The Domestic Violence Protection Order System as Entry to the Criminal Justice System for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People


The domestic violence protection order (DVO) system is a hybrid system of criminalisation in which the DVO itself is a civil order, but any contravention of that order may result in a criminal charge. Limited attention has been paid to the potential consequences of criminalisation through the hybrid DVO system in the Australian context. We use Queensland as a case study and examine administrative data gathered through Queensland Courts.  We show that a disproportionate number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) people are named on DVOs, charged with contraventions of DVOs and significantly more likely than non-Indigenous people to receive a sentence of imprisonment for a contravention of a DVO, compared to non-Indigenous people. We find that ATSI women are particularly overrepresented in this system. We review explanations for these startling figures and emphasize the need for a change in approach.

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Published: 2018-09-01
Pages:41 to 57
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How to Cite
Douglas, H. and Fitzgerald, R. (2018) “The Domestic Violence Protection Order System as Entry to the Criminal Justice System for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 7(3), pp. 41-57. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.v7i3.499.

Author Biographies

The University of Queensland

Professor Heather Douglas is based at the TC Beirne School of Law at the Univiversity of Queensland. She researches in the areas of criminal justice and domestic violence. Heather has published widely on criminal justice issues and around legal responses to domestic violence and child protection. In 2014- 2019 she was awarded an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship to research the way in which women who have experienced domestic violence use the legal system to help them leave violence. She was the lead researcher and project co-ordinator with the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration on the development of the National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book, a project funded by the Commonwealth Government.  Heather was appointed a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law in 2013 and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia in 2017.

Robin Fitzgerald is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Queensland. Her teaching and research focus includes correctional practice, offender re-entry and desistance and criminal justice responses to domestic violence. Among other projects, she currently leads an ARC funded study on public attitudes toward parole and re-entry. The aim of the study is to build an evidence base about public views at a crucial time when governments are under pressure to restrict its use.