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Family violence

Safety information

This webpage is about family and domestic violence, including coercive control. If you think someone may be checking the websites you visit or using technology in other ways to monitor you, you may wish to find out how you can browse more safely before you continue.

Family violence

The Australian Government is firm in its view that family violence is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.

The Australian Government is committed to taking action to prevent family violence and abuse, and to improving the protections offered through the family law system to those affected by violence and abuse.

Visit the Family Violence Law Help website for more information on domestic and family violence, family law, child protection law and services available for families who need to find help or learn about their legal rights.

Visit the Family Relationships Online website for more information about family relationship issues.

Coercive control

The Australian Government and state and territory governments have been working together, through the Standing Council of Attorneys-General (SCAG), to introduce National Principles to Address Coercive Control in Family and Domestic Violence. On 22 September 2023, the National Principles were released by the SCAG, setting out a shared understanding of common features and impacts of coercive control.

Coercive control is almost always an underpinning dynamic of family and domestic violence. Coercive control involves perpetrators using abusive behaviours in a pattern over time in a way that creates and maintains power and dominance over another person or persons. Perpetrators may use physical or non–physical abusive behaviours, or a combination of both.

Visit the coercive control page for further information.

Family law information sharing

Children, families and individuals affected by family violence, child abuse or neglect often interact with both the federal family law system and state and territory systems and agencies responsible for responding to family violence and child protection. The government is involved in several projects to improve collaboration between these systems to streamline processes and practices and ensure the safety of children and families. These projects include the National Strategic Framework for Information Sharing between the Family Law and Family Violence and Child Protection Systems, and the Co-location Program.

For further information about these measures, visit the Family Law Information Sharing page.

Lighthouse Project

In 2020, the government supported the introduction of the Lighthouse Project in the Adelaide, Brisbane and Paramatta Federal Circuit Court Registries. The Lighthouse Project is an innovative family safety risk screening and specialised case management program, including the dedicated Evatt List for high-risk matters. In 2022 the Lighthouse Project received funding to support expansion to all primary Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia family law registries across Australia.

Further information about the Lighthouse Project is available on the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia website.

Standing Council of Attorneys-General – Family Violence Working Group

Federal, state and territory governments share responsibility for effectively responding to family violence and child abuse. The states and territories have responsibility for the majority of laws related to family violence, including investigating and responding to child protection issues.

A Family Violence Working Group (FVWG) of senior justice officials was formed by the then Council of Attorneys-General in May 2017. The FVWG is chaired by the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department and supports priority family safety issues under the SCAG. The working group is progressing work on a range of issues including information sharing between the child protection, policing and justice systems, and improving family violence competency.

To date the FVWG has successfully developed guiding principles for protecting vulnerable witnesses in family violence and family law proceedings, for use in all jurisdictions. Download a copy of the Guiding principles.

Visit the Standing Council of Attorneys-General page for more information and meeting communiqués.

Amendments to the Family Law Act 1975

Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties) Act 2018

The Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties) Act 2018 (the Cross-examination Act) was passed by Parliament on 5 December 2018. The provisions in the Cross-examination Act commenced on 10 March 2019 and have applied to cross-examinations since 10 September 2019.

The Cross-examination Act amended the Family Law Act 1975 to ensure that appropriate protections for victims of family violence are in place for cross-examination in all family law proceedings involving allegations of family violence. Under the Act, direct cross-examination is prohibited in certain circumstances, and must instead be conducted by a legal representative. Legal representation may be arranged privately or through legal aid. Where direct cross-examination is not prohibited, the court must apply other appropriate protections for the victim (such as using video link or screens).

The Australian Government has committed $89.29 million to the Cross-Examination of Parties Scheme (including grant funding and funding to support its operation) over 8 years from 2018‑19 to 2025-26.

For more information, see the Family Violence and Cross-examination Parties Scheme page.

Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2018

The Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2018 commenced on 1 September 2018. This Act amended the Family Law Act 1975 to improve the family law system's response to family violence, and the intersection of the federal family law and state and territory family violence and child protection systems.

