Time we heard about coercive control

Adjournment speech

Tania MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (19:48): (2024)

Over time I have spoken with many victims of family violence who consistently note coercive control as part of the pattern of abuse inflicted on them. We know that understanding the effect of coercively controlling behaviours on family violence not only fails to support victims of crime, it fails to protect them.

When the full picture is not presented in court it impacts on sentencing, it affects community perceptions, it further traumatises victims and it ultimately denies justice. Incorporating coercive control into the broader context of violence helps to capture and present the true picture of a perpetrator’s actions. It helps us understand risk, inform behaviour change, educate the public and support victims, and it should be used to hold offenders to account, particularly in our justice system.

I am told that police can incorporate tendency evidence now into proceedings for some offences, such as burglary, so it baffles me why I continue to hear from victims that the full picture of coercive control is not being presented in evidence or is redacted from a victim’s impact statement or seemingly disregarded in intervention order proceedings.

The Queensland task force that considered how best to legislate against coercive control came up with three recommendations. They did not shy away from recommending criminalising coercive control and have sought to proactively respond to concerns of unintended consequences. The New South Wales government has committed to criminalising coercive control in intimate partner relationships following their early consultation with stakeholders and New South Wales police. The New South Wales government has now released an exposure draft of legislation for public consultation.

As I said last November, whether coercive control or a course of conduct offence is introduced in Victoria or not, we can take steps to ensure that any evidence of coercive control is presented and considered, and it is something that the Victorian government simply must do now.