The Queensland Government today announced a historic overhaul of laws and practices to better protect women from domestic and family violence and hold perpetrators to account.
The proposed $363 million package of reforms announced by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Attorney-General and Minister for Women Shannon Fentiman this morning includes:
- new laws and programs to recognise, prevent and punish coercive control including making coercive control a criminal offence
- a commission of inquiry into police practices
- expansion of the domestic and family violence courts
- better support for women
- a special strategy for First Nations communities
- funding for perpetrator programs to change men’s behaviour and stop the cycle of violence
- expansion of high-risk teams and co-responder models to ensure victims receive a joint response from police and DFV services
- increased respectful relationships education to all Queensland children and young people.
All are the result of Justice Margaret McMurdo’s Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce’s first report, ‘Hear Her Voice’, handed down in December.
“The taskforce received more than 700 submissions from women and girls with lived experience of domestic and family violence,” Ms Palaszczuk said. “In addition, women have literally taken to the streets to say ‘enough is enough’.
“My government has heard. My government has listened. My government is acting.”
Queensland Law Society welcomed the supportive response of the Queensland Government to the taskforce report.
“QLS has consistently supported measures aimed at addressing domestic and family violence and its consequences,” QLS President Kara Thomson said. “The report and its recommendations are of exceptional value to Queensland community and we acknowledge the importance of this work.
“We look forward to working with the Government on measures to implement the recommendations to better ensure the safety of all in our community.
“In particular, QLS is keen to engage with recommendations to strengthen Queensland lawyers’ understanding of the nature and impact of domestic and family violence, including coercive control, the substantive and procedural law, and how to refer clients to services and supports.”
Before the end of 2023, a Bill will be introduced to criminalise coercive control.
Coercive control is the most common factor leading up to intimate partner homicide. Its tragic outcome was recently seen in the murders of Hannah Clarke and her three children.
It includes isolating a partner from family and friends, monitoring their movements, controlling access to money and psychological and emotional manipulation.
The package of reforms to address this problem includes a community education campaign to recognise it, the expansion of respectful relationship courses and further training for police.
It also includes $106 million to improve safety for victims attending court.
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Minister for Woman and the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Shannon Fentiman said this was a key recommendation of the taskforce.
“Our systems need to respond better to this unique form of violence and we need to shift our focus from responding to single incidents of violence to the pattern of abusive behaviour that occurs over time,” she said.
“We will also explore options to improve availability and accessibility of intervention programs for DFV perpetrators. Intervening to help perpetrators change their behaviour is essential to keeping victims safe from violence.
“We will look to continue and expand trials of online perpetrator interventions and programs addressing violence perpetrated by young men against a parent.”
Commission of inquiry
The taskforce made it clear that hardworking police save the lives of women and children escaping domestic and family violence every day.
But it also found many survivors had not received an adequate response.
A four-month commission of inquiry will hear the testimony of victims and make recommendations to improve their treatment.
The Attorney-General said that, in addition, Queensland Police Service would trial a collaborative co-response model involving police and specialist DFV services working together in a number of locations.
“A key focus of the reforms will be to build understanding of DFV and coercive control across the agency to help police improve how they respond to these matters,” the Attorney said.
“Officers need to be able to better identify DFV as a pattern of behaviour over time and assess risk for coercive control and non-physical forms of violence.
“We will act to develop specialist expertise and training in DFV, and improve the frontline response to incidents through development of a manual to guide officers.”
Hannah Clarke’s parents, Sue and Lloyd, have welcomed the Government’s response.
“As our foundation, Small Steps 4 Hannah tries to achieve, this is all about HALTing the cycle of domestic and family violence,” Mr Clarke said.
“H’ for Hanna, ‘A’ for Aalya, ‘L’ for Laianah and ‘T’ for Trey, the members of our family who we have lost.”
The Premier said confronting the reality of domestic and family violence was the most important step in dealing with it.
“Not one of us can deal with this issue,” she said. “It will take all of us.”
The taskforce has already made 89 recommendations, 84 of which were for the Government. It has accepted all 84. The remaining five were for the Queensland Law Society and the Bar Association of Queensland.
The final taskforce report is due by the end of June.
More information on the women’s safety and justice taskforce.