The Act implemented recommendations of the Family Law Council's 2015 and 2016 reports on Families with Complex Needs and the Intersection of the Family Law and Child Protection Systems, and of other expert reports, to enhance the capacity of the justice system to provide effective outcomes for vulnerable Australians who are experiencing family violence.

Visit the Amendments to the Family Law Act 1975 page for more information.

National Domestic Violence Order Scheme

The Australian Government has taken a leadership role in progressing national reforms to ensure that protections under Domestic Violence Orders (DVOs) can be recognised and enforced across Australia. The introduction of a National Domestic Violence Order Scheme (NDVOS) was agreed to by the former Council of Australian Governments in December 2015.

All DVOs issued in an Australian state or territory from 25 November 2017 are automatically recognised and enforceable in all Australian states and territories. Under the NDVOS, individuals protected by a DVO issued before 25 November 2017 may apply to any local court in Australia to have it recognised.

The scheme represents a significant step towards further protecting and empowering families as they build new lives, safe and free from violence.

Visit the NDVOS page for further information.

National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-32

The National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-32 (National Plan) was released by Commonwealth, state and territory governments on 17 October 2022. It provides a national blueprint for action and promoting commitment from all levels of government, community partners, civil society and the private sector to end all forms of violence against women and children.

The 10-year National Plan is underpinned by two 5-year Action Plans and a dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan. The First Action Plan and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan were released on 16 August 2023 and outline the steps governments are taking to implement the National Plan.

Under the First Action Plan, we have committed to progressing the following actions to help end violence against women and children:

  • development of National Principles to Address Coercive Control in Family and Domestic Violence. The National Principles were endorsed by the SCAG on 22 September 2023 and set out a shared understanding of common features and impacts of coercive control, and guiding considerations to inform effective responses to the issue
  • development of training for legal practitioners on coercive control. This initiative will provide funding to an appropriately experienced peak body to develop and deliver a family safety professional competency package, with a particular focus on coercive control. This training will build on work the Commonwealth has undertaken with states and territories on the development of the National Principles to Address Coercive Control and will embed the National Principles as a common national foundation for legal practitioners
  • development of Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence (FDSV) training for law enforcement. The package will build on training that exists in the states and territories, seeking to enhance law enforcements response to incidents as well as increasing their general awareness and understanding of indicators to identify the more subtle forms of FDSV, such as coercive control and the linkages it has with technology facilitated abuse. It will include content with respect to culturally safe policing responses and trauma informed models of response to minimise re-traumatisation.  

Visit the Department of Social Services website for more information.

Family safety competency for the justice sector and law enforcement

The Australian Commonwealth is committed to improving the ability of professionals working in the family law system to understand family violence.

National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book

The Australian Government, with the states and territories, co-fund the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration to develop and maintain the National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book. The Bench Book is an online educational resource for judicial officers in all Australian jurisdictions and aims to promote best practice, develop consistency in judicial decision-making and improve court experiences for victim-survivors. The Bench Book is updated annually, to reflect the latest academic literature, legislation, legal processes and case law, and is becoming a valuable resource increasingly used by other legal professionals and service providers working with victim-survivors of domestic and family violence.

Visit the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration website to access the bench book.

Funding for judicial training

Building on the Bench Book, the Australian Government, with the states and territories, co-fund the National Judicial College of Australia to deliver a family violence training package for judicial officers across Australia in all jurisdictions on a periodic basis. This training familiarises judicial officers with the Bench Book and promotes consistency in the interpretation and application of laws relevant to family violence across jurisdictions. It also offers guidance and promotes best practice among judicial officers and legal professionals in dealing with cases involving family violence.

Reports

On 31 March 2019, the Australian Law Reform Commission completed its 18-month comprehensive review of the family law system. The report, Family Law for the Future – An Inquiry into the Family Law System, considered whether, and if so what, reforms to the family law system are required to meet the needs of Australian families into the future. This included consideration of how to ensure the system protects the best interests of the child and keeps families safe from violence and abuse. The government considered the issues and recommendations set out in the report and has published a response.

Visit the Australian Law Reform Commission website for more information or to view the report.

Contact details

Family Safety Branch / Children and Families Division
Attorney-General's Department
3-5 National Circuit
BARTON ACT 2600