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Racism in Australia

Case Study, Racism in Australia

Create a research question that relates to Racism in Australia, explain why this research question is
important (for example, why your case study area needs to be investigated in this way)
Explain what method or methods (i.e. interviews, surveys, observation/ethnography) you would use to
study this research question, exploring its/their strengths and weaknesses; in order to do this, it might
help to look at some research articles that use particular methods to study your case study area.
Relationship between judicial discrimination against Aboriginals and their rates of


Previous research indicates that the representation of Aboriginals in Australian prison population
is 17% but for the Northern Territory and Australia where the percentages are 84% and 43%
(Creative Spirits, 2015). This is so, even when all Aboriginals account for only 5% of the
Australian population, except in the Northern Territory where Aboriginal population accounts for
31.6%. Research further indicates that the rate of imprisonment for Aboriginals has increased 12
times compared to that of non-Aboriginals since 1989. Aboriginal juveniles make up half of the
population of juvenile offenders. From 1992 to 2012, the number of Aboriginal prisoners had
doubled from 15,000 to 30,000. Reports by the Bureau of Statistics indicate that as from 2002 to
2012, the rates of imprisonment for Aboriginals had grown from 1,262 to 1,914 prisoners in
100,000 of Aboriginal population. Comparatively, the rate of non-Aboriginals imprisoned had
only risen from 123 to 129 non-Aboriginal prisoners in 100,000 adult non-Aboriginals
There are numerous social effects of massive and discriminative imprisonment on Aboriginal
population. In fact, it is evident that the discriminatory imprisonment increases from one year to
another (Chua, 2011; Davis, 1999).

Reoffending in Australia is caused by many factors such as child abuse, low levels of education,
high rates of unemployment, lack of services, and high levels of substance and alcohol abuse.
Research shows that within two years, the re-conviction rates of non-Aboriginals in New South
Wales was 74% and 86% for Aboriginals. In addition, juvenile reoffending is a very common
aspect in a juvenile justice center. In Australia, 1 in 4 Aboriginal prisoners are said to be re-
convicted within 3 months after their completion of jail term. Reports also indicate that about ¾
of Aboriginal prisoners have a previous imprisonment record. In contrast, only 48% of adult non-
Aboriginals have a previous imprisonment record. Furthermore, with regards to women, the
percentage of Aboriginal women who had a previous imprisonment record was 67% while that
non-Aboriginal women was about 50%. The reoffending of women has been attributed to their
lack of housing and support.
Racism in Australia is attributed to various factors including the legacy of colonialism, fear
ignorance, and lack of understanding of cultural differences, and power and privilege (Cunneen,
2009). It has been suggested through various consultations that the manner in which women are
affected by racism is different from men due to the intersections of racism and sexism
(Australian Human Rights Commission).
Research question
The research question for this study will be: How does racial discrimination against the
Aboriginals of Australia affect their levels of recidivism?
This study is carried out in line with concerns raised by the international organizations such as
the UN Committee with regards to racial discrimination and racism, disadvantage and inequality.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reported in August 2010 that

Australian laws, policies and practices were discriminative in all respects (Human Rights Law
Centre, 2010). Accordingly, this study aims at exploring this issue of racism and racial
discrimination and how it affects Aboriginals who are released from prison to an extent that they
end up reoffending. The study will provide insight on the best laws, policies, and practices that
should be adopted in the bid to reduce the rates of reoffending by Aboriginal populations.
i. Interviews
Interviews will be used on both adult Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal inmates who have been re-
convicted to understand the reasons for their reoffending. Interviews fall amongst the most
challenging but rewarding research methods. Interviews require adaptability as well as personal
sensitivity, in addition to the researcher’s ability to restrain himself/herself to the limits of the
designed protocol. Upon location of the respondents, it is important for the interviewer to
motivate them to provide relevant information. This implies that the interviewer should have a
good reason for the research and its implications. Interviewers can be done over the Internet or
the telephone, face to face, or in a group setting (Arksey & Knight, 1999).
For aid purposes, an interview should have a guide, schedule or aide memoire containing issues,
themes, or topics which are covered during the interview instead of a series of standardized
questions. The interviewer needs to aim at maintaining flexibility and responsiveness in the
course of the interview. Accordingly, the series of questions have the potential of changing, and
the contents can also evolve. This allows the interviewer to inquire more deeply into preliminary
responses for purposes of gaining a more ‘in-depth’ or detailed answers to the questions (Ritchie
et al, 2013).

It is possible for interviews to vary considerably. As such, the interviewer’s elicitation skills
play a significant role with regards to the richness and quality of the data obtained from the
interview. In the course of the interview, the data obtained has to be recorded, after which it will
undergo transcription in order to provide text which is capable of being analyzed through
quantitative and qualitative methods of data analysis. Generally, it is common practice to find the
overall sample size of an interview being comparatively smaller than other research methods due
to the fact that the amount of data which is generated from the interviews is great in depth and
People acting as the random sample are limited and in choosing of the sample space, all entities
are not assigned equal chances that is not same empirical probability considerations. As a
consequence, only a theory can be developed from data obtained from interviews and no
scientific calculations can be made. Thus, sociologists who are concerned with more of the
response of their study population to an occurrence rather than the statistical data can apply the
method comfortably. So, in categorization interviewing as a method of collecting statistical data
can be applied in open-ended research which does not demand complex data representation.
More for formulating hypotheses that are key in theory development for a certain case study
(Yin, 2013).
Strengths of interviews
 Whereas people often give false data in online surveys, a face-to-face questioning ensures
that the demographic data offered by the respondents is accurate as confirmation is part
of the process and lying in such situation is limited.

 In interviews the researchers can read from verbal and non-verbal cues such as body
language, gestures to judge sensitivity of the questions and how ready the respondents are
to give non falsified data.
 The active interactions between the interviewer and the interviewee often keeps high
degree of focus in the respondents as humor and mind involving conversations are part
and parcel. So, distractions like boredom and side activities can be avoided.
 Emotions towards a certain topic can be clearly elucidated and also consequent
behavioral patterns interpreted. If a subject is embraced negatively in a region of study
then care can be taken not to appear insensitive to the population’s feeling ensuring
accurate data collection.
Weaknesses of interviews
 Interviews are very expensive as personnel to conduct them have to be employed and
since it is face to face, cost in terms of time is an issue. It involves asking questions to a
respondent one at a time (Yin, 2013).
 Some of the interviewing personnel might lack the natural ability to ask questions in a
manner that gives them an upper hand in obtaining correct data from the respondents.
Since it is a socially interactive process, then an individual’s limitations in socialization
can act as a barrier in achieving purpose.
 Responses are often recorded manually even in a case scenario where typed
questionnaires are uses. This demands for paper and staff to do the manual data entry
adding more cost to the costly process.

 The interviewees have to be reached physically, hence the sample size is limited. To
balance the probability and make the process more random means large area has to be
covered interpreting to more staff hence higher cost.
Thus, from the foregoing, interviews, despite their few disadvantages, are the most effective
method of research for this study. They will ensure that the interviewer freely interacts with
prisoners and he/she can acquire very important information from the same.
ii. Surveys
Surveys involve collecting data using standardized questionnaires or interviews (Ritchie et al,
2013). This means that same questions are asked to each respondent and the data obtained is
represented and analyzed. The surveys can either be manual or online where the questions are
placed in a website in the internet. Incentives are often given to the respondents to encourage
them to partake in the survey. For this study, manual surveys will be convenient due to the fact
that respondents are prisoners who may have limited access to the internet.
Exploratory surveys are not for data collection but rather idea collection. Such are used in
collecting business suggestions and are often placed as open ended questions online or in manual
questionnaires. Descriptive survey on the other hand is well detailed and seek data that can be
analyzed scientifically. It is deep covering all research aspects including emotional and
behavioral attributes. Behavior change patterns are often examined over time using this survey.
Casual survey is also detailed but often used in decision making in conclusive research. When
the data obtained is used to explain a certain behavioral tendency and establish a relationship
between different statistical variables then the survey falls under this category (Tourangeau &
Plewes, 2013). Thus, descriptive surveys will be the most effective for our research. They will

help us to gather information on the psychological and sociological effects of mass incarceration
of Aboriginals and the manner in which these factors contribute to their reoffending.
Strength of manual surveys
 Formulating the surveys is easy and many questions can be encompassed that collect
enough data for scientific analysis. Standardization process on the surveys ensures
elimination of errors thus accurate data can be achieved.
Weaknesses of surveys
 Some respondents may choose not to answer some questions for personal reasons which
the researcher may not know and have control over hence creating data irregularities
when it comes to final analysis.
 Interpretation of questions by some respondents may vary and since no explanations are
involved, then inaccurate data may be collected. Also, customized surveys may contain
Due to the fact that it is easy to use surveys on a large population, they will play a significant
role in ensuring that respondents from prisons across Australia are given a chance to respond to
this study. Interviews will be used on a few respondents, at least 5 Aboriginal inmates from 30
prisons across Australia. This will help to check on consistency of the data obtained in order to
provide properly informed analysis. This approach is also different from most empirical studies
which have only used either surveys or interviews.



Arksey, H. & Knight, P. (1999). Interviewing for social scientists: An introductory resource with
examples. London: SAGE.
Australian Human Rights Commission. I want respect and equality – Racial Discrimination:
National Consultations: Racism and Civil Society.

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