DFVP Month aims to raise awareness of domestic and family violence in the community, and to communicate Queensland’s position that domestic and family violence is not tolerated.

Domestic and Family Violence can occur in all walks and stages of life, and can impact not only the individuals involved, but also their children, and any organisation that they interact with. It is important that everyone understands domestic and family violence so that they are equipped to handle any issues that arise because of it.

What is Domestic and Family Violence?

Domestic Violence is defined in the Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Act 2012 (Qld) (“Act”) as behaviour by a person (the first person) towards another person (the second person) with whom the first person is in a relevant relationship, where the behaviour is:

  • Physically abusive;
  • Sexually abusive;
  • Emotionally abusive;
  • Psychologically abusive;
  • Economically abusive;
  • Threatening;
  • Coercive (i.e. compelling or forcing a person to do or refrain from doing something); or
  • in any other way controls or dominates the second person and causes the second person to fear for their safety or wellbeing or that of someone else.[1]

The Act gives some specific examples of behaviour that would constitute domestic violence, but domestic violence is certainly not limited to these examples:

  • causing personal injury to a person or threatening to do so;
  • coercing a person to engage in sexual activity or attempting to do so;
  • damaging a person’s property or threatening to do so;
  • depriving a person of the person’s liberty or threatening to do so (including financial dependence or isolation);
  • threatening a person with the death or injury of the person, a child of the person, or someone else;
  • threatening to commit suicide or self-harm so as to torment, intimidate or frighten the person to whom the behaviour is directed;
  • causing or threatening to cause the death of, or injury to, an animal, whether or not the animal belongs to the person to whom the behaviour is directed, so as to control, dominate or coerce the person;
  • unauthorised surveillance of a person (including reading a person’s SMS messages or monitoring a person’s social networking site); and
  • unlawfully stalking a person (under section 359B of the Criminal Code).

A person who counsels or procures (i.e. encourages or asks) someone else to engage in behaviour that, if engaged in by the person, would be domestic violence is taken to have committed domestic violence.

As you can see through the above examples, domestic and family violence is not limited to physical abuse. In recent years we have seen a rise in coercive control as form of abuse in domestic and family violence relationships. Coercive control can sometimes be more difficult to identify than other forms of abuse. On 6 March 2024, coercive control laws were passed in Queensland, which will come into force in 2025.[2]

Some acts of domestic and family violence also have corresponding criminal offences under the Criminal Code or other legislation (for example, assault, stalking etc).

Who can be a victim/survivor of domestic and family violence?

Domestic and family violence commonly occurs between people who are, or have been, in an intimate relationships, such as spouses, de facto partners and dating couples.

However, domestic violence also occurs in families. The terms ‘Domestic violence’ and ‘family violence’ are often used interchangeably in order to account for violence that occurs not only between partners but wider family members as well, such as children, parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, nieces/nephews etc.[3]

Domestic and family violence also affects people of all ages, cultures, religions and sexual preferences. In particular, the Act seeks to protect those most vulnerable to domestic and family violence, including women, children, people with a disability, elderly people, LGBTQIA + people, and Indigenous people.[4]

Why is it an issue?

There is significant research suggesting that the exposure of children to domestic violence, particularly between loved ones, is highly psychologically damaging.

For the most part, domestic violence is considered, and treated in family law and child protection as child abuse.  There is also some research that suggests that experiencing domestic violence as a child changes the way the child’s brain develops.

Research completed by the Centre for Family and Domestic Violence Research concluded that if an adult woman was subjected to physical abuse at ANY stage of their current relationship, they were 7 times more likely to demonstrate symptoms of a severe psychological issue.  If that abuse was in the past 12 months, it jumped to 21 times more likely.  If the woman was subjected to sexual abuse at any stage of the current relationship, they were 17 times more likely to demonstrate symptoms of severe psychological issues.

Records compiled by the Australian Institute of Criminology suggest that during 2007-2008, 52% of homicides in Australia involved victims who shared a family or domestic relationship with the offender.  31% were homicides involving partners. Those figures have not improved with time.

For victims of domestic violence, the implications reverberate through their lives – it affects their mental, spiritual and physical health.  On a secondary level it affects the ability of a victim to care for a home and family, and to perform to their normal standard at work, and in a social setting.

