Australian violence

J.Stubbs1*,  D. Chappell, 3 R Homel, 4 K. Carrington,4  R. Hogg,5  J Bargen 6

1 Faculty of Law UNSW
2 Facutly of Law, University of Sydney
3 Griffith Criminology Institute, Griffith University
4 School of Justice, Queensland University of Technology
5 Crime and Justice Research Centre, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology
6 Independent researcher

*corresponding author:


Australian violence: Then and now

Julie Stubbs 1 and Stephen Tomsen 2

1 Faculty of Law, UNSW
2 School of Social Sciences and Psychology, Western Sydney University

This paper provides a foundation for the panel by asking the question what is distinctive about Australian violence? Drawing on the new book Australian Violence: Crime, Criminal Justice and Beyond, the paper examines fluidity in shifting conceptions of violence.  It reflects on changes over time in approaches to violence, Australian contributions to international scholarly debates and innovative practices in response to violence. It also notes the leadership of Australian scholars to post-colonial criminology and the newly emerging Southern Criminology, and the new insights this has brought to the analysis of violence.

Shooting, spanking, punching and other matters: Reflections on the work and impact of the National Committee on violence

Duncan Chappell, Faculty of Law, University of Sydney,

On August 9 1987 a gunman, armed with three firearms including a military style M 14 rifle, opened fire on citizens and traffic on Hoddle Street, in busy inner city Melbourne. The gunman, who killed seven people and injured a further 19 was apprehended at the scene and taken into police custody. Just a few months later, on December 8 1987, another gunman armed with a sawn-off M1 military style weapon stormed into an office building in Queen St in the central business district of Melbourne. Firing indiscriminately at office workers the gunman’s rampage resulted in the deaths of eight people and the injury of another five. The gunman evaded capture by jumping to his death from an office window.

These two incidents, subsequently labelled the Hoddle and Queen Street massacres, were among the worst mass killings to have occurred in recent Australian history. The incidents provoked widespread citizen and governmental alarm about the immediate safety of the public as well as the general state of violence in Australian society. Shortly after the massacres the then Prime Minister, Robert Hawke, convened a meeting of the State Premiers and the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory to discuss gun control. From this meeting emerged an agreement among all of the governments to establish a National Committee on Violence (NCV).

The presenter, then the Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), was appointed Chair of the NCV which reported its findings and recommendations in 1990 (Violence. Directions for Australia). In this paper he reflects on the work and subsequent impact of the NCV with particular reference to gun control, spanking of children and boxing.

Social disadvantage, community mobilisation, and the prevention of violence: A longitudinal community study

Homel1*, R. Wickes2 & R. Zahnow2

1 Griffith Criminology Institute
2 School of Social Science, University of Queensland



Cross-sectional studies demonstrate the strong relationship between disadvantage, social cohesion and violence. Less well understood is how community structure and processes influence violence over time.


Social disorganisation theorists contend that crime concentrates in disorganised areas because community structural characteristics (poverty, racial/ethnic concentration, residential instability) break down regulatory processes. The Australian Community Capacity Study is one of just four studies to examine neighbourhood processes and crime and disorder prospectively over time. We use three waves of the ACCS (2006-2011) across 148 Brisbane suburbs, plus census and police data, to examine the temporal relationship between socio-structural characteristics, community cohesion, and violence.


Overall rates of violence within suburbs did not change, but there was variability between suburbs in violence at any given time, and also variation between suburbs in within suburb changes in violence. Modelling showed that suburbs that increased in social cohesion experienced lower violence over time. Changes in residential mobility, population density, and language diversity did not predict higher violence, but increases in disadvantage were associated with higher violence.


Over a 6-year period across 148 Brisbane suburbs, only reductions in aggregate levels of cohesion and trust and increases in disadvantage were associated with increased rates of police-recorded violence. Aligning social disorganisation research with prevention science using community coalitions of residents and service providers as a prevention delivery system can help identify both the mechanisms that allow for the development of social cohesion and the ways in which social cohesion manifests in activities that lead to lower violence.

Violence in rural Australia

Kerry Carrington 1* , Russell Hogg 2

1 School of Justice, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology
2 Crime and Justice Research Centre, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology.

Traditions of scholarship in the social sciences have tended to perpetuate the myth that rural communities are relatively violence free by romanticising them as places of ‘unquestionable moral virtue’ (Lockie, 2000: 21). Similarly within criminology, most scholarly research about crime and violence has privileged urban settlement as the ideal laboratory of criminological research, neglecting the study of violence in rural contexts. It should not be surprising then that violence in rural societies has attracted little scholarly attention until recently. This neglect is linked to the idea that violence is antithetical to an imagined but idealist conception of what is rural.  This paper, base on our chapter to the collection on Violence in Australia, challenges the myth perpetuated by modernisation thesis – that rural communities are relatively free of crime and violence.

Restorative justice as an innovative response to violence

Jenny Bargen,1 Janet Chan 2 and Jane Bolitho 3

1 Independent researcher
2 Faculty of Law, UNSW
3 Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UNSW

There are many good reasons for criminal justice researchers and policymakers to be sceptical about initiatives that are labelled as ‘innovative’. ‘Innovative’ is a term often used for marketing to create a sense of novelty and superiority that may or may not be present in the product. That the tag ‘innovative’ helps sell not only consumer goods but also public policy is symptomatic of a commercial culture that has become ubiquitous in contemporary social life. Yet, as we will argue in this paper, ‘innovative’ can have a tangible meaning in criminal justice. We focus on one of the less well known and rarely promoted ‘innovative justice’ responses -the post-sentence Victim Offender Conference (VOC) run by the Restorative Justice Unit of Corrective Services NSW—and discuss why this form of restorative justice (RJ) practice has the capacity to be a truly innovative response to criminal violence in Australia.



Julie Stubbs is a criminologist whose research is largely focused on gender and criminal justice. Duncan Chappell is a lawyer, criminologist and previously Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology. Ross Homel ‘s passion is crime and violence prevention, for which he has won many awards.Kerry Carrington is an international leader in southern criminology, youth justice, rural crime, gender and violence.Russell Hogg is a leading scholar in theoretical criminology, punishment and society, the politics of law and order, and crime and justice in rural communities. Jenny Bargen is a research consultant and previously Director,  Youth Conferencing in NSW.

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