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Newsletters - Crime and Justice Statistics - Issue Number 17, Nov 2004

In this issue:

Sexual Assault in Australia: A Statistical Overview
NCCJS Meetings
Upcoming Publications
Staff News
NCCJS Contact Points

Sexual Assault in Australia: A Statistical Overview

The ABS publication, Sexual Assault in Australia: A Statistical Overview (cat. no. 4523.0), was released recently. The publication provides an analysis of currently available information across the field of sexual assault and will form part of an information base to assist policy makers in planning service delivery, planning and targeting other program delivery, and for evaluation of programs. Data have principally been drawn from ABS sources, with the inclusion of some data from other sources.

The statistical overview follows the publication in August 2003 of an ABS Information paper, Sexual Assault Information Development Framework (cat. no. 4518.0), which outlined the priority needs of users for statistical information about sexual assault and identified the current supply of information that might satisfy that demand. Funding for these projects was provided through the National Initiative to Combat Sexual Assault, an initiative administered by the Australian Government Office of the Status of Women.

In the data presented, a picture of sexual assault in Australia emerges where some population groups are more affected than others, most incidents are not reported to police, and many victims do not utilise available services which provide responses to sexual assault.

The National Crime and Safety Survey of 2002 estimated that 33,000 adults in Australia were victims of sexual assault in the 12 months prior to the survey. This represented a prevalence rate of 0.2%, which was the lowest rate for personal crimes reported in that survey. In Recorded Crime Statistics for 2003, 18,237 reports of sexual assault victimisation were made to police in Australia, representing a victimisation rate of 0.09%. Survey data indicate that sexual assault is the most under-reported personal crime. Recorded Crime Statistics indicate that the majority of victims who report the crime to police are female and the majority of perpetrators in those reported incidents are male. For most victims of sexual assault reported to police, the perpetrator is
known to them, and the most commonly reported location where the offence occurs is a residential setting.

Alleged offenders are charged in relation to sexual offences committed against a relatively small proportion of reported victims. For those alleged perpetrators who are identified and proceeded against, they are less likely than other defendants to plead guilty, more likely to go to trial and more likely to have an acquittal outcome. Once proven guilty, sexual assault offenders are more likely to receive a custodial sentence and are likely to spend longer in prison than offenders for all offences.

Movements over time indicate that the prevalence rate for sexual assault, as reported for female adults in successive National Crime and Safety Surveys, has declined since 1993 and remained stable since 1998. However, measures from Recorded Crime Statistics indicate increasing numbers of sexual assault incidents recorded over a similar period. Given the efforts of police to encourage more reporting of sexual assault offences, it appears that an increasing proportion of incidents are being reported to and recorded by police. However, whilst the numbers of reported victims of sexual assault have been increasing since 2000, the number of offenders in prison for sexual assault and related offences declined from 1996 to 2002 and then increased in 2003.


Copies of the Statistical Overview can be ordered by contacting the ABS National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.


Copies of all publications can be ordered by contacting the ABS National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.

Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia (4510.0)

On 27 May 2004, the ABS released Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia 2003. This publication presents statistics on victims of a selected range of offences that were recorded by state and territory police in Australia during 2003. It includes information on the personal characteristics of victims, levels of victimisation, and characteristics associated with the offence such as the relationship of offender to victim, location, outcome of investigation, and weapon use.

The offence categories with the largest number of victims recorded by Australian police during 2003 were other theft (638,968), unlawful entry with intent (353,419) and assault (158,629).

Overall the number of victims recorded by Australian police declined in most offence categories in 2003. This was particularly the case for offences involving the taking of property. Motor vehicle theft decreased by 13% and unlawful entry with intent decreased by 10%. Victims of robbery fell by 6%, with armed robbery falling by 9% and unarmed robbery by 5%. Other offence categories to record a decrease included other theft (6%), homicide and related offences (4%) and assault (1%).

VICTIMS(a), Change in number from 2002 to 2003
VICTIMS(a), Change in number from 2002 to 2003
(a) The definition of a victim varies according to the category of the offence.

In 2003, the victimisation rates for unlawful entry with intent (1,778 per 100,000 population) and motor vehicle theft (497 per 100,000 population) were the lowest since national reporting began in 1993. The robbery victimisation rate of 99 per 100,000 population was the lowest since 1997.

