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Taskforce report draws roadmap to DFV reform

Illustration of three people crammed in three separate small houses

The Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce has made 89 recommendations to the Queensland Government in a report examining domestic and family violence (DFV) and outlining proposed steps for legislating against coercive control.

The report, titled ‘Hear her voice’, shares victim accounts of DFV and includes a four-phase plan with suggested legislative reforms to the DFV service and justice systems.

The Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Minister for Women and for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Shannon Fentiman, said the Government would consider the report findings and recommendations extensively.

She said the report, which was delivered yesterday, would “inform government on how we can remove barriers for victims to come forward and how the justice system can operate in a more trauma-informed way”.

“Today marks the day that we begin creating a strengthened framework to respond to coercive control and prevent more harm coming to victims,” Ms Fentiman said. “The report includes recommendations for improving police and judicial responses as well as the need to focus on primary prevention and early intervention measures, particularly for our First Nations communities.

“The report shows that we cannot just criminalise coercive control – we also need to educate the community and frontline responders on how to recognise and respond to coercive control.”

Coercive control is a form of domestic violence which causes the victim to fear for their or someone else’s safety. Perpetrators may isolate the victim from their friends and family, track their movements, or control their access to money, what they wear or where they go.

Chair of the taskforce, the Honourable Margaret McMurdo AC, said a system-wide reform would be needed before a coercive control offence be put into effect.

“Women and stakeholders have told us loudly and clearly that critical reforms need to happen before any new legislation is commenced,” Ms McMurdo said. “This is why the taskforce has recommended an urgent four-phase plan of reform before new coercive control legislation is commenced.

“The taskforce recommends that the Queensland Government deal with these complex issues as a priority to ensure the success of the taskforce’s proposed reforms and any other future criminal justice reforms in response to coercive control.”

Ms Murdo said the report expressed the taskforce’s concerns that victims had received unsatisfactory responses from some police officers after seeking help for DFV. The taskforce were informed that police often failed to bring appropriate criminal charges against perpetrators.

“Hundreds of victims have told the taskforce – in submissions and at almost every consultation we undertook – that they were not believed, their experiences were minimised or they were even turned away by police officers when seeking help to keep themselves safe from domestic violence and hold the perpetrators accountable,” she said. “Victims reported vast inconsistencies in the response they received from the police, at times feeling supported only to be later let down by an unhelpful response to their need for safety.”

The report recommendations include the appointment of an independent implementation supervisor which would ensure public transparency regarding the progress of implementing the taskforce’s recommendations.

Ms Fentiman said the taskforce had undertaken months of consultation in an aim to better keep women and families safe from violence and also to hold perpetrators to account.

“The taskforce has listened to the voices of victims, receiving more than 700 submissions – the overwhelming majority coming from women with a lived experience of domestic, family and sexual violence,” Ms Fentiman said. “I want to thank these countless survivors who courageously shared their experiences that will ultimately shape how we can best prevent and respond to issues of violence going forward.

“There is crucial work that needs to be done before we can effectively criminalise coercive control. Work is needed to upskill frontline staff on what coercive control is, imbed specialist training for police investigating and prosecuting offences, investment in perpetrator interventions and community awareness.

“I would like to acknowledge the Honourable Margaret McMurdo AC and the members of the taskforce for their hard work and dedication to deliver this report.

“I also want to repeat our message to all survivors of violence – we see you; we hear you; we believe you.”

The Palaszczuk Government established the independent Taskforce in March this year to conduct a review of women’s experiences in the criminal justice system. The Government will provide a formal response to the report recommendations in the first half of next year.

The taskforce will release their final report in June. Read the taskforce’s first report, Hear her Voice.

Queensland Law Society made submissions to the taskforce in July this year. Read a previous Proctor article about the Society’s emphasis on a multifaceted response to addressing coercive control.

For more information about the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce, visit the website.

Find out how you can help prevent DFV in your local community.

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