Objective: To investigate the medium-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on violence-related offences in Australia, and whether there was evidence of a 'dual pandemic' of family violence in addition to COVID-19.
Methods: Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average time series were conducted to analyse publicly available violent crime statistics data from January 2017 to November 2021. Population rates of homicide, sexual, domestic and non-domestic assault were assessed across each Australian state and territory, with the effects of COVID-19 being modelled using the average monthly World Health Organization COVID-19 stringency rating for each jurisdiction.
Findings: All jurisdictions in Australia showed increasing or stable domestic assault trends over the past decade, which were not significantly impacted by COVID-19, nor by the subsequent lockdowns. Non-domestic assaults demonstrated a significant, negative relationship with the stringency index for each jurisdiction, except Western Australia. There was no significant change in the rates of homicide or sexual assault across Australia in relation to COVID-19.
Conclusion: Overall, there was no evidence of a 'dual pandemic' in Australia, and whilst domestic assaults continue to increase across the country, non-domestic assaults showed a notable but brief decline. However, these have returned to levels at least as high as pre-COVID-19 and some states show a continuing upward trend. The findings also suggest that alcohol availability may have played a role in continuing high violence numbers. Given the ongoing increasing and high levels of family violence in Australia, revised conceptual frameworks and interventions are indicated.
Keywords: Assault; Australia; COVID-19; Pandemic; Police; Violence.