The assault victimisation rate for 2003 was 798 per 100,000 persons, a 2% decrease from 2002 (815 per 100,000). This was the first decrease in the victimisation rate for this offence category since 1995. The sexual assault victimisation rate increased from 71 to 92 per 100,000 persons between 1994 and 2003. In contrast, victimisation rates for homicide and related offences remained fairly stable over this period, ranging from 5 to 6 per 100,000 persons between 1994 and 2003.

Other offence categories for which there were increases between 2002 and 2003 in numbers of victims recorded, included blackmail/extortion (4%) and kidnapping/abduction (1%). Driving causing death (15%) also increased, but a 19% decrease in the number of victims of manslaughter, a 12% decrease in attempted murder and a 5% decrease in murders resulted in an overall decrease in victims for the homicide and related offences category.

More males than females were victims of robbery and blackmail/extortion (68% of victims were male for both), murder and attempted murder (both 67%) and assault (57%). For sexual assault and kidnapping/abduction more females were victims than males (82% and 62%).

Persons aged 24 years or less comprised the majority of recorded victims of sexual assault (72%) and kidnapping/abduction (71%), and nearly half of victims of robbery (49%). In contrast, this age group comprised less than one in three victims of attempted murder (31%), murder (27%), driving causing death (25%) and
blackmail/extortion (25%).

Approximately half of the victims of murder, attempted murder, assault and sexual assault knew their offender. For sexual assault, the victim was four times more likely to know the offender than not.

Corrective Services, Australia (4512.0)

The June quarter 2004 issue of Corrective Services, Australia was released on 23 September 2004. This publication presents time series information on persons in custody and community-based corrections. Details are provided by state/territory on prisoner counts and rates of imprisonment by type of custody, legal status, sentence type and Indigenous Status. Information is also presented on the number of sentenced receptions into custody and the number of federal prisoners.

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (cat. no. 4714.0)

The results of the second national social survey of Indigenous people were released on 23 June 2004 and point to some changes since the groundbreaking original survey in 1994.

There was a decline in the proportion of Indigenous people who reported having been arrested in the previous five years (from 20% in 1994 to 16% in 2002).

Compared to 1994, Indigenous people in 2002 were nearly twice as likely to report that they had been a victim of physical or threatened violence in the previous 12 months (25% in 2002, up from 13% in 1994).

These victimisation rates were high among unemployed people (38%) and younger people (33% of those aged 15-24).


Criminal Courts Data Dictionary

Work on a Data Dictionary for the Criminal Courts has commenced. The aims of this project are to achieve a common set of definitions and classifications within criminal courts collections, and to provide a common base from which criminal courts statistics can be extracted and disseminated across agencies, to ensure maximum comparability between published court statistics.

The data dictionary will describe a core set of concepts and data elements, allowing users to understand the relationships between the terms and concepts used in criminal courts statistics. Version 1 of the data dictionary will include the Higher and Magistrates’ Criminal Courts but it is expected that the dictionary will expand over time to encompass other Court levels and further data elements.

If you have questions about, or would like input into the Criminal Courts Data Dictionary, email <>.

National Information Development Plan for Crime and Justice

The National Information Development Plan for Crime and Justice identifies national information needs in the field of crime and justice. The draft identifies current data sources and describes key gaps, deficiencies and overlaps in data collection with reference to the national information needs. The draft is under development by the National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics in collaboration with a large range of Australian, state and territory agencies, as well as with various non-government bodies.

There are two nationally consistent policy imperatives that underpin the key information needs in crime and justice; community safety, and the effective and efficient administration of justice. The priority national information requirements identified in the draft NIDP are:
  • the need to improve the comparability of data across the sector and across jurisdictions
  • the need for quality data about the characteristics of offenders, victims and incidents.

For more information about the NIDP, please email <>.

