Overview of the Report

Definitions and terminology

1.44 This section sets out some of the terminology that will be used in this Report.

Culturally and linguistically diverse

1.45 The phrase ‘culturally and linguistically diverse’—and the abbreviation ‘CALD’—are commonly used in referring to people of diverse backgrounds. The ALRC recognises that the discussion in this publication may apply to people who are ‘culturally or linguistically diverse’ as well as those who are ‘culturally and linguistically diverse’. The phrase is used for convenience to embrace both kinds of diversity.


1.46 The definition of ‘family’ or ‘domestic’ relationship varies across the Australian jurisdictions and legislation. In this Report the particular definitions of ‘family’ are considered in the context of the specific legislation under consideration.

Family violence

1.47 The terminology that should be adopted to describe violence within families and intimate relationships has been, and continues to be, the subject of controversy and debate.[48]

1.48 As noted in Family Violence—A National Legal Response, state, territory and Commonwealth legislation that refers to violence within families and intimate relationships uses various descriptions—‘family violence’, ‘domestic violence’ and ‘domestic abuse’.[49] The term ‘domestic’ has been criticised on the basis that it ‘qualifies and arguably reduces the term “violence”’.[50] The Macquarie Dictionary notes the colloquial use of the term ‘domestic’ as ‘an argument with one’s spouse or another member of the household’. Thus, from a cultural perspective, the term ‘domestic’ can trivialise the impact of the violence on the victim. However the phrase ‘family violence’ has also been criticised.[51]

1.49 Reports and writing in this area have adopted varying terminology. Some have referred to both ‘family and domestic violence’, or vice versa;[52] others to ‘family violence’;[53] and some to ‘domestic violence’.[54] In each case, the differing terminology—in the Australian context—attempts to refer to the same type of conduct, although the boundaries of such conduct have expanded over the years.

1.50 In this Inquiry the ALRC refers to ‘family violence’, rather than ‘domestic violence’ or ‘domestic abuse’, unless specifically quoting from sources including legislation which use alternative terminology.

Indigenous peoples

1.51 In this Report, the ALRC may use the terms ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ or ‘Indigenous communities’ or ‘Indigenous peoples’, which are consistent with the terminology adopted by various organisations, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner in his reports. As he has explained:

Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders are referred to as ‘peoples’. This recognises that Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders have a collective, rather than purely individual, dimension to their livelihoods. … The use of the term ‘Indigenous’ has evolved through international law.[55]

1.52 This is affirmed under international law principles and by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.[56]‘Indigenous women’ and ‘Indigenous children’ also reflect this terminology.

People with disability

1.53 A contemporary view of disability acknowledges that, while a person may have an impairment or medical condition, it is barriers within society—negative attitudes, inaccessible buildings and environments, inaccessible communications and information—that prevent people with disability from being treated equally and from fully participating in all aspects of community life.[57]

1.54 The ALRC uses the term ‘people with disability’ throughout this Report, to reflect each person’s value, individuality, dignity and capabilities. ‘People with disability’ is used rather than ‘people with a disability’, acknowledging that a person may have more than one disability.


1.55 The abbreviation ‘LGBTI’ is used in this Report to describe people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or intersex, as it is a broadly understood abbreviation.[58] The ALRC is aware that the LGBTI community is not a homogenous group, but rather consists of individuals with differing sexual orientation and gender identity. In particular, the ALRC understands that people who identify as trans and intersex often have perspectives, issues and needs that are different from those of the people who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, and as a result should be separately consulted.

Structure of the Report

1.56 This Report comprises 22 chapters divided into seven parts, A–G:

  • Part ACommon Threads, contains four chapters, Chapters 1–4.
  • Part BSocial Security, contains five chapters, Chapters 5–9.
  • Part CIncome Management, comprises one chapter, Chapter 10.
  • Part D—Child Support and Family Assistance, contains four chapters, Chapters 11–13.
  • Part E—Employment, comprises four chapters, Chapters 15–18.
  • Part F—Superannuation, comprises one chapter, Chapter 19.
  • Part G—Migration, comprises three chapters, Chapters 20–22.

[48] See, eg, Domestic Violence and Incest Resource Centre, What’s In a Name? Definitions and Domestic Violence: Domestic Violence? Family Violence? Violence Against Women?, Discussion Paper No 1 (1998).

[49] Australian Law Reform Commission and New South Wales Law Reform Commission, Family Violence—A National Legal Response, ALRC Report 114; NSWLRC Report 128 (2010), [1.105].

[50] B Fehlberg and J Behrens, Australian Family Law: The Contemporary Context (2008), 178.

[51] J Behrens, ‘Ending the Silence, But … Family Violence under the Family Law Reform Act 1995’ (1996) 10 Australian Journal of Family Law 35, 38.

[52] See, eg, National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, Time for Action: The National Council’s Plan for Australia to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children, 2009–2021 (2009); Australian Bureau of Statistics, Conceptual Framework for Family and Domestic Violence (2009); Government of Western Australia, Family and Domestic Violence Action Plan (2007–2008).

[53] See, eg, Victorian Law Reform Commission, Review of Family Violence Laws: Report (2006); Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research, Indigenous Family Violence Prevention Forum 2009: Report (2009).

[54] See, eg, Australian Government Solicitor, The Giving of Evidence by Victims of Sexual Assault (2008); M Pyke, South Australian Domestic Violence Laws: Discussion and Options for Reform (2007); Australian Law Reform Commission, Domestic Violence, Report 30 (1986). Fehlberg and Behrens adopt the terminology of ‘violence and abuse in families’: B Fehlberg and J Behrens, Australian Family Law: The Contemporary Context (2008), 178.

[55] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice Report (2009), vi.

[56]Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 13 September 2007, GA Res 61/295, UN Doc A/RES/47/1.

[57] See, People With Disability, A Guide to Reporting On Disability <www.pwd.org.au/documents/
pubs/Guide-to-Reporting-Disability.doc> at 21 July 2011.

[58] The ALRC notes that this is also the term adopted by the Australian Human Rights Commission following their research and consultation on protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or sex and gender identity. See: <http://www.hreoc.gov.au/
> at 11 August 2011.