Author Don Weatherburn and Jessie Holmes
Published November 2017
Report Type Bureau Brief No. 126
Subject Aboriginal / Indigenous Australians; Apprehended violence orders (AVOs); Assault; Sentencing
Keywords assault, apprehended violence order, intensive correction order, home detention, suspended sentence, Indigenous

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To explain the upward trend in Indigenous imprisonment in NSW between January 2012 and September 2016.


Separate analyses were conducted of trends in the factors influencing the number of remand and sentenced prisoners received into custody and the length of time spent in custody by remandees and sentenced prisoners. Trends were tested for significance using Kendall’s rank order correlation test.


The growth in Indigenous imprisonment in NSW since 2012 is a result of four main factors:

(1) an increase in the proportion of Indigenous defendants refused bail;
(2) an increase in the number of Indigenous defendants convicted of criminal offences, especially those in the categories of Stalking/intimidation, Breaching an AVO, Breaching a s.9 Bond and Breaching a s.12 Bond;
(3) an increase in the proportion of convicted Indigenous offenders receiving a prison sentence for the offence of Stalking/Intimidation; and
(4) an increase in the length of time being spent on remand by Indigenous defendants refused bail, in large part because of a growth in court delay in the NSW District Criminal Court.

The growth in imprisonment for Stalking/Intimidation offences has been particularly noteworthy. The number of Indigenous Australians imprisoned for Stalking/Intimidation offences increased by 119 per cent between 2011 and 2016.


The number of Indigenous offenders receiving a prison sentence could be reduced by more than 700 a year if half of those currently given short prison sentences for Assault occasioning Actual Bodily Harm (ABH), Common Assault, Stalking/Intimidation, Breaching an AVO, Breaching a s.9 Bond or Breaching a s.12 Bond were placed on Intensive Correction Orders (ICOs) or Home Detention.

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