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Domestic violence emerged as a significant issue for the Women's Liberation movement in the early 1970s. In the history of the response to domestic violence in Australia, the Royal Commission on Human Relationships has been accorded only a minor role, yet it was one of the first sustained government inquiries into the prevalence, causes and impacts of domestic violence. This article argues that the Royal Commission on Human Relationships articulated and substantiated emerging feminist understandings of domestic violence, and that it played a critical role in embedding feminist vocabularies and interpretations of such violence in public discourse. It examines the ways that the Royal Commission collected and deployed both personal experience and feminist expertise to amplify and authenticate a feminist analysis of domestic violence. The Royal Commission foregrounded survivors of domestic violence but it also acknowledged refuge workers as those with feminist expertise on domestic violence. Many of the Royal Commission's recommendations would eventually underpin Australian policy responses to domestic violence. The Royal Commission on Human Relationships both anticipated and contributed to the broader shift in the state's response to domestic violence in the final decades of the twentieth century.
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