Law Week 2018 Justice Journeys

Leigh Krenske

A statewide view of the criminal justice system.

A statewide view of the criminal justice system. Criminologist Leigh Krenske talks about a career making a positive difference to people’s lives.

A keen interest in youth culture and making a difference has driven Leigh Krenske’s career as a criminologist and statistician.

Fresh from supporting the development of a best-practice model for Queensland’s new Drug and Alcohol Court, Leigh recently took up the role of Principal Statistician in the Queensland Government Statistician’s Office (QGSO).

She’s now part of a team implementing a new crime statistics and research function at the QGSO, to build a better understanding of who comes into contact with the criminal justice system—and why.

“There’s a lot of criminologists working in Queensland doing excellent work, but one of the key points of difference of QGSO is a whole-of-sector approach:  combining information from the Queensland Police Service, Queensland Courts, Queensland Corrective Services and Youth Justice to look at people and issues throughout the criminal justice system,” Leigh said.

Leigh says it’s critical to understand crime trends and the reasons behind offending.

“People working in the criminal justice system are looking to reduce crime in the community and support people to live crime-free lives.

“Building an evidence-base to support the development of effective responses is essential. It’s also valuable to evaluate interventions to ensure that are working as intended and identify ways to improve their operation,” she said.

Leigh said factors impacting on crime in our community are complex.

“It’s important to understand the issues offenders might be facing since research has shown that the best way to reduce a person’s likelihood of reoffending is to address the factors that may be contributing to this offending,” Leigh said.

“Among offenders there’s a higher prevalence of mental health issues, alcohol and drug use, experience of childhood neglect and abuse, disengagement with school… so when we talk about effective responses we often talk about taking a multi-agency approach,” Leigh said.

Leigh jokes she’s “so old” that degrees in criminology didn’t exist when she studied sociology at university. But she says that has changed, with universities in Queensland now offering criminology or justice as a field of study.

Leigh said as a student, she had no idea of the broad range of careers available to a criminologist, and says her best advice is to “follow your passion”.

“I think if you follow the pathway you are most interested in, it’s the way to make the most impact and develop the best outcomes not only for yourself but the research community,” Leigh said.

“I initially thought because of my interest in youth culture and social theory that I was going to be an academic—as opposed to a researcher working in the public sector—but as time progressed I really valued the idea of undertaking research that can be applied in real life—and making a positive difference to people’s lives,” she said.

Leigh pointed out it can be challenging for young criminologists to develop a vision for their career.

“It can be difficult to find your way into government and it’s not until you get there that you understand the broader opportunities. It’s good to develop relationships with people who already work in the sector to develop an understanding of how government works,” Leigh said.

“Get yourself known. It will also help you find your passion, to explore the different options and find out what you’re interested in and take each day from there.”

"I initially thought because of my interest in youth culture and social theory that I was going to be an academic—as opposed to a researcher working in the public sector—but as time progressed I really valued the idea of undertaking research that can be applied in real life—and making a positive difference to people’s lives"