Mr Michael O'Connell

Welcome to the second volume of the Journal of the Australasian Society of Victimology.  The journal unfortunately has not been published for several years.  The reasons for this are many and varied;  suffice to say that the Executive of the Australasian Society of Victimology has been preoccupied with the organisation of the 8th International Symposium on Victimology held in August 1994 in Adelaide and, thereafter, the production of the text International Victimology (1996).

What does the ‘new’ journal hold for its readers?  The journal is intended to give readers a broad appreciation of victimological material.  The journal, as this edition illustrates, will examine a range of issues and introduce diverse perspectives.  In addition, the journal will from time to time include resource material for those involved in teaching victimology and, of course, those studying victimology.

Victimology has been described as the scientific study of victims.  But, is victimology a social science or a social movement?  Is it possible to reconcile scientific and service dichotomies?

The scope of victimology has been subject to much debate.  Elias (1986), for example, argues for a global victimology, whereas Fattah (1991) narrows the scope of victimology to criminal victimisation.  Knudten (1992) proposed the scope of victimology include: criminal/penal victimology, political victimology, economic victimology, familial victimology, and medical victimology.  Kirchhoff (1988; 1993, p37), however, suggests:

        "Regardless where one stays, victimologists in general would insist that there is too much suffering in the world, too
        much suffering from man-made causes.  Whether an independent field or a science related enterprise, the task of
        understanding and reducing this suffering by man through man is justification enough to keep the field alive."

The concept of victimisation is ‘a rather complex one’ (Fattah 1991).  The sources of victimisation can be divided into either natural or human.  Natural victimisation includes disasters, health hazards and predatory agents.  Human victimisation includes self-infliction, criminal and civil acts or omissions.  Victimisation can also be categorised under other classifications and typologies.  For example, Sellin and Wolfgang (1964) describe victimisation as primary, secondary, tertiary, or mutual.  They also identify a class of ‘no victimisation’.  The Landau, Freeman Longo (1990) typology offers a multidimensional composite of the sources of victimisation.

Another important question is: who is a victim (or perhaps, what is a victim)? In an earlier journal O’Connell (1992) explored ‘who is a victim of crime?’  The paper showed that victim of crime has many connotations;  the meaning of victim per se is far more extensive.  Karmen (1996), for example, says victim includes ‘all those who experience injury, loss or hardship due to any cause’.

Questions such as those posed are only a few of the concerns for victimologists, whether they be social scientists (such as criminologists) or service providers (such as Victim Support Services).  According to Friday (1993) the progress of victimology ‘depends on how effectively the theory/praxis debate is resolved and the extent to which victimology balances depth and scope’.  Keeping things in balance, therefore, becomes a major challenge, not only for victimologists, but for the journal.  Each of the articles in this journal provides some insight and direction in victimology.

Sam Garkawe draws on the Australian inquiry into the ‘stolen generation’ of indigenous people to argue that victimology is not limited to criminal victimisation, rather it includes abuse of power resulting in violations of human rights.  Within this context, he concludes that the ‘stolen generation’ victims should be entitled to access to compensation, just like crime victims.

Former Police Commissioner, David Hunt focuses on improving community safety by reducing crime and alleviating fear of crime.  In his paper he describes a long and dearly held objective, a ‘values-based’ whole of community approach to crime prevention.

Professor Chockalingham describes developments in compensation for victims of abuse of power in India.  With reference to a range of leading cases he identifies a positive trend towards upholding fundamental rights of victims of abuse of, for instance, police brutality.  He also examines the concepts of sovereign power and personal liberty.

The final paper is this edition of the journal is by Chris Sumner, President of the Australasian Society of Victimology.  He re-examines the debate surrounding victims involvement in sentencing.  His paper addresses a number of issues raised across Australia, in particular the eastern borders, regarding victim impact statements.  His paper, however, is not limited to victim impact statements, rather it offers a comparison of crime victims’ rights in South Australia and New South Wales.

The final section of this journal is dedicated to resource material, which as mentioned the editors will on occasion include.  This journal includes material from various sources pertaining to victim impact statements in Australia.


Elias, R.,  1986 The Politics of Victimisation, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Fattah, E. A.,  1991  Understanding Criminal Victimisation, Prentice Hall, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada.  (See also:  Fattah, E. A.,  1994  ‘Some problematic concepts, unjustified criticism and popular misconceptions’, in G. F. Kirchhoff, E. Kosovski & H. J. Schneider (Eds) International Debates of Victimology, WSV Publishing, Monchengladbach, pp82-103.)

Friday, P. C.,  1993  ‘Victimology as an encompassing concept’,  in S.P. Singh Makkar & P. Friday (Eds.) Global Perspectives in Victimology, ABS Publications, Jalandhar, India, pp3-18.

Karmen, A.,  1996  Crime Victims:  An Introduction to Victimology, Wadsworth Publishing, USA

Kirchhoff, G. F.,  1988  Criminology and the Human Sciences, Plenary Session, 10th International Congress of Criminology in Hamburg, September 4.

Kirchhoff, G.F.,  1993  ‘An endeavour to define Victimology’, in S.P. Singh Makkar & P. Friday (Eds.) Global Perspectives in Victimology, ABS Publications, Jalandhar, India, pp19-37.

Kirchhoff, G. F.,  1994  ‘Victimology - History and Basic Concepts’, in G. F. Kirchhoff, E. Kosovski & H. J. Schneider (Eds) International Debates of Victimology, WSV Publishing, Monchengladbach, pp1-81.

Knudten, R.,  1992  ‘The scope of Victimology and Victimisation: Towards a conceptualisation of the field’,  in S. Ben David & G. F. Kirchhoff (Eds) International Faces of Victimology, WSV Publishing, Monchengladbach, pp43-51.

Landau, S. F. & Freeman-Longo, R. E.  1990  ‘Classifying Victims:  a proposed multidimensional victimological typology’, International Review of Victimology, 1(3), pp267-286.

O’Connell, M.,  1992  ‘Who may be called a victim?’, Journal of the Australasian Society of Victimology, 1(3), pp15-23.

Sellin, T. & Wolfgang, M.E.,  1964  The measurement of delinquency, John Wiley & Sons, New York, USA.

Sumner, C., Israel, M., O’Connell, M. & Sarre, R. (Eds.),  1996 International Victimology: Selected papers from the 9th International Symposium on Victimology, Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra.