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IBAC audit highlights inadequacies in Victoria Police's handling of complaints by Aboriginal people

A report released today by Victoria's anti-corruption and independent police oversight body has highlighted concerning patterns and deficiencies in Victoria Police's handling of police complaints by Aboriginal people, particularly children and young people.

IBAC's report, Victoria Police handling of complaints made by Aboriginal people, examines Victoria Police's handling of a sample of 41 complaints made by Aboriginal people and its oversight of 13 serious incidents involving an Aboriginal person.

The report identified police use of force as the most frequent complaint by Aboriginal people, and that a significant number of the complaints and serious incidents involved Aboriginal children and young people. It also found very few complaints were determined by Victoria Police to be substantiated. In addition, a large proportion of the complaint files contained indications of bias or a lack of impartiality.

Concerns with the Victoria Police complaint handling systems and processes were also identified in the report, including how Aboriginal status was recorded, a failure to keep the complainant updated on the process of the investigation, and conflicts of interest being poorly identified and managed.

IBAC Commissioner, the Honourable Robert Redlich AM, QC, said the findings indicate systemic failures within Victoria Police's complaints handling processes, and that these failures are longstanding, with previous IBAC reports identifying similar issues in complaints handling.

"Police misconduct and the investigation of complaints against police are issues that concern all Victorians, but they have particular significance for Aboriginal 1 people who come into contact with police at a much higher rate than non-Aboriginal people. Despite this, Aboriginal people make very few complaints about police.

"IBAC recognises how challenging it can be to make a complaint about suspected corruption or police misconduct. There may be social, economic, or cultural barriers to speaking up and IBAC understands that making a complaint may be a difficult or confronting experience.

"Ensuring such complaints and serious incidents are investigated thoroughly and fairly is one way to help build trust in Victoria Police," Commissioner Redlich said.

IBAC's report makes 10 recommendations for Victoria Police including the establishment of a dedicated process for handling complaints by Aboriginal people, addressing concerns regarding how police engage with Aboriginal children and young people in the context of arrests, interviews and management in police custody, and addressing serious and ongoing issues for managing conflicts of interest.

"IBAC has already made a number of recommendations for improvement and is committed to working with Victoria Police to implement recommendations for reform," Commissioner Redlich said.

The findings and recommendations from the audit will also be used by IBAC to guide improvements in the way it handles complaints made by Aboriginal people and to provide better support to Aboriginal people during the complaints process.

These actions will form part of IBAC's Focus Communities Strategy, which aims to improve how IBAC interacts with Victorians who are vulnerable or marginalised and may face particular risks around corruption and police misconduct.

To report police misconduct or public sector corruption now visit or call 1300 735 135.

[1] This report uses the term 'Aboriginal' to refer to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in Victoria. The terms 'Koori' and 'Indigenous' are retained when referring to organisation names or publication titles, and in quotations.

Key issues identified in the report

  • Aboriginal people most frequently complained about police use of force: Almost half of the complaints audited related to the use of force or assaults by police, often during an arrest.
  • Very few complaints were substantiated: Of the 41 complaints examined by IBAC, 27 were classified by Victoria Police in a way that a determination of 'substantiated' might be found. Of these, Victoria Police determined that only three (11 per cent) were substantiated
  • A substantial number of complaints and serious incidents involved children: 41 per cent of the files examined involved Aboriginal children and young people aged 17 years or younger. Many of these files involved incidents occurring during arrest and several also raised issues about the treatment of, and care provided to, Aboriginal young people in custody.
  • Human rights were not sufficiently understood or analysed in investigations: Victoria Police investigators frequently failed to specify the rights under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic) that were engaged, limited or breached in the context of the complaint allegations and serious incidents under examination.
  • A substantial proportion of files contained indications of bias or a lack of impartiality: 22 per cent of files contained concerning indications of bias or a lack of impartiality on the part of officers and 41 per cent of files contained indicators of bias on the part of investigators.

IBAC is Victoria's independent body responsible for preventing and exposing police misconduct. Beyond individual cases, IBAC continues to expose and seek to prevent use of force by police, and review the effectiveness of police investigations into use of force complaints.


The breadth of IBAC's independent oversight of Victoria Police includes:

  • receiving complaints/notifications about conduct of police personnel (including complaints received by Victoria Police, which are mandatorily reported to IBAC)
  • assessing allegations about police misconduct to determine which are to be investigated by IBAC, referred to Victoria Police for action, and which are to be dismissed
  • reviewing the outcomes of Victoria Police internal investigations to check they have been investigated thoroughly and fairly. Our reviews may result in recommendations for Victoria Police to strengthen its policies and procedures to address systemic police misconduct issues and risks and improve its conduct of internal investigations.
  • conducting 'own-motion' investigations (ie we don’t have to have received a complaint) and we have a "standing own motion" in relation to deaths or serious injuries after police contact
  • conducting investigations into serious or systemic police misconduct, including holding private or public examinations
  • monitoring and ensuring Victoria Police acts in response to IBAC's investigations and reviews
  • auditing how Victoria Police handles complaints
  • overseeing Victoria Police's compliance with five Acts including the Crimes ActDrugs Poisons and Controlled Substances ActSex Offenders Registration ActWitness Protection Act and the Firearms Act and commencing in 2022 IBAC will also assume a compliance and reporting function in relation to Victoria Police's registration and management of human sources; and
  • developing and presenting prevention education and training for Victoria Police officers and employees.