Chelsea Barnett 2016: Macquarie students attending a briefing session at Wagga Wagga City Council July 2016
Chelsea Barnett 2016: Macquarie students attending a briefing session at Wagga Wagga City Council July 2016

Wagga Wagga’s high crime rates

In February 2015 Kirsten Davies and Debra Ronan from visited the Riverina region to scope future student PACE Arts Macquarie Law School placements, research opportunities and partners. In their meetings with the magistrates in Griffith and Wagga Wagga, the Aboriginal Legal Service and executive staff at Wagga Wagga City Council, a common theme emerged. All of these entities spoke of the growing reported crime rate and in particular juvenile crime. They wanted to further understand the actual statistics, contributing factors and preventative approaches.

Wagga Wagga City Council requested analysis around why the city has such high crime rates reported in multiple categories with 10-17 year olds as the majority of offenders. Juvenile crime is a longstanding problem in Wagga Wagga with children being the highest offender group in 6 out of 10 crime categories.

Thirteen Macquarie University criminology undergraduate law school students are investigating this topic through a PACE unit convened by Dr Kirsten Davies. Students have been paired with Wagga Wagga City Council, Wagga Wagga Police and the Aboriginal Legal Service to investigate aspects of juvenile crime. Students, accompanied by Dr Chelsea Barnett, visited Wagga Wagga in July for a two day briefing meeting and will present their final report in late October 2016.

The NSW State Government sets the police a number of targets each financial year. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) Juvenile Diversions target rate is 58%. This means that police are instructed to try and divert at least 58% of ATSI juveniles away from the criminal justice system, through cautions, youth conferences; PCYC etc. Wagga Wagga has only been able to achieve this target on four occasions since 2013. Macquarie’s undergraduates are helping to determine why Wagga Wagga police haven’t been able to reach this bench mark.

This project forms part of a suite of ongoing remote rural and regional studies that the Law School is conducting through its PACE program, commencing in 2016. The establishment of  the Riverina Law School PACE program has been assisted through a PACE Development Grant.