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Improving criminal justice responses to family and domestic violence

Family and domestic violence have been high on the agenda for both Commonwealth and state and territory governments in recent years and there has been a strong push towards an evidence-based approach. However, despite the significant investment in research and evaluation, gaps remain in our knowledge and understanding of how the criminal justice system, and in particular police, can best work to support victims and reduce repeat offending.

The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) has a long history of conducting research into family and domestic violence. Data from the National Homicide Monitoring Program, including research on intimate partner homicide, are widely cited by researchers, anti-violence campaigners and in the media. The recent Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence made reference to 23 different AIC research reports, with a number of AIC evaluations directly informing recommendations made by the Royal Commission. Recent AIC research has focused on interagency responses to victims in the criminal justice system, including reviews of programs operating in Tasmania, the ACT and WA, and the evaluation of perpetrator programs to reduce adolescent family violence in Victoria and Indigenous family violence in remote WA.

The focus for this research priority is on policing responses. Police perform a vital role in addressing family and domestic violence. It is estimated that police respond to close to 300,000 family and domestic violence incidents each year, meaning there is both significant opportunity to intervene and potential benefit to police in reducing the impact on police resources. There have been a range of responses implemented by police, including pro-arrest mandates, the enforcement of protection orders (and breaches), second responder and coordinated community responses, risk assessment practices, specialist domestic violence units and liaison officers, proactive investigation and prosecution, education programs to encourage victims to report to police and participation in interagency cross-sector programs.

Evidence of the effectiveness of these responses, is largely confined to international studies, with relatively few rigorous evaluations having been conducted in Australia. Despite considerable research activity associated with family and domestic violence in Australia, there remains a need for work that can support police practice and contribute to an adequate evidence base to inform decision making and future investment in violence prevention strategies.

The aims of this program are to:

  • better understand the range and type of policing responses to family and domestic violence in Australia and overseas
  • help inform the development and implementation of policing responses to family and domestic violence nationally by building and consolidating the available evidence base
  • promote the use of evidence and evaluation by police agencies as part of their response to family and domestic violence
Last updated
30 November 2017