Domestic and Family Violence Condition in Australia, an Academic Report

“Domestic violence” also known as “Intimate Partner Violence”, refers to any behaviour by an intimate partner (or ex-partner) that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including acts of physical violence, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviours (1). It is a pattern of behaviour where one partner is usually exerting power and control over the other partner over time. “Family violence” refers to violence between any members of a family.

A national survey (2) showed that one in six women and one in seventeen men have experienced sexual or physical assault.jpg

A national survey(2) showed that one in six women and one in seventeen men have experienced sexual or physical assault from a current or former partner. Around two thirds of the households where domestic violence is occurring have children living in them (2). Women are more likely than men to experience domestic and family violence and to be injured as a result (3). Domestic violence is the highest contributor to morbidity and mortality for Australian women of child-bearing age (4). In Australia, one woman dies every week at the hands of their current or former partner (5).

Patients experiencing domestic and family violence access medical care for a wide range of health reasons more frequently than patients who have not experienced abuse. The World Health Organisation (2013b), professional bodies and state-based inquiries all recommend health practitioners be trained to respond to domestic and family violence. However, there is extremely limited training at an undergraduate or graduate level in Australia (6).

Domestic and family violence is as common as asthma or diabetes. A full-time general practitioner (GP) is estimated to have around five women experiencing domestic and family violence presenting each week for a variety of issues and symptoms (7). Patients experiencing domestic and family violence first tell a doctor or a nurse about the abuse before other professionals (8). Yet some health practitioners do not ask about abuse, or feel that patients do not want to disclose it to them. It is important for you to understand the complexities of domestic and family violence in different populations and identify your own role with individual patients.

With RACGP QI&CPD accreditation, the online course "Identifying and Responding to Domestic and Family Violence", is accessible from any smart device, including a mobile phone and tablet, as well as a computer. This eLearning course provides health practitioners with the knowledge and skills to respectfully engage and effectively identify and respond to patients experiencing domestic and family violence.

Course Information

1. World Health Organisation (2013a). Responding to Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Violence Against Women: WHO clinical and policy guidelines. WHO.

2. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2017). Personal Safety Survey, Australia, 2016. ABS.

3. Webster, K. (2016). A preventable burden: Measuring and addressing the prevalence and health impacts of intimate partner violence in Australian women (ANROWS Compass, 07/2016). Sydney: ANROWS.

4. Ayre, J., Lum On, M., Webster, K., Gourley,M., & Moon, L. (2016). Examination of the burden of disease of intimate partner violence against women in 2011: Final report ANROWS.

5. Bryant W, & Bricknell S. (2017). Homicide in Australia 2012–13 to 2013–14: National Homicide Monitoring Program report. Statistical Reports No. 2. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology.

6. Valpied, J., Aprico, K., Clewett, J. and Hegarty, K. (2015). Are Future Doctors Taught to Respond to Intimate Partner Violence? A Study of Australian Medical Schools. Journal of Interpersonal Violence,32 (16).

7. Hegarty, K. & O’Doherty, L. (2011). Intimate partner violence: identification and response in general practice. Australian Family Physician. 40(11), 852-856.

8. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2018). Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia 2018 (Cat. no. FDV 2). Canberra: AIHW.

More Information

Mobile Learning Unit, University of Melbourne


  • Domestic Violence