In the News: QUT’s Dr Erin O’Brien Discussing Human Trafficking on ABC Radio

erin 2       poster2014

Yesterday was “World Day Against Trafficking in Persons” – a UN initiative aiming to raise global awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights. This form of modern day slavery is a serious issue affecting millions of people in different countries around the world, including Australia.

Dr Erin O’Brien from QUT’s School of Justice is an expert on human trafficking and has done extensive research in this area. She spoke to Kelly Higgins-Devine on ABC Radio yesterday to offer some insight about the victims, perpetrators and processes involved in human trafficking. Click here to listen to the full interview.

Recently Published: “Human rights, policing and LGBT young people”


QUT Crime and Justice Research Centre criminologist Dr Angela Dwyer recently published an article on her research with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) young people and their experiences of policing in Queensland, Australia. The article, ‘Teaching young queers a lesson: how police teach lessons about non-heteronormativity in public spaces’, examines the difficulties these young people can experience when they are interacting with police officers in public spaces.

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Upcoming Seminar: “Restorative Justice, Risk, and Circles of Support and Accountability: Managing Child Sex Offenders in the Community”

Kelly  image

The Centre for the Study of Science, Religion and Society (CSSRS) will host an upcoming seminar by QUT’s Dr Kelly Richards from 12-2pm on Friday 7th August 2015.

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East Meets South


By Professor John Scott – School of Justice, QUT

First there was Brisbane’s Hosting of the G20 Summit in 2015, which bought an international cast of leaders to the River City, albeit, most from the Global North, who were not here to mix it with the locals. The next big event to mark in the diary also promises to bring an international cast of leaders to Brisbane, this time in criminology, this time in their hundreds, and, this time, from all over the world.

Last week the Asian Criminological Society (ACS) announced QUT had won the right to host its 2017 conference, which will be based on the theme of ‘Crime and Justice in Asia and the Global South’ and jointly hosted by the Crime and Justice Research Centre.

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Crime on a desert island (part five): Music about crime

This Old Guitar
Image cca Alan Levine This Old Guitar

by Dean Biron

Music and crime are most commonly associated through notions of illegal downloading, the lyrics and lifestyles of “gangsta” rappers, or heavy metal musicians supposedly exhorting young people to deviance. In the 1980s, links between certain types of rock music and antisocial or even criminal behaviour were widely feared, to the extent that in the US, the wives of several government officials – most infamously Tipper Gore, partner of Senator Al Gore – founded the Parents Music Resource Centre, in an attempt to deny children access to music they claimed threatened the very foundations of society.

Of course, music and crime have long between intertwined. Countless classical opera scores are drenched in blood. In Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto (1851), for instance, the protagonist enters into a bargain with an assassin, with unforseen deadly consequences. A century on, the Mississippi Delta blues musician Robert Johnson was said to have sold his soul to the devil: the result was a handful of legendary songs and an early death, allegedly poisoned by a jealous husband.

In the 1960s, The Beatles revelled in their image of four clean-cut and fun-loving young men, whereas the Rolling Stones were considered to best represent the malevolent, dangerous side of rock and roll. The status of the latter seemed only to be confirmed by the 1969 Altamont Speedway concert, where the Hells Angels – hired as “stage security” by the band for $500 worth of beer” – went on a spree of violence which culminated in a fan being stabbed to death in front of the stage (images captured in the 1970 documentary film Gimme Shelter). Yet the Beatles too were unsuspectingly dragged into the dark regions of sixties counterculture when petty criminal and cult leader Charles Manson used their songs “Helter Skelter” and “Piggies” as incitements to mass murder.

Musicians have also used the song form as social commentary, often in an attempt to right perceived injustices. Bob Dylan wrote several of these, the most famous being “Hurricane,” about boxer Ruben Hurricane Carter’s wrongful conviction for murder.

