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'We hear you': Hannah Clarke's parents praise moves to outlaw coercive control

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Queensland could become the second state to make coercive control a crime as police training and community education begins on what up until recently has been a hidden form of domestic violence.

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In November, NSW outlawed coercive control – a pattern of controlling and manipulative behaviours over another person, such as limiting their financial independence or contact with their family or friends.



Queensland passed laws on Wednesday night to define domestic violence as including behaviour patterns over time, following an emotional parliamentary debate in which a number of women MPs shared stories about unknowingly being victims of coercive control in the past.

Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said police would be trained to identify and respond to coercive control, and the community, particularly children, will be educated about it before it becomes a crime.

“At the moment, really, our system is set up to respond to one individual incident of physical violence, and that is not how domestic and family violence is experienced by so many victims,” she told reporters on Thursday.

The government started on the path to criminalising coercive control after the Brisbane mother Hannah Clarke, 33, and her children – Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey – were doused in petrol and burned alive in their car by her estranged husband Rowan Baxter in February 2020.

Hannah’s parents, Sue and Lloyd Clarke, have been advocating for coercive control to become a crime and hope the new offence will be enacted in Queensland before what would have been their daughter’s 36th birthday in September.

Sue Clarke hoped legally redefining coercive control as a form of domestic violence would help all its victims to know they were validated.

“We hear them, and please come forward if you’re suffering any experiences, and also we want to put it out there to friends and family to look out for these red flags, and to be there for family members, or speak up to a family member or friend who you may think is perpetrating,” she told reporters.

The Clarkes, who run the Small Steps 4 Hannah Foundation to educate children and support victims and their families, also look forward to more people in Queensland learning about coercive control.

“Most importantly, we need to look at how to break up respectfully. I think that’s what we all need to learn and to actually not be bystanders anymore, stand up and, if you see something, say something, that’s about all the community getting on board with that,” Lloyd Clarke said.

Courts will also consider relevant domestic violence or criminal history, have more power to respond to protection application orders so as to protect people most at risk, and award costs to prevent perpetrators from using the legal process to abuse victims further.

Domestic violence complainants and other witnesses will be under the protected witness scheme, and courts will be allowed to give directions to juries and hear expert witnesses on domestic violence.

-AAP

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