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Crime in Australia is managed by various law enforcement bodies (federal and state-based police forces and local councils), the federal and state-based criminal justice systems and state-based correctional services.

The Department of Home Affairs oversees federal law enforcement, national security (including cyber security, transport security, criminal justice, emergency management, multicultural affairs, immigration and border-related functions). It comprises the Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre and the Australian Institute of Criminology as of February 2019.[1] Each state and territory runs its own police service.

The national justice system is overseen by the Attorney-General's Department (Australia), with each state and territory having its own equivalent.

Prison services are run independently by correctional services department in each state and territory.

Crime statistics are collected on a state basis and then collated and further analysed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Between 2008–09 and 2017–18 the national victimisation rate decreased for personal crime in all categories except sexual assault (which remained steady), and also all household crimes selected in the national statistics. Approximately 5.0% (966,600) of Australians aged 15 years and over experienced personal crime.[2]

Law enforcementEdit

Law enforcement in Australia is served by law enforcement officers under the control of federal government, states and territories and local agencies. A number of state, territory and federal agencies also administer a wide variety of legislation related to white-collar crime. Police are responsible for the administration of criminal law. Sheriffs and bailiffs in each state and territory are responsible for the enforcement of the judgments of the courts exercising civil law (common law) jurisdictions. The various state police forces are responsible for enforcing state law within their own states, while the Australian Federal Police (AFP) are responsible for the enforcement of and investigation of crimes against Commonwealth law which applies across the whole country.[citation needed]


Prison servicesEdit

Immigration detention centresEdit

In addition to the standard prisons run by the states (and not included in prisoner statistics), the Department of Home Affairs also operates a separate system of Australian immigration detention facilities to detain non-citizens who have breached the terms of or lack a visa.[3] Some of these immigration detention centres are used to indefinitely detain[4] asylum seekers and refugees, often without trial and in many cases for several years.[4]

Crime and crime prevention since colonisationEdit


During the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, large numbers of convicts were transported to the various Australian penal colonies by the UK Government.[5] One of the primary reasons for the British settlement of Australia was the establishment of a penal colony to alleviate pressure on their overburdened correctional facilities. Over a period of eighty years, more than 165,000 British convicts were transported to Australia.[6] Discipline was poor among the early convicts, with high rates of theft, physical and sexual assault. Law enforcement was initially the preserve of the New South Wales Marine Corps, which accompanied the First Fleet. Australia's first civilian crime prevention force was established in August 1789, comprising a twelve-man nightwatch authorised to patrol the settlement at Sydney Cove and with powers "for the apprehending and securing for examination" anyone suspected of "felony, trespass or misdemeanour."[7]

Aboriginal massacresEdit

From the earliest days of settlement at Sydney Cove, settlers clashed with the indigenous peoples. Governor Arthur Phillip himself gave ex-convicts muskets which were utilised to shoot at Aborigines in the area, and also deployed soldiers to their allotted areas, who "dispersed" about 50 Aborigines.[8] Hidden or sanctioned massacres continued through to the 20th century, the last recorded being in 1928 at Coniston massacre in Western Australia.

Bushrangers (1788-1880s)Edit


William Strutt's Bushrangers on the St Kilda Road, painted in 1887, depicts what Strutt described as "one of the most daring robberies attempted in Victoria" in 1852.[9] The road was the scene of frequent hold-ups during the Victorian gold rush by bushrangers, mostly former convicts from Van Diemen's Land (present-day Tasmania), which collectively became known as the St Kilda Road robberies.

Bushrangers were originally escaped convicts in the early years of the British settlement of Australia who used the Australian bush as a refuge to hide from the authorities. By the 1820s, the term "bushranger" had evolved to refer to those who took up "robbery under arms" as a way of life, using the bush as their base.

Bushranging thrived during the gold rush years of the 1850s and 1860s when the likes of Ben Hall, Frank Gardiner and John Gilbert led notorious gangs in the country districts of New South Wales. These "Wild Colonial Boys", mostly Australian-born sons of convicts, were roughly analogous to British "highwaymen" and outlaws of the American Old West, and their crimes typically included robbing small-town banks and coach services. In other infamous cases, such as that of Dan Morgan, the Clarke brothers, and Australia's best-known bushranger, Ned Kelly, numerous policemen were murdered. The number of bushrangers declined due to better policing and improvements in rail transport and communication technology, such as telegraphy. Although bushrangers appeared sporadically into the early 20th century, most historians regard Kelly's capture and execution in 1880 as effectively representing the end of the bushranging era.

