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Coercive control

Do you need help to unravel the problems of coercive control in your separation or divorce? Call 62232400.

This year, New South Wales will become the second Australian state to criminalise coercive control, along with Tasmania, imposing a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment for the conduct.  The new legislation should be in force from 1 July.

To promote a better understanding in the community of what actually constitutes “coercive control”, the Albanese Government recently launched an awareness campaign, with new resources provided to help victims and frontline workers recognise the patterns of behaviour that amount to coercive control, which is regarded by experts as almost always underpinning family and domestic violence.

What is coercive control?

The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC explains:

“Coercive control is a pattern of abusive behaviour designed to create power and dominance over another person or persons. It can involve physical and non-physical abuse and, over time, creates fear and takes away the person’s freedom and independence.  Understanding and identifying these dynamics is fundamental to an effective response to family and domestic violence.”

Explore the Government’s new resources here.

What are these resources?

First, the information enables people to learn to recognise and to understand if this is occurring in their intimate relationships.  The information is especially targeted towards those considered to be at risk of suffering family violence.

Because it is such an insidious form of abuse, often victims don’t actually recognise that they being abused, or know that they can get help.  It can be very subtle, with the enforcement of more and more rules, and slowly taking control over the aspects of someone’s everyday life (such as where they can go, who they can see, what they can wear and even when they can sleep.)  They may be deprived of access to support and medical services.  In some cases, victims are forced to partake in criminal activity. There are a myriad of ways that abusers can use coercive control to create intimidation and fear.

The resources explore economic and financial abuse, which are often entwined in cases of coercive control.  Tech-facilitated abuse is another way that abusers can exercise coercive control (for instance, suffering reputational damage via revenge porn).  The coercive control resources also cover topics on how coercive control affects people with a disability, people from migrant or refugee backgrounds, older people, and LGBTQIA+ people.  People in these groups often suffer quite unique forms of family violence (for example, there may be threats to “out” someone, or the unauthorised disclosure of HIV status, and so on).  The material is also adapted for First Nations audiences.

Second, the resources provide clear pathways for how to seek help if you are experiencing abuse via coercive control.

Next steps

If coercive control is an issue for you or someone you love, please ensure you get legal advice.  You may need advice on how to protect your interests if you intend to separate or divorce, or you may wish to seek advice regarding proving coercive control or other non-physical forms of abuse in a court.

Source:  Attorney-General’s office.

For legal advice, please call Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.

Please note our blogs are not legal advice.  For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.

If you or someone you know is affected by family, domestic or sexual violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit

If you are concerned about your behaviour or use of violence, you can contact the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491.


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