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Domestic and Family Violence in New South Wales

The main legislation dealing with domestic and family violence in New South Wales is the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007. This Act sets out the key definitions, the process of obtaining a restraining order, and other relevant rules.

The objectives of the Act in relation to domestic violence are set out in section 9 as including the following:

  • Ensuring the safety of all persons, including children, who experience domestic violence;
  • Reducing and preventing the occurrence of violence within domestic relationships;
  • Enacting legislation consistent with the principles underlying the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women; and
  • Enacting provisions that are consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Below is a summary of the key definitions provided under the Crimes (Domestic and Personal) Violence Act 2007 and how you can get help if you require protection.

Unlike legislation in other states, the Crimes (Domestic and Personal) Violence Act 2007 does not specifically define domestic violence in New South Wales.

What is domestic violence in New South Wales?

Unlike other Australian jurisdictions the New South Wales legislation does not specifically define domestic violence but it does define intimidation and stalking. It is then up to the courts to define domestic violence in NSW.

Domestic and family violence is a serious crime that can take my forms, including physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse. It includes behaviour that is threatening, controlling, dominating, intimidating, and stalking.

Examples of domestic violence include controlling a family member’s finances, depriving them of their liberty, damaging their property, and physically abusing them by slapping, kicking, or punching.

What is intimidation?

Section 7 of the Act states that intimidation of a person means the following conduct:

  • Conduct that amounts to harassment or molestation of another person;
  • Approaching someone by any means (including any technological devices, such as mobile phone) that causes a person to fear for their safety; and
  • Any conduct that causes a reasonable apprehension of injury to a person or damage to their property.

The maximum penalty is a term of imprisonment up to five years, a fine up to 50 penalty units ($5,500 at the time of writing), or both. It is not necessary for the person to have actually feared physical or mental harm.

A person who stalks another with the intention of causing the other person to fear physical or mental harm is a guilty of an offence when they have a domestic relationship.

What is stalking while in a domestic relationship?

Section 7 states that, for the purposes of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007, stalking includes the following:

  • Watching a person or following them; and
  • Frequenting their location.

This includes approaching a person’s home, business, workplace, or any other place the person frequently visits for social or leisure. The same maximum penalty for engaging in intimidating conduct applies to stalking. That is, imprisonment up to five years, a fine up to 50 penalty units ($5,500), or both.

What constitutes a domestic relationship?

A domestic relationship is defined under section 5 of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007. A domestic relationship includes people who are, or have been married or in a de facto relationship.

The definition also includes people who have, or have previously had, an intimate relationship. This is regardless of whether or not the relationship is sexual in nature. It also applies to people who have, or used to, live together in the same household, carer relationships (both paid and unpaid), and relatives.

‘Relative’ is defined broadly under section 6 as including parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews, in-laws, and other people related by marriage. In the case of Aboriginal or a Torres Strait Islanders, a relative includes people who are regarded as a relative in accordance with the Indigenous kinship system.

Where can I get help?

Everyone has the right to feel safe in a relationship. If you are experiencing domestic violence right now, you should contact the police urgently on 000.

Police Domestic Violence Order

A police officer can apply for an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) on your behalf in NSW. An ADVO is designed to restrain the defendant from contacting you and may place other necessary conditions on them. For example, prohibiting the defendant from approaching you within 12 hours of consuming alcohol or illicit drugs.

In some circumstances a police officer must make an ADVO. For example, when a police officer suspects that a domestic violence offence has recently been committed.

Private application for a Domestic Violence Order

You may also apply for an ADVO yourself by attending your local court. It is recommended that you first speak to a lawyer before applying for an order.

For further information about restraining orders in NSW, see our dedicated articles, Apprehended Violence Orders in New South Wales, Applying for an AVO in New South Wales, and Breach of an AVO in New South Wales.


Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.

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