Addressing filicide in Australia: Research and action

Children and family violence
Thursday 26 July, 1110 – 1130


Professor Thea Brown
Monash University

Filicide, the murder of a child by a parent or parent equivalent, has been described as a rare event. Research undertaken in Australia in 2003 (Mouzos and Rushforth) found a child is killed by a parent every fortnight. Filicide is not rare but a regular and tragic occurrence.

Using the material from the first retrospective national study on filicide in Australia, undertaken by the team from the Monash Deakin Filicide Research Hub and the Australian Institute of Criminology, this paper will present findings showing the precise incidence of these deaths, nationally and state by state; the contexts of the deaths; and the characteristics of the victims and perpetrators. It will highlight the constellation of factors surrounding victims and perpetrators and how parental role affects which children are killed and who kills them.

Domestic violence, previously identified as a factor, emerged as a dominant theme, and new themes such as past criminal history (often accompanied by violence) also emerged. All told, past risk factors became clearer and new ones were added. Of considerable importance is the role of stepfathers who are disproportionately represented, acting on their own at times, and also with mothers.

Of concern is the study’s finding that filicide is not diminishing in Australia and so intervention becomes a priority. Using the data from the national study, the two state studies (Victoria and New South Wales), and from Canada and England, directions for intervention will be presented.