The Queensland Government plans to introduce legislation to make coercive control a criminal offence.

This was announced by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on 10 May 2022, with an intention for the new legislation to be in place by the end of 2023.

What is Coercive Control?

Coercive control is a form of domestic violence involving a pattern of behaviour used by one partner to control the other partner and create an uneven power dynamic within the relationship.

This typically involves the use of manipulation and intimidation to make a victim feel scared, isolated, and dependent on the abuser. Some common forms of coercive control are:

  1. Isolating a victim from friends and family to reduce their support network, thus making the victim easier to control.
  2. Monitoring the activity of the victim, such as constantly wanting to know the location of the victim and incessantly texting and calling them when apart, monitoring the communication that the victim has with other people or, in extreme cases, tracking and recording the victim.
  3. Restricting the victim's autonomy, such as by restricting their access to transport, or by preventing them from communicating with other people.
  4. Making degrading comments to the victim to damage their self-esteem, making it easier to control the victim and prevent them from leaving the relationship.
  5. Exerting financial control over the victim, by limiting their access to money. A common situation involves the victim only being provided an 'allowance' of money that they can access.
  6. Making threats to a victim, or to their children or other family members.

The above list is not exhaustive, and there are many other forms of coercive control from which a victim may suffer.

Why is this important?

Coercive control is not only a serious matter as it is a form of abuse, but also because it is often a strong indicator of further violence being perpetrated in the future.

As the Premier noted when announcing the new legislation, "Coercive control is the most common factor leading up to intimate partner homicide."

A highly publicised recent incident involving coercive control was the tragedy relating to Hannah Clarke and her three children, who were murdered by her estranged husband, Mr Rowan Baxter.

It was subsequently revealed that Ms Clarke had been subjected to extensive coercive control which spiralled into more aggressive violence and eventually lead to her death at the hands of Mr Baxter.

What are the changes being made?

Coercive control does not currently constitute a criminal offence in Queensland. The legislation will make this behaviour a criminal offence, with the hope that this will provide greater and more immediate support for victims and will hold perpetrators to account.

This legislation is also a part of a wider campaign to reduce domestic violence in the community, which will also include an inquiry into police responses to reports of domestic violence and the planned expansion of specialist domestic and family violence courts.

These reforms were the result of the Women's Safety and Justice Taskforce's  report 'Hear Her Voice' which was handed down last year. The report made 89 recommendations, all of which the government plans to implement.

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