Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) Assault and homicide, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 08 July 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2022). Assault and homicide. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/assault-and-homicide
Assault and homicide. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 16 June 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/assault-and-homicide
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Assault and homicide [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022 [cited 2022 Jul. 8]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/assault-and-homicide
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2022, Assault and homicide, viewed 8 July 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/injury/assault-and-homicide
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Intentional violence against another person is classified as assault (injury) or homicide (death).
Males are more likely than females to be hospitalised from an assault or die by homicide. Hospitalised injuries from assault are most often caused by bodily force, such as punching and kicking. Fracture is the most common injury sustained in assaults that result in hospitalisation.
In 2019–20, assault and homicide resulted in:
87 per 100,000 population
1.0 per 100,000 population
This represents 4.2% of hospitalised injuries and 1.8% of injury deaths.
People who seek health care following an assault may choose not to disclose the cause of their injuries. This may be because they know the perpetrator and want to avoid criminal proceedings. For this reason, assault injuries are probably not all identified as such in hospital statistics—they may instead be coded as an unintentional injury such as a Fall or Contact with an object—or details of the assault may be incomplete or unspecified. For more information, see Technical notes.
Bodily force (includes sexual assault) (Y04–05)
Blunt object (Y00)
Sharp object (X99)
Other or unspecified (X85–93, X95–98, Y01–03, Y06–09, Y35–36)
Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.
For more detail, see Data tables B29–30.
In 2019–20, 2 in 5 homicide deaths (41%) were caused by a sharp object such as a knife or glass (Table 2).
Assault by firearm discharge or explosive material (X93–X96)
Bodily force (includes assault and sexual assault) (Y04–05)
Source: AIHW National Mortality Database.
For more detail, see Data tables E42–44.
Hospital admissions due to assault show some patterns over the year. Hospitalisations due to assaults are highest over the period November to February and lowest from May to September.
In March 2020 the first lockdowns and social distancing measures associated with COVID-19 interrupted the usual activity of many Australians. The restrictions to movement and activity coincided with a marked drop in overall injury hospitalisations. For injuries due to assault, there were 13% fewer admissions from March to May than the same period of the previous year (Figure 1). As initial restrictions eased, assault hospitalisations rose and by June were higher than in prior periods.
See the interactive COVID-19 display for data and further discussion about the impact of COVID-19 on hospital admissions.
1. Months have been standardised to 31 days.
2. A scale up factor has been applied to June admissions to account for cases not yet separated.
The age-standardised rate of hospitalisations due to assault in 2019–20 was 0.6% lower than the previous year. This decrease is likely due to the effects of COVID-19 lockdowns and social distancing.
There was a downward trend in hospitalised assaults between 2009–10 and 2014–15. This was followed by an upward trend to 2016–17 – resulting in an overall average decrease of 1.9% per year for the period from 2009–10 to 2016–17. Figure 2 shows that, when examined by sex, the overall decrease is largely accounted for by the rate for males. The age-standardised rate for females in fact increased (at a more gentle slope).
There is a break in the time series for hospitalisations between 2016–17 and 2017–18 due to a change in data collection methods (see the Technical notes for details).
The homicide death rate showed an average annual decrease of 1.7% between 2010–11 and 2019–20. There were notable flucations, however, over this period. (Figure 2).
The visualisation features 2 matching line graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisations and 1 for deaths. The 3 lines represent the trend for males, females and persons from 2010–11 to 2019–20. The reader can select to display rate per 100,000 population or number.
For more detail, see Data tables C1–7 and F1–4.
Rates of hospitalisation for assault injuries and rates of death by homicide differ for males and females, especially for certain age groups (Figure 3).
The visualisation features 2 matching column graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisations and 1 for deaths. The columns represent sex within 6 life-stage age groups. The reader can select to display either age-specific rate per 100,000 population or number. The default displays males and females and the reader can also select to display persons.
For more detail, see Data tables A1–3 and D1–3.
Key differences between males and females can be seen in statistics about the relationship of the victim to the perpetrator responsible for the hospitalised assault. For female victims, the perpetrator was a domestic partner in almost 6 out of 10 of the cases where the relationship was specified. For male victims, it was more likely to be a person or persons unknown, or an acquaintance, than a family member (Figure 4).
The perpetrator was unspecified in a large proportion of cases (45% for male victims and 15% for female victims). This information may be unavailable for a number of reasons, including because it was not reported by, or on behalf of, victims, or not recorded in the patient’s hospital record (AIHW 2019).
A range of factors may influence disclosure of the perpetrator in a hospital setting, for example: personal feelings such as fear of further abuse, or shame; and factors specific to the setting, including sufficient privacy and time to disclose, and appropriate staff training and procedures which support disclosure.
