Addressing coercive control in family and domestic violence

THE Standing Council of Attorneys-General recently endorsed the National Principles to Address Coercive Control in Family and Domestic Violence and agreed to their public release.

These National Principles are seen as a significant step in addressing gender-based violence in Australia.

Attorney-General Mark The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP said the Albanese Government recognises that understanding and identifying coercive control is fundamental to an effective response to family and domestic violence.

The National Principles set out a shared understanding of common features and impacts of coercive control, and establish guiding considerations to inform effective responses.

“Coercive control is when someone uses patterns of abusive behaviour against another person,” Mr Dreyfus said.

“Over time, this creates fear and takes away the person’s freedom and independence.

“This dynamic almost always underpins family and domestic violence.

“Coercive control can involve physical and non-physical abuse and has traumatic and pervasive impacts on victim‑survivors, their families and communities.

“The National Principles illustrate why coercive control must be stopped.

“I sincerely thank everyone who has contributed to the development of the National Principles, particularly the victim-survivors and their families who shared their experiences, and the many organisations who tirelessly advocate for them,” Mr Dreyfus said.

Federal Member for Cowper Pat Conaghan, who serves as the Assistant Shadow Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, welcomed the announcement.

“Coercive control is regularly identified as an area of key concern due to its pervasive and often subtle nature when it comes to detection,” Mr Conaghan said.

“Implementing a shared understanding of the common features of Coercive control, improving societal understanding, co-ordinating and designing approaches across prevention and early intervention and embedding the National Principles in legal responses are all crucial first steps to eradicating this scourge from our communities.

“It should be acknowledged that the previous NSW Coalition Government passed laws in October of last year in line with this, and these should be consistent throughout all States and Territories.

“We need to work as a collective towards new generational policies to enact meaningful change.”

Mr Conaghan encourages community members to read the new resources provided by the Department as part of the National Principles and share them across their networks.

“The better educated individuals and communities are about the warning signs of Family and Domestic abuse, the more likely we are to recognise them and provide appropriate early interventions and early support.

This is a critical step on the path to generational change,” Mr Conaghan said.

A new study by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOSCAR) that looked at the prevalence of coercive control behaviours in police domestic violence (DV) reports has found that in 57 percent of domestic violence (DV) events at least one coercive control behaviour was recorded by police.

The most common coercive control behaviours were property damage and theft (present in 26 percent of DV events), intimidation and threats (24 percent) and verbal abuse (23 percent).

Ten percent of recorded DV offences included a reference to threats of harm and six percent included a threat to kill.
Executive Director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Jackie Fitzgerald, said the study used text mining to analyse the narrative description of police DV reports looking for mention of coercive control behaviours.
“Coercive control relates to abusive behaviours which can exert domination and control over another person.

“These behaviours, which can include threats, financial control, social-isolation and surveillance, represent a growing awareness of the breadth of domestic violence behaviours,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

Emotional abuse and stalking by a current or previous partner affects a large proportion of Australian women.

It is estimated that in 2021-22, 23 percent of Australian women have experienced emotional abuse since the age of fifteen (including controlling or threatening behaviours, incessant insults and intimidation by a current or previous partner), while 20 percent have experienced stalking (including following/watching the person, maintaining unwanted contact and using social media or electronic devices to follow or track the person).

The latest DV assault offence trends in NSW to June 2023 show that police recorded incidents of DV assault continue to increase significantly.

“Over the five years to June 2023 the number of recorded DV Assault incidents in NSW increased by 13.5 percent.

“Domestic assault and sexual assault are the only major offences to show sustained increases over this time,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

The National Principles and supporting resources are available on the Attorney-General’s Department website at

The resources include videos, a factsheet, Easy Read materials and a guide for healthcare workers.

Additional material, including resources for First Nations peoples and language translations, will be released later this year.

If you or someone you know is affected by family, domestic or sexual violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit

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