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Historic moment as ‘Hannah’s Law’ passes

PREMIER COERCIVE CONTROL
Coercive control laws have passed in Queensland in a historic moment for the protection of women against domestic and family violence.

Coercive control will become a criminal offence in Queensland after historic laws driven by the deaths of Hannah Clarke and her children were passed in parliament.

Sue and Lloyd Clarke, who lost their daughter and grandchildren in a horrific firebombing attack at the hands of Hannah’s estranged ex-husband Rowan Baxter in February 2020, said the changes were a “mighty” step to empowering women across the state in the fight against domestic violence.

Their daughter’s death sparked a widespread outpouring of grief and broader commentary on the effectiveness of frontline services in combating domestic, family and sexual (DFS) violence, as well as coercive control.

Hannah Clarke and her children were murdered at the hands of her abusive estranged ex-husband Rowan Baxter in 2020. Picture: Supplied
Hannah Clarke and her children were murdered at the hands of her abusive estranged ex-husband Rowan Baxter in 2020. Picture: Supplied
PREMIER COERCIVE CONTROL
Hannah’s parents Lloyd and Sue Clarke speak to the media after “Hannah’s law” was passed on Wednesday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / John Gass

Sue Clarke became emotional discussing how Hannah’s legacy would “inspire” other states to empower and protect women and children.

“On behalf of Hannah, Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey, we welcome Queensland making a pursuit of justice against coercive control possible,” she said.

“We will continue to speak out until coercive control is criminalised throughout Australia.”

Unlike more overt forms of domestic violence, coercive control involves patterns of behaviours which include emotional, psychological and economic abuse, along with isolation, intimidation, sexual coercion and cyberstalking.

A coronial inquest into the deaths of Hannah and her children found Baxter displayed controlling and abusive behaviours towards his wife.

The deaths of Hannah Clarke and her children prompted a widespread outpouring of grief and shed light on the form of domestic violence known as coercive control. Picture: Supplied
The deaths of Hannah Clarke and her children prompted a widespread outpouring of grief and shed light on the form of domestic violence known as coercive control. Picture: Supplied

Some of these included controlling what she wore and who she could see, demanding sex every night and berating her body image, in addition to assaulting her and stalking her after their separation.

On Wednesday, landmark reforms in the Criminal Law (Coercive Control and Affirmative Consent) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 – colloquially referred to as “Hannah’s law” – concerning frontline services’ responses to DFS violence were passed by parliament.

The Clarkes, along with the family of Allison Baden-Clay in 2012, who was murdered by her husband Gerard, and members of the state’s Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce, were major drivers of the legislative changes.

“The state government has listened to the lived experience of victims and survivors,” Mr Clarke said after the laws passed.

PREMIER COERCIVE CONTROL
Queensland Premier Steven Miles and Minister for Women Shannon Fentiman said the historic legislation would make coercive control a criminal offence in the state. Picture: NCA NewsWire / John Gass
PREMIER COERCIVE CONTROL
The new laws will come into effect from 2025. Picture: NCA NewsWIRE / John Gass

“But now we must work together to educate Queenslanders to recognise coercive control red flags.”

Under the new reforms, set to come into effect next year, coercive control will carry a maximum penalty of 14 years’ jail.

The practice of stealthing – the non-consensual removing of a condom during intercourse – will also be recognised as rape.

Other changes include new jury directions for sexual offence proceedings in court, imposing a duty on the court to disallow improper question and introducing a new offence of engaging in domestic and family violence (DFV) to aid a respondent.

There will also be new aggravating factors for DFV offences and the establishment of a court-based perpetrator diversion scheme.

PREMIER COERCIVE CONTROL
The Clarkes have called it a “mighty” step in the empowerment of women across the state. Picture: NCA NewsWIRE / John Gass

Queensland Premier Steven Miles said the historic legislation was a “monumental” announcement for women and girls in the state.

“What we know is that coercive control is the most common factor that leads to domestic violence murders,” he said on Wednesday.

“We have made strides to help people identify and report coercive control and we know by criminalising this offence, even more lives will be saved.

Coercive control is also illegal in NSW.

If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual abuse or family violence contact:

 

  • National Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence Counselling Service 24-hour helpline 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732

  • 24-hour Emergency Accommodation helpline on 1800 800 588

  • Safe At Home helpline on 1800 633 937

  • National Violence and Abuse Trauma Counselling and Recovery Service on 1800 FULLSTOP (1800 385 578). They also have a specific line for the LGBTIQA+ community called the Rainbow Sexual, Domestic and Family Violence Helpline on 1800 497 212

  • SHE (free and confidential counselling and support) on 6278 9090

  • Sexual Assault Support Services on 6231 1811, or after hours 6231 1817

  • Family Violence Crisis and Support Service on 1800 608 122

  • Bravehearts – Sexual Assault Support for Children on 1800 BRAVE 1

  • Kids Helpline is for young people aged 5 to 25 on 1800 551 800

 

Don't go it alone. Please reach out for help by contacting Lifeline on 13 11 14