For the most up to date information on COVID-19 please visit the Department of Health website. Learn more about how the AIHW is assisting the COVID-19 response and how our other work is affected. Our Covid-19 related resources page includes a list of some existing resources which may be useful when researching issues related to COVID-19.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2019. Indigenous community safety. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 23 September 2020, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/indigenous-community-safety
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019). Indigenous community safety. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/indigenous-community-safety
Indigenous community safety. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 11 September 2019, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/indigenous-community-safety
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Indigenous community safety [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2019 [cited 2020 Sep. 23]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/indigenous-community-safety
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019, Indigenous community safety, viewed 23 September 2020, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/indigenous-community-safety
Get citations as an Endnote file:
Many factors can influence community safety and wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Among the positive influences are: being connected to Country, land, family and spirit; having strong and positive social networks; and having strong leadership in both family and community. See Understanding Indigenous welfare and wellbeing for more information about these and other positive influences on community functioning.
This page focuses on community experiences of safety and violence, contact with child protection services, and contact with criminal justice systems.
Indigenous Australians experience violence (particularly family and domestic violence) at higher rates than non-Indigenous Australians. They are also over-represented in Australia’s child protection, youth and adult justice systems. Factors contributing to this include: past experience of violence and abuse (including in childhood); long-term social disadvantage; and the ongoing impact of past dispossession and forced removal policies that have caused psychological trauma and contributed to the breakdown of traditional parenting, culture and kinship practices (SCRGSP 2016). See glossary for definitions of terms used on this page.
Safe communities, where people feel protected from harm within their home, workplace and community, are important for physical and mental wellbeing. Indigenous Australians are significantly more likely to experience high rates of hospitalisation and death as a result of violence than the wider community. See Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework (HPF) report measure 2.10: Community safety.
In 2014–15, among Indigenous Australians aged 15 and over who reported they walked alone in their local area after dark, 68% said they felt safe or very safe, and 20% felt unsafe or very unsafe. For those who reported feelings of safety while at home after dark, 87% felt safe or very safe, and 8% felt unsafe or very unsafe (AIHW 2017) (Figure 1).
Figure 1 is a bar chart showing the feelings of safety for Indigenous males and females when walking alone in a local area after dark. 83% of Indigenous males reported they felt very safe/safe compared with 51% of Indigenous females. 8% of Indigenous males felt very unsafe/unsafe compared with 35% of Indigenous females.
Figure 1 data table (125KB XLSX)
In 2014–15, 22% of Indigenous Australians aged 15 and over reported they were a victim of physical or threatened violence in the last 12 months. Rates were similar for Indigenous females (22%) and males (23%). Actual physical violence was experienced by 13% of Indigenous Australians (AIHW 2017).
Indigenous Australians experience high rates of hospitalisation as a result of violence. From July 2015 to June 2017, the:
Over the 5-year period 2013–2017, in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory combined:
Men, women and children from all walks of life can experience family, domestic and sexual violence, however Indigenous women are among those at highest risk. Also see Family, domestic and sexual violence.
Figure 2 shows the rate of non-fatal hospitalisations due to family violence related assault for Indigenous males and females, by remoteness areas. The bar chart shows that, for Indigenous males and females, the rate is lowest in Inner regional areas, and highest in Remote areas. Rates are higher for females than males in all areas, with differences greater in Remote and Very remote areas. Rates peaked in Remote and Very remote areas for both females (19.7 and 19.3 per 1,000 respectively) and males (6.9 and 6.2 per 1,000 respectively).
Figure 2 data table (125KB XLSX)
The child protection system supports vulnerable children aged 0–17 who have been, or are at risk of being abused, neglected or otherwise harmed, or whose parents are unable to provide them with adequate care or protection. In 2017–18, more than 48,300 (164 per 1,000) Indigenous children received child protection services (Figure 3). Also see Child protection.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle is a policy for Indigenous children in out-of-home care to be placed with relatives or extended family members in accordance with the hierarchy of placement options. As at 30 June 2018, 65% of Indigenous children in out-of-home care were placed with relatives or kin, other Indigenous caregivers or in Indigenous residential care.
Protecting Indigenous children requires a multifaceted approach that takes into account the factors affecting Indigenous Australians, and strengthens and empowers Indigenous families and communities (SNAICC 2015).
As at 30 June 2018:
Between 2013–14 and 2017–18, the rate of Indigenous children receiving child protection services increased from 140 to 164 per 1,000 (AIHW 2019a).
