Government must act NOW to criminalise coercive control

A year has passed since the Government committed to criminalising coercive control, and we still have yet to see any action.

Abigail said:

The work of the Joint Select Committee on Coercive Control has made a significant contribution to the campaign to criminalise coercive control throughout Australia. During the inquiry we heard from victim-survivors, representatives from frontline community services and organisations, peak experts and academics—not just from across Australia, but from across the world. With five hearings held here in Parliament House, and one held in Narrandera to hear regional and rural perspectives, the committee gathered a significant body of evidence in support of criminalising coercive control.

Despite members of the committee coming to this work from different perspectives, the report produced by the committee on the back of the evidence was unanimous. The Greens, Labor, Liberals, The Nationals and One Nation party members, including my colleagues in this place—the Hon. Natalie Ward, who did an admirable job chairing the committee, and the Hon. Rod Roberts—came together and backed calls for our archaic domestic violence laws to be updated to reflect that domestic abuse is not only physical abuse but also mental, psychological and sexual abuse.

I put on record my thanks to my fellow committee members for approaching their work on this inquiry diligently and compassionately, and for the goodwill they showed to each other throughout. The approach of members of this committee was fitting for what is an incredibly grave and serious issue. I also thank the committee secretariat and Hansard for their incredible support. I am never surprised by their professionalism and hard work, but I am always grateful for it. Most importantly, I thank every single person who took the time to make a submission to the inquiry or to appear at a hearing, particularly those who shared their stories.

Prior to the committee being established, I introduced in this place The Greens bill to criminalise coercive control entitled the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Amendment (Coercive and Controlling Behaviour) Bill 2020. That bill was developed over a period of 18 months through extensive research, stakeholder consultation and genuine discussion with victim-survivors of domestic abuse across the State. During the inquiry, our bill was praised for being the best version of such legislation presented anywhere in Australia so far. That bill still stands and is ready to be voted on.

The committee recommended that the Government move swiftly to implement coercive control laws in New South Wales, and the Government responded to indicate that it would do so. However, we are a year down the track and no Government legislation has been brought forward. Meanwhile, at least one woman is murdered by a current or former partner every week. I know that the new Minister for Women's Safety and the Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence understands this point full well. I urge her to do whatever she can to bring legislation through Cabinet as soon as possible to protect victims of domestic violence and abuse by recognising the full spectrum of domestic violence and abuse in our laws.

Further, I ask that this Government urgently address the remainder of the Committee's well thought through recommendations. There are a number that could be made immediately, such as updating the definition of domestic violence more broadly to include coercive control, strengthening apprehended domestic violence order provisions and amending the existing offences of stalking and intimidation. I also ask that far more significant and urgent investment be made in educating the public, police, judiciary and all frontline workers about coercive control, in line with the recommendations in this report.

I am glad to have been a member of this committee and to have helped produce this report and its recommendations. I left my time with the committee feeling hopeful. I was hopeful that we would finally see some meaningful change in this area, which the Government has not previously treated with the priority that it deserves—in policy development and, as importantly, in funding. Over the past year, that hope has sadly faded. The inaction of this Government continues. At the very least, I would have thought that by now we would have had a draft bill from this Government and a process set up to ensure that representatives from a variety of groups are able to have their voices heard, particularly those from First Nations communities. Instead, we have warm platitudes, shallow promises and no actual progress—something I have come to expect, but am still bitterly disappointed by, when it comes to this Government.

See the full transcript in Hansard here.

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