Domestic violence policy in QLD: Is some policy better than no policy at all?

| March 27, 2015

Governments have a unique role to play in addressing domestic violence in Australia. Tomas Lillyman shows with Queensland as example how coordinated change takes too long in the respective state governments.

Domestic violence is a complex, isolating and incredibly harmful issue, in the short and long term, not just for survivors, but for their families and the wider community.

The issue is garnering more and more public attention. Rosie Batty, a survivor of domestic violence and avid campaigner for protection of the rights of women and children affected by domestic violence, was awarded 2015 Australian of the Year (National Australia Day Council, 2015). The Victoria Government is conducting Australia’s first royal commission into the issue of domestic and family violence (Savage, 2015). And State and Federal governments have committed $30 million to further raise awareness that domestic and family violence “should not be tolerated” by any Australian (Cash, 2015; in Ireland, 2015, para 5).

Governments have a unique and integral role to play in confronting and addressing domestic violence in Australia. Initiatives such as improved, evidence-based policy, adequate funding for organisations that work with survivors and perpetrators, improved community education, harsher punishments for perpetrators and investment in supportive, inclusive and culturally safe healthcare services could all lead to significant improvements in rates and severity of domestic violence in Australian communities (Council of Australian Governments, 2009; Dutton & Sokkin, 2013; Phillips & Vandenbroek, 2014).

However, much of policy and practice related to domestic violence in Australia is the responsibility of state governments, which makes clear, consistent and coordinated change difficult to achieve (National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, 2009; Phillips & Vandenbroek, 2014). In Queensland, for example, it has been three years since the government has produced a clear social policy for addressing domestic violence. The Bligh government’s policy, For our sons and daughters: Queensland government strategy to reduce domestic and family violence 2009-2014, was abolished in 2012 when Newman and the LNP entered office, and was never replaced with an LNP policy for addressing domestic violence issues in Queensland.

In place of a policy, Newman established the Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence, who was asked to explore the impact of, and responses to, domestic violence issues in Queensland, and make recommendations for future policy and practice approaches to the issue (Department of the Premier and Cabinet, Queensland Government, 2014). The final release of the taskforce’s report, Not Now, Not Ever: Putting an end to Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland, is a real opportunity for the new Palaszczuk Labor government to address an issue that has been “brushed aside for too long, for too many years” (Palszczuk; in Tin, 2014, para 6).

Now, more than ever, the government is equipped to draft a new policy to guide how domestic violence is addressed in Queensland. In addition to the Not now, Not Ever report, the Federal Government’s The national plan to reduce violence against women and their children 2010-2020 provides clear strategies for a national approach to addressing domestic violence, and the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education and Centre for Alcohol Policy and Research report, The Hidden Harm: alcohol’s impact on children and families, provides additional insight into the complex interrelationship between alcohol abuse and domestic violence and suggests best practice approaches for addressing these issues (Laslett et al., 2015).

However, Palaszczuk’s response to a call to action by Quentin Bryce, chair of the Special Taskforce, has been to consider the recommendations of the Not now, not ever report “over the coming months” (SBS, 2015, para 12).

This is not good enough.

Labor previously proposed a new policy for addressing domestic violence in May 2014, but this policy was never introduced (Tin, 2014). With 64,246 reported incidences of domestic violence in Queensland in 2012 and 23 Queensland women dying each year at the hand of their partners (Department of the Premier and Cabinet, Queensland Government, 2014), a clear policy guiding the actions of first responders, community organisations, state government employees and others is urgently needed.

All governments have a responsibility to protect, support and empower all citizens, including those affected by domestic and family violence. In fact, the Queensland Labor government have made a commitment to “equality, opportunity, fairness and reform” for all Queenslanders (Palaszczuk, 2015, para 1). Consequently, the Queensland government should consider the recommendations of the Not Now, Not Ever report, immediately. Following this, a clear, coordinated, and evidence-based social policy for addressing domestic violence in Queensland should be implemented.

This is what is needed to ensure domestic violence happens not now, not ever. This is what is needed. Now. If not sooner.





  1. caseyriethmuller

    March 29, 2015 at 1:32 am

    Not Now, Not Ever Report into Domestic Violence in Queensland

    Twenty- two of the one hundred and forty recommendations handed down by former governor General Quentin Bryce in the Not Now, Not Ever report call for a specialised domestic violence court and a new criminal offence of non-lethal strangulation. In Queensland there are about one hundred and eighty reports to police of domestic violence incidents every day (Not Now, Not Ever Report, 2015). While it is commendable that the government is looking for solutions to this horrendous problem the question has to be asked does the report delve deeply enough into WHY one hundred and eighty Queensland women are being assaulted each day. It is shocking to think that these statistics apply to a state like Queensland, you would think they belonged to a misogynist society. The report focuses on raising awareness through community, police, roles models, education of government employees and media and seems to miss a crucial point, how did Queensland arrive at this point. That Police response must be improved is also of high importance but the question has to be raised as to whether the taskforce looked closely enough as to why human beings are assaulting each other on a daily basis in Queensland. While recommendations twenty-five and twenty-six touches only briefly on early intervention this needs to be expanded and the focus directed to intensive early intervention strategies. Recommendation twenty-nine talks about introducing programs into schools but it does not talk specifically around the types of interventions. I have noticed throughout this report that recommendations have been brief and broad leaving the recommendation wide open for interpretation. These recommendations are also after the incident has occurred (Not Now, Not Ever, 2013). McIntosh (2013) and Newman and Iwi (2015) support the approach of early intervention and outline the importance of this strategy. While it is a good thing to raise community awareness and educate future generations the real work needs to be done with the babies, children, young men and women who have lived with domestic violence and who may be the next generation of perpetrators. It was a clever choice on Campbell Newman’s part to choose Quentin Bryce to lead the task force, she is a well-respected and admired woman. However, it is disappointing that at the end of the day this could turn into another expensive talk fest. I can only imagine how these comments will be received by some members of the community but as someone who knows only too well the impact of domestic violence I feel entitled to speak out.