The Family Violence Prevention Foundation of Australia


No To Violence, the “peak body” for Men’s Behaviour Change Programs in Victoria, has released a “Position Statement” on the Online Men’s Behaviour Change Program. Violence Free Families has analysed this Statement, and suggests that it is based on a lack of understanding of the program, that it shows complete disregard for the evidence, in particular the University of Melbourne’s report on the program trials, and contains insupportable speculation. The Position Statement conclusion that the online program can only be run in conjunction with a face to face program, if accepted, would deny help to the huge number of Australian families who have no other access to services of this kind, leaving them exposed to further abuse. Violence Free Family’s analysis may be viewed at the link below.

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Following the ABC article “Online family violence program wins praise from experts but “blocked” from accreditation” on 13 January 2018, No to Violence (NTV) posted a formal response on its website. This response reflects NTV’s consistent pattern of resistance to innovative ways to reduce domestic violence.

We think NTV may have lost sight of the end objective – to reduce domestic violence. We call on the directors, executives, staff and membership to support NTV’s stated vision of “Working together to end men’s family violence”[1].

NTV’s response to the ABC article says: “In line with the Victorian Government endorsed Minimum Standards, we hold the view that to ensure optimal safety and for practical reasons it is best practice to deliver MBCPs (Men’s Behaviour Change Programs) face-to-face”[2]

We ask the following simple questions:

  1. What evidence do you have to suggest that the Online MBCP (OMBCP) is any less safe than a face to face MBCP?
  2. On the basis of what comparative study do you assert that face to face MBCPs are best practice?

When answering these questions, we ask you to bear in mind that:

  • The OMBCP has been intensively evaluated over four trials by Melbourne University’s Centre for Program Evaluation, which concluded that it is at least as safe and effective as a face to face program.
  • The safety protocols used by the OMBCP are well in excess of the Minimum Standards.
  • The OMBCP was developed and trialled by acknowledged experts in face-to-face programs who were fully conversant with the program standards.
  • An independent audit concluded that the program fully meets the Standards.

We also ask you to bear in mind that, while you continue to use your influence as peak body to block this program:

  1. Women are dying at the rate of one every week due to family violence (2016)
  2. Many men are unable to attend existing programs, meaning that:
  • Women and children in rural and most regional areas are denied the benefits of this or any program.
  • Programs are not available for men on shift work or otherwise unable to attend face to face programs.
  • “There is a high (unmet) demand for men’s behaviour change programs which means there is often a waiting list for a place in the group” (NTV)[3].

Violence Free Families is a volunteer-based charity with the simple aim of trying to prevent family violence. What is to be gained by working against us when children’s and women’s lives and well-beings are at stake?

If you are unable to provide evidence in answer to our two questions to back up your assertions, then we respectfully ask that you reconsider your position and join us in a more collaborative approach to the online future

Working together, we can jointly achieve so much more for the community.


David Smyth, on behalf of the Board of Violence Free Families

19 February 2018




[2] (accessed 31 January 2018).


Violence Free Families has developed from scratch a world first group online program for male perpetrators of family violence. Comprehensively evaluated by Melbourne University’s Centre for Program Evaluation over four trials, it came out with top marks.

The ABC journalist Danny Tran spent over four months of investigation before publishing the article on 13 January, 2018. He interviewed a man who had done the program, the program’s designer and lead facilitator, Melbourne University’s Evaluator, Violence Free Families directors and the CEO of the peak council for such programs in Victoria.

Violence Free Families was established by the Rotary Club of Brighton in 2009 and it is a District Approved Program. The cost of the online program development was over $600,000 in cash and kind and all of this was raised by charitable donations or in-kind contributions of professional time. Rotary clubs were important donors.

Read the ABC’s article.

Horses for Causes

Opportunity of a lifetime

This exciting collection of life-size fibre glass horses have come together for the first and last time as they are up for sale.  Yes, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to own one of these unique art horses.  They can be previewed in Brunswick, Melbourne every Saturday until the 11th November, on Wednesday the 15th November or by private appointment.

For all enquiries, event sales and preview appointment times

Auction Details

A wine and cheese event hosted by Rotary to facilitate the sale of the Art Horse Collection.

The aim is to raise funds for the Online Men’s Behaviour Change Program.