Bushranging exerted a powerful influence in Australia, lasting for almost a century and predominating in the eastern colonies, with several notable bushrangers operating elsewhere on the continent. Its origins in a convict system bred a unique kind of desperado, most frequently with an Irish political background. Native-born bushrangers also expressed nascent Australian nationalist views and are recognised as "the first distinctively Australian characters to gain general recognition."[10] As such, a number of bushrangers became folk heroes and symbols of rebellion against the authorities, admired for their bravery, rough chivalry and colourful personalities. However, in stark contrast to romantic portrayals in the arts and popular culture, bushrangers tended to lead lives that were "nasty, brutish and short", while some were notorious for their cruelty and bloodthirst. Australian attitudes towards bushrangers remain complex and ambivalent.


The earliest documented use of the term appears in a February 1805 issue of The Sydney Gazette, which reports that a cart had been stopped between Sydney and Hawkesbury by three men "whose appearance sanctioned the suspicion of their being bush-rangers".[11] John Bigge described bushranging in 1821 as "absconding in the woods and living upon plunder and the robbery of orchards." Charles Darwin likewise recorded in 1835 that a bushranger was "an open villain who subsists by highway robbery, and will sooner be killed than taken alive".[12]


Over 2,000 bushrangers are estimated to have roamed the Australian countryside, beginning with the convict bolters and drawing to a close after Ned Kelly's last stand at Glenrowan.[13]

Convict era (1780s–1840s)Edit

Convict artist Joseph Lycett's 1825 painting of the Nepean River shows a gang of bushrangers with guns.

Bushranging began soon after British settlement with the establishment of New South Wales as a penal colony in 1788. The majority of early bushrangers were convicts who had escaped prison, or from the properties of landowners to whom they had been assigned as servants. These bushrangers, also known as "bolters", preferred the hazards of wild, unexplored bushland surrounding Sydney to the deprivation and brutality of convict life. The first notable bushranger, African convict John Caesar, robbed settlers for food, and kept a tempestuous alliance with Aboriginal resistance fighters during Pemulwuy's War. While other bushrangers would go on to fight alongside Indigenous Australians in frontier conflicts with the colonial authorities, the Government tried to bring an end to any such collaboration by rewarding Aborigines for returning convicts to custody. Aboriginal trackers would play a significant role in the hunt for bushrangers.

Colonel Godfrey Mundy described convict bushrangers as "desperate, hopeless, fearless; rendered so, perhaps, by the tyranny of a gaoler, of an overseer, or of a master to whom he has been assigned." Edward Smith Hall, editor of early Sydney newspaper The Monitor, agreed that the convict system was a breeding-ground for bushrangers due to its savagery, with starvation and acts of torture being rampant. "Liberty or Death!" was the cry of convict bushrangers, and in large numbers they roamed beyond Sydney, some hoping to reach China, which was commonly believed to be connected by an overland route. Some bolters seized boats and set sail for foreign lands, but most were hunted down and brought back to Australia. Others attempted to inspire an overhaul of the convict system, or simply sought revenge on their captors. This latter desire found expression in the convict ballad "Jim Jones at Botany Bay", in which Jones, the narrator, plans to join bushranger Jack Donahue and "gun the floggers down".

The death mask of Jackey Jackey. He was executed after leading the 1846 Cooking Pot Uprising.

Donahue was the most notorious of the early New South Wales bushrangers, terrorising settlements outside Sydney from 1827 until he was fatally shot by a trooper in 1830.[11] That same year, west of the Blue Mountains, convict Ralph Entwistle sparked a bushranging insurgency known as the Bathurst Rebellion. He and his gang raided farms, liberating assigned convicts by force in the process, and within a month, his personal army numbered 130 bushrangers. Following gun battles with vigilante posses, mounted policemen and soldiers of the 39th and 57th Regiment of Foot, he and nine of his men were captured and executed.