Some of our recommendations to help you take a stand against domestic and family Violence, or to assist you in helping someone who is experiencing domestic and family violence are as follows:

What you can do to prevent domestic and family violence

We’re all in it together to reduce the prevalence of domestic and family violence in our communities. Your response to domestic and family violence may help save someone’s life.

The Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women have published a helpful brochure on things you can do to support someone experiencing domestic and family violence. Here are a few key things we note that you can do to help reduce and prevent domestic and family violence in your community:

  1. Notice the signs that suggest someone is experiencing domestic and family violence.

Common signs can include:

  • They seem afraid of their partner or always very anxious to please them
  • They stop seeing you, other friends or family and become isolated
  • They become anxious or depressed, unusually quiet or less confident
  • They have a partner who is controlling, obsessive or jealous
  • They have a partner who has threatened to harm them, their children or pets
  • They have a partner who continually phones or texts to check on them
  • They have a partner who is depressed or suicidal
  • They have physical injuries (bruises, sprains or cuts on the body) and may give unlikely explanations for these injuries
  • They finish phone calls when their partner comes into the room
  • They are reluctant to leave their children with their partner
  • They suspect that they are being stalked or followed
  • They say their partner or carer gives them no access to money, makes them justify every cent that is spent or makes them hand over their money
  • They are denied adequate care if they are an older person or a person with a disability and the person caring for them is abusive.[5]
  1. Focus on the person’s safety.

If you notice signs of domestic and family violence, or your friend, colleague or family member discloses acts of domestic and family violence with you, the most important thing to consider is their safety. You can express your concerns for their wellbeing and politely ask if they have a safety plan (i.e. a safe place to go if they need to or a safe person to talk to). If the person is in immediate danger, encourage them to call Triple Zero.

  1. Let the person suffering from domestic and family violence know about the support services that are available to them.

Support services are important to helping victims of domestic and family violence consider their options and find access to safety. Familiarise yourself with the domestic and family violence support services available in your area, which could include:

  • DVConnect (Womensline) – 1800 811 811
  • Mensline – 1800 600 636
  • Brisbane Domestic violence services –07 3217 2544
  • Sexual Assault Helpline – 1800 010 120
  • Women’s Legal Service – 1800 957 957
  • Immigrant Women’s Support Service – 07 3846 3490

Domestic and Family Violence Protection Orders

Victims of domestic and family violence can seek to protect themselves and their children or relatives from harm by seeking a Domestic Violence Protection Order (“DVO”) from a Magistrates Court. A DVO can be sought in circumstances where:

  1. A relevant relationship exists between the perpetrator (Respondent) and the victim (Aggrieved);
  2. There has been at least one act of domestic and family violence committed by the perpetrator against the Aggrieved;
  3. The DVO is necessary and desirable to protect the victim from further acts of domestic and family violence.[6]

DVOs will impose certain conditions on the perpetrator of domestic and family violence to ensure the safety of the victim moving forward. Failure to comply with a DVO could amount to a criminal offence.

A victim of domestic and family violence may make an application for a DVO themselves or with the assistance of a lawyer. Alternatively, victims can contact the police and the police may make the application on the victim’s behalf in appropriate circumstances.

If the need for a DVO is not urgent it is a good idea to seek legal advice before making the application to ensure that you have taken appropriate and necessary steps to protect yourself and your children and to ensure that you are accessing the right process.

How can we help?

Vocare Law offer free 30 minute consultations for Domestic and Family Violence matters, for both Aggrieved and Respondent parties.

We also regularly provide advice to schools and other organisations who may have concerns about the impact of Domestic and Family Violence in their particular setting.

If you have any questions or concerns, or would like to arrange an appointment, you can Contact our office on (07) 3252 0011.

Helpful Links

Article written by Tabitha Gulley.

[1] Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Act 2012 (Qld) section 8.

[2] https://www.widebay.health.qld.gov.au/about-us/news/february-2025/coercive-control-is-now-a-crime-in-queensland see also https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/view/html/bill.first/bill-2023-007 and https://statements.qld.gov.au/statements/99847.

[3] Ibid, section 19.

[4] Ibid, section 4(2)(d).

[5] Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women, Support someone experiencing domestic and family violence brochure, 2022.

[6] Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Act 2012 (Qld) section 37.