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Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal sex-offenders in Australia: Assessing risk for practice and policy

Releasing sex offenders from prison into the community is a significant social issue in Australia. State and territory governments try to allay the fears of the public with preventative detention legislation which commonly provides for indefinite imprisonment or community supervision of serious offenders who are considered to represent an unacceptable risk to the community. In determining a sex offender’s recidivism risk, courts and parole boards frequently supplement professional judgments with statistically based actuarial assessments. Courts and scholars are, however, concerned about the practical utility and ethical probity of using these assessments with Indigenous and non-Indigenous sex offenders in Australia. The aim of this project is to reduce the risk of sexual recidivism through assessing the predictive validity of established risk assessments and developing alternate risk assessments for Indigenous and non-Indigenous sex offenders.

The researcher will collaborate with the ACT Corrective Services, Tasmanian Department of Justice, NSW Corrective Services, Department for Correctional Services SA, WA Department of Corrective Services, Corrections Victoria, Department of Correctional Services NT, and Queensland Corrective Services. They will use innovative methods to develop a national research database on sexual offending that will:

  1. Allow for analysis of sex offender recidivism across jurisdictions and enable differences to be investigated at a micro level;
  2. Compare the predictive validity of risk instruments across Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations; and
  3. Enable issues to be researched from a truly national perspective.

Through data linkage and integration, it will be possible to account for cross-border population flows and to fully document the prior criminal behaviour of offenders.

The project signals the development of long-term strategic research alliance between corrective services agencies across Australia and Australia’s leading universities and a key outcome thereof will be identification of culturally appropriate risk assessment tools for Indigenous sex offenders.

Funding agency

Australian Research Council

Project duration

January 2014 to December 2017


Professor Alfred Allan
The University of Western Australia, Associate Professor Frank Morgan
University of Tasmania, Dr Caroline Spiranovic
Griffith University, Professor Stephen Smallbone
University of Nottingham, UK, Professor Stephen Wong
The University of Western Australia, Dr Hilde Tubex
Curtin University, Dr Anna Ferrante

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