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Preferred terminology

Definitions of language used in this strategy.

Language used to describe experiences of family violence, and personal identities across communities, is complex and evolving. The language in this document will not apply to everyone and some people or professionals may identify with or use different terms.

Family violence is gendered – overwhelmingly most perpetrators are men and victim survivors are women, children and young people. While gender inequality is the root cause of violence against women, family violence can, and does, occur within a range of relationships.

Definitions used in this strategy are outlined below.

Family violence

A pattern of behaviour exercised by perpetrators to exert power and control over a current or former intimate partner or family member, with the aim of ensuring dominance of the perpetrator and compliance of the victim. That behaviour may be physically, sexually, emotionally or psychologically abusive, economically exploitative, threatening, coercive, involve deprivation of liberty or seek to cause fear. 

Impact of family violence on Aboriginal people

The disproportionate impact of family violence on Aboriginal people is rooted in the intergenerational impacts of colonisation and violent dispossession of land and culture, and the wrongful removal of children from their parents.

The Dhelk Dja: Safe Our Way definition of family violence acknowledges the impact of violence by non-Aboriginal people against Aboriginal partners, children, young people and extended family on spiritual and cultural rights, which manifests as exclusion or isolation from Aboriginal culture and/or community.

The Dhelk Dja definition includes Elder abuse and the use of lateral violence within Aboriginal communities. It also emphasises the impact of family violence on children. The definition also recognises that the cycle of family violence brings people into contact with many different parts of the service system, and efforts to reduce violence and improve outcomes for Aboriginal people and children must work across family violence services; police, the justice system and the courts; housing and homelessness services; children and family services; child protection and out-of-home care; and health, mental health, and substance abuse.

Diversity and intersectionality

Government acknowledges and understands the ways in which intersecting factors contribute to disproportionate rates and different experiences of family violence, as well as greater barriers to safety, support and justice seeking. These factors include: sex, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, language, religion, class, socioeconomic status, gender identity, ability or age. We respect, embrace and seek out diversity in identity, experience, opinion, and perspective. 

This includes acknowledging that family violence can take many forms and can occur within extended families, kinship networks, intergenerational relationships and through family-like or carer relationships such as: 

  • women and girls from diverse cultural, linguistic and faith backgrounds experience distinct forms of family violence including migration-related abuse
  • intimate partners, family members and non-family carers can perpetrate violence against people they are caring for, including people with a disability
  • lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or gender diverse, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people may experience violence in their relationships or from family members
  • elder abuse can be perpetrated by adult children of an older person or non-family carers
  • children and young people are also victims of family violence – whether they experience violence directly, or witness violence, the resulting trauma can affect their emotional and psychological wellbeing. Young people can use violence or be victims of violence within their family.

Lived experience

This document uses the term ‘people with lived experience’ to describe:

  • people who have experienced family violence
  • people with an experience of using the family violence system
  • the families, carers and other people directly impacted by family violence via the aforementioned experiences.


In the context of this strategy, ‘trauma-aware’ refers to understanding and accommodating the ongoing effects of deliberate interpersonal violence when working alongside people with lived experience.

Government will adapt to support safe working relationships through trauma-aware processes and guidance, as well as embedding trauma-aware practice into policies and procedures. This means promoting healing by recognising people’s skills and abilities and supporting victim survivors to make change. 

Victim survivor

Victim survivor is used throughout this document as a term to describe people – including adults, children and young people who have direct first-hand experience of family violence, as well as immediate family members of those who have lost their lives to family violence.

This term acknowledges the ongoing effects and harm caused by abuse and violence as well as honouring the strength and resilience of people with lived experience of family violence.

Critical reflection

Critical reflection is an ongoing commitment for people to challenge themselves by examining beliefs, biases, values and thinking.

This commitment enables people to be open to learning from all perspectives, releasing unexamined assumptions, and acknowledging their own power and privilege.

Power dynamics

At the centre of all instances of family violence are individual and structural power imbalances.

The way that power is most commonly recognised and understood in the context of family violence is the type of power that is built on force, coercion, domination and control.  Victim survivors of family violence have lived experience of the abuse of power and control in relationships.

This strategy acknowledges that power is not distributed equally, including between victim survivors, professionals, and services.

Perpetrator and person who uses violence

A perpetrator is someone who uses family violence. This strategy acknowledges that not all communities use the term ‘perpetrator’, including Aboriginal communities who may prefer to use the term ‘adults who use family violence.’