Assumptions challenged in crime, justice and migration research
Dr Marie Segrave's work into human trafficking, labour exploitation, women prisoners and policing challenges the status quo. As a critical criminologist, she identifies and tests the assumptions that drive legislation and policy in Australia and internationally. For example, while many people assume migrant workers arriving from Asia want permanent settlement in Australia, Marie's research shows this is not necessarily the case. And believing that criminal convictions are the key measure of police success ignores the important work they do with crime victims.
Marie's aim in challenging preconceived notions, prevalent within our legal system, is to help create more effective policies that have better outcomes for individuals and for society in general.
She says most government policy on human trafficking and migrant workers is based on assumptions about what individuals want and need when migrating for work. Her research shows many people from the Asia-Pacific region often move in a circular way. Therefore, efforts to prevent migrant workers staying long term could be misdirected.
Tracking the dynamic between migration patterns, personal safety and national security is the subject of Marie's Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery project. With Professor Sharon Pickering, Dr Leanne Weber and Dr Claudia Tazreiter, Marie is mapping the movements and experiences of people working in Australia on temporary visas as they travel between their homeland and communities in Australia. The project focuses on migrants from China, Tonga, Indonesia and Samoa.
The project will improve understanding of migration drivers and the impact of existing policies, Marie says. 'It will help us understand how policy influences the risks individuals are willing to take to earn money, the opportunities it affords and the potential for exploitation.'
Another of Marie's projects, working with Victoria Police, is revealing the true nature of police work in their interaction with crime victims. Funded through an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant, it details police experiences with crime victims - a significant but largely unheralded aspect of their work.
It is the first time such information has been gathered, achieved through unprecedented access to police via hundreds of interviews. The project report, to be launched in 2011, will contain specific recommendations regarding police practice. It could also shift the ways 'successful' police work is measured to include community relations along with investigation outcomes.
Marie works in the emerging field of 'critical' criminology. This questions the structures of the established criminal justice system and examines the implications of the system for people who have the least power within those structures.
As a feminist critical criminologist, Marie is no stranger to research that tests the underlying assumptions people hold - including her own. 'One of the most important things about doing this kind of work is you are constantly being challenged yourself,' she says.
Marie's recent research, with Dr Bree Carlton, into women's post-prison survival rates challenged her preconceptions. A project designed to focus on women who had died and those who had survived, their research after the women's release found that survival and non-survival categories were not clear-cut. 'Rather, many women had come close to death at least once so we realised we weren't dealing with two separate groups, which was pretty challenging,' she says. That research, along with an evaluation undertaken for Melbourne City Mission, found that safe and secure ongoing housing is key to maintaining stability in women's lives.
Marie's research interests will be enhanced through her 2011 Oxford University Visiting Fellowship. At Oxford and other UK universities, there are several critical scholars undertaking important research. It is hoped that building networks will lead to future international collaborations between Monash and Oxford.