8th December 2020

Most research on policing of violence against women is conducted in English-speaking countries in the northern hemisphere and does not address the complex cultural conditions of countries in the poorer Global South, says QUT criminologist Professor Kerry Carrington from QUT Centre for Justice.

  • Patriarchal, customary, faith-based, ethnic attitudes sustain high rates of violence against women in Pacific countries
  • New criminological model for gender-based violence in Global South explored
  • Traditional models of policing violence against women based on English-speaking, developed western countries.

Professor Carrington will lead an ARC Discovery Project to investigate ways to improve policing of gender violence in the Melanesian Pacific islands of Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomons.

She has researched women’s police stations in South America, which first opened in Brazil  and have been found to have cut the female homicide rate by 50 per cent for women aged 15 to 24 in cities and 17  per cent in other parts of the country which host women’s police stations.

“Existing policing models are male-dominated and insensitive to the needs of victims of violence,” Professor Carrington said.

“Despite decades of policing reform, women in Pacific island countries report lifetime prevalence rates of violence of between 60 and 80 per cent.

“A new approach is needed to find solutions to this endemic and persistent problem in culturally complex communities where customary, state-based, ethnic, faith-based and patriarchal powers are influence attitudes to and treatment of women.

“This project will investigate if specially trained female police officers are uniquely placed to respond more effectively to gender violence than male police officers.”

Professor Carrington said the discovery of new models of intervention to better police violence against women could be applied to Indigenous and Pacific island communities in Australia who also experience high rates of violence and low satisfaction with current policing approaches.

“We will investigate the extent to which the following models of policing gender violence which have emerged in the Global South ie countries in the southern hemisphere, often overlooked in traditional criminology research,” she said.

“We will look at how the women’s police stations, as distinct from existing policing agencies reduce violence against women.

“We would also look at the efficacy of multidisciplinary centres offering access to justice, social workers, psychologists and childcare facilities as found in the South American models.

“An alternative to be studied is specialised police units within existing police agencies for responding to gender violence.


“And a third model to be investigated are mobile women’s police units and transport patrols.”

“Importantly, we will assess whether female police officers have a practical advantage in policing gender violence due to their gender, cultural knowledge and practice, and their state-sanctioned authority.”

Professor Carrington said the findings would be assessed as to how they could be transferred to communities within Australia.

The $190,000 project’s and co investigators are Professor Melissa Bull, Dr Danielle Watson both from QUT School of Justice, Associate Professor Nicole George from University of Queensland and Dr Sara Amin from the University of South Pacific Fiji.

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