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Domestic and Family Violence in Victoria

Domestic and family violence is a serious issue in Victoria. It is regulated by the Family Violence Protection Act 2008, which recognises that family violence is not just physical but also includes economic, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse. This article deals with domestic and family violence in Victoria.

Family Violence Protection Act

The Victorian Government has stated that the three main aims of the Act are the following:

  1. To maximise the safety of children and adults who have experienced family violence;
  2. To prevent and reduce the occurrence of family violence; and
  3. To promote the accountability of perpetrators of such violence and hold them accountable for their actions.

What is family violence?

Section 5 of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 defines family violence as behaviour towards a family member that is physically, emotionally, sexually, economically or psychologically abusive. It includes behaviour that is threatening, coercive, controlling, or dominating.

The definition of family violence also includes exposing a child to any of these behaviours. Examples of this are where a child sees one family member assault another family member or where a child cleans up after a family member has intentionally damaged the property of another family member.

Family violence is defined broadly in Victoria to include intentionally damaging property as well as threatening to do so. It also includes causing the death or injury to an animal, regardless of whether the animal belongs to a family member, so long as the violence was aiming to control, dominate, or coerce a family member.

Who are family members?

The Family Violence Protection Act 2008 provides a list of persons who fall within the definition of a “family member”. For the purposes of domestic and family violence in Victoria, a family member means:

  • A spouse or former spouses;
  • A domestic partner or former domestic partner. A domestic partner is a person who is not married to the family violence perpetrator but who has a personal or financial commitment and support of a domestic nature with that person. It is irrelevant whether they live in the same home and includes same-sex partners;
  • A person who has or has previously had an intimate personal relationship with the family violence perpetrator. An intimate relationship does not have to be sexual in nature;
  • A relative, such as a father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, sibling, and cousin;
  • A child who normally lives or used to live with the family violence perpetrator; and
  • A child of someone who has or previously had an intimate relationship with the family violence perpetrator.

Family member also means someone you regard as being like family under the Act. To determine whether the other person can be reasonably regarded as being like a family member the court will look at various factors. These factors are whether you live together, the social and emotional nature of your relationship, and the duration of the relationship.

For example, a long relationship between a carer and a person with a disability may be considered to be a family like relationship.

What is economic abuse?

Economic abuse refers to behaviour which shows that a person has tried to unreasonably control another family member’s economic or financial autonomy. For behaviour to be classified as economic abuse, it must be done without the other person’s consent.

Examples of economic abuse are when one family member withholds financial support that is needed to meet the living expenses of the other family member or where the abuser prevents a family member from seeking employment or prevents them from accessing property that is jointly held.

What is emotional or psychological abuse?

Emotional or psychological abuse is behaviour that torments, intimidates, harasses or is otherwise offensive to another family member. It includes persistent derogatory insults, threats to disclose personal information about your sexual orientation, and preventing you from maintaining connections with friends or other family members.

Where can I seek help if I am experiencing family violence?

If you are experiencing family violence you should seek help immediately by contacting a lawyer or the police. They can help you apply for a Family Violence Intervention Order to prohibit the family member from committing family violence against you in the future. Such orders may include a range of conditions that, if breached, can lead to a criminal charge.

Information on how to apply for an intervention order can be obtained in our article, Family Violence Intervention Order in Victoria.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.


Michelle Makela

Michelle Makela is a Legal Practice Director at Go To Court Lawyers. She holds a Juris Doctor, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master of Criminology. She was admitted to practice in 2006. Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. 

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