Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall urges AG to take urgent action on DV including a review of sentencing laws

24 April 2024

Letter to the Attorney General: 


Or read below:

Re: Review and reform of sentencing laws to address domestic violence
Dear Attorney-General,

I write to express my deep frustration and anger over the epidemic of violence against women in Australia. As you know, on woman per week is murdered by her current or former partner in Australia. According to Destroy the Joint, 25 women have been allegedly killed by domestic violence so far in 2024.

On average, one woman per week is murdered in Australia. The number of Australian women killed by their partners each year has not decreased in over 30 years. It is clear that despite efforts at both federal and state levels of government, progress is not being made.

Further, in the year 2021/22, 5,606 women were hospitalised due to family and domestic violence, an average of 15 women per day. Women often experience multiple incidents of violence across their lifetime. Rates of violence are even higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

On 6 February this year, I moved a motion calling on the Government to take a number of urgent steps to address this national crisis. The following week, I met with you and discussed my call for a review of current sentencing laws and their application to assess anecdotal data that intimate partner related incidents and crimes are possibly treated with more leniency in sentencing due to perceived lower risk to the broader community and use of character references to allege incidents are out of character and perpetrators do not represent a risk to the broader community.

It is clear that the system is currently failing to protect women. We must ensure sentencing laws and outcomes, for lesser offences to the more aggravated offences, act as sufficient deterrent or circuit breakers to prevent the escalation to women being killed.

In light of the current crisis, I urge you to task the Australian Law Reform Commission with reviewing all state criminal sentencing provisions. In particular, any such review should assess the feasibility of mandatory sentencing in offences involving domestic violence and canvass ending the use of character references for those who commit crimes involving domestic violence and gender-based abuse.

Just today the Premier of New South Wales, the Honourable Chris Minns, has announced that his government is seeking urgent advice to determine if reform to state bail laws for domestic violence offenders is required. This follows the alleged murder of Molly Ticehurst by her former partner, who was granted bail only week before her death.

The expectations of the community for crime management are not being met by current laws. It is notable that ‘one punch attack’ laws were enacted in NSW in 2014 following the deaths of two young men due to alcohol related violence in Sydney. In stark contrast, the killing of one woman a week in Australia by domestic violence has seen no such comparable changes in the law, at federal or state/territory level.

I would welcome the opportunity to work with you and your office on these matters and ensure we are doing all we can to address the horrific number of women being killed in domestic violence crimes in Australia.

Yours sincerely,

Zali Steggall OAM, MP

Federal Member for Warringah