WA’s Public Sex Offender Registry: It’s our right to know – oh but we don’t use it!

Dr Natalie Gately1, Dr Tiffany Carpenter1

1Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, Australia

Sexual offending is a violent crime which incites public outrage, particularly when it involves children. In 2018, Minister Peter Dutton announced plans to introduce a national public sex offender register (SOR) for child sex offenders. However, WA already has a public SOR but little was known about how the public utilise the SOR website. To investigate this, 64 members of the public were interviewed about their knowledge and use of WA’s SOR. Most participants were unaware of it and had not accessed the SOR, however once they were aware of it, believed they had the right to have access to this information. Those who has accessed the website, found the information limited and expected more personal, criminological and geographical detail. Furthermore, despite warnings on the SOR about the privacy of information garnered, participants believed they would share their knowledge with others should they become aware of an offender in their area. The findings question if public SORs hinder offenders’ rehabilitation; and whether it is the best use of funding and resources for community protection.


Natalie is a principal investigator working on a number of research projects including: young offenders and youth justice; the crime/drug nexus; and public perceptions of crime related issues.  She also researches families, such as those with a family member in prison; parents of young offenders; and family structures such as stepfamilies.  She has supervised Honours, Masters and Doctoral students studying arson and firesetting related topics including juvenile arsonists; sex trafficking; domestic violence; drug and alcohol use; the impact on incarceration on families of young Aboriginal offenders; Drug Courts; Youth Drug Courts; and rape stereotypes.  She favours research in collaboration with industry partners for the benefit of the wider community.  Some industry partners have included WA Police, Department of Justice, Mental Health Commission, The Department of Fire and Emergency Services, The Perth Children’s Court, and the former Departments of the Attorney General and Corrective Services and the Drug and Alcohol Office.


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