Figure 3 is a stacked bar chart showing the rate for Indigenous children receiving child protection services, by component of the child protection system, for each year from 2014 to 2018. The chart shows an increase for all components over the time period, with the rate for substantiations increasing from 34 to 42 per 1,000; care and protection orders from 54 to 69 per 1,000; and out-of-home care from 53 to 59 per 1,000.
Figure 3 data table (125KB XLSX)
Indigenous Australians have a long history of over-representation in the youth and adult justice systems in Australia. In 2014–15, around 1 in 7 (15% or 64,400) Indigenous Australians aged 15 and over reported they had been arrested in the previous 5 years. More than 1 in 3 (35% or 154,500) had been formally charged by police at least once (ABS 2016). See HPF measure 2.11: Contact with the criminal justice system.
The National Indigenous Law and Justice Framework: Good Practice Appendix provides the evidence base for court diversionary programs that have been evaluated and found to be successful. Examples include the Elders Visiting Program, Restorative Justice, Circle Sentencing, and Koori Courts in the Victorian Magistrates, County and Children’s Courts (SCLJ 2012).
Supervision of young people on legal orders is a major aspect of Australia’s youth justice system and can include supervision in the community or in secure detention facilities. Also see Youth justice.
On an average day in 2017–18, for Indigenous Australians aged 10–17:
Between 2013–14 and 2017–18, the rate of Indigenous Australians aged 10–17 under supervision on an average day fell from 199 to 187 per 10,000 (AIHW 2019e, Figure 4).
The rates for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians under supervison fell over the last 5 years.
Figure 4 is a line chart showing the trend for the rate of young people aged 10–17 under supervision on an average day, from 2013–14 to 2017–18. For Indigenous people the rate decreased from 199 per 10,000 in to 187 per 10,000 and for non-Indigenous people the rate decreased from 13 per 10,000 to 11 per 10,000 over the period.
Figure 4 data table (125KB XLSX)
Indigenous prisoners are generally younger than non-Indigenous prisoners. They are more likely to have been imprisoned before and more likely to have had parents or carers in prison during their childhood (AIHW 2019d). Also see Adult prisoners.
Rates of imprisonment have risen over time for Indigenous and non-Indigenous adults. Between 30 June 2008 and 30 June 2018, the imprisonment rate for Indigenous Australians increased from 1,888 per 100,000 to 2,481 per 100,000 (ABS 2018) (Figure 5).
Figure 5 shows the imprisonment rate for Indigenous Australians, from 2008 to 2018. The rate increased over the period from 1,888 per 100,000 in 2008 to 2,481 per 100,000 in 2018.
Figure 5 data table (125KB XLSX)
Disparities exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians across a range of community safety measures.
Compared with non-Indigenous Australians, Indigenous Australians were:
For more information on Indigenous community safety, see:
For more information on Indigenous justice and safety, see:
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2016. National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey 2014–15, Cat. no. 4714.0, ABS: Canberra.
ABS 2018. Prisoners in Australia, 2018. Cat. no. 4517.0. ABS: Canberra.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2017. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health performance framework 2017: supplementary online tables. Cat. no. WEB 170. Canberra: AIHW.
AIHW 2018. Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia 2018. Cat. no. FDV 2. Canberra: AIHW.
AIHW 2019a. Child protection Australia 2017–18. Child welfare series no. 70. Cat. no. CWS 65. Canberra: AIHW.
AIHW 2019b. National Hospital Morbidity Database. Canberra: AIHW. Findings based on AIHW analysis of unit record data.
AIHW 2019c. National Mortality Database. Canberra: AIHW. Findings based on AIHW analysis of unit record data.
AIHW 2019d. The health of Australia’s prisoners 2018. Cat. no. PHE 246. Canberra: AIHW.
AIHW 2019e. Youth justice in Australia 2017–18. Cat. no. JUV 129. Canberra: AIHW.
Bryant & Bricknell 2017. Homicide in Australia 2012–13 to 2013–14: National homicide monitoring program report. Canberra: AIC.
SCLJ (Standing Council on Law and Justice Working Group on Indigenous Justice) 2012. National Indigenous law and justice framework: good practice appendix. Canberra: Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department. Viewed 11 July 2019.
SCRGSP (Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision) 2016. Overcoming Indigenous disadvantage: key indicators 2016. Canberra: Productivity Commission.
SNAICC (Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care) 2015. Pathways to safety and wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Melbourne: SNAICC.
We'd love to know any feedback that you have about the AIHW website, its contents or reports.
The browser you are using to browse this website is outdated and some features may not display properly or be accessible to you. Please use a more recent browser for the best user experience.