Bar graph representing categories of relationship of perpetrator to victim, by sex. For males the most common category was unspecified person, followed by person unknown to the victim followed by acquaintance or friend. For females it was spouse or domestic partner, followed by unspecified person followed by other family member.
For more detail, see Data tables B31–32.
There are many ways that the severity, or seriousness, of an injury can be assessed. Using available data, three measures of the severity of hospitalised injuries are:
The average number of days in hospital for assault injuries was shorter than for all hospitalised injuries. The percentage of assault cases that included time in an ICU was similar, while the percentage that involved continuous ventilatory support was slightly higher than for all hospitalised injuries (Table 2).
Average number of days in hospital
% of cases with time in an ICU
% of cases involving continuous ventilatory support
Note: Average number of days in hospital (length of stay) includes admissions that are transfers from 1 hospital to another or transfers from 1 admitted care type to another within the same hospital, except where care involves rehabilitation procedures.
For more detail, see Data table A12–13.
In 2019–20, the head and neck was the body part most often identified as the principal site of injury in hospitalised assaults (Figure 5). In part, this may reflect the inherently serious nature of head and neck injuries—injuries to other parts of the body may be less likely to lead to admission to hospital.
Note: Body part refers to the principal reason for hospitalisation. Number and percentage of injuries classified as Other, multiple and incompletely specified body regions or Injuries not described in terms of body region not shown—see Data table A11.
For more detail, see Data table A11.
Fractures and open wounds were the most common type of principal injury for people who were hospitalised for injury due to assault (Figure 6).
Bar graph showing type of injury sustained by category and by sex. Fracture was the most common for males and females. The reader can select to display either the crude rate per 100,000 population or the number of cases. The default display shows data for males and females, and the reader can also select to display for persons.
For more detail, see Data table A10.
In 2019–20, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:
Rate (per 100,000)
Note: Rates are crude per 100,000 population.
In 2019–20, Indigenous Australians, after adjusting for differences in population age structure, were:
n.p. Not publishable because of small numbers, confidentiality or other concerns about the quality of the data.
For more detail, see Data tables A4–6 and D4–8.
The age-specific rate of hospitalised assaults was highest among the 25–44 age group for Indigenous Australians and the 15–24 age group for non-Indigenous Australians (Figure 7). Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.
Column graph representing hospitalisation data for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by 6 life-stage age groups. The reader can select to display age-specific rate per 100,000 population or number. The reader can also select to display data for persons, males or females.
In 2019–20, people living in Australia’s Very remote areas, compared with those living in Major cities, were 18 times as likely to be hospitalised due to assault (age-standardised) (Table 8). These differences in assault injury hospitalisations rates partly reflect the higher proportion of Indigenous Australians living in remote areas of Australia.
Note: Rates are age-standardised per 100,000 population.
The highest age-specific rate of hospitalised assaults was among the 25–44 age group living in Very remote areas of Australia (Figure 8).
Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.
Column graph representing hospitalisation data for each of the 5 remoteness categories by 6 life-stage age groups. The reader can select to display age-specific rate per 100,000 population or number. The reader can also select to display data for persons, males or females.
For more detail, see Data tables A7–9 and D9–10.
To read how statistics by remoteness are calculated, see the Technical notes.
Defining injury hospitalisations and deaths: how injuries were counted
Technical notes: how the data were calculated
Data tables: download the full tables
ACCD (Australian Consortium for Classification Development) 2019. The international statistical classification of diseases and related health problems, 11th revision, Australian modification (ICD-10-AM), 10th edn. Tabular list of diseases and alphabetic index of diseases. Adelaide: Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IHPA), Lane Publishing.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2019. Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia: continuing the national story 2019. Cat. no. FDV 3. Canberra: AIHW.
WHO (World Health Organization) 2011. International statistical classification of diseases and related health problems, tenth revision. Fifth edition 2016. Geneva: WHO.
The following are publications from recent years that include information on assault and homicide. See Reports for any older publications that may exist.
Family Domestic and sexual violence (topic page)
Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia: continuing the national story 2019
Sexual assault in Australia
The first year of COVID-19 in Australia: direct and indirect health effects
Trends in hospitalised injury, Australia, 2007–08 to 2016–17
Trends in injury deaths, Australia, 1999–00 to 2016–17
Hospitalised injury among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, 2011-12 to 2015-16
Hospitalised injury and socioeconomic influence in Australia, 2015–16
Indigenous injury deaths, 2011–12 to 2015–16
Injury mortality and socioeconomic influence in Australia, 2015–16
Eye injuries in Australia, 2010–11 to 2014–15
Hospitalised assault injuries among men and boys (2014–15)
Firearm injuries and deaths (2012–13 to 2013–14)
Work-related hospitalised injuries, Australia, 2006–07 to 2013–14
Hospitalised assault injuries among women and girls (2013–14)
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