Saturday 14, 21, 28 Oct, 04, 11 Nov
10am – 2pm
FREE entry viewing of exhibition

By appointment Monday – Friday.
Call Robyn Lichter on 0418 548 486  or Barry Hickman 0416 088 851

Wednesday 15 Nov, 2017, 6.30pm
RSVP: 10 November 2017
Wine & cheese
Book your free ticket here


10 November 2017


National Storage
60 Dawson St, Brunswick, VIC 3026

James Clark
Anthony & Belinda Dowell
Ivan Durrant
John Evans
Penelope Gibson
Declan Hallinan
Eleanor Hart
Franciscus Henri
Allen Hicks
Pamela Irving
Ellen Jose
Phoebe Kalaitzis
Alison Lester
Fleur McArthur
Bridget McCormack
Jenny McCracken
Daniel Moynihan
Ian Napier
Mark Ogge
Eric Quah
Alex Rowland
Victor Rubin
Jo Slattery
Jo Jo Spook
Ulla Taylor
Wayne Tindall
Susan Wardrop
Daniel Woodman
Phillip Woodman
Joseph Zbukvic

The cost of family violence in Victoria

The Department of Social Services in Canberra has released a 2016 report by KPMG that estimates the national cost of violence against women and children as $22 bn each year.

Download the summary report here

KPMG also believes that a further $4 bn in costs may be incurred for vulnerable groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, but it does not yet have adequate data for such groups to be confident of the figure. This is a significant increase from a 2009 KPMG report, which estimated $13.6 bn.

KPMG says that part of the increase is due to widening the definition of emotional abuse and stalking as forms of violence, in line with changes by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The definition of violence used includes both domestic and non domestic violence, such as street and workplace violence. Violence Free Families estimates from the KPMG reports that the probable cost of family and domestic violence was about $16.5 bn pa in 2016, up from its previous estimate of $9.3 bn.

KPMG has also prepared a more detailed report for the Victorian Government that can be accessed here.

The programs work, they work well and they work in the long term.

Families affected by violence received good news on Monday 1 May, 2017, when the report a long-running study by Monash University into the outcomes of men’s behaviour change programs was launched by the Hon Marcia Neave, AO at University House, Melbourne. The study showed that the programs work, they work well and they continue to work in the long term.

Ms Neave, Judge in Residence at the Melbourne Law School and former Chairperson of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, related the research to the recommendations of the Royal Commission enquiry and formally launched the report at a function at University House, Melbourne University.

On Monday night Dr David Smyth, Chairperson of Violence Free Families, hosted a launch of the report of this very significant research. Professor Emeritus Thea Brown & Dr Catherine Flynn with assistants from the Monash University Department of Social Work carried out the study on behalf of Violence Free Families.

The Hon Marcia Neave, AO, launching the report with Professor Thea Brown and Dr David Smyth

The study collected data from 270 men over 2 or more years, with 71 remaining in the study at the end – a significant result in a study of this kind.

The men showed a sharp reduction in the nature and severity of violence over the duration of the programs and this reduction is maintained and improved upon in subsequent months and years. Most of the men become violence free or almost violence free two years after their program.

This continued reduction in violence is not without effort. Men fear relapsing and often seek further help. This does not negate the value of the programs, which set them on this path.

There is no evidence that one type of violence is transferred to another, eg, physical to psychological. All types reduce together.

In acknowledging the many supporters of this, the first major study of its kind in Australia, Dr David Smyth, chairperson of Violence Free Families, made special mention of the role of Rotary in supporting the creation of Violence Free Families in 2009 and the early stages of the research and of the generous philanthropists who contributed, The study costs in excess of $500,000 in cash and kind and was entirely funded from charitable sources.

It is a study of international significance. A summary and the full report may be found at

Do Men’s Behaviour Change Programs work in the long term? This, and many other questions about these programs, has vexed professionals, participants and their families for many years.

So, it is with great pleasure that we can now post the research report on our Longitudinal Study into the Effectiveness of Men’s Behaviour Change Programs.

The research was conducted by Professor Emeritus Thea Brown, Professor of Social Work at Monash University and co-author of “Child Abuse and Family Law” Allen and Unwin, 2007, with her associate, Dr Catherine Flynn, and others.

The findings of the study are very optimistic. The men’s behaviour change programs work, they work well and they work in the long term.

Violence Free Families is proud of its role in sponsoring and funding this research and will continue to work hard towards the prevention of family violence in our society.

To view a summary of the report, please click here.

To view the full research report, please fill out the form below to obtain your copy.


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The researchers would welcome any feedback or comment and it may be addressed to

1. Headlines

The programs work, they work well and they work in the long term.

They show a sharp reduction in the nature and severity of violence over the duration of the programs and that this reduction is maintained and improved upon in subsequent months and years. Most of the men become violence free or almost violence free two years after their program.

This continued reduction in violence is not without effort. Men fear relapsing and often seek further help. This does not negate the value of the programs, which set them on this path.

