19 October 2022

Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains) (15:44): I make a contribution to debate on the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Coercive Control) Bill 2022. I begin by remembering Hannah Clarke. In an interview with Hannah Clarke's parents inThe Guardian last year, they listed the coercive control behaviours that Rowan Baxter exhibited. That heart-wrenching list, which does not finish with her death, is the focus of the need for the bill we are debating today. The list reads:

He isolated Hannah from her family and friends and limited her access to them.

He deprived Hannah of basic needs such as food, clothing and sleep.

He controlled her daily life: where she could go, who she could see, what she must wear.

He prevented her from attending doctors for her medical needs.

He belittled Hannah with insults about her figure and her mothering ability.

He made up rules for her to obey and punished her for disobeying his rules.

He stalked her, monitoring her location using mobile phone tracking software and devices and followed her to different locations.

He tracked other members of her family, spied on them and confronted them in public places.

He had threatened to kill his previous wife and son.

He threatened to kill himself as a means of trying to force Hannah to stay with him.

He printed and shared intimate photos of Hannah.

He destroyed mobile phones and his children's watches.

He destroyed household goods. He threw away toys belonging to his children as punishment for them not putting them away.

All red flags for physical violence or domestic homicide. Previous speakers have outlined a definition or description of coercive control. It a form of domestic violence or domestic abuse where perpetrators aim to take away their partner's autonomy and freedom. I have just outlined a very real description, rather than a dictionary definition, of what those controlling behaviours are. In the Joint Select Committee on Coercive Control inquiry victims-survivors told us that the effects of coercive control last longer than the wounds inflicted by physical violence.

The Joint Select Committee on Coercive Control found that New South Wales laws do not respond well to coercive control as a type of abuse and that there is poor understanding of it in our community. The inquiry looked at ways to better respond to the phenomenon of coercive control, including improving current domestic violence laws; public education about all forms of domestic abuse; more funding for domestic violence and housing services; improving the policing of domestic violence; education and training for frontline staff; oversight of domestic violence laws and services; and implementing a criminal offence of coercive control. The committee began its work with the statistics that of the 112 intimate partner domestic homicides that occurred in New South Wales between 2008 and 2016, the Domestic Violence Death Review Team found that there was intimate partner abuse using coercive controlling behaviours towards the victim in every case bar one. That has been repeated many times in this debate, but it is worth noting again.

As the Attorney General noted, the bill has been presented by the Government as a culmination of a prolonged consultation process. The Joint Select Committee on Coercive Control conducted its inquiry in 2020 and 2021. The committee made six key findings and 23 recommendations on what steps the Government should take in combatting coercive control. In response to the committee's report, the Government committed to legislating against coercive control in intimate and former intimate partner relationships. At this juncture, I thank Attorney General Mr Mark Speakman for his comprehensive and caring leadership in the time that I have been in this place. I also acknowledge and thank the shadow Attorney General and the shadow Minister for Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault for their work. It is tough work. It is not just process work.

The introduction of this bill follows two previous bills that were introduced in this Parliament in recent years. The Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Amendment (Coercive Control—Preethi's Law) Bill 2020 was introduced by my colleague Anna Watson, the member for Shellharbour. I thank her for her passionate advocacy. I am reminded of the time when the member for Shellharbour introduced me to Nithya, Preethi Reedy's sister, and told me about her meeting with the family. That has been the catalyst for her activity since. I acknowledge Ms Abigail Boyd, a colleague in the other House, and the bill she introduced to the Legislative Council. I acknowledge those women and their advocacy.

The bill, as members will know, will create a bespoke standalone criminal offence of coercive control with key safeguard. That offence consists of five elements to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. The Attorney General, our shadow Ministers and others have already meticulously covered the technical aspects of the bill, so I need not do so again. However, one thing I mention is that the bill provides for a statutory review of the offence after three years of operation. That review will include consideration of whether the mental element will be extended to recklessness; whether the scope of relationships captured should be expanded; the impacts on Aboriginal people; the misidentification of victims-survivors; and whether the penalty should be increased. The provision for that statutory review is an incredibly important inclusion in the bill.

