A state-by-state legal guide to coercive control laws in Australia

Coercive control is a clinical sounding phrase. But in reality it’s anything but. Instead, it’s an insidious pattern of abuse that can lead to devastating consequences.

Here’s what you need to know about coercive control laws in Australia, and how to get help if you’ve been a victim.

Note: If you are in any danger, please reach out to the police right away who can help you stay safe. Then get in touch with our team who can help you understand your legal rights and options moving forward.


What is coercive control?

Coercive control is when someone – usually a romantic partner – uses a pattern of abusive behaviours that hurt (physically, psychologically, financially or emotionally), humiliate, frighten, isolate , threaten another person in a way that leads to their isolation, and gives the abusive party control and domination over them.

In the family or relationship situation, it’s considered a form of domestic violence, and now the laws are treating it as such.

Signs of coercive control

Relationships Victoria has listed 12 signs of coercive control.


An abusive partner will cut you off from your support system, including friends and family.


An abusive partner will monitor your activity throughout the day.

Denying you freedoms

An abusive partner will try to limit your freedoms and autonomy. This may be by not allowing you to go to work or school or by taking away your transportation, or phones or even by changing your passwords.


An abusive partner makes you doubt the things you know and experience, so that you may question your own sanity and accept their version of the situation. Gaslighting is based on lies and manipulation of the truth.


An abusive partner may call you names or viciously criticise you.

Controlling money

An abusive partner will control your money and finances to keep you disempowered and so that you aren’t able to leave the relationship. This might include keeping you on an extremely strict budget, hiding financial resources from you, preventing you from having a credit card or limiting your access to your bank accounts or money generally.

Domestic duties

An abusive partner may coerce you into taking care of all the domestic duties like childcare, cleaning and cooking.

Turning children against you

An abusive partner may try to turn your children against you by belittling you in front of them, telling them you’re a bad parent or drip-feeding them a narrative that undermines you or strengthens their own narratives.

Control your body

An abusive partner may try to control how you look or how you take care of yourself. They may control how much you eat, exercise, dress or even do your hair.


An abusive partner may make jealous accusations about the time you spend with others, including friends and family. They will use this as a way to isolate you.


An abusive partner may make demands about your sex life including how often you have sex and what you do during sex.

Threatening children or pets

An abusive partner may make threats – physical, emotional or financial – against your children or pets, or other people that you love.


What are the laws in Australia on coercive control?

Queensland Premier Steven Miles has said that ‘Coercive control is the most common factor that leads to domestic violence murders.’ Yet at this stage only two states – New South Wales and Queensland – have criminalised these behaviours implicitly.

Coercive control laws New South Wales

From 1 July 2024, coercive control has been made a criminal offence in NSW under the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Coercive Control) Act 2022. The government has indicated that it’s made this change because of the strong link between coercive control and intimate partner homicide death. In fact, the NSW Domestic Violence Death Review Team found that coercive control was a part of 97% of domestic violence homicide cases.

The maximum penalty for coercive control is seven years imprisonment.

Coercive control laws Queensland

The murder of Hannah Clarke and her children in Queensland certainly spurred on the Queensland government. And Queensland became the second state in Australia to criminalise coercive control under the Criminal Law (Coercive Control and Affirmative Consent) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 passed in the Queensland Parliament on 6 March 2024.

The maximum penalty for coercive control in QLD is 14 years imprisonment.

Coercive control laws Victoria

In Victoria coercive behaviour, such as intimidating, threatening or forcing a person into doing something, controlling behaviour, such as using technology to track someone and financial abuse, such as controlling someone’s money without their consent, is criminalised under general family violence laws.

Coercive control laws South Australia

In South Australia, the government has committed to criminalising coercive control. At this time, it’s consulting on draft legislation to make that change.

Coercive control laws Western Australia

In November 2023, the Western Australia government announced that it would take a phased approach to criminalising coercive control. The first step would be through reforming the Restraining Orders Act and implementing training for police officers and educators.

Coercive control laws TAS, the ACT & the NT

In Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, much like Victoria, many aspects of coercive control our outlawed under the states’ more general family violence acts. But all of the attorneys-general of all of the states and territories have agreed to now act to criminalise this behaviour, so we should see more changes in the future.


What to do if you are the victim of coercive control

If you  suspect that you might be the victim of coercive control, it’s important to reach out for support as soon as possible. Don’t ignore your suspicions. Disbelief is one of the most common reactions because many don’t think they’re being ‘abused’ if there are no physical beatings or violence. Under these conditions, it’s easy to ignore feelings that things aren’t right.

But it’s vital that you get help and support as a matter of urgent priority from someone that you trust, from the police, your legal advisor or from a support agency. If you are in immediate danger call 000.

Some agencies that can help are:

  1. 1800RESPECT
  2. Lifeline, 13 11 14
  3. WWILD, 07 3262 9877
  4. DVConnect
  5. DVNSW

Get independent legal advice

It’s important that you get independent legal advice as soon as you can (once you are safe). Our team is on hand to help you understand your rights and how to protect yourself legally and financially.


Help is available

At the end of the day, just because there is no physical violence doesn’t mean that abuse didn’t occur, and the scars can take longer to heal. The most important thing to understand is that help is available. Please reach out as soon as you can.

You can easily request a call back from our team by filling in the form below. Our empathetic and supportive legal experts are ready to assist.

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