Feeling unsafe? Find support services   emergency? call 000


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.


Domestic violence, social security and the couple rule: Key findings and future directions

This is an edited summary of key findings from ANROWS research Domestic violence, social security and the couple rule.

This research examined publicly available Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) decisions that involved domestic violence and the couple rule. Seventy AAT matters were identified over the period 1992 to 2016. Decisions were analysed with the aim of detailing the dynamic between domestic violence, social security payments and the couple rule.

The research explored the ways in which priority populations are impacted by the application of the couple rule.

In brief:

  • Centrelink uses “the couple rule” to determine whether a person should be considered a member of a couple for social security purposes.
  • The couple rule can cause difficulty for women attempting to leave a violent partner.
  • This research explored the experiences of women who appealed Centrelink decisions about the couple rule, in cases where domestic violence was involved.

Key recommendations:

  • The Social Security Act 1991 (Cth) should be amended to explicitly include domestic violence as a factor to be considered when determining whether a person should be considered a member of a couple for social security purposes and whether a Centrelink debt should be waived.
  • All Centrelink and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) decision-makers should be required to complete training in domestic violence.
  • Centrelink and the AAT should develop guidelines regarding the use of domestic violence records from state institutions (including police and hospitals).
  • AAT decisions should be de-identified before becoming publicly available to protect women’s safety.



Publication details

ANROWS Research to policy and practice papers are concise papers that summarise key findings of research on violence against women and their children, including research produced under ANROWS’s research program, and provide advice on the implications for policy and practice.



Suggested citation

Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety. (2019). Domestic violence, social security and the couple rule: Key findings and future directions (Research to policy and practice, 04/2019). Sydney, NSW: ANROWS.

Back to top