Domestic and family violence advocates have raised concerns about the lack of consultation around the criminalisation of coercive control.
In October, the NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman introduced a Bill creating a stand-alone offence for coercive control.
Coercive control is a pattern of abusive behaviours which removes freedom autonomy and agency from the victim-survivor, usually occurring alongside other forms of domestic and family violence, including economic abuse.
While the focus on improving NSW’s response to domestic and family violence (DFV) is welcome, organisations including Domestic Violence NSW (DVNSW), Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women's Legal Centre, Women’s Legal Service (WLS) and Redfern Legal Centre’s Financial Abuse Service NSW say they are unable to support the Bill in its current form.
“DVNSW has valued being part of the many different consultation processes leading to this Bill since 2020, and commends the Government's efforts to address domestic and family violence.” said acting Chief Executive Officer of DVNSW Renata Field. “However, we are concerned that important issues raised by experts in the field have not been sufficiently heeded, and therefore a second open round of consultation is essential to support the best and safest outcomes for victim-survivors.”
An open letter signed by over 220 domestic and family violence advocates (including Rosie Batty and Jess Hill) regarding the draft Bill for Public Consultation was sent to the NSW Attorney General, outlining significant concerns with the Bill that could enable perpetrators of violence to find significant loopholes.
Redfern Legal Centre’s Financial Abuse Service, who has made numerous submissions on coercive control, has repeated concerns over the rushed introduction of this legislation and the lack of proper consultation with the sector.
Gayatri Nair, who also coordinates the Economic Abuse Reference group in NSW, says that “economic and financial abuse needs to be recognised in NSW, but we are disappointed that a new criminal offence has been introduced without proper and robust consultation.”
Key concerns with the current Bill include:
Requiring proof of a specific intent to coerce or control places a significant burden on the prosecutor
The bill is limited to intimate partner violence, excluding many forms of abuse suffered by victim-survivors in the community
There is no contextual definition of domestic and family abuse which will cause confusion when the legislation is put into practice
The implementation period is too short for legislation that will require substantial police training and changes to the NSW justice system.