Government to criminalise coercive control

18 Dec 2021

The NSW Government has committed to outlawing coercive control in current and former intimate partner relationships as part of the response to recommendations from the Joint Select Committee on Coercive Control.

Attorney General and Minister for Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence Mark Speakman said NSW Parliament moved to establish the Committee just over a year ago to explore whether to criminalise this conduct in NSW.

At the same time, the NSW Government published a comprehensive Discussion Paper to help guide the work of the Committee and inform submissions to the Inquiry.

The Government is committed to building on the Inquiry’s work by developing and consulting extensively on the drafting of this new law.

“No person deserves to live in fear, and it is part of our responsibilities in Government to uphold the safety and human dignity of all of our citizens,” Mr Speakman said.

“That’s why we’re supporting, or supporting in principle, 17 of the Committee’s 23 unanimous recommendations. This includes consulting on and introducing a stand-alone offence to address coercive control, as well as possible amendments to other existing laws.”

Six recommendations have been noted as further consideration continues.

“Coercive control is also a red flag for intimate partner homicide. The Domestic Violence Death Review Team led by the Coroner found that intimate partner homicide in NSW is typically preceded by coercive control often without any recorded physical violence,” Mr Speakman said.

“I’m grateful to the frontline services, peak bodies, experts, academics and those in the criminal justice system for their vital contributions. I commend especially the extraordinary bravery of the victim-survivors who contributed to the Inquiry.”

Minister for Mental Health and Women Bronnie Taylor said domestic abuse can take many forms other than physical violence, which together can comprise coercive control.

“Coercive control is simply unacceptable. It involves patterns of abuse that have the cumulative effect of denying victim-survivors their autonomy and independence. This can include physical, sexual, psychological, or financial abuse,” Mrs Taylor said.

Any legislative reform must be approached with great care and caution to ensure it does not unintentionally put in further danger those in our community we are seeking to help.  This is also to ensure that the offence is calibrated appropriately to capture only conduct of the very serious standard deserving of criminal sanction, avoiding over-reach.

In addition, the Department of Education will review school programs about respectful relationships to ensure these include content about coercive and controlling behaviour.

Comprehensive training on coercive control will also be introduced across Government systems and communities. A public awareness campaign about coercive control will be developed and delivered in consultation with stakeholders, including with culturally and linguistically diverse and First Nations communities and organisations.

Committee Chair, Minister Natalie Ward, said today’s response further demonstrated the Government’s conviction to tackle the persistent scourge of domestic abuse.

“It was a privilege to chair this important Committee and hear the brave evidence of all who provided submissions over the course of the eight-month inquiry,” Mrs Ward said. 

DVNSW CEO Delia Donovan welcomed today’s response and agreed that comprehensive consultation would be a crucial component of the reform process.

“The creation of this stand-alone offence presents a significant opportunity to improve the safety and wellbeing of victim-survivors across NSW,” Ms Donovan said.

“Thorough consultation with the domestic and family violence sector, including with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and culturally and linguistically diverse services will be particularly important, alongside appropriate training and awareness raising efforts.”

Beyond legislation, the NSW Government’s response to domestic and family violence already includes significant investments across housing, crisis accommodation, counselling, case management, court advocacy, policing, education and health.

The 2021-22 Budget provided enhanced funding for this vital work, including an extra $60 million over two years to strengthen frontline services. In October, the Government announced an additional $484.3 million to expand crisis accommodation, social housing and specialist wrap-around services. It was the single biggest investment in tackling domestic and family violence in the State’s history.

Go online to read more about the NSW Government’s full response to the Committee.

For confidential advice, support and referrals, contact: 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732), the NSW Domestic Violence Line (1800 65 64 63), NSW Rape Crisis (1800 424 017), or Men's Referral Service (1300 766 491).

Download media release: Government to criminalise coercive control (PDF , 384.9 KB)

Last updated:

17 Dec 2021

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