On October 11 2023, the Queensland Government, under the leadership of the Palaszczuk administration, marked a significant milestone in the battle against domestic, family, and sexual violence by introducing landmark legislation that will make coercive control a criminal act in Queensland.
The bill, known as the Criminal Law (Coercive Control and Affirmative Consent) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023, comes in the wake of recommendations from Queensland’s Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce.
In a public statement, the Queensland Government stated that the offence of coercive control will carry a maximum sentence of 14 years in in prison, and criminalises the actions of an adult under the following conditions:
- the person is in a domestic relationship with another person;
- the person engages in a course of conduct against the other person that consists of domestic violence occurring on more than one occasion;
- the person intends the course of conduct to coerce or control the other person; and
- the course of conduct would, in all the circumstances, be reasonably likely to cause the other person harm (with ‘harm’ defined in the Bill to mean any detrimental effect on the person’s physical, emotional, financial, psychological or mental wellbeing, whether temporary or permanent).
At this stage the new coercive control laws won’t come into effect until 2025, but this Bill still represents a significant step forward in addressing domestic violence in the state.
What is Coercive Control?
Coercive control is commonly understood as a form of domestic abuse where one individual consistently exercises power and dominance over another through behaviours that intimidate, threaten, or undermine the victim.
Instead of, or in addition to, physical violence, it involves a pattern of manipulative behaviours that may include emotional, psychological, financial, and digital control, aimed at making the victim reliant on the perpetrator and restricting their independence.
The intent often is to trap the victim in the relationship and deprive them of their agency and autonomy. This recent legislation has criminalised this behaviour, recognising its significant detrimental impact on the victim’s physical, emotional, financial, psychological, or mental wellbeing.
Find out more about the signs of coercive control and what to do when you spot them.
How Did This New Law Come About?
This law arises from the first report released by the Queensland’s Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce which is an independent, consultative taskforce created by the Queensland Government.
The report, known as Hear Her Voice – Report one – Addressing coercive control and domestic and family violence in Queensland, was first released in 2021, and features 89 recommendations to the Queensland Government on how to reform the domestic violence service and justice systems. These recommendations were devised after listening to more than 500 submissions from predominantly women and girls in regard to their experiences with coercive control.
Hear Her Voice - Hearing Queensland’s Women Loud and Clear
The Hear Her Voice report brought to light the pressing issues that many victims face when seeking help. An overwhelming number of victims recounted unsatisfactory responses when reaching out to the police for assistance with domestic violence. This raised concerns about inconsistent and inadequate training for officers handling these sensitive cases. Many victims detailed being turned away, not being believed, or having their experiences minimised by the very people who were supposed to protect them – the police.
The report found that the disconnect and inconsistency in responses had led to a decline in trust towards the Queensland Police Service (QPS) among many victims of domestic and family violence. The Taskforce acknowledged that while significant investments had been made in the QPS and there were officers and teams doing commendable work, cultural issues persisted, preventing the effective handling of domestic violence cases.
To address these deeply ingrained issues, the Taskforce recommended the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry into the police. This commission’s report led to a $100 million investment into a variety of reforms and initiatives to provide enhanced support and protections to those caught up in domestic violence, among which was the introduction of the new laws criminalising coercive control.
What Other Changes Can We Expect?
On top of the new legislation criminalising coercive control, the Queensland Government has stated there will be:
- Enhanced intervention and better victim support: Increased resources for services to manage and reform offenders and provide additional support for survivors to ensure their safety and recovery.
- New perpetrator diversion scheme: New strategies to hold perpetrators responsible via a court-driven program directing offenders to intervention sessions.
- New aiding violence offence: Charges for those indirectly enabling domestic violence will be established.
- Tougher penalties: New aggravating factors will be introduced to further penalise domestic violence offences.
On top of this the Queensland’s Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce released a second report in 2022 titled Hear her voice – Report two – Women and girls’ experiences across the criminal justice system, that is split into two volumes: volume one and volume two.
Hear her voice – Report two
Hear her voice – Report two – Women and girls’ experiences across the criminal justice system delves deep into the challenges women and girls encounter within the criminal justice system, both as victims of sexual violence and in roles as accused individuals or offenders.
Report Two outlines a strategic plan for Queensland, aiming to improve our criminal justice system, ensuring those who interact with it – whether as victims, accused, or both – receive trauma-informed care. The Queensland Government stated that it is committed to considering all 188 recommendations from the Taskforce.
What Does This Mean for You?
With these extensive changes and commitments, Queensland residents can ideally anticipate a criminal justice system more attuned to the nuanced challenges faced by victims, ensuring a more compassionate, responsive, and robust framework against domestic and family violence.
The current legislative changes are just the beginning of a broader shift towards redefining how Queensland addresses domestic and family violence.
We’re Here to Help
If you or someone you know is being subjected to a situation of coercive control, it’s crucial to remember that you’re not alone and there are resources available to support you. Here are some steps you can take to deal with coercive control:
- Recognise the signs: The first step is to understand the signs of coercive control. This will empower you to seek the help you need.
- Reach out: Try and talk with trusted friends and family members, or your medical practitioner or counsellor, about the situation, whether it be your own or someone close to you. If you have no one close to you that you can talk to then reach out to one or more of the following resources.
- Available resources: There are numerous dedicated hotlines available to provide immediate assistance. Here are a few key contacts:
- Relationships Australia (Queensland branch): 1300 364 277
- 1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732
- DVConnect Womensline: 1800 811 811
- DVConnect Mensline: 1800 600 636
- Sexual Assault Helpline: 1800 010 120
- Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Prioritise safety: If you or your children are in immediate danger, call 000 immediately. Safety should always be the top priority.
- Seek legal advice: The intricacies of legal processes can be challenging to navigate. Professional legal advice can help you understand your rights and the options available to you. At Daykin Family Law, our expert team is ready to guide you through these challenging times. Contact us today to find out how we can help.
Please remember, every person’s situation is different. What helps one person might not be right for another. You’re not in this on your own; there are those out there ready to lend a hand and support you through it.