Development of national principles to address coercive control

Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments have agreed on the terms of reference for a critical program of work to develop a common national understanding of coercive and controlling behaviour.

On 9 June 2021, the Australian Attorney-General, Senator the Hon Michaela Cash, chaired the Meeting of Attorneys-General, with representatives from each jurisdiction. Attorneys agreed to work together to co-design national principles to address coercive control, in consultation with Women’s Safety officials.

Coercive control is a pattern of behaviour that family violence perpetrators use to assert emotional, psychological, physical and/or financial control over victim-survivors. A NSW study of intimate partner homicides between 2008 and 2016 demonstrated that 99% were preceded by coercive control. It is a critical issue.

The terms of reference for the development of the national principles, released today, set out the scope of the project, key issues for consideration, and how jurisdictions will collaborate to undertake this work. This includes how they will complement and interact with consultation processes underway at State and Territory level to consider coercive control.

The Attorney-General acknowledged that whilst decisions about whether to criminalise this conduct is a matter for each State and Territory, the terms of reference are an important step toward embedding national consistency in how we approach coercive control, including any criminal offences, to the extent practicable.

“Developing a common national understanding of coercive control and its impacts, including on vulnerable or systematically disadvantaged groups, will assist to raise awareness and inform more effective responses to this insidious form of domestic and family violence.

“Any criminalisation of coercive control must be informed by a national approach to ensure individuals have equal access to justice, no matter where they live in Australia.

“This will make it clear that this type of behaviour is unacceptable across all of Australia.

“These national principles will provide an important guide for jurisdictions responding to coercive control, including on legislative development for States and Territories who choose to adopt criminal offences”, the Attorney-General said.

The development of national principles responds to calls from stakeholders for national action against coercive control.

$4.7 million was provided in the 2021-22 Budget for the Australian Government to develop a joint program of work with states and territories to strengthen the justice response to sexual assault, sexual harassment and coercive control.

Consultations to inform development of the principles will include the release of a public discussion paper, and targeted meetings with relevant stakeholders. The draft principles will be considered by the Meeting of Attorneys-General in early 2022.

The Terms of Reference are available here. This page will also be used to provide updates on opportunities to contribute to the consultation process.

If you or someone you know is experiencing or at risk of domestic, family or sexual violence contact 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) 1800respect.org.au or MensLine Australia (1300 789 978) mensline.org.au.

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