Friday 29th April 2022 from 9am

Wills & Estates Senior Associate Debbie Sage will join Robyn Hyland to talk about the importance of planning for end-of-life care and what options are available.

Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month – latest updates and actions to stop domestic violence


Each May marks the observance of Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month, a critical initiative dedicated to igniting vital conversations and fostering community-wide awareness regarding the social and personal impacts of domestic violence. Here, we discuss legislative changes, the link between domestic violence and youth crime, and global strategies that may assist Australia in tackling domestic violence.

As Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month draws upon us this month, it’s imperative to amplify the call for zero tolerance of domestic and family violence within our communities.

This campaign guides anyone experiencing such adversity towards vital support networks.

Simultaneously, it serves as a firm reminder to individuals perpetrating abuse or violence to take responsibility for their behaviour and to seek the necessary assistance to change it.

While we dedicate efforts to this cause in May, the urgency of these conversations must continue year-round. The grim reality persists – domestic and family violence rates continue to climb, demanding our commitment to sustain dialogue and action.

Horrific domestic violence incidents making news in 2024

In January, domestic and family violence-related homicides in Queensland were up by 50 per cent in a year.

As for New South Wales, Police get one call every four minutes from individuals asking for help to escape family violence, with over 140,000 calls made each year.

NSW police have also recorded sexual assaults by an intimate partner increased by 25 per cent each year in the last five years.

Earlier this year, more devastating news about a former police officer charged with the alleged murders of Channel 10 presenter Jesse Baird and his partner Luke Davis came to light.

In February, the news was just as grim with a 41-year-old woman killed in Logan by her 44-year-old husband.

In April, a 42-year-old Brisbane man was charged with murder for a domestic violence offence after a 66-year-old women related to him was found deceased.

These news headlines often ignite conversation about the devastation of domestic violence in our community; however, what we see in the news is a tiny percentage of a much larger problem that continues to get worse.

Youth crime and its role in domestic and family violence

Throughout Queensland, the community seems overwhelmingly focused on an uptick in youth crime, particularly home break-ins and car thefts. However, commentators have questioned whether this “insidious problem” that eats up significant police and court resources is at risk of supplanting the exponential increase in domestic violence in the public consciousness.

Although addressing youth crime is undoubtedly crucial, it’s essential to recognise that domestic violence is affecting a much larger segment of the population.

There is also a significant correlation between youth crime and domestic and family violence.

Children raised in families where there is violence can suffer from a range of behavioural and emotional disturbances. These disturbances can be associated with perpetrating or experiencing violence later in life.

A team at James Cook University examined research into the link between youth crime and adverse childhood experiences.

The researchers noted that exposure to childhood abuse and neglect could increase the likelihood of future criminal behaviour by up to 50 per cent.

There appears to be a lack of a coordinated response to the nexus between abuse and neglect and adolescent offending and a disconnect between the child protection agencies and the juvenile justice systems.

This is an area that requires a sharper focus and strategies to not only tackle youth crime in Queensland but also the impact of domestic and family violence on adolescents and how this is contributing to youth crime pathways.

Where have improvements been made over the past year

Two issues have been in focus over the past 12 months from a political and legislative standpoint: financial abuse and coercive control. These areas have seen imperative changes made to try to combat this type of behaviour.

1. Financial Abuse

A parliamentary inquiry is scheduled to examine the role of banks in preventing financial abuse.

The inquiry will examine the effectiveness of existing laws and the role that banks can play in identifying and preventing financial abuse in Australia.

The parliamentary committee calls for written submissions from the public, which can be submitted until 14 June. Anyone can submit, including victim-survivors with lived experiences.

Financial abuse includes actions aimed at controlling or sabotaging access to economic resources, resulting in emotional harm or fear. It is one of the more hidden forms of domestic and family violence.

The big banks have already ramped up their focus on stamping out financial abuse, with some banks confirming they will cut off customers who exert undue control over another person’s finances.

From November last year, any NAB customer identified as engaging in financial abuse would lose access to their bank accounts or even have them cancelled.

NAB bank updated its terms and conditions with a new reference to “unacceptable account conduct”.

The bank also intends to block abusive messages sent alongside payment transfers, noting that they have blocked more than 200,000 abusive transactions since 2022.

Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, and ANZ have also reviewed their terms and conditions referencing abusive transactions to address financial abuse.

2. Criminalizing Coercive Control

Another significant focus and one of the biggest changes for Queensland has been criminalizing coercive control.

Queensland is the second jurisdiction in Australia to criminalize coercive control.

Parliament passed the legislation on 6 March this year.

Sue and Lloyd Clarke were pushing these laws, the parents of Hannah Clarke, who was killed, alongside her children, by her estranged husband in 2020.

The new laws criminalize the conduct of an adult where:

  • they are in a domestic relationship
  • they engage in a “course of conduct” that consists of domestic violence, and it occurs more than once
  • the individual intends the conduct to coerce or control the other person
  • the conduct would be reasonably likely to cause harm to the other person – physical, emotional, financial, psychological or mental harm.

In light of these changes, the courts will now have greater powers to respond to protection applications and award costs to prevent perpetrators from using the legal process to abuse their victims.

Domestic violence victims and other witnesses will also fall under the protected witness scheme, and courts will be allowed to give directions to juries and hear expert witnesses on domestic violence.

What we can learn from other countries efforts to curb domestic and family violence

Australia’s policymakers carefully watch and learn from other jurisdictions to see what works and what does not work to combat domestic violence. This is a highly complex issue that will always require a multi-faceted approach.

Other countries have implemented a couple of notable strategies to try to improve domestic and family violence occurrences in their localities. These strategies may influence Australia’s action plan against domestic violence.

The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has been determined in their tackling domestic abuse plan to deliver practical steps to put a stop to domestic abuse.

From being more robust in their response to perpetrators, whether through electronic tagging or behaviour change programs, to introducing tougher sentences and looking at options for a register of domestic violence offenders, they, too, are trying new ways to prevent domestic and family violence.

In Australia, there has been a call to design a similar program to one the UK introduced to protect public figures, which is also being trialed for potential domestic violence perpetrators.

The program is designed to help stop violence BEFORE it happens. It involves an online GPS tracking program that monitors and intervenes with men who may not yet have committed violence but whose actions suggest they are likely to.

GPS tracking is just one example of how technology can help tackle domestic and family violence.

Also, in the UK, recently, a male perpetrator has been jailed for three years for having been found guilty of physical and coercive controlling abuse, showing the United Kingdom’s commitment to tougher sentencing.

We haven’t reached that level in Australia; however, the day is coming, and in some cases, it can’t come soon enough.

Latin America

In Latin America and various other countries, there has been an implementation of specialist women’s police stations designed to respond specifically to violence against women.

Women’s police stations have been in operation for over 35 years in certain countries and have adopted a multidisciplinary approach to policing domestic violence. They are usually staffed with specialist police who work alongside social workers, psychologists, and lawyers.

The studies are limited. However, there is some evidence that shows that having women’s police stations helped increase access to justice, empower women to liberate themselves from the subjection of domestic violence and prevent gender violence.

Attwood Marshall Lawyers – helping families during difficult times

If you are experiencing domestic and family violence, including financial abuse, help and support is available.

If you are in immediate danger, call 000. The police can immediately attend to you and issue paperwork on the spot to protect you from the perpetrator, including issuing a temporary protection order.

There are also several hard-working support services available to help women and children leave an unsafe home and support services for men and perpetrators of violence who want to change their behaviour, including:

  • 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732): confidential information, counselling, and support service.
  • DV Connect (1800 811 811): a state-wide hotline offering free, professional assistance such as counselling, intervention, transport and emergency accommodation.

If you need help with making an application for a DVO or other issues related to leaving a violent relationship, our compassionate and experienced family lawyers can help you navigate the legal system and apply for the necessary orders.

Your safety is paramount, and there are services available to help anyone suffering from domestic and family violence.

For more information or to make an appointment with our family law team, please contact our Family Law Department Manager, Donna Tolley, on direct line 07 5506 8241, email or free call our 24/7 hotline any time on 1800 621 071.

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Hayley Condon - Senior Associate - Wills & Estates, Family Law

Hayley Condon

Special Counsel
Wills & Estates, Family Law

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The contents of this article are considered accurate as at the date of publication. The information contained in this article does not constitute legal advice and is of a general nature only. Readers should seek legal advice about their specific circumstances. 

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