In Queensland, changing cultural attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours has become a prominent aspect of domestic and family violence (DFV) policy. Indeed, the Queensland Government’s Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Strategy 2016–2026 prioritises changing community attitudes and behaviours as one of the core guiding principles in its commitment to create a Queensland free of DFV. The aim of this principle is to target and positively influence the underlying culture that facilitates DFV, particularly against women.
Although there is significant evidence to support this aim, there is equally important evidence suggesting that public policies often contain barriers in their design or implementation that limit their ability to achieve their aims. In this paper, I present a critical discourse analysis of Queensland’s DFV Strategy and related policy documents to examine whether such barriers exist in Queensland’s approach, and their potential to impact on policy outcomes. My findings suggest that the current implementation of Queensland’s Strategy undermines its guiding principle to change community attitudes and behaviours in four distinct ways.
Firstly, the Strategy erroneously assumes that changes in community attitudes will lead to changes in behaviours. Secondly, the Strategy disproportionately targets bystanders’ responsibility to stop violence, at the expense of addressing perpetrators’ responsibility to stop violence. Thirdly, the Strategy has thus far overlooked the importance of researching, implementing, and evaluating programs and systems that support perpetrators to change. Finally, the Strategy seeks to exploit the social power afforded to men, thereby reinforcing the gender hierarchy and women’s subordinate position in society.
As well as providing an evidence-based discussion demonstrating why each of these barriers is problematic, I draw on current research evidence to offer actions that may better position the DFV Strategy to achieve its aims. Importantly, each of the suggested actions aligns with the current aims and framework of Queensland’s DFV Strategy. A quick-reference guide to the findings, their implications, and potential reparative actions can be found in Appendix 1 at the end of the paper. I conclude with a discussion of the broader implications of these findings for future DFV policy development in states and territories across Australia.