Homicide in Australia has declined over the last 25 years. The current homicide incidence rate is the lowest on record in the past 25 years.
The number of homicide incidents has fallen by 22 percent over the last 25 years, decreasing from 307 incidents in 1989-90 to 238 incidents in 2013-14.
Homicide occurred at a rate of one incident per 100,000 persons in 2013-14, a 44 percent decrease from that recorded in 1989-90 (1.8 per 100,000).
Homicide rates have fluctuated within each state over the 25 year period. The Northern Territory has the highest homicide incident rate in Australia—in 2013–14 it was 6.5 incidents per 100,000 persons. The Australian Capital Territory has the lowest rate of homicide incidents—in 2013–14 it was 0.3 incidents per 100,000 persons in 2013-14.
The number of homicide incidents recorded in each jurisdiction generally reflects population size. New South Wales (n=81), Victoria (n=53) and Queensland (n=36) had the greatest number of homicide incidents in 2013-14.
Domestic and acquaintance homicides are the most common types of homicide in Australia. On average, domestic homicides accounted for 40 percent of homicide incidents in Australia each year between 1989-90 and 2013-14. Acquaintance homicides accounted for 35 percent of all homicide incidents. The number of domestic homicide incidents has remained relatively stable at an average of 115 incidents per year between 1989-90 and 2013-14. Overall the number of domestic homicide incidents declined by 13 percent. The number of acquaintance homicides decreased by more than a third (38%) over the same time period.
An average 33 stranger homicide incidents occur each year in Australia. The number of incidents increased by 10 percent from 1989-90 (n=29) to 2013-14 (n=32).
Intimate partner homicide incidents decreased by 24 percent between 1989-90 (n=82) and 2013-14 (n=62). Intimate partner homicides accounted for two-thirds of all domestic homicide incidents in 2013-14.
The number of filicides, parricides, siblicides and other family homicides has remained fairly stable over the 25 year period. Parricides, other family homicides and siblicides accounted for eight percent, seven percent and four percent of domestic homicide incidents respectively in 2013-14.
In every year but two, knives and other sharp instruments were the most common weapon used in a homicide incident in Australia. In 2013-14, 86 homicide incidents were committed using a knife—36 percent of all homicide incidents recorded in this year.
The number of homicide incidents involving a firearm decreased by 57 percent between 1989-90 and 2013-14. Firearms were used in 13 percent of homicide incidents (n=32) in 2013-14. In 1989-90 it was 24 percent (n=75) of incidents.
A quarter of homicide incidents over the 25 year period involved the use of ‘personal weapons’—an offenders’ hands and/or feet. These incidents decreased by 67 percent over the 25 year period.
The overall decline in weapon use reflects the decrease in homicide incidents from 1989-90 to 2013-14.
Cause of death is specific to each victim within a homicide incident. Where there are multiple victims, the cause of death may be different for each victim. Since multiple weapons may be used in a homicide incident, annual cause of death statistics for each year may not replicate weapon use statistics.
Stab wounds were the most common cause of death over the 25 year period with two exceptions—more victims died from beating deaths in 1991-92 (n=106) and from gunshot wounds in 1995-96 (n=111). A third of homicide victims died from stab wounds on average each year.
The number of victims who died from gunshot wounds has decreased by 63 percent since 1989-90.
In 2013-14, 13 percent (n=32) of homicide victims died as a result of gunshot wounds compared with 38 percent (n=95) who died from stab wounds, 24 percent (n=60) from a beating and 15 percent (n=37) from other causes.