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Without Prejudice: April 2024

Benjamin Smith

Domestic Violence Reform

Content warning: Some readers may find the following content distressing, as it refers to family, domestic and sexual violence. Contact numbers for support are listed at end of the article.

Recently, there has been a renewed focus on creating legislation to better prevent gender-based violence across Australia. Gender-based violence is the term used to describe violence that is directed against an individual due to their gender, or, violence which affects people of a particular gender disproportionately. In Australia, it is also known as violence against women, and it encompasses domestic violence, intimate partner violence, family violence, stalking, sexual harassment and assault, as well as coercive control.

Last month, the Queensland state government passed legislation to make coercive control a standalone offence, carrying a maximum of 14 years imprisonment. Gendered violence is not always physical, and coercive control outlines behaviours that, amongst others, are threats, humiliation, intimidation intended to harm, punish, humiliate or frighten their victim. This includes sexual coercion.

Queensland is the second jurisdiction in Australia to criminalise coercive control as a standalone offence after New South Wales, whose laws will come into effect this year.

Various other jurisdictions have criminalised coercive control, including Tasmania, where economic and emotional abuse or intimidation has been criminalised under the Family Violence Act 2004 and Victoria, which criminalises coercive control under the Family Violence Protection Act (Vic) 2008 (the FVPA). However, these outcomes are contained in civil law, and are not criminalised.

Not criminalising coercive control causes “gaps” in the law; preventing holding perpetrators account and responsible for this behaviour, as well as being unable to recognise victim-survivors under the law. There is a clear link between family violence homicide and coercive control, and legislating this conduct as a stand alone offence is seen as a way to prevent loss of the victim’s life. Strengthening this area of law allows for an early response.

Victoria passed legislation in December 2023, the Crimes Amendment (Non-fatal Strangulation) Bill 2023, creating two offences criminalising non-fatal strangulation with maximum penalties of 5 and 10 years respectively. This legislation was passed with hopes to prevent homicide in circumstances of gendered violence.

Federally, after recommendations in the 2019 Australian Law Reform Commission Report, and calls for federal laws to remain in line with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the government released draft legislation to reform the Family Law Act. Calls for reforming this legislation aim to simplify key principles surrounding property settlement in the event of a divorce. While already a consideration in cases for domestic violence, explicit clarification of circumstances of domestic violence are intended to decreases homelessness, further violence and poverty of victims of gendered violence.

Various federal members of parliament have called for further action to end gender-based violence, especially domestic violence. The Federal Labor Government have also created two new action plans under the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032, outlining concrete steps with the intention to end domestic violence.

National Domestic Violence Service: 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). If you are in immediate danger call triple zero (000).

For More Information:

State Voice to Parliament

Despite last years referendum defeat for a constitutionally enshrined federal advisory body, the Voice to Parliament, the South Australian (SA) government will continue the process to create a similar advisory body on the state level. Introduced in the First Nations Voice Act 2023, the body is designed to be a body to advise the current and future state governments of South Australia.

The body would not have veto or decision making powers, and would be legislated, not constitutionally enshrined.

Called the First Nations Voice to Parliament, the advisory body would have 46 members, elected from 5 regions and a central zone in South Australia. The first election for members of the advisory body will be on Saturday, 16 March 2024. Indigenous people who live or reside in South Australia are able to vote in this election.

Victoria’s state Indigenous advisory body begun its second term last year (2023). Called the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, the body has 32 members who represent urban and regional areas. The First People’s Assembly has begun negotiations with the state government to receive decision making powers on Indigenous issues this term. The body was created to further treaty negotiations between the state and its First Nations people.

Process for Treaty between State governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continues in the ACT with their state’s advisory body, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body and in Queensland, the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA).

For More Information:

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