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Coercive control: Thinking beyond criminalisation

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Coercive control: Thinking beyond criminalisation

Join us for this online panel event (hosted by the UTS Faculty of Law's Criminal Justice Cluster)

In June this year, a NSW Parliamentary Committee recommended the state introduce an offence criminalising coercive control. A number of Australian states and territories are currently considering the criminalisation of coercive control. Multiple inquiries and forums have heard submissions about whether this will offer an effective solution to address coercive control.   

Coercive control, along with terms such as ‘power and control’ or ‘social entrapment’, describe the context, pattern  and impact of the diverse acts and behaviours a perpetrator of violence may use against their victim. Coercive control may include physical violence, sexual violence, property damage, financial abuse, surveillance, isolation, denigration and many other individualised acts and behaviours all designed to control a particular victim within the context of pervasive gendered structural inequality which legitimates and enables the abuse. For those experiencing coercive control, the impacts can be devastating and far-reaching.   

The dynamic and complex ways in which coercive control can occur creates a significant challenge for designing effective responses to reduce domestic and family violence.  

Discussions about criminalising coercive control centre on the fact that many of the behaviours that form part of coercive control are not currently against the criminal law. And the criminal law’s incident focus leaves the patterned and repetitive nature absent from its response. This has generated considerable debate and discussion, including about the problematic response of the criminal justice system to gendered violence. Advocates of criminalisation point to jurisdictions that have introduced an offence, such as Scotland, England and Wales. These jurisdictions are however very different to Australia, particularly in terms of the history and ongoing impacts of colonisation. The key concern in Australia has been on the way in which the potential expansion of the criminal law will impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  

This panel will provide critical perspectives on these issues. It will include a discussion of:  

  • Findings from the NSW Joint Select Committee on coercive control's recent report on coercive control in domestic relationships, recommending the criminalisation of coercive control  
  • The potential impacts of adopting criminal responses to coercive control 
  • The need to look beyond the criminal law  
  • What effective solutions to coercive control might look like  
  • What (and who) has been missing in current debates. 


Dr Jane Wangmann (convenor and speaker) | Twitter: @JWangmann

Jane Wangmann is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Law, UTS. In her research, Jane draws on her extensive work in the field of domestic violence and the law for almost 25 years - previously as a solicitor in a community legal centre, as a senior policy officer in the then NSW Attorney General's Department and in research. She is interested in how domestic violence, and more broadly violence against women, is understood and responded to by the legal system across multiple areas of law. Jane is a non-government sector expert on the NSW Domestic Violence Death Review Team (2014 - present). 

Nicole Lee | Twitter: @_Nic_Lee 

Nicole Lee is a family violence survivor and passionate advocator. After suffering a decade of abuse at the hands of her former husband, Nicole now uses her lived-experience of family violence to speak out for those who don’t yet have a voice. Nicole, who also uses a wheelchair, focuses on family violence perpetrated against those who have a disability, or who depend on carers or family members for support. 

Ashlee Donohue | Twitter:@MissAshlee__ 

Ashlee Donohue is a proud Aboriginal woman from the Dunghutti Nation, born and raised in Kempsey NSW. Ashlee is an Author, Educator, and Advocate around the anti-violence message. Ashlee is CEO of the Mudgin-Gal Aboriginal Women’s Centre, sits on the ‘Our Watch’ Aboriginal women’s advisory committee & is Chairperson of Warringa Baiya Aboriginal women’s legal service.

Associate Professor Kate Fitz-Gibbon | Twitter: @Kate_FitzGibbon 

Kate Fitz-Gibbon is Director of the Monash Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre and Associate Professor of Criminology in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University. Kate conducts research in the field of family violence, femicide, justice responses to violence against women, and the impact of law reform in Australia and internationally.

Dr Elyse Methven (moderator) | Twitter: @ElyseMethven

Elyse is Senior Lecturer in Law at UTS and Convenor of the Criminal Justice Cluster. Her areas of expertise include criminal law and the interdisciplinary field of law and language.

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