Here are 10 pieces of music with explicit links to crime:

  1. Send me to the ‘lectric Chair” by Bessie Smith (1927)
  2. “Hurricane” by Bob Dylan (1976)
  3. “Tired Eyes” by Neil Young (1975) – story of drug deal gone wrong.
  4. “Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa” by De la Soul (1992) – the “daisy” rap band expanded their repertoire in this gripping tale of sexual abuse.
  5. “The Mercy Seat” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (1988) – the “mercy seat” refers to the electric chair.
  6. “Rape Me” by Nirvana (1993) – an anti-rape song, though it was subsequently banned from radio because of the title.
  7. “Nebraska” by Bruce Springsteen (1982) – story of mass killer Charles Starkweather.
  8. “Midnight Rambler” by the Rolling Stones (1969)
  9. “Poptones” by Public Image Ltd (1979)
  10. Kristallnacht by John Zorn (1993) – a musical meditation on the “night of broken glass”, the notorious Nazi crime perpetrated against the Jews in November of 1938.






Crime on a desert island (part four): Prison films


by Professor John Scott


While few prison films have enjoyed widespread appeal, save, perhaps The Shawshank Redemption (1994), they have enjoyed an enduring place in cinema and television. The golden age of prison cinema was perhaps the 1930s, which spawned classics such as I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932), which used the prison to examine social justice themes amidst the turmoil of The Great Depression. A brief revival of the genre during the 1960s produced classics such as the Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) and Cool Hand Luke (1967) and there has been a steady stream of such film since, with television now a home for the genre with programs such as Prison Break (2005) and Orange is the New black (2013).


Unlike other genres, prison films have frequently drawn upon real events for inspiration. They place the individual against an uncaring and cruel state penal apparatus. Despite this, few prison films seem to have motivated popular movements for penal reform and it be concluded that a large part of the appeal of the genre is a voyeuristic fascination with confinement and the barbarities it entails.


In an age where so much of the spectacle of punishment is hidden from view, prison dramas provide an opportunity to glimpse into a secluded space occupied by Criminal Others.  Another appeal of the genre may be a latent homoeroticism contained in many prison movies. Indeed, a motif in many is camaraderie among men and prison stories often have reference to bonding between younger and older men, be it in comedies such as Porridge (1974-1977) or more serious films such as Shawshank. In this way, these films are as much en exploration of masculinity as they are explorations of social justice. While women prison populations are increasing, only a handful of films have been made about women’s experiences of confinement. One of the more exceptional these is the Irish/UK production Magdalene Sisters (2002).


Pornography, both gay and heterosexual, has been littered with references to prisons.  The prison at once provides an opportunity to exploit same-sex eroticism, but it also is a forum in which to explore power with its obvious connections with sadomasochism and B&D.  In mid-2014 six people were arrested in San Francisco protesting a prison themed gay Pride party. Protesters were concerned that the organizers of the event would trivialise the experience of confinement given historical relations between sexual and other minorities and law enforcement.

So here are tend films to see which will make being confined to a desert island seem like a holiday:

  1. Cool Hand Luke (1967). Directed by Stuart Rosenberg (1927-2007) and staring Paul Newman (1925-2008) in the title role. Famous for the line ‘What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate’.
  2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994). Directed by Frank Darabont (1959-) and starring Time Robbins (1958-) and Morgan Freeman (1937-). Adapted from a novella by horror writer Steven King (1947-).
  3. Midnight Express (1978).  Directed by Alan Parker (1944-), with Brad David (1949-1991) as Billy Hayes, a convicted drug smuggler who was imprisoned in Turkey between 1970-1975.
  4. Escape from Alcatraz (1979). Once again, teams director Don Siegel (1912-1991) with Clint Eastwood (1930-), following success of Dirty Harry (1971). Dramatizes what might have been the only successful escape from the maximum security prison island in 1960.
  5. Birdman of Alcatraz (1962). Directed by John Frankenheimer (1930-2002), with standout performance from Burt Lancaster (1913-1994) in the title role as real life inmate Robert Stroud, who keeps birds as pets in prison and becomes an expert on bird diseases.
  6. Papillon (1973). Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner (1920-1989), with Steve McQueen (1930-1980) in the title role as real-life safe-cracker and murderer Henri Charrière (Papillon), sentenced to the notorious French penal colony of Devil’s Island off the coast of French Guiana.
  7. Dead Man Walking (1995). Directed by Tim Robbins (1958-), tells the story of Sister Helen, played by Susan Sarandon (1946-) in an Oscar winning role, who advocates for a death row rapist and Killer played by Sean Penn (1960).
  8. Hunger (2008). Irish film directed by Steve McQueen (1969-) and starring Michael Fassbender (1977-) as Bobby Sands who led a 1981 hunger strike in which IRA prisoners protested against the removal of their Special Category Status.
  9. Chopper (2000). Australian autobiographical film based on the exploits of Mark ‘Chopper’ Read. Directed by Andrew Dominik (1967-) and starring Eric Bana (1968-) in the title role.
  10. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). Directed by Milos Foreman (1932-) and starring Jack Nicholson (1937-) as a recidivist criminal who seeks a transfer from a prison farm to the more ‘relaxed’ environment of a mental institution.

