Domestic and family violence
against women is addressed under six separate State legal frameworks,
prompting the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of violence against Women (CEDAW) Committee to express concern in 2010 over the lack of federal legislation or minimum standards for protection of women against violence and domestic violence.
In most jurisdictions domestic violence includes stalking, and covers a wide range of relationships including, spouses, de facto partners (including same sex partners), children and step-children, and other ‘relatives’; The definition of ‘family member’ has been extended to include Aboriginal kinship relationships in several state level domestic violence Acts, including the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (VIC)
the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act (NSW) (s5(h)) and the Domestic and Family Violence Act 2007 (Northern Territory).
Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2011 has resulted in an expanded definition of family violence in family law proceedings, including financial abuse, attempts to isolate from family members and friends and a child’s exposure to family violence.
In order to support the implementation of the law, the Government of Australia has established a National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and Children that has developed and a National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010 – 2022. There are federally funded rape crisis centres in every State and Territory, as well as several specialized sexual and assault units within some State police forces. In 2009 the Government reported that each State and Territory was implementing a number of women’s safety policies, establishing safe houses, conducting legal reviews and public campaigns to help improve existing responses to women and girls experiencing violence. In addition, the majority of States have established specialist family violence courts and legal aid services that provide referral and advocacy, as well as applicant support, respondent support workers and outreach. Some States have also invested in training and guidelines for law enforcement. Under the National Plan the Australian Government has established the Foundation to Prevent Violence against Women and their; and Australia’s National Research Organization for Women’s Safety. There has also been increasing recognition of support for workers experiencing domestic and family violence, with over one million Australian workers in 2013 being able to avail clauses in their workplace agreement and award conditions. In addition the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) was amended in 2013 to provide for employees who are experiencing family violence or who are caring or supporting a family or household member who is experiencing family violence to request flexible working arrangements
The most recent Australian bureau of Statistics (ABS) Personal Safety Survey indicates that in 2012, an estimated 17% of all women aged 18 years and over had experienced violence by a partner since the age of 15; 4.9% of whom had experienced sexual violence at the hands of a domestic partner. The Institute of Criminology estimates that one woman is killed every week by her current or former partner, often after a history of domestic violence. Intimate partner homicides account for just over one-fifth of all homicides in the country, and research from the State of Victoria confirms that domestic violence is the leading contributor to death, disability and illness of women in Victoria under the age of 45. There is no national register for apprehended violence orders (protection orders).25
A review of the ABS Crime Victimization Survey (2011-2012) suggests that, of those surveyed, fewer than 50% who had experienced domestic violence in that year had reported it to the police.
Government survey data from 2009 revealed that, while 98% of the population believe that domestic violence is a crime; only 53% recognised ‘slapping or pushing a partner to cause harm or fear’ as ‘very serious’, and 49% believed that ‘women going through custody battles often make up or exaggerate claims of domestic violence in order to improve their case.’
Every State-based jurisdiction in Australia has its own legislation for sexual offences, including rape
and a range of other sexual assaults.
In general, current legal conceptions of sexual assault are based on the premise of ‘positive’ consent, requiring proof that both parties actively demonstrated their willingness to engage in that act, either verbally or through their physical actions. Submission to sexual advances, or presumption, is not enough to demonstrate consent. State laws has also introduced limitations in regard to the type of evidence that may be introduced about a complainant’s sexual history.
Violence against women, including sexual violence, remains a significant problem in Australia. The most recent 2012 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Personal Safety Survey indicates that, during the 12 months prior to the survey, 5.3% of all women over 18 years of age had experienced some form of violence, most of which was physical and sexual violence; with the most common perpetrators being persons known to the victim. 34% of women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15.
It was also found that an estimated 17% (1,494,000) of all women aged 18 years and over had experienced sexual assault since the age of 15.
Despite these figures, the ABS’s 2012-2013 Crime Victimization Survey shows that fewer than 50% of women who had experienced violence, and 25% of those that had experienced sexual violence, reported it to the police.
