Author Don Weatherburn, Lucy Snowball and Boyd Hunter
Published August 2008
Report Type Affiliated publication
Subject Aboriginal / Indigenous Australians; Alcohol; Assault; Socioeconomic factors and crime
Keywords Indigenous, arrest, NATSISS, alcohol, disadvantage

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The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody attributed Indigenous overrepresentation in the criminal justice system to Indigenous disadvantage. Others have attributed it to alcohol abuse and substance use and/or passive welfare dependence. To date, however, there has been little rigorous empirical research into the factors that distinguish Indigenous Australians who come into contact with the criminal justice system from those who do not. The study reported here uses the 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) to explore the correlates of Indigenous arrest. The analyses suggest that factors like economic stress, welfare dependence and unemployment are strongly correlated with whether or not an Indigenous respondent has been arrested and with the number of times an Indigenous respondent has been arrested in the past 5 years. The strongest correlate, however, is alcohol abuse. The implications of these findings for research and policy on Indigenous contact with the justice system are discussed.