I turn to the Joint Select Committee on Coercive Control and acknowledge my colleagues on that committee: the Hon. Natalie Ward, MLC, my colleague in the other place and someone who has become my friend; Ms Abigail Boyd, MLC; Mr Justin Clancy, MP; Ms Steph Cooke, MP; the Hon. Rod Roberts, MLC; Mr Peter Sidgreaves, MP; and Ms Anna Watson, MP. I further extend my deep and sincere thanks to the committee staff for their diligence, care, professionalism and their work beyond the call of duty—including bringing me tissues when I cried. I read onto the record excerpts from the Chair's foreword, who spoke for many of us on that joint select committee. Indeed, these are collective thoughts. It reads:

The enormity of this task and expectations of those with interest have weighed on me heavily, perhaps more than any other task I have been humbled to have been entrusted to undertake in this role. It has affected me deeply.

While so much of the work of parliamentary committees affects our citizens' lives, it is often process driven and at a distance. As we heard the evidence of terror, of murder, of heartbreak, and of bare survival in the lives of women and children ... it became apparent that the evidence demonstrated we have an obligation to do more ...

Our deepest appreciation is extended to the brave souls who took the time to prepare written submissions, who shared their experiences, and had the guts to re-open their wounds in order to educate us. To those who work in, care for and provide services for victim survivors, and families of those who haven't survived, including Police, we thank you ...


More important than any of us, are the women and children who walk among us and are barely surviving the domestic terrorism of coercive control every day. It is no exaggeration, it is a silent, hidden and deathly pandemic. ...

Those advocates who have worked ... for decades, those who were concerned enough to boldly disagree and those who have quietly persisted despite the complexity, brought uncensored depth to the evidence we received. We are grateful.

Most importantly of all, are the eyes of children growing up in and out of homes where domestic abuse hangs as a silent, terrifying and deadly ticking bomb. They deserve better.


We also know that criminalising coercive control will not immediately end all domestic abuse.


We will never know of the murders that did not occur, as a result of prevention. But lives just might be saved ...

[Extension of time]

That was the Hon. Natalie Ward's foreword. She was very inclusive in the process of the committee's work. Those thoughts echo many of ours. It was harrowing, life-changing and a privilege to be of service through the work of the committee and be involved in that inquiry. On a personal level, I pay tribute to my mum, my sisters and my brothers who I referenced in my inaugural speech. The trauma still runs very deep, but we are all alive. In preparing my contribution to today's debate, I recalled something we used to say to one another: We will be okay. And we are. I note that the first recommendation of the joint select committee states:

That the NSW Government should respond to the Domestic Violence Death Review Team evidence, by criminalising coercive control.

I turn now to the concerns outlined by Domestic Violence NSW, which were echoed by the NSW Women's Alliance, the Domestic Violence NSW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women's Steering Committee, and the Domestic Violence NSW Lived Experience Policy Advisory Committee. I acknowledge that many in the sector have sought to defer the bill. They acknowledge that the current bill is complex, but they have also made comments that the sector understands there is cross-party support for criminalising coercive control even though they seek to delay it. I note that my colleague the member for Charlestown has provided a detailed response to those concerns. I acknowledge those concerns and her answers.

I offer my deep respect and gratitude to the organisations that I worked closely with over a few years and that I continue to liaise with, including Domestic Violence NSW, Full Stop Australia, Women's Safety NSW, Community Legal Services NSW, the Older Women's Network, the Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service, Women's Health NSW, Women's Legal Centre, Our Watch, the Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women's Legal Centre, author Jess Hill, advocate Rosie Batty, and all the voices for change and the people I met in my time as the shadow Minister. I could not have done all that work if it were not for the fantastic staff in my office, former and current, including Councillor Suzie van Opdorp and Donna Mulhearn.

Importantly, I acknowledge the good work that has happened on an important issue. In his respectful letter in response to the organisations who contacted him with their concerns, the Attorney General said, "We need to address the insidious and horrific behaviour that is coercive control." We cannot fail to criminalise coercive controlling behaviour, and that is why I support the bill. Finally, my entire life has been anchored in surviving domestic violence. My great privilege and position as a legislator means so much to me both professionally and politically but, more importantly, personally. In supporting the bill I acknowledge my mum in particular and the work that I have done for her.