Focus on domestic violence despite drop in homicide rate

New AIC figures show nearly half of all homicides in the home were preceded by a domestic argument.
New AIC figures show nearly half of all homicides in the home were preceded by a domestic argument. Chris Ison

AUSTRALIANS were twice as likely to be murdered by their spouse at home, rather than an intruder or guest, the latest national homicide figures revealed on Wednesday.

While domestic violence was a key part of the Australian Institute of Criminology figures, the overall rate of homicides remained at historically low levels.

There were 510 homicides in Australia in 2008-09 and 2009-10 - 253 in 2008-09 and 257 in 2009-10 - involving 541 victims and 611 offenders.

But while the national homicide rate was historically low, the institute's Jason Payne said the crime remained a major issue of both public safety and law enforcement.

"While the proportion of homicides committed with a firearm has dropped to an historic low of 13%, the proportion of people dying from stab wounds has increased from 30% to 41% over the last 10 years," he said.

Stabbing deaths were more common where the offender and victim shared a domestic (43%) or acquaintance relationship (42%).

And homicides where the victims did not know the offender were more likely to involve physical beatings (52%) than any other method of killing.

"The other big element in almost half the recorded homicides was alcohol (47%) while one in five (20%) involved drugs," Mr Payne said.

The number of homicides in the home remained significant, at 36% of all killings in the past two years.

Nearly half of all homicides in the home were preceded by a domestic argument, at 49% of all in-home killings, while two of every three murders in the home involved intimate partners, at 66% of all such deaths.

Intimate partner killings in the home also represented almost of quarter of all homicides across Australia in the past tow years, the majority of which (73%) involved men killing their female partners.

By state and territory, the Northern Territory had the highest homicide rate per capita, at 5.7 for every 100,000 in 2009-10, while the Australian Capital Territory had the lowest, at 0.8.

Of all the homicide victims throughout the two year period, 60 were identified as indigenous - 34 males and 26 females.

While the rate of indigenous homicide victimisation reached its lowest point for both males and females in 2009-10, since 1981, when analysis began, the rates were still four times higher than for non-Indigenous Australians.

Fifty-five percent of all Indigenous homicide victims were killed in a domestic homicide, of which the most common subcategory was intimate partner homicide (42%).

The report is available at


State and territory homicide rates (2009-10)


5.7 for every 100,000 people


1.3 for every 100,000 people


1.2 for every 100,000 people


1.1 for every 100,000 people


1.0 for every 100,000 people


0.8 for every 100,000 people

SOURCE: Australian Institute of Criminology, 2013

Topics:  crime domestic violence homicide murder police

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