 Next week: true crime.

Emerging social, health and regulatory issues associated with male escorting: Crime and Justice Research Centre Seminar 5 March, 2015

Our first seminar of the 2015 academic year is on Emerging social, health and regulatory issues associated with male escorting, presented by Professors John Scott and Victor Minichiello

John Victor

There is increasing attention to the fact that global increases in sex work occur not only among female sex workers, but also among cohorts of male sex workers. However, current research continues to focus predominately on female sex workers, and specifically on street sex workers, despite the existence of large numbers of MSW and significant changes in the geography of sex work from ‘outdoors’ to ‘indoors’. International research suggests that the majority of men who have sex with men meet their partners through the internet. Despite this sex industry research has only recently begun to examine the impacts of social and technological change on the male sex industry. At a broad social level, telecommunications and changes in gender relations has increased the numbers of male escort workers, created new spaces for sex work encounters, and has extended the reach of sex work to a wider socio-demographic audience. This has changed the way in which the sex industry is regulated in many jurisdictions, both internationally and locally. With attention to the larger social context of the sex industry, especially public health and criminal regulation, this paper examines how telecommunications, in changing the structure and organization of sex work has opened up new spaces for the expression of masculinity and intimacy.

Author Bios:
Emeritus Professor Minichiello, a health sociologist and public health researcher, holds a number of professorial appointments, including being an Adjunct Professor in the School of Social Justice at QUT. He has published extensively on the topics of sexualities, male escorts, ageing, suicide, and research methodology. He conducted one of the first landmark studies on male escorts and their clients funded by the NHMRC, and currently is working on two ARC funded projects related to the sexual wellness of seniors. He also coordinates the Argentina-Australia Binational Project. Further information about Victor’s research and publication can be found at
Professor Scott joined the QUT School of Justice in 2014. He has published widely on topics such as the sex industry, rural crime and violent crime. Current projects include an ARC funded project, with Minichiello, examining male sex work and two National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund grants, investigating social aspects of drug supply and usage. His most recent publications include Male Sex Work and Society (Harrington Park Press, 2014) and Key concepts in Crime and Society (Sage, 2015).

Nightcrawler: a moral dilemma of our own making

Recently published: Nightcrawler: a moral dilemma of our own making

School of Justice sessional tutor Dr Dean Biron has published an article on the 2014 film Nightcrawler, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo. The piece appeared in the online version of the Australian literary journal Overland. Dean is currently teaching Crime and Popular Culture.

“Nightcrawling” refers to freelance camera operators who trawl the streets looking for newsworthy images from recent crime scenes. In the film, both Gyllenhaal and Russo’s characters function at the margins of criminality, so as to stay ahead of their competition. The article considers how Nightcrawler works to implicate audiences in the immorality of certain media practices.

Dean’s previous work has appeared in such publications as Child Abuse & Neglect, Thesis Eleven, The Journal of Paediatrics & Child Health, The Journal of Family Violence, Popular Music & Society and Australian Book Review.

His article can be accessed here: Nightcrawler