Coercive Control Bill

Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains) (11:52:25): I support the fantastic member for Shellharbour and her motion, which reads:

That this House:

(1)Notes that reports from the New South Wales Domestic Violence Review Team show that in 99 per cent of domestic violence cases in New South Wales, the relationship between a victim of domestic violence and their abuser is characterised by the abuser's use of coercive and controlling behaviours towards the victim.


(2)Notes the use of these coercive and controlling behaviours is not a crime in New South Wales.

(3)Acknowledges legislation seeking to criminalise coercive control in other jurisdictions is proving successful.

(4)Calls on every member of the Legislative Assembly to take real action on domestic violence and support legislation which seeks to criminalise coercive control in New South Wales. Coercive control, as many people know but some do not, involves a pattern of behaviour rather than a one‑off incident of domestic violence. It refers to a pattern of domination and intimidation and may include emotional or financial abuse, cyberstalking, sexual coercion, isolation and other forms of abuse but does not necessarily include explicit physical or sexual violence. For the record, it includes behaviours the aim of which is to isolate and disempower a woman, such as controlling her contact with family and friends, stopping her from obtaining employment or studying, deleting her contacts from her mobile phone, distributing revenge porn and threatening to self‑harm and/or harm her, the children or her pets should she wish to leave. These controlling behaviours collectively strip the other person of their autonomy and sense of self-worth.

The introduction of a coercive control offence in Australia has been examined by several domestic violence inquiries in the past decade. Mainland Australia has no laws that directly criminalise non‑physical domestic abuse. In current New South Wales legislation most of the behaviour described as "coercive control" would not constitute an offence unless there is an apprehended violence order already in place. It is often assumed that women and children who are murdered by the woman's partner or former partner have usually experienced a history of domestic violence, particularly physical violence. However, we are learning that in many cases the first incidence of physical violence may actually be the occasion resulting in the woman's death.

Current research suggests that dangerous patterns of coercive controlling behaviour are the best predictor of the risk of domestic homicide and are better than assessing danger by physical assaults alone. The current situation in New South Wales places victims and their children in a perilous situation and presents a great challenge every minute of every day for police in their role of protecting women and children living with domestic and family violence. On 18 June Minister Mark Speakman, when speaking to this motion, said:

… I tabled the 2017-2019 report of the Domestic Violence Death Review Team, known as DVDRT. The report reviewed 53 closed cases of domestic violence homicides that occurred between July 2014 and June 2016 and made 34 recommendations. Recommendation 9 stated:

That the Department of Communities and Justice examine the extent to which existing NSW laws (criminal and civil protection orders) respond adequately to non-physical forms of domestic and family violence and to patterns, rather than incidents, of violence.

We need to bring in law to deal with coercive controlling behaviours. I commend the motion to the House.