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Law Council of Australia defines Family Violence

Nicole Stevens, ||

Family violence affects many Australians and is not limited to behaviour that would constitute as criminal. The Law Council of Australia has recently released a model which goes some way to defining the types of violent acts that will constitute as “family violence” as well as extending who may be classified as a “family member”.

Under the Law Council’s definition, family violence can include:

  • assaulting or causing personal injury to a family member or threatening to do so;
  • sexually assaulting a family member or engaging in another form of sexually coercive behaviour or threatening to engage in such behaviour;
  • intentionally damaging a family member’s property, or threatening to do so;
  • unlawfully depriving a family member of the family member’s liberty, or threatening to do so;
  • causing or threatening to cause the death of, or injury to, an animal, whether or not the animal belongs to the family member to whom the behaviour is directed so as to control, dominate or coerce the family member;
  • threatening a person with the death or injury of the person, a child of the person, or someone else;
  • unauthorised surveillance of a person;
  • unlawfully stalking or cyber stalking a person;
  • attaching a tracking device to a motor vehicle;
  • using without consent an application or device to track a person’s phone usage (calls and text messages, location data, internet history, etc.); and taking without consent or distributing without consent an intimate image of the family member, or threatening to distribute the image.

These definitions are not dissimilar to the definition set out in the Family Law Act 1975 where, under section 4AB, family violence can include:

  • an assault; or
  • a sexual assault or other sexually abusive behaviour; or
  • stalking; or
  • repeated derogatory taunts; or
  • intentionally damaging or destroying property; or
  • intentionally causing death or injury to an animal; or
  • unreasonably denying the family member the financial autonomy that he or she would otherwise have had; or
  • unreasonably withholding financial support needed to meet the reasonable living expenses of the family member, or his or her child, at a time when the family member is entirely or predominantly dependent on the person for financial support; or
  • preventing the family member from making or keeping connections with his or her family, friends or culture; or
  • unlawfully depriving the family member, or any member of the family member‘s family, of his or her liberty.

The Law Council and the Family Law Act’s definitions are a non-exhaustive list of examples of family violence.  The Law Council and the Family Law Act both also provide examples of a child hearing, witnessing or otherwise being exposed to family violence – section 4AB.

The reason behind the definitions is to harmonise the meaning of family violence across the nation. The Law Council president Tass Liveris said there is a need for “clear and consistent national definitions of the different forms of violence” to assist the legal professional to have a consistent understanding. The Law Council also extended who may constitute as a family member to also include relationships such as a person with a disability and their carer.

The model released by the Law Council of Australia is in support of the federal governments National Plant to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2023.  The government has also recently rolled out a two year trial which will provide a one of payment of $5,000 to women leaving a violent relationship. 

If you need assistance for putting in place agreements or orders in relation to your children and/or property after a breakdown of your relationship, please contact a member of Coleman Greig’s Family Law Team for a competent and timely service.

If you are in immediate fear for your safety or the safety of a loved one, please contact the Police on 000.


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