There is evidence that underreporting may be linked to a lack of trust in the justice system, with recent studies indicating that, while the numbers of reporting and of prosecutions for sexual assault are increasing slightly, the numbers of convictions are falling.
One 2007 study found that when sexual assault cases are heard in the higher courts by a judge and jury, over half result in acquittal; lower than for any other crime.
In 2009 a number of NGOs reported to the CEDAW Committee that poor implementation of the legislative framework could be attributed to: attitudes of the police; attitudes of prosecutors; attitudes of the judiciary; a reliance on jury trials (they are more likely to acquit the accused); and processes and procedures that re-traumatise victims.
Although these social attitudes are changing, they remain an impediment to combatting sexual violence. For example, 2009 Government survey data on attitudes to violence against women found that, while fewer people now support the notion that ‘women often say no when they mean yes’, (13% in 2009, compared to 18% in 1995); and significantly fewer people in the general community believed that ‘women who are raped often ask for it’ (5%, down from 15% in 1995); substantial proportions of Australian still agree that rape occurs because of men ‘not being able to control their need for sex’ (34% in the general community).
Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander women are 45 times more likely to be victims of domestic and family violence
and 35 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of violence-related assault than non-Indigenous women in Australia.
Advocates have criticized the lack of inclusive services and programmes for women with disabilities experiencing or at risk of experiencing violence.
is defined in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984
as any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favours or conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the person harassed in circumstances where a reasonable person would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.
In 2011 the Government strengthened protections in schools to protect students from sexual harassment regardless of their age, and prohibited sexual harassment conducted through new technologies (e.g over the internet, or through social media or texting).
However, the Australian Human Rights Commission reports that the Act still does not contain a general prohibition against sexual harassment in any area of public life, or the positive obligation on employers to take all reasonable steps to avoid sexual harassment in their workplace.
Every year, sexual harassment is one of the most common grounds of complaint under the Federal Sex Discrimination Act.
The Australian Human Rights Commission National Telephone Survey (2012) found that 33% of women had been sexually harassed since the age of 15, and 25% of women aged 15 years and older had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the past five years. The main groups perpetrating sexual harassment towards women in the workplace are co‑workers (45%), boss/employer (17%), supervisor (13%), and client/customer (11%). 79% of harassers were men. Only 22% of women made official complaints about the workplace sexual harassment: out of these, only 46% said the harassment ceased after the complaint.
There is some anecdotal evidence that female genital mutilation
is practiced in Australia, although official figures are not available.
In all Australian jurisdictions it is an offence for a person to perform any type of female genital mutilation, regardless of the consent of the parent of guardian, with exceptions granted for legitimate medical purposes. Penalties range from seven to 21 years’ imprisonment. All State and Territory offences also operate extraterritorially to protect Australian residents from being subjected to female genital mutilation outside their jurisdiction of residence, including overseas.
The Government funds family planning and antenatal services, which generally provide free sexual and reproductive advice.
However, some restrictions on the reproductive autonomy
of marginalized Australian women have been reported. For example, disability rights advocates have criticized the practice of forced sterilisation of women with disabilities, particularly those with intellectual disabilities.
The Senate Committee Inquiry into Involuntary and Coerced Sterilisation of People with Disabilities in Australia (2013) recommended that for a person with a disability who has the capacity to consent, or to consent where provided with appropriate decision making support, sterilisation should be banned unless undertaken with that consent; and that each jurisdiction enact legislation prohibiting the performance or procurement of unauthorised sterilisation procedures: and also make it an offence to take, attempt to take, or to knowingly assist a person to take, a child or an adult with a disability oversees for the purpose of obtaining a sterilisation procedure.
Australia has been identified as a destination country for women subjected to forced prostitution, trafficking and forced labour.
In order to combat the practice, Australia has comprehensively criminalized all trafficking-related activity, including sexual servitude, with penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment in aggravated circumstance.
