The Australian Centre for Arson Research and Treatment (ACART) is a research centre sponsored by Bond University and research grants to aid better understanding and management of deliberate firesetting in the Australian community. It has been founded to service the specialized needs of practitioners working with this population.
ACART’s aims are to:
- Undertake research into profiles of Australian deliberate firesetters
- Develop fire specific risk assessment measures for practitioners
- Develop fire specific offender treatment programs for delivery in community and correctional settings
These activities represent the core business of ACART, although studies on a much wider range of risk-related problems are also undertaken with a client base that extends well beyond the mental health sector.
ACART staff are devoted to research, real-world problem solving and clinical applications. These include the development and validation of measures of fire-interest and other areas of assessment relevant to those who set fires. Staff also have teaching commitments at the University and the Centre will host post-graduate students who undertake research into specific aspects of firesetting. All activities are undertaken in collaboration with real-world practitioners, and with national and international academic research partners. Our overall goal is to advance our understanding of deliberate firesetting and its impact on our communities, both in Australia and overseas.
ARSON AS A FINANCIAL BURDEN
While the rate of arson appears to be declining in some countries, the overall financial costs of arson are increasing in a number of countries. For example, in 2003 the Australian Institute of Criminology reported a total cost to Australian taxpayers of $1.350 million that was revised to $1.642 million in 2006, representing more than a threefold increase between 1996 and 2006. In addition to an increase in the financial costs of arson, arson related injury and death is on the rise.
ARSON IN GOVERNMENT POLICY
There has been a recent political focus on arson, especially Bushfire arson following the 2009 “Black Saturday” fires in Victoria and South Australia. The Office of the Commonwealth Attorney-General has created a National forum for the Prevention of Bushfire Arson, with a working manual being created to guide State agencies, such as police and Fire & Rescue services on achieving key strategic goals, including creating partnerships and workshops for disseminating best practice approaches to the investigation and prosecution of bushfire arson offenders. Additional funding has been created to hold a National fire investigators course which has bought in expertise from the United States, and is providing a more specialised level of training for fire investigators than that which currently exists in Australia.
RESEARCH AND TREATMENT
ACART is the first Centre in Australia devoted to research and treatment of deliberate firesetting. The work produced by the Centre is of direct relevance to policy makers, criminal justice system, mental health and allied health treatment professionals, and law enforcement. Through our collaborations with international organisations and individuals our research also reaches a world-wide market and helps to fill a gap in the field of assessment and treatment of arsonists.