Women as victims and offenders : incarcerated for murder in the Australian criminal justice system

Whiteley, Kathryn Madonna (2012) Women as victims and offenders : incarcerated for murder in the Australian criminal justice system. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


This study was undertaken in an effort to contribute to the limited knowledge of women who commit murder. Women account for approximately 10% of the total Australian homicides and according to Mouzos (2000), 20% of these female perpetrated homicides result in murder convictions. In her extensive study of female homicide offending in England, Brookman (2005) asserts that nearly two thirds of the victims of women who kill are intimates, to include violent partners and their own children. The other third of the victims consist largely of acquaintances and to lesser degree strangers (Brookman, 2005).

This study strives to introduce further knowledge regarding women convicted of murder; the smaller subgroup of female homicide offenders of which less is known. It is comprised of women who killed intimates and non-intimates to include acquaintances. The study engages the narratives of seven women, all of whom were convicted of murder and serving lengthy sentences at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre, a medium and maximum security prison that is located on the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia.

The seven women fall largely outside of the characteristics of female homicide offenders as revealed in the studies from Australia’s National Homicide Monitoring Program (NHMP, 2007), from Canada by Hoffmann, Lavigne, and Dickie (1998) and research from the United States by Scott and Davies (2002). In this study there were no Indigenous women represented. Only one of the women had a previous criminal charge. The women were older on average than the prevailing demographics from western nations. Two of the women had substance abuse and co-occurring mental illness, which reflects a significant lower rate than the literature suggests.

This study expands the current understanding of the phenomenon of women who murder. It communicates the narratives of seven women charged and convicted of murder as they attempt to understand their lives and identities. It moves the dialogue beyond the preponderance of feminist criminological research that examines motive and the relationship the woman has with her victim to the social discourses which dominate in her identity formation. This research found that in their attempt to create a favourable identity the women needed to engage with the master script of normative femininity through the feminisation of victimisation, motherhood and domesticity.

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ID Code: 59597
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Carpenter, Belinda J., Jeffries, Samantha, & Carrington, Kerry
Keywords: female victims, female offenders, incarceration for murder, Australian criminal justice system
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 01 May 2013 07:22
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2017 14:47

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