Our Blog

Key Trends in Family Violence

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Personal Safety Survey, over a quarter of women have experienced family violence since the age of 15, and data from the Crime Statistics Agency indicates that the rate of family violence in Victoria is gradually increasing.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA) has observed this high prevalence within the family law matters before it. Initial Court data at the point of filing has revealed that between 2022 and 2023, 83 percent of parties in family law matters alleged that they had experienced family violence. One way that the FCFCOA has responded to this high prevalence is through the expansion of the Lighthouse initiative in November 2022. Lighthouse is a world-first initiative of the Court that screens family law litigants for major risk factors, including family violence and child abuse, at the filing stage, ensuring safe and protective case management from the outset. Since its expansion, Lighthouse has gained international recognition and, at the time of publishing the FCFCOA 2022-23 Annual Reports, had successfully screened 5,189 family law matters.

An increase in the prevalence of family violence was seen particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. This was largely due to the lockdown measures implemented to limit the spread of the virus. Lockdowns resulted in:

  • Victim-survivors and offenders spending increased time together.
  • Decreased social movement, limiting victim-survivors’ access to help.
  • Heightened situational pressures associated with family violence, such as financial stress and job insecurity.
  • Increased alcohol consumption by perpetrators of family violence.

While pandemic lockdowns may seem like a thing of the past, the social and financial ramifications persist, and we are seeing this now with the rise in both interest rates and the cost of living. This means that the situational pressures associated with family violence, which were exacerbated by the pandemic, will remain at a high, as will the incidence of family violence.

Australian family lawyers have also identified key trends in family violence, including:

  • Coercive control: a form of family violence in which a perpetrator subjects a spouse, partner, or close relative to a sustained pattern of controlling, threatening or humiliating behaviour.
  • Victim blaming: where a person who has experienced family violence is held either partially or entirely at fault for the harm they suffer.
  • Financial abuse: a tactic whereby a perpetrator of family violence uses money or assets to exert power and control over their victim. This can include stealing, withholding, or gambling money, putting debts into someone else’s name, or preventing access to money or financial information.
  • Cultural factors: some cultures uphold traditional patriarchal values and beliefs, which inhibit survivors of family violence from reaching out and seeking support. Cultural factors can also make it difficult for some individuals to recognise that they are victim-survivors of family violence.

Research and data demonstrate that the frequency of family violence in Australia is increasing. While sectors are taking proactive steps, it is crucial to intensify efforts in combating and alleviating the harm caused by family violence. Innovative and groundbreaking programs, like the FCFCOA’s Lighthouse initiative, serve as a guide for what is achievable.

If you are seeking advice in relation to a matter involving family violence, please contact our office at (03) 9670 4122 to arrange an initial consultation.

By Nicholes Family Lawyers


Return to blog