Convict bushrangers were particularly prevalent in the penal colony of Van Diemen's Land (now the state of Tasmania), established in 1803.[11] The island's most powerful bushranger, the self-styled "Lieutenant Governor of the Woods", Michael Howe, led a gang of up to one hundred members "in what amounted to a civil war" with the colonial government.[14] His control over large swathes of the island prompted elite squatters from Hobart and Launceston to collude with him, and for six months in 1815, Lieutenant-Governor Thomas Davey, fearing a convict uprising, declared martial law in an effort to suppress Howe's influence. Most of the gang had either been captured or killed by 1818, the year soldiers shot Howe dead.[14] Vandemonian bushranging peaked in the 1820s with hundreds of bolters at large, among the most notorious being Matthew Brady's gang, and cannibal serial killers Alexander Pearce and Thomas Jeffries. Originally a New South Wales bushranger, Jackey Jackey (alias of William Westwood) was sent to Van Diemen's Land in 1842 after attempting to escape Cockatoo Island. In 1843, he escaped Port Arthur, and took up bushranging in Tasmania's mountains, but was recaptured and sent to Norfolk Island, where, as leader of the 1846 Cooking Pot Uprising, he murdered three constables, and was hanged along with sixteen of his men.

The era of convict bushrangers gradually faded with the decline in penal transportations to Australia in the 1840s. It had ceased by the 1850s to all colonies except Western Australia, which accepted convicts between 1850 and 1868. The best-known convict bushranger of the colony was the prolific escapee Moondyne Joe.

Gold rush era (1850s–1860s)Edit

Bushrangers attack mounted policemen guarding a gold escort.

The bushrangers' heyday was the Gold Rush years of the 1850s and 1860s as the discovery of gold gave bushrangers access to great wealth that was portable and easily converted to cash. Their task was assisted by the isolated location of the goldfields and a police force decimated by troopers abandoning their duties to join the gold rush.[13]

George Melville was hanged in front of a large crowd for robbing the McIvor gold escort near Castlemaine in 1853.[13]

Captain Thunderbolt's death marked the end of the 1860s bushranging epidemic in New South Wales.

Bushranging numbers flourished in New South Wales with the rise of the colonial-born sons of poor, often ex-convict squatters who were drawn to a more glamorous life than mining or farming.[13]

Much of the activity in this era was in the Lachlan Valley, around Forbes, Yass and Cowra.[13]

Frank Gardiner, John Gilbert and Ben Hall led the most notorious gangs of the period. Other active bushrangers included Dan Morgan, based in the Murray River.[13]

Captain Thunderbolt (alias of Frederick Ward) robbed inns and mail-coaches across northern New South Wales for six and a half years, one of the longest careers of any bushranger.[11] He sometimes operated alone; at other times, he led gangs, and was accompanied by his Aboriginal 'wife', Mary Ann Bugg, who is credited with helping extend his career.[11] Ward was fatally shot by a policeman in 1870, and with his death, the New South Wales bushranging epidemic that began in the 1860s came to an end.[15]

Decline and the Kelly gang (1870s–1880s)Edit

Watched by hundreds of onlookers in the surrounding hills, troopers engage in their final gunfight with Captain Moonlite's gang in 1879.

The increasing push of settlement, increased police efficiency, improvements in rail transport and communications technology, such as telegraphy, made it more difficult for bushrangers to evade capture.

The scholarly, but eccentric Captain Moonlite (alias of Andrew George Scott) worked as an Anglican lay reader before turning to bushranging. Imprisoned in Ballarat for an armed bank robbery on the Victorian goldfields, he escaped, but was soon recaptured and received a ten-year sentence in HM Prison Pentridge. Within a year of his release in 1879, he and his gang held up the town of Wantabadgery in the Riverina. Two of the gang (including Moonlite's "soulmate" and alleged lover, James Nesbitt) and one trooper were killed when the police attacked. Scott was found guilty of murder and hanged along with one of his accomplices on 20 January 1880.

Among the last bushrangers was the Kelly Gang led by Ned Kelly, who were captured at Glenrowan in 1880, two years after they were outlawed.

Isolated outbreaks (1890s–1900s)Edit

In 1900 the indigenous Governor Brothers terrorised much of northern New South Wales.[13]

"Boy bushrangers" (1910s–1920s)Edit

The final phase of bushranging was sustained by the so-called "boy bushrangers"—youths who sought to commit crimes, mostly armed robberies, modelled on the exploits of their bushranging "heroes". The majority were captured alive without any fatalities.[16]

Public perceptionEdit

In Australia, bushrangers often attract public sympathy (cf. the concept of social bandits). In Australian history and iconography bushrangers are held in some esteem in some quarters due to the harshness and anti-Catholicism of the colonial authorities whom they embarrassed, and the romanticism of the lawlessness they represented. Some bushrangers, most notably Ned Kelly in his Jerilderie letter, and in his final raid on Glenrowan, explicitly represented themselves as political rebels. Attitudes to Kelly, by far the most well-known bushranger, exemplify the ambivalent views of Australians regarding bushranging.