The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, slavery-like Conditions and People Trafficking) Act 2013
creates a number of new offences including the offence of forced marriage, forced labour and organ trafficking, and strengthens provisions of the Criminal Code Act 2005
(Cth) relating to trafficking, slavery and slavery-like offences.In terms of victim support, the Government provides access to accommodation, temporary visa status, living expenses, legal advice, health services, and counselling, through the 2009 Support for Victims of People Trafficking Programme and the People Trafficking Visa Framework.
However, the benefits of these schemes are dependent on the victim’s cooperation with an investigation or prosecution of a trafficking offense, which may put the victim or their family at risk of reprisals.
Each State jurisdiction in Australia has different legislation and case law governing the circumstances when pregnancy can be terminated legally. Abortion
has been decriminalized in three States (Victoria, Australian Capital Territory, and Tasmania). And, while abortion is available upon request in the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria, the remaining jurisdictions allow abortions in the event of threat to maternal life, rape, health, foetal defects, and mental health in South Australia and the Northern Territory; in addition to and economic factors, and/or social factors in New South Wales and Western Australia.
There is no law anywhere in Australia that requires the notification or consent of a woman’s sexual partner; although in Western Australia a minor requires parental consent or notification. 
The variation in legal protection across jurisdictions has prompted the CEDAW Committee to express concern over inconsistent approach with regard to the imposition the availability of criminal sanctions.
UN figures indicate that 68.1% of women used some form of modern contraceptive.
Additionally, advocates have reported significantly high levels of sexually transmitted infections in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and have complained about a lack of preventative screening for diseases like cervical cancer.
 New South Wales: Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007; Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 1989 (Qld); Domestic Violence Act 1994 (SA); Family Violence Act 2004 (Tas); Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic); Restraining Orders Act 1997 (WA); Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Act 2008 (ACT); Domestic and Family Violence Act 2007 (NT)  CEDAW (2011), p.5  Family Violence Protection Act (2008) (Victoria), s 8; Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007(New South Wales), s5(h); Domestic and Family Violence Act 2007 (Northern Territory) (s 10(2))  AHRC (2010), p.20  CEDAW (2009), p. 109-110  CEDAW (2009), p.113  CEDAW (2009), p.113 Ludo McFerran, Safe at Home, Safe At Work Project, Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearing House, UNSW, ‘When domestic violence becomes a workplace problem’, ABC The Drum Opinion 13 February 2013. At http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4516492.html (viewed 8 April 2013). 25 ABS (2012) White Ribbon Australia (2013), p.5  Australian Government (2009), p.7-8  Crimes Act 1900 (ACT); Crimes Act (NSW) 1900; Criminal Code Act (NT) 1983; Criminal Code Act (Qld) 1899; Criminal Law Consolidation Act (SA) 1935; Criminal Code Act (Tas) 1924; Crimes Act (Vic) 1958; Criminal Code Act (WA) 1913  ACSSS (2011) Australian Bureau of Statistics, Personal Safety Survey 2012 (2013).http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/4906.0Main%20Features12012?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=4906.0&issue=2012&num=&view=) (viewed 20 November 2013).  ABS (2012)  NBS (2014)  Brentnall (2012), p.29 Taylor (2007)  CEDAW NGO Report (2009), p.106 Australian Government (2009), p.8  C Cunneen (2005), p. 242  Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision (2005), p 26  WWDA (2009), p.19 Sex Discrimination Act 1984, s28(a) Sex Discrimination Legislation Amendment Act 2011 (Cth) AHRC (2013)  AHRC (2013)  AHRC (2012)  Australian Government (2013)  Australian Government (2013)  CEDAW (2009), p.81  WWDA (2009)  Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee, Involuntary or coerced sterilisation of people with disabilities in Australia (2013), pp. IX-XIV  State Department (2013), p.78  Division 270 of the Criminal Code Act 1995  CEDAW (2010), p.6  US State Department (2013), p.79  Children by Choice (2013)  Children by Choice (2013) CEDAW (2010), p.3  UN (2012 (b)  Koorie Women Mean Business (2009), p.53