The first stage of legislation against coercive control inspired by Hannah Clarke has passed Queensland’s parliament.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the state was now “one step closer” to legislating against coercive control.
Coercive control is a type of domestic abuse that refers to a pattern of behaviours used by a perpetrator to control their partner and can be harder to identify than some other types of abuse, according to Relationships Australia Queensland.
It can involve manipulation and intimidation and common methods of coercive control include isolating someone from their friends and family, monitoring their activity, financial control and threats.
Sue and Lloyd Clarke, the parents of family violence victim Hannah Clarke, have fought for the laws to become reality after their daughter and grandchildren were murdered.
Hannah Clarke and her three young children died after they were set alight in their car by their estranged father and husband Rowan Baxter in Brisbane in early 2020.
Mr and Mrs Clarke said it was important that coercive control behaviours were “captured in modern legislation”.
“We’ve fought for this because we know it will make a difference and it will prevent other families from having to go through an experience like ours,” they said.
“We know from experience that the behaviour of perpetrators escalates over time.”
Included in the amendments are a broadening of the definition of domestic and family violence to include behaviour that happens overtime and considering the behaviour in context of the whole relationship.
The offence of “unlawful stalking” will also be modernised and strengthened in the Criminal Code to “better capture the broad range of tactics used by perpetrators”.
Ms Clarke’s parents established Small Steps 4 Hannah, a charity aimed at supporting domestic violence victims and educating children, in the wake of their daughter’s death and have tirelessly campaigned for laws to be strengthened in Queensland.
Ms Palaszczuk described coercive control as the “core of domestic and family violence”.
“It is a pattern of deliberate behaviours perpetrated against a person to create a climate of fear, isolation, intimidation and humiliation.”
The new laws will also broaden the court’s ability to award costs to prevent perpetrators using the legal process to further abuse victims and will strengthen the consideration of previous domestic violence or criminal history in court.
Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman described the move as a “significant step” toward fully legislating against coercive control.
“As we pass the terrible anniversary of the murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children, I want her family and friends to know that this will be their legacy,” she said.
“This is about identifying and responding to the red flags of coercive control earlier before blue police tape surrounds another family home.”
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