Definition of family violence
11.64 The ALRC considers that the Child Support Guide should be amended to provide a definition of family violence consistent with that recommended for child support legislation and other Commonwealth legislation, as well as certain state and territory legislation. The child support legislation does not currently include a definition of family violence—as discussed in Chapter 3. However, the Child Support Guide provides a broad definition of family violence, as well as definitions of behaviours that may be involved in family violence, such as: physical abuse; sexual abuse; emotional abuse; verbal abuse; social abuse; economic abuse; and spiritual abuse.
11.65 The ALRC has recommended that a similar and consistent definition of family violence—adapted as suitable for the various legislative schemes—be included in the Child Support (Assessment) Act,the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act, and other Commonwealth legislation. The ALRC considers that this recommendation should be complemented by a consistent definition in the Child Support Guide. Most submissions responding to the Discussion Paper supported this approach.
11.66 The ALRC considers that this should enhance consistency across the policy and legislative bases of the child support scheme, and across jurisdictions. This should provide victims with clarity and the certainty that family violence will be recognised and treated similarly in different legal and administrative contexts. It also provides a consistent training-basis for staff—particularly those who work across legislative regimes, such as Centrelink social workers. Further, consistent and similar definitions across legislation and guidelines may foster a shared understanding across agencies, jurisdictions, courts and tribunals.
Nature, features and dynamics
11.67 The ALRC considers that the Child Support Guide should contain a statement regarding the nature, features and dynamics of family violence, as discussed in Chapter 3. This reform is consistent with the recommendations of Family Violence—A National Legal Response. In that report, the ALRC and the New South Wales Law Reform Commission recommended that provisions regarding the nature, features and dynamics of family violence should be contained in state and territory family violence legislation. The Commissions also recommended that the Family Law Act should be amended to include a similar provision.
11.68 The ALRC does not consider that such a provision is necessary in the child support legislation—as discussed above, prevention of family violence is not the primary purpose of child support legislation. However, the ALRC considers that there is value in including such a statement in the Child Support Guide—a measure generally supported by stakeholders who commented on this issue. DHS stated that
there are sections of the community that are more vulnerable to family violence due to power imbalances based on Indigenous status, culture, sexuality, disability or age. The department agrees that a clear understanding of the features, dynamics and experience of family and domestic violence is crucial for customer service staff and that this information should be included in policy documents, procedures and training materials.
11.69 A joint submission by Domestic Violence Victoria and others submitted that ‘building common understandings about the nature and dynamics of family violence across all organisations dealing with child support and family assistance issues is an essential first step’.
11.70 Including a statement of the nature, features and dynamics of family violence in the Child Support Guide would serve an important educative function—complementing recommendations in relation to training in Chapter 4—and provide a contextual basis for issues management and safety concern identification.Such a measure also complements recommendations regarding definitions in Chapter 3, by establishing a common interpretative framework around family violence across agencies and legal frameworks. As discussed in Chapter 3, the form of the statement should be altered to best suit the presentations of family violence, and the particular risks victims may face, in each particular legal framework.
Recommendation 11–1 The Child Support Guide should include:
- the definition of family violence in Recommendation 3–2; and
- information about the nature, features and dynamics of family violence including the particular impact of family violence on: Indigenous peoples; those from a culturally and linguistically diverse background; those from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex communities; older persons; and people with disability.
 In Australian Law Reform Commission and New South Wales Law Reform Commission, Family Violence—A National Legal Response, ALRC Report 114; NSWLRC Report 128 (2010), the ALRC and the NSW Law Reform Commission recommended that the consistent definition of family violence be adopted in the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), state and territory family violence laws and, in limited circumstances, state and territory criminal laws: Recs 5–1, 6–1, 6–4.
 Child Support Agency, The Guide: CSA’s Online Guide to the Administration of the New Child Support Scheme <www.csa.gov.au/guidev2> at 1 November 2011, [6.10.1].
 Rec 3–1, 3–2.
 The ALRC proposed this amendment to the Child Support Guide in the Discussion Paper at Proposal 9–1(a). It was supported by the following stakeholders: ADFVC, Submission CFV 104; Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Women’s Legal Service North Queensland, Submission CFV 99; Women’s Information and Referral Exchange, Submission CFV 94; Confidential, Submission CFV 89. See also National Legal Aid, Submission CFV 164; WEAVE, Submission CFV 85.
 Australian Law Reform Commission and New South Wales Law Reform Commission, Family Violence—A National Legal Response, ALRC Report 114; NSWLRC Report 128 (2010), Rec 7–3. Ch 3 sets out the form of this statement.
 The ALRC proposed this amendment to the Child Support Guide in the Discussion Paper at Proposal 9–1(b). It was supported by the following stakeholders: National Legal Aid, Submission CFV 164; ADFVC, Submission CFV 104; Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Women’s Legal Service North Queensland, Submission CFV 99; Women’s Information and Referral Exchange, Submission CFV 94; Confidential, Submission CFV 89. See also WEAVE, Submission CFV 85.
 DHS, Submission CFV 155.
 Joint submission from Domestic Violence Victoria and others, Submission CFV 59.