The impact of bushrangers upon the areas in which they roamed is evidenced in the names of many geographical features in Australia, including Brady's Lookout, Moondyne Cave, Mount Tennent, Thunderbolts Way and Ward's Mistake. The districts of North East Victoria are unofficially known as Kelly Country.

Some bushrangers made a mark on Australian literature. While running from soldiers in 1818, Michael Howe dropped a knapsack containing a self-made book of kangaroo skin and written in kangaroo blood. In it was a dream diary and plans for a settlement he intended to found in the bush. Sometime bushranger Francis MacNamara, also known as Frank the Poet, wrote some of the best-known poems of the convict era. Several convict bushrangers also wrote autobiographies, including Jackey Jackey, Martin Cash and Owen Suffolk.

Cultural depictionsEdit

Tom Roberts' 1895 painting Bailed Up depicts a Cobb & Co hold up from the 1860s.
Actor playing Ned Kelly in The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906), the world's first feature-length narrative film

Jack Donahue was the first bushranger to have inspired bush ballads, including "Bold Jack Donahue" and "The Wild Colonial Boy".[17] Ben Hall and his gang were the subject of several bush ballads, including "Streets of Forbes".

Early plays about bushrangers include David Burn's The Bushrangers (1829), William Leman Rede's Faith and Falsehood; or, The Fate of the Bushranger (1830), William Thomas Moncrieff's Van Diemen's Land: An Operatic Drama (1831), The Bushrangers; or, Norwood Vale (1834) by Henry Melville, and The Bushrangers; or, The Tregedy of Donohoe (1835) by Charles Harpur.

In the late 19th century, E. W. Hornung and Hume Nisbet created popular bushranger novels within the conventions of the European "noble bandit" tradition. First serialised in The Sydney Mail in 1882–83, Rolf Boldrewood's bushranging novel Robbery Under Arms is considered a classic of Australian colonial literature. It also cited as an important influence on the American writer Owen Wister's 1902 novel The Virginian, widely regarded as the first Western.[18]

Bushrangers were a favoured subject of colonial artists such as S. T. Gill, Frank P. Mahony and William Strutt. Tom Roberts, one of the leading figures of the Heidelberg School (also known as Australian Impressionism), depicted bushrangers in some of his history paintings, including In a corner on the Macintyre (1894) and Bailed Up (1895), both set in Inverell, the area where Captain Thunderbolt was once active.

Although not the first Australian film with a bushranging theme, The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906)—the world's first feature-length narrative film—is regarded as having set the template for the genre. On the back of the film's success, its producers released one of two 1907 film adaptations of Boldrewood's Robbery Under Arms (the other being Charles MacMahon's version). Entering the first "golden age" of Australian cinema (1910–12), director John Gavin released two fictionalised accounts of real-life bushrangers: Moonlite (1910) and Thunderbolt (1910). The genre's popularity with audiences led to a spike of production unprecedented in world cinema.[19] Dan Morgan (1911) is notable for portraying its title character as an insane villain rather than a figure of romance. Ben Hall, Frank Gardiner, Captain Starlight, and numerous other bushrangers also received cinematic treatments at this time. Alarmed by what they saw as the glorification of outlawery, state governments imposed a ban on bushranger films in 1912, effectively removing "the entire folklore relating to bushrangers ... from the most popular form of cultural expression."[20] It is seen as a major reason for the collapse of a booming Australian film industry.[21] One of the few Australian films to escape the ban before it was lifted in the 1940s is the 1920 adaptation of Robbery Under Arms.[19] Also during this lull appeared American takes on the bushranger genre, including The Bushranger (1928), Stingaree (1934) and Captain Fury (1939).

Ned Kelly (1970) starred Mick Jagger in the title role. Dennis Hopper portrayed Dan Morgan in Mad Dog Morgan (1976). More recent bushranger films include Ned Kelly (2003), starring Heath Ledger, The Proposition (2005), written by Nick Cave, The Outlaw Michael Howe (2013), and The Legend of Ben Hall (2016).

