5.1 The Terms of Reference require the Commissions to consider reforms to legal frameworks which will improve the safety of victims of family violence. The definitions, and understanding, of family violence are key starting points.

5.2 This and the following chapter explore the meaning of family violence across different legislative schemes. Understanding what constitutes family violence—or domestic violence or domestic abuse as it is referred to in some jurisdictions—is integral to a consideration of interaction issues. Definitions of family violence in Australia vary widely across family violence legislation,[1] the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), the criminal law, and other types of legislation such as victims’ compensation legislation and migration regulations. In addition, disciplines other than law—for example, the social sciences, health and welfare service providers—may conceptualise family violence differently.

5.3 This chapter focuses on the definition of family violence in family violence legislation and considers the desirability of attaining a common understanding of what constitutes family violence across family violence legislation. Definitions form one limb of a common interpretative framework, complemented for example, by guiding principles and statutory objects, which are discussed in Chapter 7.

5.4 Chapter 6 considers the definition of family violence in other legislative schemes, including the Family Law Act, and in the criminal law—and, in particular, the relationship between the definitions in those schemes and in family violence legislation.

5.5 This and the following chapter consider whether it is appropriate or desirable to aim for a common understanding of what constitutes family violence across the different legislative schemes under consideration. This is considered in light of the underlying policy justifications for each of the legislative schemes, which are discussed in the preceding chapter.

[1] An explanation of the Commissions’ use of the terms ‘family violence’ and ‘family violence legislation’ is set out in Ch 1.