Criminalising coercive control will risk harm to First Nations women

12th Jul 2021

The criminalisation of coercive control has significant potential to harm the women that most need protection from violence, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“Based on experience, there are real concerns regarding the potential of the police to misidentify a woman as the offender in a domestic dispute, and we know that this will particularly disadvantage First Nations women,” said Ms Melia Benn, Mamu and Gunggandji woman, barrister and spokesperson for the ALA.

“We acknowledge that coercive control is a serious issue but criminalising this offence will not stop the behaviour, and risks the further over-policing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.”

Of the 27 women murdered by an intimate partner in Queensland in 2017, 12 had been previously identified by police as the perpetrator in a domestic dispute and issued with a restraining order or formal charge. This prompted research by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), which found that identifying the person most in need of protection is a significant existing problem for law enforcement and legal systems in Queensland, and that there were far-reaching effects when women, especially First Nations women, were misidentified as offenders.

“The introduction of new legislation to criminalise coercive control will further exacerbate this issue,” said Ms Benn. “The Australian legal system has disempowered and marginalised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women for too long.  It is time to listen to their experiences and use this to determine the most appropriate response to issues of family violence.”

The ALA has made a submission to the Queensland Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce opposing the legislation of coercive control and the creation of a standalone domestic violence offence. Read the submission here:

Tags: Criminal justice Indigenous rights women's rights