Help shape new state domestic violence laws

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

A draft Bill has been released for public comment which would see controlling and abusive behaviours - which constitute domestic violence and are red flags for murder - be criminalised.

The draft Bill addresses a number of behaviours associated with, and indicative of, domestic violence, including coercive control - a type of abuse that is often a precursor to domestic violence.

Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said it could be emotional, physical or mental abuse, and that this type of controlling behaviour could isolate a victim and erode their confidence, autonomy and well-being.

"It's often quite subtle, but, over time, has potentially devastating outcomes," she said.

Examples include when a perpetrator tracks a victim's every move, controls what a victim wears, how they behave and what they eat, or publicly, or privately, humiliates or degrades the victim.

The draft Bill looks to create a new criminal offence of abusive behaviour towards a current or former partner, with those found guilty to face up to five years jail, or seven years where the perpetrator involves a child in the abuse, such as by threatening to hurt the victim's child.

"Under this proposed Bill, the behaviour would have to be considered 'unreasonable' and occur on at least two or more occasions," Ms Chapman said.

"It is a complex and nuanced area of law, so we want to ensure we get it right, which is why we're asking for the community to help us shape this legislation."

The draft Bill has been modelled on the findings of a New South Wales select committee into coercive control.

Assistant Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Minister Carolyn Power said the state government wanted to hear from key stakeholders and the wider community.

"I encourage those involved in the legal sector, domestic violence organisations or with a lived experience to consider the draft Bill and provide their views," she said.

"This legislation has the potential to be lifesaving and can help us realise 'not one more'."

She said they wanted all South Australians to be safe in their homes and community.

"Women who have courageously shared their story with me have told me about the devastating impact coercive control has on their life," Ms Power said.

"We know community education and raising awareness is vital in creating the change that is needed to end domestic violence, and this is another step on that path."

Should the changes proceed, they will not commence until implementation issues are worked through, including any education and training that needs to occur prior to commencement.

To view the draft Bill and make a submission, visit yourSAy.sa.gov.au/control.

Consultation will be open until Saturday, October 2.

At-risk South Australians who need support are urged to call:

  • DV Crisis Line: 1800 800 098
  • Men's Referral Service: 1300 766 491
  • RESPECT hotline: 1800RESPECT (737 732)