Canberra Liberals release exposure draft for legislation to criminalise coercive control


Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Leanne Castley has today released the exposure draft of her private member’s bill to criminalise coercive control in the ACT.

Ms Castley said that the exposure draft provides the detail of the coercive control criminal offence, including what forms of abusive conduct will constitute coercive control under the proposed law.

“This exposure draft outlines a standalone coercive control offence that comprises the forms of abusive conduct included in the New South Wales and Queensland legislation, and the ACT Domestic and Family Violence Risk Assessment Framework,” Ms Castley said.

“The introduction of a coercive control offence must be done in a way that is considerate of all members of our community. 99 per cent of intimate partner homicides are preceded by coercive control, it is crucial that we act now to criminalise it.”

Shadow Attorney-General Peter Cain, who has worked on this bill alongside Ms Castley, says that the ACT is falling behind as a jurisdiction in addressing coercive control.

“Five out of eight Australian states and territories have either legislated, or committed to legislating, a standalone criminal offence for coercive control. Unfortunately, Minister Berry still wants to go slow on coercive control,” Mr Cain said.

“This bill will protect victim-survivors. Presently, police must wait for an instance of assault or homicide to occur before they can charge a perpetrator of abuse. It will also ensure that convictions of coercive control affect applications for bail and working with vulnerable people checks,” Mr Cain concluded.

In 2021, former DVCS General Manager Glenda Stevens said “Ultimately, there needs to be a legal response to coercive control.” Claudia Maclean, Principal Solicitor of the Women’s Legal Centre ACT has also said “A new offence on top of family violence orders would need to be introduced to capture the insidious nature of coercive control…”

As asserted by Ms Castley’s recent motion in the Assembly, the Canberra Liberals believe that an adequately resourced education campaign must come first, to ensure that the community, frontline services, and the legal system understand coercive control and that it will be criminal offence.

The exposure draft outlines a 12-month commencement date for this bill, leaving ample time for the development and dissemination of an education campaign around coercive control. This is in line with advice from stakeholders. DVCS CEO Sue Webeck has stated that, “a community-based campaign could happen relatively quickly, within a six-month timeframe… and we could definitely be seeing some impact in the ACT community within nine months.”

“Promising to ‘go slow’ on addressing coercive control, as pledged by Minister Berry, is outrageous and bitterly disappointing. It is no surprise that the community is angry at this government’s lack of action when it comes to preventing domestic and family violence,” Ms Castley said.

Ms Castley has distributed the exposure draft for community consultation to stakeholders and frontline services. Interested stakeholders can contact to request a copy of the exposure draft and provide any feedback.