Recent commitments from political leaders on domestic violence reform have been welcome, but gaps still exist when it comes to engaging with men who use violence. The March 5th announcement that the Federal Government will commit $68 million for prevention strategies were a step in the right direction. This followed a February 26th announcement that NSW Labor pledged to provide an extra 200 specialist domestic violence housing places for women and children, as part of an additional $158 million package. My organisation, No to Violence, are pleased to see political leaders take positive steps towards tackling this issue, but any serious plan to tackle domestic violence needs to include additional funding for programs focused on engaging with men who use violence.
Commitments to engaging with men, including additional funding for men’s behaviour-change programs have been absent in these announcements across the political spectrum. As our recent NSW Listening Tour Report demonstrates, this is a serious oversight.
Having travelled across Victoria and NSW in the past few months, No to Violence and our partners are keenly aware of the pressure on frontline service providers and the need to address domestic violence with a wholistic, wrap-around framework. This requires a suite of complementary interventions. Studies have shown that “[men’s behaviour change] programs appear to be more effective the more tightly they are aligned and supported by other parts of the domestic violence and justice intervention systems.”
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Men’s behaviour change work in NSW operates with too few resources and there are too few of them. In the lead up to the election, it is a crucial time for leaders to commit to including it in any serious agenda looking to end domestic violence.
Domestic Violence figures in NSW make for sober reading with Police responding to 400 domestic violence incidents everyday. In 2018, 33 women were murdered by someone known to them. Without a substantial increase in funding to strengthen and expand depleted programs for men’s behaviour change, NSW will continue to experience the highest rates of domestic and domestic violence in the country.
Our report shows that men’s behaviour change programs and related services in NSW are siloed due to reactive processes imposed by insufficient resources. This is compounded by crisis management, long waiting lists and an underfunded workforce. Collaboration between services is not only hindered by time constraints, but by the competitive allocation of funding. Limited resources mean that staff are unable to attend training or participate in much needed local committees and forums that could increase local and regional collaboration. Our report highlights the need to reward collaboration, information and resource-sharing to create a system that supports one another and to focus on shared goals and values. We need to stop seeing domestic violence services as individual and competing interventions.
We must identify where police, courts, primary prevention campaigns, refuges, helplines, healthcare, addiction services and men’s behaviour change work intersect and where these is room to facilitate the most effective change. A lack of adequate support can lead to serious risk-assessment issues. Communication gaps between services, without the resources to implement processes to bridge those gaps can create dangerous conditions. A participant from our workshop in Albury said: