Education Dept needs lesson on DFV

The Queensland Industrial Relations Commissioner suggested the Education Department receive a lesson on domestic and family violence last week when he cancelled a teacher transfer, forced upon a victim survivor.

In a decision he delivered on Thursday, Commissioner Dwyer said the September 2023 decision to transfer South East Region teacher “KB” to another school within the region, was unfair and unreasonable, in light of the ongoing risk of domestic violence to her and her children.

“It would benefit the Department to reflect on this error,” he said.

“It is a regrettable feature of our society that we are increasingly compelled to be aware of the diverse and complex nature of domestic violence.

“Domestic violence can be easy to dismiss or diminish by those who are inexperienced in dealing with it, or who still do not appreciate what a pervasive and serious problem it is.

“But, with recent media and other awareness campaigns highlighting the tragic consequences of domestic and family violence that unfold every week in Australia, there is no longer an excuse for decision makers to make such errors.


“In my view, to the extent it is not occurring already, the Department ought to ensure that its decision makers are properly trained and able to more competently evaluate the relevance of domestic violence concerns when they arise in transfer refusals.”

KB had applied to the Commission to have the transfer decision overturned on compassionate grounds, after an internal review of the decision was dismissed.

Those grounds included being the sole parent of two children without access to family or other support to care for them; and serious concerns of potential exposure to danger to the children from their estranged father, who is a habitual alcohol and drug user. She submitted her employer owed a duty of care to her children, aged 11 and 13, who would be at risk if they had to be left unattended for any period either before or after school.

She also submitted that her family had suffered significant emotional turmoil and had mental health conditions; that her children had strong community and sporting ties and a transfer would preclude her from transporting her children to events; and that the commute to the transfer school, along a chronically congested highway, would be longer and a financial burden she could not meet.

The department contended the decision was fair and reasonable, and that KB did not establish exceptional and compelling circumstances as to why she should not be transferred.

It argued she did not have a current Domestic Violence Order in place; that she was not the only sole parent working for the department; and that the commute travel time of 40 minutes was considered reasonable under the department’s Teacher Transfer Guidelines


Commissioner Dwyer said there were two clear errors in the department’s reasoning that rendered the decision unfair and unreasonable: failure to give proper weight to domestic violence issues, and failure to properly consider the question of reasonable travel time.

He said KB had particularised a long history of interventions necessary to protect her and her children, listing:

  • the imposition of a DVO for 2 years (from 2015-2017);
  • the further imposition of a ‘non-contact’ DVO due to breaches of the earlier order for 5 years (from 2017-2022);
  • an order allowing for the change of the last names of her children in 2020;
  • an Order from the Federal Circuit and Family Court in March 2023 granting Sole Parental Responsibility; and
  • her former partner being the subject of a National Police alert in August 2020 arising from concerns about the safety of a child he was travelling with.

He said the department’s response – that it noted the concerns but concluded they were not relevant – showed the department “grossly underestimated the significance of the (uncontested) history of domestic violence particularised by KB and further, have demonstrated a significant lack of understanding of the relevance of lapsed Domestic Violence Orders as an indicator of the future risk of violence”.

“There is something rather concerning about the perfunctory manner in which the Department describes KB’s lengthy history of court-ordered interventions as ‘ongoing actions associated with Domestic Violence’,” he said.

“It takes no imagination at all to appreciate that an individual against whom a court has issued an order restraining him from contacting or approaching his former partner (and his children) for a total period of seven years is, in all likelihood, the type of individual who will continue to pose a risk of violence to those people, or others.

“On the history provided, KB and her children have plainly been living with the threat of violence (since at least 2015) from a person who has demonstrated a propensity to breach orders and engage in further acts endangering the safety of other children.”


Commissioner Dwyer said the fact that no further orders had been made did not mean that there was no risk.

“In my view, the extensive seven-year history of domestic violence orders culminating in the granting of a Sole Parental Responsibility order are much more than mere antecedents or ‘ongoing actions associated with Domestic Violence’. They are indicators that this particular individual will likely continue to pose a risk to KB and her children indefinitely, regardless of whether he is the subject of a domestic violence order.”

Commissioner Dwyer said in relation to the other error, the distance between the current school and the transfer school was not significant at 37 kilometres, but would involve using the M1, which was notorious for worsening delays.

“The absence of any reference in the decision to consideration of road and traffic conditions, even if it occurred, renders the decision unfair and unreasonable simply by virtue of the absence of such evidence and intelligible justification,” he said.

“Between the interminable road widening projects, accidents, and outdated infrastructure that is incapable of coping with a rapidly increasing population, there is almost no journey on the M1 that will not be subject to delay.

“The estimate of the Department of a 40-minute journey, most of which is on the M1, is even more precarious having regard to these common experiences.”


Commissioner Dwyer also made a suppression order and an order to seal the file, noting neither party to the appeal had requested these.

“In my view, the uncontested history of domestic and family violence is such that both orders are appropriate in the interest of the appellant’s privacy and safety,” he said.

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