Australian gov’t to strengthen sexual abuse response

The Australian government has decided to establish a national plan to stamp out coercive control.

Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus on Friday met with his counterparts from Australia’s states and territories and New Zealand to discuss strengthening the criminal justice response to sexual assault.

In a statement on Saturday, Dreyfus said the meeting endorsed a draft proposal for national principles to address coercive control.

Coercive control is a form of domestic abuse designed to create power or dominance over a person.

“These principles — the first of their kind — represent a significant step toward a shared national understanding of coercive control,” Dreyfus said.

This shared understanding is vital for greater community awareness and will be an important tool in improving the safety of women and children, he said.

Friday’s meeting came after 2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame urged governments to improve the experiences of sexual abuse victim-survivors in the criminal justice system, and harmonize and better define laws around sexual assault.

It also endorsed a five-year plan to toughen the justice response to abuse.

“The Attorney-General’s Department and the Australian Institute of Criminology will review the definitions of consent, as well as broader definitions relating to sexual assault and child sexual abuse,” Dreyfus said.

“This will include legislation with respect to consent and stealthing, which has been the subject of recent calls for reform from advocates.” ■