Tania MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (19:48): (2024)
My adjournment is to the Minister for Prevention of Family Violence, and the action I seek is for the minister to update me on the government’s response to my motion that passed the Legislative Council on 17 November 2021.
This motion called on the government to review the legislative and procedural frameworks relating to coercive control and how our justice system utilises evidence of this behaviour to support victims and hold offenders to account.
At the time of my motion I spoke of the heartbreaking murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children in Queensland in February 2020. I had the absolute privilege recently to meet with Sue and Lloyd Clarke, and I do not think my words can sufficiently express the level of respect and appreciation I have for them and their advocacy for change in memory of their daughter Hannah and their three grandchildren.
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.