8 August 2014
Summary of the Violence Free Families submission
This submission focuses on the use of men’s behaviour change programs as a key tool for protecting the welfare of women and children who are the subject of family violence. These programs aim to improve the behaviour of men in affected relationships by providing group psycho-educational interventions over 13 or more weeks of two-hour interactive sessions with trained facilitators. The submission primarily addresses items (c) and (e) of the Committee’s terms of reference.
Violence Free Families argues for a systemic view of behaviour change programs in government policy, seeing them as a central element of a matrix of related interventions and supporting programs. Abusive men typically have higher levels of mental illness, substance abuse and more frequent histories of being abused of neglected as children than the wider community. They are also more likely to be violent outside the home: in the workplace, streets and social settings. These problems do not fit neatly into the prevailing gendered analysis of the determinants of family violence and are not systemically addressed under present policy.
Men’s behaviour change programs are an effective tool, but the concept has the potential for much greater development. Programs need to be delivered in a setting that provides for a range of supporting services and the programs themselves need to be improved through evidence-based research. There is a need for innovative extensions of the concept, including induction and after-programs, indigenous and CALD-specific versions and flexible delivery over the Internet. Violence Free Families has addressed this last need, as well as the need to improve the evidence base through research.
Finally, a national view should be taken of sector regulation, including better training, multiple accreditation paths for program facilitators, better quality control and minimum program standards for all Federally funded programs.
Government policy for men’s behaviour change programs should recognise and fund:
- service delivery
- research and innovation
- training and sector regulation
as separate but related activities.