Ritual Abuse and Organisational Accountability in Australian Fire Services

Dr Tamika Perrott1
1Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia

This paper contributes to contemporary debates on institutional abuse, gender relations and organisational accountability in male-dominated workplaces. Drawing on a critical analysis of institutional cultures and organisational response across metropolitan and country fire services in Australia, this paper explores the utility of ‘accountability’ as a practice. It details how Australian fire services respond to institutional abuses and sexual violence and identifies some of the key independent reviews that have occurred over the past decade. The silencing of victims accounts, the normalisation of violence and the inaction of these services to recognise and respond to sexual harassment and ritual abuse captures the difficulties of mobilising against institutional abuse in highly male-dominated workplaces. The analysis suggests that the systemic misogyny rooted in many of these ‘abuse rituals’ may also undermine future attempt to enact cultural change.


Dr. Tamika Perrott is a Research Assistant at Flinders University, investigating institutional abuse within the Australian Defence Force (ADF). With a background in studies of organisational sociology and psychology, her research focuses on human behaviour and group dynamics in workplace settings. Her PhD research explored workplace diversity, occupational identity and organisational reform in male-dominated workplaces, looking specifically at emergency first responder occupations.

The Trauma of Out-Of-Home-Care: the criminogenic consequences of, and institutional responses to, care-related abuse and neglect.

Dr Kath McFarlane1
1Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, Australia

The Trauma of Out-Of-Home-Care: the criminogenic consequences of, and institutional responses to, care-related abuse and neglect.

This paper examines the Out-Of-Home-Care (OOHC) experience to explore the impact of abuse and neglect inflicted by agencies meant to protect children from harm. Drawing on original research conducted in the NSW Children’s Court, the paper explores the ways in which a protective child welfare system can fail vulnerable children. Focusing on the involvement of people with care-experience in the criminal justice system, the paper also examines the institutional responses to childhood abuse experienced in the OOHC system, and questions what redress schemes, compensation offers and national apologies mean to abuse survivors.


Dr Kath McFarlane is the Deputy Director of the Centre for Law and Justice at Charles Sturt University (CSU). She is the chief investigator in a Criminology Research Council funded-project, where with her CSU colleagues in Law, Justice Studies and Psychology, she is examining the views of residential care workers, police, magistrates and other frontline professionals regarding children in care’s involvement in the justice system. This builds on her doctoral research into ‘Care-criminalisation’: the involvement of children in out of home care in the NSW criminal justice system’.

Kath has previously held a variety of policy roles in bureaucracy, academia and politics, including as a senior policy officer in the Attorney Generals’ Department, Executive Officer of the NSW Sentencing Council and Executive Officer of the NSW Children’s Court. Between 2011 – 2015 she was Chief of Staff to a NSW Minister across numerous portfolios.

Dr McFarlane has provided research reports and policy advice to a range of NSW government agencies, including the  Department for Women, Family and Community Services, CorrectionsHealth and the Department of Justice. She is a current member of the NSW Corrective Services’ Women’s Advisory Council and sits on a number of non-government agency boards and committees.

“I’ll get you before you get me”: How people in prison understand the relationship between experiences of trauma and offending

Ms Marianne Bevan1
1New Zealand Department Of Corrections , Wellington, New Zealand

Over three-quarters of people within New Zealand prisons have experienced violent victimisation in their lifetime, with over half of men and three-quarters of women having experienced sexual and/or family violence specifically. Interest has grown in recent years about the impact trauma has on people’s offending pathways, and the implications of this for how people are managed and rehabilitated in prison. While existing research has generally not demonstrated a causal link between trauma exposure and offending, studies have shown how exposure to traumatic events causes a range of maladaptive coping strategies which are, in turn, associated with committing crime. This paper adds to current research in this area by exploring the different ways people in prison in New Zealand understand the relationship between their experiences of trauma and their perpetration of crime. It draws on a range of qualitative studies (involving interviews with over 100 women and men in prison) on the topics of women’s offending, family violence perpetration, and case management in women’s prisons. The paper examines the ways in which people’s experiences of victimisation shape how they understand and narrate their victimisation of others, including their understandings of violence, and perceptions of their identity, responsibility and agency. The paper discusses the implications of this for the management and treatment of people in prison.


Marianne Bevan is a Senior Research Adviser at Department of Corrections in New Zealand. She has completed a range of research and evaluation projects related to women’s offending, the case management of women in prison, family violence perpetration, prisoners’ trauma exposure, and youth in prison. Prior to joining the Department of Corrections, she conducted research, and implemented projects on gender and security sector reform in Timor-Leste, Togo, Ghana, and Liberia.


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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