Rural crime photo competition

Photo competition shines a light on rural crime

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PHOTO COMP: A rural crime photography competition has a handy prize pool.

PHOTO COMP: A rural crime photography competition has a handy prize pool.

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A new photography competition is offering $1700 in prize money will highlight rural crime.

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What does the phrase "rural crime" mean to you? If you can turn the picture in your mind into a photograph, it might be worth $500.

The UNE Centre for Rural Criminology, in collaboration with the UNE Australian Centre for Agriculture and Law, has launched a new photography competition.

A total of $1700 in prize money is being offered in a number of categories, along with modest fame: a selection of images chosen by an expert judging panel will be displayed in an online gallery, and in selected regional galleries in NSW and Victoria.

The Centre's co-director, Dr Kyle Mulrooney, explained that while the quality and visual appeal of the images is important, the competition is not just about photography.

"Part of our work at the Centre is to contribute to the definition and debate around public perceptions of rural crime," he said.

"We're hoping that the images we receive will help us better understand those perceptions."

Dr Mulrooney encourages people to think about rural crime and law in the broadest sense.

"There are those offences which are by their nature quintessentially rural, such as stock-theft or the theft of farm machinery, but rural criminology is also about how distinct social, cultural and physical characteristics of rural spaces impact upon all types of crime, as well as our capacity to respond," he said.

In terms of subject matter, images may be literal records of rural crime - shot-away locks, flattened gates, the legacy of illegal hunting - or representation of rural criminal justice, but Dr Mulrooney also encourages works of pure imagination, too.

"We're interested in interpretations of how the rural environment itself shapes crime and the law, perceptions around what may lead up to crime in rural areas, as well as more positive perceptions around how rural communities may successfully prevent and address crime," he said.

"Criminal acts are, by their nature, hidden from most of us, but they have ramifications throughout rural communities.

"We're very interested in how people choose to convey, in an image, their own definition of rural crime and law."

The Centre for Rural Criminology has already made important contributions to Australian and global understanding of rural crime, an often overlooked and poorly-understood phenomenon that nevertheless has a wide reach and often devastating effects.

In August, the Centre released the NSW Farm Crime Survey 2020, the most comprehensive picture of rural crime in the State ever compiled. Currently, the Centre has active research projects examining rural policing, illegal hunting, and the application of smart animal ear tags for the prevention of live-stock theft, among others.

The photography competition offers another avenue through which the Centre's researchers can understand rural crime and scope how it is perceived.

Centre Research Associate, Dr Rachel Hale of Federation University in Victoria, noted that "understanding how people think about rural crime and law is so important to our own considerations as rural criminologists and we can't wait to see the submissions!"

One of the competition's judges, Australian Community Media rural property writer Marian Macdonald, observed that personal perceptions of crime, or the lack of crime, colours the way we think about where we live and the people around us.

"It's going to be fascinating to see how people capture that in the Centre for Rural Criminology's photo competition and I think it will make some pretty powerful statements about what's important to rural people and why," Ms Macdonald said.

"What a fantastic way to illustrate the hard numbers that show crime isn't just a city thing."

Competitors are asked to address the question: What characterises crime in the rural as conveyed through photographic imagery?

First prize is $500, second prize is $300, and third prize is $200.

There are two student-only prizes, one worth $300 aimed at students in higher education and another worth $200 aimed at students 18 and under.

A "people's choice" award in the amount of $200 will also be given to a popularly-chosen image.

Visit the competition's web page to enter by March 2022..

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