There is no evidence that one type of violence is transferred to another, eg, physical to psychological. All types reduce together.

Mandated men have significantly better results than non-mandated men. This may be due to motivation and the role of Corrections in managing the men and possibly also to the lower incidence of mental health problems among mandated men.

A critical factor in the quality of programs, as viewed by the men, is the quality of the facilitators. The group dynamics are frequently cited as another vital factor. Program design did not seem to play a great part.

2. Reliability

The questionnaire responses showed a lower reduction in the men’s perceptions of the seriousness of their behaviour than did the more objective response to numbers and types of incidents. This probably reflects the improved perception of the consequences of their behaviour and this view was supported by phone interview responses, which reinforced and expanded on the questionnaire information overall.

3. Partner Views

Partners who were in a current relationship with the man, original or new, were positive.

Partners who had separated felt it had not protected them or had come too late.

4. Other Factors

Substance abuse

Approx 27% reported problems with alcohol. This had improved to about 14% in later surveys.

Mental illness

Approx 34% reported mental illness and it might be speculated that this is an underestimate. The most frequent problem reported was depression. This rate did not change.


A high percentage of men (nearly 80%) were in contact with children, including about 7% who were sole parents. The programs do not deal with parenting issues in an adequate way and this is a need that should be addressed more fully.

Ali’s twin sons saw it all. They saw their dad shouting at their mother. They saw him smash a door and shards of glass glinting on the floor. And they saw the police officers, after their mum called for help.

And how did these six-year-old boys feel? Ali* clears his throat. This is not an easy thing to talk about. “Very frightened. They probably lost their trust with me.”

But he says he was relieved, pleased even, his wife called the police to their Melbourne home after he shouted and smashed things. It was not the first time.

The visit from police became a line in the sand, a turning point.

“I knew that what I was doing was wrong, but I didn’t know what to do about it. I was always aware it wasn’t the proper behaviour,” he says.

A court appearance followed, a humiliating experience he never wants to repeat. Ali pleaded guilty to wilful damage and had an intervention order issued against him. Punishment came in the form of a one-year good behaviour bond, and he was ordered to do a behaviour change program.

Men’s behaviour change programs, many with long waiting lists, have become a common penalty meted out to perpetrators of family violence who come before the courts.

But until now, there has been little Australian research.

Now a comprehensive snapshot of 300 Australian men who use violence, and their partners (or ex-partners), over two years, gives cause for optimism. The Monash University study found:

The number of men inflicting violence fell by half across all categories of abusive behaviour, from physical violence to demeaning behaviour.

Their violence didn’t just shift from one area to another. It reduced in all areas, with 65 per cent of the men reporting they were either no longer violent, or almost violence-free, after two years.

About 80 per cent of men saw their abusive behaviour as serious two years after their program finished, compared with 60 before the program.

It was surprising to find the men who improved the most had been ordered by a court to do the program, said co-author Professor Thea Brown, from the uni’s Department of Social Work.

Men’s behavioural change are not an anger-management courses. The counsellors and psychologists who run them try to increase an abuser’s empathy for their victims, and talk about how stereotypical gender roles can be damaging to women.

“Often we have to go back to the grassroots and talk about respect for the views of others,” says Pam Wilkie-Clark, who runs the men’s specialist service at Bethany, in Geelong. The men in her programs often view assertive behaviour from their partners as being aggressive.

Partner’s views on the program varied considerably, Professor Brown said. Those who stayed with the man, or new partners, were very positive. But those who had left were negative, feeling the program had either not protected them, or came too late to matter.
‘That frustration inside me, sometimes it’s hard to cope with’. Ali

During his six-month program at Bethany, Ali realised his approach to parenting was quite different to his wife, and he got very angry at her approach. She was very relaxed while he wanted a strict routine. The main thing he took away from the program was that everyone, including his wife, was entitled to personal choice.

And not everything has been resolved. Before the police were called in, Ali had been to a counsellor a few times about his abusive outbursts. He says he will go back.

“I still sometimes become really frustrated. I don’t react, I never externalise it. But that frustration inside me, sometimes it’s hard to cope with.”

Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence recommended a boost to heavily over-subscribed men’s behavioural change programs. In the most recent budget $1 million was put towards these programs.

The research was funded by Violence Free Families, and will be available online soon.

For help in a crisis call 000.

For family violence help contact Safe Steps: 1800 015 188

*Names have been changed.

Read Miki Perkin’s full article here:

Violence Free Families works for the elimination of all forms of family violence. We believe that Research, Innovation and Education can help improve the lives of vulnerable children and women, and help curb the incidence of family violence.