NSW Coercive Control Laws

Ellaina Welsman, Common Grace's Community Engagement and Operations Manager, reflects on new coercive control laws in NSW that aim to more accurately reflect lived experiences of abuse.

Ellaina Welsman, Common Grace's Community Engagement and Operations Manager, reflects on new coercive control laws in NSW that aim to more accurately reflect lived experiences of abuse


It breaks my heart, as I know it breaks God’s, that there is violence and abuse in our homes and in our churches. As a follower of Jesus, I cling to his call to pursue relationships with one another that are grounded in peace, justice and mercy, and challenges us to resist taking power over others. 

And like too many of us, I've seen the way domestic violence can impact the lives of people that I love. I have seen and felt the pain of our judicial and legal system is complex, inconsistent across state boundaries, and makes it extremely difficult for women to defend themselves. 

Since November last year I have been helping Common Grace to build up our capacity to continue equipping Christians and churches to engage with domestic and family violence. As part of this work, I have had the privilege and honour to meet with many people and organisations who are working in Domestic and Family Violence sector, including some incredibly generous, bold, and faithful Christians who are working to see our churches become safer, and places that know how to best respond to and prevent violence for women. 

I was recently invited to join an event held by churches to learn more about what the new Coercive Controls laws in NSW will look like. From 1st July NSW’s Coercive Control law will come into effect, which criminalises controlling and coercive patterns of behaviour from a current or former intimate partner. 

Coercive control is understood as a series of behaviours and tactics used to gain power, dominance and control over a person experiencing domestic violence. These tactics may include physical, sexual, psychological, financial and emotional abuse. What makes coercive control distinct is the focus on the ongoing pattern of behaviours to intentionally intimidate, threaten, hurt, scare, or control someone, as opposed to single isolated events of physical violence.

The new coercive control law is a step towards the justice system recognising that domestic abuse is not just about stand-alone incidents of violence but far more often than not, it is a pattern of ongoing behaviour to have control and power over another person. 

This new law highlights the need for our legal systems to more accurately reflect the lived experience of victim-survivors. And it also helps to communicate to the wider community that domestic and family violence is not just physical. 

And because coercive control has been shown to be a predictor of intimate partner homicide, the new law is aiming to help prevent death and harm to women and children. 

However, many DFV advocates and those working in the sector fear that criminalisation may have disproportionate negative impacts on marginalised groups, including First Nations women, women with disabilities, and refugee and migrant women. In fact, criminalisation of any activity has consistently shown to have adverse negative impacts on marginalised populations. There is also limited evidence to suggest that criminalisation is effective in preventing or reducing the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence in the community. 

What this new law highlights, once again, is that there is no single national definition of domestic family violence, nor is there consensus on how to address coercive control through the law. Victoria already recognised coercive control under its Family Violence Protection Act 2008 and in Tasmania, non-physical forms of family violence are recognised in the Family Violence Act 2004. 

Many Domestic and Family Violence services are advocating that legal reform, without extensive training of police officers or whole systems reform, is not enough. And many of those who are opposed to the new laws are highlighting the importance of the need to continue investing in primary prevention and educating the community about family violence. 

As followers of Jesus, pursuing peace, safety and the flourishing of all, we are grateful to see NSW take a step towards improving the way it identifies and responds to women’s reporting of domestic violence. 

And we believe that for these coercive control laws to be effective, we need to continue investing in community-led approaches to domestic and family violence, ensure all women are able to equally access the justice system, and to work to address and prevent the factors that lead to coercive and controlling behaviours. 

We pray for all people involved in our criminal justice system, that they will receive disclosures of abuse with compassion and trust, that the training will equip law enforcement to better understand what the patterns of coercive control look like, and that it will lead to better outcomes for women. 

We pray for the women who are experiencing abuse and coercive control, that these new laws will give them greater safety and protection, and that our communities will have greater awareness about the realities of the abuse they are experiencing. 

We pray for our homes, our churches and our communities, that they will be places of healing and recovery, and where everyone is safe from harm. 

And we pray for a world more like the one God intends it to be, where our homes and relationships are places of support, nourishment and safety where our most intimate needs are met. A world shaped by love, where all flourish.


To learn more about coercive control we encourage you to watch this video by the ACT/NSW Baptist Association: https://vimeo.com/576072542/04fbe287d9


If you or someone you know needs support, the following Domestic and Family Violence support services are available:

  • 1800 RESPECT National Helpline: 1800 737 732
  • Women’s Crisis Line: 1800 811 811
  • Men’s Referral Service: 1300 766 491
  • Lifeline (24 hour crisis line): 131 114
  • 13 YARN (Aboriginal Mob): 13 92 76
  • Emergency: 000

Ellaina Welsman has a diverse background in strategy, project management, fundraising and communications, and church engagement. With a Masters in International Studies (Refugees) Ellaina has spent the last decade serving in the not-for-profit sector, seeking to help end global poverty and systemic injustices. Most recently Ellaina worked for one of Australia's largest Christian international development agencies helping grow the church's generosity and engagement with global poverty. Ellaina's passion for gender equality, living sustainably, and helping organisations thrive is driven by her love for Jesus and His compassion for all of creation.

Domestic & Family Violence