Australia– More than 50,000 bushfires occurred in Australia each year over a decade to 2005-06, a new report has found.
Of those fires, the Australian Institute of Criminology estimated 30 per cent were either deliberately lit or suspicious in origin.
Their numbers correlated with new bushfire figures supplied by the Australian Productivity Commission between 2001-02 and 2006-07.
For that period, the Commission calculated the number of bushfires in Australia varied from approximately 46,000 to 62,000 fires per year, with an average of close to 54,000 fires per year.
The Insititute of Criminology – which used data from fire agencies from 1995-06 to 2005-06 – said the Commission’s figures agreed “quite closely” with their own average of nearly 52,000 fires per year.
However, authorities are no closer to understanding the demographic characteristics of arsonists in Australia.
“In Australia, it is difficult to get a consolidated understanding of the profile of bushfire arsonists and their motivations, mainly because of the low numbers that are apprehended,” the report says.
Although overseas papers into arsonists have claimed to have painted a distinct profile of offenders – which they describe as being white, male, in their mid-20s, having a patchy employment record, above average intelligence and poor academic achievement and poor social development – local researchers were not confident this would be the case in Australia.
The Institute also said studies into levels of recidivism among arsonists have been unclear, but figures from NSW showed arsonists were not “generally specialist offenders”.