban centres recorded an increase. Palmerston recorded the largest percentage decrease in offences against property (down 15% from 3,029 to 2,563), followed by Darwin (down 8% from 10,234 to 9,381) and Tennant Creek (down 2% from 634 to 621). In contrast, Katherine recorded an increase of 13% (up from 1,070 to 1,210), followed by Nhulunbuy with 10% (up from 322 to 353) and Alice Springs with 7% (up from 3,732 to 3,986).

RECORDED OFFENCES BY REGION, Percentage Change–2008 to 2009(a)
Graph shows Katherine had highest percentage increase in property offences and offences against the person, Palmerston had largest percentage decrease in property offences and Nhulunbuy had largest percentage decrease in offences against the person.

Further information on recorded offences by region in the NT, including by selected offence, can be found on the NT Department of Justice's Research and Statistics webpage.Imprisonment rates in the NT

The NT's prison population increased by 11% (from 953 to 1,056) from 30 June 2008 to 30 June 2009, compared with a 6% increase nationally. At 30 June 2009 about four in five prisoners in the NT were Indigenous (82%), the highest proportion of Indigenous prisoners of any state or territory.

At 30 June 2009 the NT continued to have the highest crude imprisonment rate in Australia at 658 prisoners per 100,000 adult population, almost four times higher than Australia's overall rate of 175 prisoners per 100,000 adult population.

The imprisonment rate is known to decrease in older age groups – that is, imprisonment is correlated with age. The NT's Indigenous population has a much younger population than the NT's non-Indigenous population, with 57% of Indigenous people aged 18 years and over compared with 75% of non-Indigenous people. Due to these differing age profiles, using crude rates to examine differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations may lead to erroneous conclusions being drawn about variables that are correlated with age. A comparison of crude imprisonment rates is likely to show that the imprisonment rate for the Indigenous population is higher than for the non-Indigenous population, because of the larger proportion of young people in the Indigenous population. To remove the impact of the differing age structures between these two populations, age standardised rates are used in the discussion below, and any differences in the rates for the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations are due to factors other than age.

The age standardised imprisonment rate for the NT's Indigenous population at 30 June 2009 was 1,700 Indigenous prisoners per 100,000 adult Indigenous people. The equivalent rate for the NT's non-Indigenous population was 153 non-Indigenous prisoners per 100,000 adult non-Indigenous population. This represented an age standardised rate of imprisonment for the NT's Indigenous population that was 11 times higher than the rate for its non-Indigenous population. This ratio was equal fifth with the ratio in Queensland and lower than the ratios of imprisonment for the Indigenous populations in Western Australia (20 times higher than the non-Indigenous population), South Australia (16 times higher), New South Wales (13 times higher) and the Australian Capital Territory (12 times higher). The NT, Victoria and Tasmania were the only states to record a decline in the ratio of imprisonment for Indigenous people between 30 June 2008 and 30 June 2009, while Western Australia's ratio remained steady.

Graph shows NT, Victoria and Tasmania were the only states to record a decline in ratio of imprisonment for Indigenous people between 30 June 2008 and 30 June 2009 while WA's ratio remained steady.

Further information on prisoners including more information about the age standardisation of imprisonment rates can be found in Prisoners in Australia, 2009 (cat. no. 4517.0).Further information

For more information on crime and justice statistics produced by the ABS visit the Crime and Justice Themes page.