Violence prevention for 'enmeshed' dating relationships: interpreting Queensland's civil law
reportposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Heather Nancarrow
In March 2003, legislative changes to Queensland’s Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 1989 commenced, extending the coverage of the Act to some non-spousal relationships, including ‘enmeshed’ dating relationships. The concept of enmeshed dating relationships was constructed in the 1999 Model Domestic Violence Laws, a project of the national Partnerships Against Domestic Violence initiative, to limit the application of the civil law to cases warranting a civil law response. Leading up to the introduction of Queensland’s Amendment Bill there was much debate about the appropriateness of the limitation, and the clarity of the provision in the Bill and within a year of the amended Act commencing there were reports of a high level of inconsistency in the way that service providers and magistrates interpreted the concept. Qualitative research comprising a survey of magistrates, interviews with Domestic Violence Court Assistance Workers and interviews with women in dating relationships whose applications for a protection order had been considered by a Magistrates Court found little evidence of inconsistencies in the way magistrates apply the provision. However, it highlights the need for greater clarity about the policy intent and consistent inter-agency training in relation to the provision.