Northern Territory Department of the Attorney-General and Justice: Exposure Draft Justice Legislation Amendment (Domestic and Family Violence) Bill 2023
This submission draws on the ANROWS evidence base to recommend amendments to strengthen legislative reform in the Northern Territory. This includes highlighting the possibility of unintended consequences, including misidentification of the person most in need of protection and identifying relevant research for the development of coercive control guidelines.
The Northern Territory Department of the Attorney-General and Justice sought feedback on the Exposure Draft Justice Legislation Amendment (Domestic and Family Violence) Bill 2023 (the Exposure Draft Bill). The proposed reforms in the Exposure Draft Bill were intended to bring it into line with best practice and address inconsistencies in the current Northern Territory Domestic and Family Violence Act 2007 (NT).
This ANROWS submission drew on the evidence base to emphasise the potential for misidentification of the person most in need of protection through police and legal responses and the significant and lifelong impacts of this on victims and survivors of domestic and family violence. ANROWS also identified relevant research to be considered when developing coercive control guidelines. This submission suggested amendments to the Exposure Draft Bill that are intended to capture the experiences of children and young people, more accurately represent coercive control, reduce opportunities for the inappropriate criminalisation of victims and survivors and capture the broader relationships within which domestic and family violence (DFV) can be perpetrated.
ANROWS’s submission contained the following recommendations:
- Recommendation 1: Amend references throughout the Exposure Draft Bill that refer to children and young people being “exposed” to DFV to clarify that these children and young people have “experienced” DFV.
- Recommendation 2: Remove coercive control from the list of conduct that constitutes DFV and define coercive control as the overarching context for DFV.
- Recommendation 3: Improve the clarity of the provision referring to exposing a child to domestic violence to ensure that victims and survivors are not inappropriately criminalised.
- Recommendation 4: Consider expanding the relationships covered by the Exposure Draft Bill to include extended family members and kinship groups.
- Recommendation 5: Provide training to police and legal actors to improve their understanding of domestic and family violence as involving patterns of behaviour that occur within the overarching context of coercive control and to support a shift from incident-based to pattern-based police responses to DFV and sexual violence.
- Recommendation 6: Provide training to police and legal actors to respond adequately to family violence perpetrated by or against First Nations peoples, including consideration of whether the application of domestic violence legislation is appropriate.
- Recommendation 7: Provide guidance on roles and responsibilities to ensure that police and legal actors have clarity around the circumstances in which it is appropriate to withdraw or dismiss domestic violence order (DVO) applications.
- Recommendation 8: Consider mandating a review of the effectiveness of new provisions introduced to reduce misidentification to understand whether they are working as intended and if there are any unintended consequences of the Exposure Draft Bill.
ANROWS’s submission acknowledges that any legislative reform has the potential to create unintended consequences, suggesting that reform must be conducted with an awareness of the context of high incarceration rates and mandatory domestic and family violence reporting laws in the Northern Territory.
Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety. (2023). Re: Exposure Draft Justice Legislation Amendment (Domestic and Family Violence) Bill 2023 [Submission]. ANROWS.