The Queensland government has ordered a Commission of Inquiry into police responses to domestic and family violence after survivors raised concerns about their treatment.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the probe is in line with recommendations from the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce led by former Court of Appeal president Margaret McMurdo.
The four-month inquiry will look at how adequately police have dealt with domestic violence cases.
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“Let me make this very clear: our police service does an exemplary job, countless lives have been saved because of the men and women in our police service,” the premier told parliament on Tuesday.
“But many survivors report that they did not receive an adequate response at their particular point in time.”
The state government has also promised to tighten stalking laws and introduce bill to criminalise coercive control 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 in Queensland.
The government has also allocated $375 million to expand domestic violence courts, boost support services, plan a First Nations strategy and fund perpetrator programs “to change men’s behaviour”.
High-risk police teams and co-responder programs with domestic violence services will be expanded, and there will be extra funding for education programs in schools.
Sue and Lloyd Clarke, whose daughter Hannah and her three children were burned to death in their car by her estranged husband in 2020, welcomed the plan.
“Now we just have to work on the other states. We’ve got Queensland to listen and they’ve listened well,” Ms Clarke told reporters.
“And now if we can move on to other states, if we can get this a national law, that can be fantastic.”
Vanessa Fowler, whose sister Allison-Baden Clay was murdered by her husband Gerard in 2012, said community awareness of coercive control was crucial.
She said her sister suffered coercive control in the lead-up to her killing, and outlawing that form of abuse may have helped her.
“In Allison’s case, there was coercive control, and we as a family didn’t recognise that because at that time there wasn’t a lot of education around it,” Ms Fowler told reporters.
“People were not talking about it. It was a dark conversation, and it was swept under the carpet.
“But of course since her death, we have highlighted the fact that that can happen to anyone, that domestic abuse doesn’t discriminate, and so now people are talking about it.”
Former police commissioner Bob Atkinson, who sits on the government’s Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Council, said funding for prevention programs was vital.
He said Queensland police received 120,000 domestic and family violence calls in 2021.
Mr Atkinson said on average two Australian women were being murdered every week and 10 needed hospital treatment for injuries every day.
He’s hopeful that momentum to deal with domestic and family violence continues.
“We’ve got a way to go. This is tremendous what’s happened today,” Mr Atkinson said.
“We can’t afford to lose the momentum that exists.”
The Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce is due to hand down its final report into the experience of women in the justice system in June.
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