Author Neil Donnelly and Suzanne Poynton
Published October 2015
Report Type Bureau Brief No. 110
Subject Aboriginal / Indigenous Australians; Assault; Domestic violence; Prisons and prisoners; Sentencing
Keywords imprisonment, domestic violence, assault, sentencing, prison, gaol, Indigenous offenders, Aboriginality, ATSI

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To determine whether (1) adult offenders found guilty of a serious non-domestic assault offence are more likely to be imprisoned or given longer prison sentences than adult offenders found guilty of a serious domestic assault offence and (2) whether Indigenous offenders who commit domestic assaults are treated more harshly than non-Indigenous offenders who commit domestic assaults.


Data from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistic and Research’s (BOCSAR) Reoffending Database were used to examine sentencing outcomes for adult offenders found guilty of serious assault in the Local Court between 2009 and 2014. Serious assault offences committed in a domestic setting were identified using domestic violencespecific lawpart codes. Multivariable regression models were developed to examine differences between domestic and non-domestic matters in imprisonment likelihood and length. The interaction between Indigenous status and violence type (domestic vs. non-domestic) was also explored in these models of penalty choice.


The results from the multivariate models show a significant interaction between domestic violence and Indigenous status in the likelihood of imprisonment for a serious assault offence. Indigenous offenders who were found guilty of a serious assault offence committed in a domestic violence context were more likely than other offenders found guilty of serious assault to receive a prison penalty at the index finalisation. No significant differences in penalty length were found for domestic and non-domestic serious assault offenders who were imprisoned.


There is no evidence that serious non-domestic assault matters are dealt with more harshly than serious domestic assault matters. In fact, Indigenous offenders found guilty of serious domestic violence related assault are more likely to be sentenced to prison than other violent offenders.

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