Retirement of Chairs

Dr Jeanette Packer has been a member of the National Crime Statistics Advisory Group since 1994, and has chaired that group since 1997. As Chair of the Advisory Group she has been a member of the Board of Management for the National Crime Statistics Unit. Jeanette's last working day was 8 October 2004 prior to her official retirement in mid-2005. Chris Libreri (Director NCSU) notes that Jeanette's wise counsel is one of the rocks that the NCSU has been built upon, her support of the concept of national crime statistics and the respect she has within the jurisdictions and the wider research community have enabled many chievements. It will be very difficult to replace Jeanette as she has that great mix of knowledge, experience, innovation and communication, as well as a wicked sense of humour.

Mr Guy Bowra (WA Department of Justice) recently relinquished his role as the Chair of the Court's Practitioner's Group (CPG), he is taking up a new role overseeing specialist courts in WA. Guy was the inaugural Chair of the CPG which has been active for three years and has made an exceptional contribution to the quality, integration and development of all Courts statistics. Guy will be replaced as Chair of the CPG by Noel Moloney of Courts Victoria.

National Crime and Safety Survey - Confidentialised Unit Record File

The Confidentialised Unit Record File (CURF) for the 2002 National Crime and Safety Survey (NCSS) was released on 31 March, 2004.

Further information about access to the CURF is available on the ABS web site, as is an Information Paper (cat. no. 4524.0.55.001) which contains information about the NCSS, the micro-data in the CURF and access to the CURF via the remote access data laboratory.

For queries regarding access to the CURF, please email <>. Should you have any queries regarding the NCSS or CURF data, please direct them to <>.

National Statistical Service

The National Statistical Service (NSS) web site <> was released in May 2004. The web site is designed to support both producers and users of statistics. For producers it provides assistance in the collection, processing and dissemination of data, including resources on best practice and links to statistical training. For users it provides assistance in identifying statistical information suitable to their needs.

The first release of the web site provides a core set of resources, these include:
  • NSS Handbook and Key Principles
  • directories of statistical sources
  • published Information Development Plans
  • statistical training offered by government agencies
  • papers on statistical best practice
  • concepts, classifications and data dictionaries.

Future releases of the web site will expand on the core set of resources as well as including a Directory of Statistical Sources search portal and several statistical discussion forums.

Introduction of a new ABS product numbering system

The ABS will introduce a new product numbering system in early 2005. The new system is required to support current and emerging business requirements. The new system incorporates a 5-digit product identifier and a 2-character extension.

All currently catalogued products will be renumbered. The product numbers for the main crime and justice publications will become:

  • 45100PB (was 4510.0)
  • 45120PB (was 4512.0)
  • 45130PB (was 4513.0)
  • 45170PB (was 4517.0).

Where PB refers to printed and electronic format publications.

NCCJS Meetings

The following meetings have been held since April 2004:

  • Corrective Services Board of Management, 11 May 2004
  • Crime Board of Management, 12 May and 21 September 2004
  • Courts Advisory Group, 11 June 2004
  • Courts Board of Management, 28 July 2004
  • Crime Advisory Group, 10 August 2004
  • Courts Practitioner Group, 27 August 2004

Forthcoming meetings:
  • Courts Advisory Group, December 2004
  • Corrective Services Advisory Group, November 2004
  • Courts Board, 24 November 2004
  • Police Practitioner Group, March 2005.

Upcoming Publications

1 December 2004: Corrective Services, Australia, September Quarter 2004 (cat. no. 4512.0).

17 December 2004: Prisoners in Australia, 2004 (cat. no. 4517.0).

25 January 2005: Criminal Courts, Australia, 2003-04 (cat. no. 4513.0).

March 2005: Corrective Services, Australia, December Quarter 2004 (cat. no. 4512.0).

Staff News

In April 2004, Terry Byrnes joined the NCCJS in the Statistical Liaison Unit. Nicole Vella also joined us in April, working in the Development & Analysis Unit. In August Sandra Fairbairn and Richard Lund began work in the Statistical Management Unit.

During the same period Catherine Andersson left the NCCJS to move to another area of the Victorian Office. Catherine worked in the NCCJS for over 5 years, and her expertise in collection development will be missed. Andrew Naughton moved in August to another seciton of the Office.

NCCJS Contact Points

Fax: (03) 96157373

Email: <>

Postal address:

National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics
Australian Bureau of Statistics
GPO Box 2796Y
Melbourne VIC 3001

Commonwealth of Australia 2008

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