Qld considers affirmative consent laws

A major review has called for Queensland to adopt affirmative consent laws to better deliver justice to victims and survivors of sexual assault.

The final report of the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce makes 188 recommendations to improve the way the state’s criminal justice system handles those impacted by abuse and violence.

The sweeping proposals include changing the law relating to sexual assault, refining and strengthening the responses of courts and stakeholders, and bringing the law of affirmative consent in line with other states.


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An affirmative consent model means a person must do or say something to declare they have consent before sex – also called “enthusiastic consent”.

It is designed to negate the argument that an accused offender had “reasonable grounds” for believing the complainant consented.

Other changes relate to custody, prison and sentencing reform so that fewer women offenders will be unnecessarily incarcerated.

Headed by former Court of Appeal president Margaret McMurdo, the task force received hundreds of submissions including more than 250 from victim-survivors of sexual assault and 19 from offenders.

“For too long society has regarded sexual violence as a taboo. But it is prevalent in our community with one in five women and one in 20 men experiencing sexual violence,” Ms McMurdo said.

“Those who do report find their experiences, from police to jury trial and verdict, traumatising, confusing, disempowering and slow.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk paid tribute to the 700 people who made submissions and said the recommendations will be considered by cabinet soon.

“It is, I believe, the most comprehensive report of its kind ever to be undertaken in Australia,” she said on Friday.

It follows the findings of an inquest into the devastating murders of Brisbane woman Hannah Clarke and her three children at the hands of her husband, Rowan Baxter.

“Sexual violence remains one of the most heinous forms of violence in Australian society, with females representing an estimated 84 per cent of reported sexual assault victims,” Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said.

“Two in five of these assaults can be linked to domestic and family violence.”

Ms Fentiman said this was the “incomprehensible reality” victims face and why it was vital to remove any barriers for women coming forward to utilise the justice system.

The attorney-general said the findings and recommendations of Ms McMurdo’s report spoke volumes and would be carefully considered, including in relation to Queensland’s consent laws.

The taskforce was established in March 2021 with the first report, Hear her voice, making 89 recommendations including a new criminal offence of coercive control.

The state government has committed to introducing the legislation by the end of 2023.

Coercive control includes isolating a partner from family and friends, monitoring their movements, controlling their access to money and psychological and emotional manipulation.

That form of abuse disproportionately affects women.

The government has also allocated $363 million to expand domestic violence courts, boost support services, plan a First Nations strategy and fund perpetrator programs “to change men’s behaviour”.

“These are complex issues that require significant consideration to determine how best to strengthen our criminal justice system to better respond to women and girls experiencing violence,” Ms Fentiman said.

“We’re committed to ending all forms of domestic, family and sexual violence in this state and know there is much work yet to be done.”

© AAP 2022