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Our research

Violence against women and their children affects everybody. It impacts on the health, wellbeing and safety of a significant proportion of Australians throughout all states and territories and places an enormous burden on the nation’s economy across family and community services, health and hospitals, income-support and criminal justice systems.


News and events

ANROWS hosts events as part of its knowledge transfer and exchange work, including public lectures, workshops and research launches. Details of upcoming ANROWS activities and news are available from the list on the right.



ANROWS was established by the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments of Australia to produce, disseminate and assist in applying evidence for policy and practice addressing violence against women and their children.



To support the take-up of evidence, ANROWS offers a range of resources developed from research to support practitioners and policy-makers in delivering evidence-based interventions.

Accurately identifying the ‘person most in need of protection’ in domestic and family violence law

Project completed
November 2020

This in-house project was conducted by ANROWS. It aimed to support the effective identification of the “person most in need of protection” in cases where there is some ambiguity about who perpetrated domestic violence and abuse.

The research responded to a recommendation of the Queensland Domestic Violence Death Review and Advisory Board in its 2016-17 Annual Report. The Advisory Board reported that in just under half (44.4%) of all cases of female deaths subject to the review, the woman had been identified as a respondent to a domestic and family violence (DFV) protection order on at least one occasion.

Further, in nearly all of the DFV-related deaths of Aboriginal people, the deceased had been recorded as both respondent and aggrieved prior to their death (p. 82).

The Board’s report recommended research to identify how best to respond to the person most in need of protection where there are mutual allegations of violence and abuse (Recommendation 16).

Responding to that recommendation, the research used a mixed methods approach. This included a national analysis of statistical data (domestic violence order applications, police-issued orders and related criminal charges) and a national desktop review of existing legislative and police requirements and guidance on identifying the DFV victim or perpetrator. The project also involved an in-depth case study of Queensland as a state that has already incorporated the concept of the person most in need of protection into legislation.

The final report emphasises the need for improved guidance for police on identifying patterns of coercive control, and guidance for magistrates on how and when they can dismiss inappropriate applications and/or orders. It recommends clarifying processes of decision-making and accountability between police and the courts as a way of addressing the current ambiguity surrounding responsibility for the determination of the person most in need of protection.


Project lead

Dr Heather Nancarrow, CEO, ANROWS

Project support

Kate Thomas, Senior Research Officer

Dr Valerie Ringland, Senior Research Officer, ANROWS

Tanya Modini, Senior Research Officer, ANROWS

Research partners

ANROWS partnered with Sisters Inside to facilitate engagement with and support for women with lived experience of criminalisation in the context of misidentification of domestic and family violence aggrieved and respondents. A project reference group consisting of experts with relevant expertise assisted in providing national context for the findings from the research.



Accurately identifying the “person most in need of protection” in domestic and family violence law



Accurately identifying the “person most in need of protection” in domestic and family violence law: Key findings and future directions

see also


Study highlights gap between intentions and outcomes of domestic violence law and strategies for systems reform

View more


Accurately identifying the person most in need of protection

This webinar launches the research ‘Accurately identifying “the person most in need of protection” in domestic and family violence law’. The research report focuses on the gap between the intent of the law and its application, factors that contribute to women being misidentified as perpetrators of DFV, and areas for improvement through procedural guidance and professional development for police and courts.


  • Dr Heather Nancarrow, CEO ANROWS & lead author of the report
  • His Honour Terry Ryan, State Coroner and Chair, Queensland Domestic and Family Violence Death Review and Advisory Board
  • Inspector Ben Martain, Manager, State Domestic, Family Violence and Vulnerable Persons Unit, Queensland Police Service
  • His Honour Colin Strofield, Magistrate, Brisbane Magistrates Court

Facilitated by: Ms Sam Mostyn, Chair of the ANROWS Board



Funded by Australian Commonwealth, state and territory governments under ANROWS’s 2017 core grant round.

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