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All sides of politics, both houses of parliament call for national discussion to criminalise coercive control

Media Release
Larissa Waters 18 Feb 2021

Today the House echoed the Senate to call on the government to take action on coercive control, supporting a cross-party motion coordinated by the co-Chairs of Parliamentarians for Action to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children.

“Tomorrow, Friday 19 February marks 1 year since Hannah Clarke’s murder. Her ex-husband had never laid a hand on her until he killed her and her three children, but for years had been abusing her with coercive control,” said Senator Larissa Waters, Greens Leader in the Senate and spokesperson for women.

“We need a national approach to understanding and criminalising coercive control, so that Australian women can receive the same level of protection under the law no matter what state they live in.  The community needs to recognise the serious risks of conduct like Hannah Clarke and her children were subjected to before their murder a year ago, and police need additional tools to be able to act to prevent more women being killed.

“The best way to commemorate Hannah Clarke’s life and those of her three children, and the 52 women who have been killed since then, is working together to end violence against women.

“We need all parliamentarians to contribute to the cultural change that will eliminate violence against women, stand up to violent behaviour, and act to address the gender inequality which drives gendered violence.
“Today’s successful vote in the House, and yesterday’s vote in the Senate is an important show of agreement from all sides of politics that we need to act to prevent more women like Hannah Clarke dying at the hands of a current or former partner.  I look forward to the government now heeding this call from both houses of parliament and coordinating a national discussion on criminalising coercive control.

“The evidence shows that coercive control is the biggest indicator of future homicide. Governments rightly took action decades ago to criminalise physical abuse by a domestic partner, and the federal government must now listen to the evidence and encourage states to harmonise their approach to criminalise coercive control to protect women and end the on average woman a week being murdered.

“Criminalisation is not a complete response, and cannot happen without wide consultation with experts, victim-survivors, frontline services, police, courts, and families. Any change must be accompanied by system reforms, guidelines for police, prosecutors and judicial officers, and resources to help people to understand coercive control – how to identify the signs and what to do.

Taking a national approach to education and awareness, funding support services, and harmonising the legal response will keep more women and children safe,” concluded Senator Waters.

Motion moved by Senators Larissa Waters, Mehreen Faruqi, Andrew Bragg (Liberal), Jenny McAlister (Labor) in the Senate on Wednesday 17/02/2021, passed by consensus.
Sent to the House of Representatives on Thursday 18/02/2021 for concurrence, passed by consensus:


  1. That the Senate—
    1. notes that:
      1. 19 February 2021 marks one year since the murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children,
      2. since that date a further 52 women have been killed by violence in Australia, and
      3. coercive control and persistent emotional or psychological abuse is abuse in its own right, and a strong indicator of future physical violence;
    2. further notes that:
      1. Tasmania has had laws criminalising emotional and financial abuse and coercive control since 2004,
      2. Western Australia recently introduced a new offence of persistent family violence, recognising patterns of emotional and psychological abuse,
      3. New South Wales is currently consulting on draft laws to criminalise coercive control, and
      4. Queensland and the Northern Territory have announced plans to criminalise coercive control; and
    3. calls on the Government to
      1. recognise the harm caused by persistent controlling behaviour, and
      2. coordinate a national discussion regarding criminalising coercive control and related implementation support.
  2. That this resolution be transmitted to the House of Representatives for concurrence.


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