Developing a unique risk of violence tool for Australian Indigenous offenders

Document Type



Criminology Research Council

Place of Publication



School of Arts and Humanities


Criminology Research Council


Allan, A., & Dawson, D. (2002). Developing a unique risk of violence tool for Australian Indigenous offenders (No. CRC 6/00-01). Canberra, Australia: Criminology Research Council.


As the prediction of the risk of violent1 re-offending behaviour has become more important in the corrections setting, so has the development of instruments to assist practitioners in doing risk evaluations. North American research underpins most of the instruments used in Western Australia, and in Australia for that matter, and as we will discuss below we do not believe that these instruments should be used with Indigenous people without further investigation.

As there is no specialist prediction of risk of violence instrument that practitioners can use on Indigenous people in Western Australia it appears to us that there are four possible options they can consider:

(a) Rely on their clinical judgement.

(b) Use an existing instrument.

(c) Select one of the available instruments and examine the degree to which the psychological constructs and models are valid for Indigenous culture, and adjust the instrument if necessary.

(d) Study the dynamics of violent offending in Indigenous communities and identify predictors of risk of violence amongst Indigenous people. Then use this information to develop a unique instrument that will take these predictors into account.

Option (a) is not indicated. There is a large body of research that demonstrates that clinical judgement on its own is not accurate (Grove & Meehl, 1996) and such judgements are likely to be even poorer if the assessor and assessee are from different cultures as will very often be the case with Indigenous people. From a legal, ethical, and practical perspective this is not a method that should be used.

We believe that neither option (b), even though it is often used, nor option (c), which is more acceptable, is an appropriate option to choose. As most of our six reasons for rejecting these two options overlap, we will discuss them together...