Notable bushrangersEdit

Name Lived Area of activity Fate Portrait
Bluecap c. 1835–? New South Wales Imprisoned, cause of death unknown
Matthew Brady 1799–1826 Van Diemen's Land Hanged
Mary Ann Bugg 1834–1905 Northern New South Wales Died of old age
Richard Burgess 1829–1866 New South Wales
Joe Byrne 1857–1880 North East Victoria Shot by police  
John Caesar 1764–1796 Sydney area Shot
Captain Melville c. 1823–1857 Goldfields region of Victoria Suicide
Captain Moonlite 1842–1880 Victoria
New South Wales
Captain Thunderbolt 1835–1870 New South Wales Shot by police  
Martin Cash c. 1808–1877 Van Diemen's Land Imprisoned, died a free man  
Clarke brothers 1840/1846-1867 New South Wales Hanged  
Patrick Daley 1844–? New South Wales Imprisoned, died a free man
Edward Davis ?–1841 Northern New South Wales Hanged
Jack Donahue c. 1806–1830 Sydney area Shot by police  
Jack the Rammer ?–1834 South Eastern New South Wales Shot
John Dunn 1846–1866 Western New South Wales Hanged  
Ralph Entwistle c. 1805–1830 New South Wales Hanged
John Francis c. 1825–? Goldfields region of Victoria Imprisoned, cause of death unknown
Frank Gardiner c. 1829–c. 1904 Western New South Wales Imprisoned, died a free man  
John Gilbert 1842–1865 Western New South Wales Shot by police  
Jimmy Governor 1875–1901 New South Wales Hanged
Ben Hall 1837–1865 Western New South Wales Shot by police  
Steve Hart 1859–1880 North East Victoria Possible suicide  
Michael Howe 1787–1818 Van Diemen's Land Shot by police
Thomas Jeffries ?–1826 Van Diemen's Land Hanged
George Jones c. 1815–1844 Van Diemen's Land Hanged
Lawrence Kavenagh c. 1805–1846 Van Diemen's Land Hanged  
Dan Kelly c. 1861–1880 North East Victoria Possible suicide  
Ned Kelly c. 1854–1880 North East Victoria Hanged  
Patrick Kenniff 1865–1903 Queensland Hanged  
John Kerney c. 1844–1892 South Australia Imprisoned, died a free man
Fred Lowry 1836–1863 New South Wales Shot by police  
John Lynch 1813–1842 New South Wales Hanged
James McPherson 1842–1895 Queensland Imprisoned, died a free man  
Moondyne Joe c. 1828–1900 Western Australia Imprisoned, died a free man  
Dan Morgan c. 1830–1865 New South Wales Shot by police  
Musquito c. 1780–1825 Van Diemen's Land Hanged
George Palmer c. 1846–1869 Queensland Hanged  
Alexander Pearce 1790–1824 Van Diemen's Land Hanged  
Sam Poo ?–1865 New South Wales Hanged
Harry Power 1819–1891 North East Victoria Imprisoned, died a free man  
Owen Suffolk 1829–? Victoria Shot in prison
John Tennant 1794–1837 New South Wales Hanged
John Vane 1842–1906 New South Wales Imprisoned, died a free man
William Westwood 1820–1846 New South Wales
Van Diemen's Land
John Whelan c. 1805–1855 Van Diemen's Land Hanged


