ABC wins global award for “Rough Justice” data journalism series


ABC News’s Digital Story Innovations team has been announced as a winner of a Sigma Award for its 2020 series on sexual assault — the only winning entry from Australia. The awards celebrate the very best examples of data journalism from around the world.

The judges said: “Rough Justice shows above all else the power of data in telling a story that otherwise would remain hidden in plain sight … The findings were breathtaking … Through data, graphics, interactive and narrative, the team was able to tell a powerful story of how police are failing survivors of sexual assault. An impressive piece of work indeed.”

The “Rough Justice” series comprised three parts:

Nationally, the project sparked widespread calls for an independent inquiry into police handling of sexual assault cases.

In NSW it also prompted an push for the NSW Attorney-General to establish a committee to investigate the improper recording of sexual assault complaints withdrawn by the victim.

In the Northern Territory – the only jurisdiction that refused to supply the requested data – the first two stories in the series led to widespread calls and mounting public pressure for NT police to release their sexual assault data. This happened three weeks later, with part three of the series revealing that NT police are less likely to pursue a sexual assault report than police in any other state or territory.

In addition to being the only project to compile a national, data-driven picture of police responses to sexual assault, Rough Justice was the first to:

  • Build an unprecedented searchable database of police investigation outcomes for 240,973 reported sexual assaults. This database matched a user’s postcode or suburb to their local area or police division, and allowed them to explore detailed statistics
  • Uncover the true extent of reports deemed “unfounded” by police, not only nationally but also in every state and territory, and every LGA/police division
  • Uncover the true extent of reports withdrawn by the victim (again, nationally, in every state and territory, and every LGA/police division)
  • Present detailed sexual assault statistics, including unfounded and withdrawn reports, for the Northern Territory

This week marks four years since the ABC’s Digital Story Innovation team came into being, initially as the Equal Digital Life team, and the Sigma Award comes as a timely reminder of the contribution the team has made.

The main people involved in the project were Inga Ting, Nathanael Scott and Alex Palmer, and there was a significant contribution from others, including Lauren Roberts from the Darwin newsroom and Jack Fisher.

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