  1. ^ "Home". Australian Government. Department of Border Affairs. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  2. ^ "4530.0 - Crime Victimisation, Australia, 2017-18". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 13 February 2019. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  3. ^ Dillon, Sarah (8 November 2013). "Immigration detention and human rights". Australian Human Rights Commission. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  4. ^ a b Doherty, Ben (17 May 2016). "Australia's indefinite detention of refugees illegal, UN rules". the Guardian.
  5. ^ Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2002. ISBN 0-19-860575-7. convictism noun (Hist.) the system of penal settlements for convicts; the body of convicts so transported M19
  6. ^ Convict Records,
  7. ^ Governor Arthur Phillip and Advocate-General David Collins, Regulations for the night-watch, 7 August 1789. Cited in Cobley, John (1963). Sydney Cove: 1789-1790. Angus & Robertson. p. 77. ISBN 0207141711.
  8. ^ Hunter, John (1793). An Historical Journal of the Transactions at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island including the Journals of Governors Phillip and King. Piccadilly: John Stockdale. p. 474. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  9. ^ Ian Potter Museum collection: Bushrangers Archived 28 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved on 9 January 2011.
  10. ^ Hirst, John Bradley. Freedom on the Fatal Shore. Black Inc., 2008. ISBN 9781863952071, pp. 408–409.
  11. ^ a b c d e Wilson, Jane (14 April 2015). "Bushrangers in the Australian Dictionary of Biography", Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  12. ^ "Bushranging". The Australian Encyclopedia. 2 (5th edn. ed.). Australian Geographical Society. 1988. pp. 582–587. ISBN 1 862760004.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g "BUSHRANGERS OF AUSTRALIA" (PDF). National Museum of Australia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 September 2007. Retrieved 16 April 2007.
  14. ^ a b Boyce, James (2010). Van Diemen's Land. Black Inc.. ISBN 9781921825392. pp. 76–82.
  15. ^ Baxter, Carol. Captain Thunderbolt and his Lady: the true story of bushrangers Frederick Ward and Mary Ann Bugg. Crows Nest, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin, 2011. ISBN 978-1-74237-287-7
  16. ^ Johnson, Murray (2010). "Australian Bushrangers: Law, Retribution and the Public Imagination". In Robinson, Shirley; Lincoln, Robyn. Crime Over Time: Temporal Perspectives on Crime and Punishment in Australia. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 1–19. ISBN 9781443824569.
  17. ^ "Old Windsor Road and Windsor Road Heritage Precincts". Heritage and conservation register. New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority. Archived from the original on 3 September 2007. Retrieved 20 April 2007.
  18. ^ Graulich, Melody; Tatum, Stephen. Reading the Virginian in the New West. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8032-7104-2
  19. ^ a b Australian film and television chronology: The 1910s Archived 29 August 2016 at Wikiwix, Australian Screen. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  20. ^ Cooper, Ross; Pike, Andrew. Australian Film, 1900-1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production. Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 9780195507843.
  21. ^ Reade, Eric (1970) Australian Silent Films: A Pictorial History of Silent Films from 1896 to 1926. Melbourne: Lansdowne Press, 59. See also Routt, William D. More Australian than Aristotelian:The Australian Bushranger Film,1904-1914. Senses of Cinema 18 (January-February), 2002 Archived 24 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine. The banning of bushranger films in NSW is fictionalised in Kathryn Heyman's 2006 novel, Captain Starlight's Apprentice.

External linksEdit


Civil disturbances and prison riots, have occurred throughout the history of European settlement in Australia, a selection of which follows:

21st century statisticsEdit

The Australian Institute of Criminology hosts an interactive gateway to statistics and information on Australian crime and justice issues, called Crime Statistics Australia. This provides the easiest public access to statistics showing all aspects of crime in Australia, including death in custody, offender and victim statistics, types of crime, drug use, prisons and criminal courts.[1]

Crime ratesEdit


The number of offenders proceeded against by police during 2016–2017 increased by 1% from the previous year to approximately 414,000.[2]

In 2016–2017, the offender rate, which is the number of offenders in the population of Australia, increased slightly from 1.98% to 2%. The youth offender rate decreased for the seventh consecutive year in 2016–17; between 2009–10 and 2016–17, the rate fell from 3,339 to 2,330 offenders per 100,000 persons aged 10 to 17.[3]

The most common type of offence in 2016-17 was illicit drug offences (20%), with sexual assault and related offences increasing by 3%, being the sixth successive annual increase and a total increase of 40%.[2]


Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that during the 2009/10 year police took action against 375,259 people,[4] up by 4.8 percent from 2008/09 figures.[4] Young offenders aged 10 to 19 comprised about 29 percent of the total offender population across Australia.[4] In the 2009/10 financial year, 84,100 women had police action taken against them across Australia, up by six percent compared with the previous year.[4] 290,400 men had police action taken against them in 2009/10, an annual increase of 4 percent.[4] About 30 percent of the women were accused of theft, whereas the most common principal offence for men was intention to cause injury and matters related to public order.[4]

Declining homicide rateEdit

Between 2016 and 2017, the number of homicide victims across Australia decreased from 453 victims to 414 victims (down 39 victims or 9%). The murder victimisation rate was 0.8%.[5]

Between the 1989-1990 and 2013-2014 statistical years, the national homicide rate decreased from 1.8 per 100,000 people to 1 per 100,000.[6] There were 238 homicide incidents in Australia in 2013-14 compared with 307 in 1989-90.[7] From the National Australian Homicide Monitoring program report 2012: "The homicide rate has continued to decrease each year, since 1989-90. The periods 2010–2011 and 2011–2012 are the lowest homicide rate since data collection began in 1989".[8]

Prison statisticsEdit

Prisoner statistics 2000-present can be found on the Australian Bureau of Statistics page for 4517.0 - Prisoners in Australia.[9]


Between 2017 and 2018 the national imprisonment rate increased by 3% from 216 to 221 prisoners per 100,000 adult population.[9]

In 2018, adult prisoner numbers were up by 4% on the previous year, with female prisoner numbers increasing at a faster rate than male prisoners and with drug offences responsible for the highest rise by category. There were rises in all states except for South Australia. The breakdown was: acts intended to cause injury (9,659 prisoners or 22%); illicit drug offences (6,779 prisoners or 16%); and sexual assault and related offences (5,283 prisoners or 12%). Males accounted for 92% of all prisoners. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners accounted for over a quarter of the total Australian prisoner population.[9]

Deaths in custodyEdit

Research from the Australian Institute of Criminology showed that from 1990 until the middle of 2011, 40 percent of people who were fatally shot by police were suffering from a mental illness. In NSW, the fatalities included Adam Salter (shot dead in Sydney in 2009); Elijah Holcombe (shot dead in Armidale in 2009); and Roni Levi (shot dead on Bondi Beach in 1997). In Victoria, the fatalities included the 2008 shooting death of Tyler Cassidy. At age 15, Cassidy is believed to be the youngest person ever shot dead by police in Australia.[10]

Gun control lawsEdit

The gun buy-back program which was implemented in 1996, purchased and destroyed mostly semi-automatic and pump action firearms.[11] Relatively frequent mass murders committed in the United States serve to re-ignite the debate on gun control laws from time to time, and Australia's gun control laws have been held up as an example of a workable solution for the safer management of guns and gun licensing by citizens of the United States and some members of Congress.[12]

Crime statistics before and after the implementation of gun laws have shown a decrease of the use of guns in crime. According to the national homicide monitoring program, the number of homicide incidents involving a firearm decreased by 57% between 1989-90 and 2013-14, from 75 to 32. Firearms were used in 13% of homicide incidents in 2013-14, compared with 24% in 1989-90.[13] During the years following the 1996 ban, the overall crime rate in both Australia and New Zealand declined at about the same rate, and violent crime and in particular gun crime are lower overall in New Zealand. This has led some to question how much of Australia's reduction in violent crime is due to the ban.[citation needed]

Civic organisationsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Crime Statistics Australia". Australian Institute of Criminology. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Main Features - Key Findings". Australian Bureau of Statistics.
  3. ^ "Media Release: Youth offender rate falls for seventh consecutive year". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e f La Canna, Xavier (24 February 2011). "Women increasingly target of police action". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  5. ^ "4510.0 - Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia, 2017". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 26 February 2019. See Table 1.
  6. ^ Goldsworthy, Terry (21 June 2017). "Three charts on: Australia's declining homicide rates". The Conversation. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  7. ^ AAP (18 June 2017). "Australia's murder rate falls to record low of one person per 100,000". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  8. ^ Willow Bryant; Tracy Cussen (2015). Homicide in Australia: 2010–11 to 2011–12: National Homicide Monitoring Program report (Report). AIC Reports Monitoring Reports. Australian Institute of Criminology. ISBN 978 1 922009 83 8. ISSN 1836-2095.
  9. ^ a b c "4517.0 - Prisoners in Australia, 2018". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  10. ^ Quentin McDermott (5 March 2012). "Shooting deaths spark call for mental health overhaul". ABC News.
  11. ^ Commonwealth of Australia 1997 (December 1997). "The Gun Buy-Back Scheme" (PDF). Australian National Audit Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 January 2016. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  12. ^ Brown, Michael J.I. (21 January 2013). "Faking waves: how the NRA and pro-gun Americans abuse Australian crime stats". The Conversation. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  13. ^ "Homicide in Australia: Trends in homicide, 1980-90 to 2013-14". Australian Institute of Criminology. Crime Statistics Australia. Retrieved 27 February 2019.

External linksEdit