When did the initiative commence?

The current program, which is a part of the Kildonan UnitingCare Family Violence Intervention Program, was established in 2007.

What need does the initiative respond to?

Men’s worker Simon Stewart says that the program exists to promote the safety of women and children.

“This is not a support group for men,” Simon says.

“It’s a group which tries to challenge men’s assumptions and beliefs about gender, with the ultimate aim of ending men’s violence against women and children.

What does the initiative do? Who does it support?

The program is a 22-week rolling group where, once a week, two facilitators—one woman and one man—talk to the men who attend about their use of violence. Most of the men are mandated to attend the group by the Family Violence Court Division at the Magistrate’s Court in Heidelberg, after having an intervention order taken out against them.

Through discussion and group work, the group covers topics such as:

  • Blocks to Responsibility
  • The Cycle of Violence
  • Smokescreens
  • What is Family Violence?
  • The Impact of Family Violence on Children
  • The Man I Want to Be

New men join the group at the beginning of each month. Simon says that the group format allows for men who have started to address their beliefs about gender and their male privilege to challenge other men about their own.

“Initially, men use a lot of excuses to explain away their violence.” Simon says.

“Men who’ve been in the group longer can start to hold other men to account for their behaviour.”

The program also involves a case worker contacting the men’s partners to offer them support.

How is the initiative resourced/funded?

The program is funded by the Victorian Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to set up a similar initiative?

Ada says that men’s behaviour change programs need to adhere to more than the minimum standards within the No To Violence framework.

“The men need to be accountable to the woman facilitator in the room,” Ada says.

“Facilitators need to call out male privilege and entitlement wherever they see it.

“Male facilitators need to challenge their own privilege and entitlement and be and reflect on its impact.”

Simon says men’s behaviour change programs cannot be set up in isolation—they have to combine with other kinds of casework.

“Many men we work with have a wide variety of issues that it’s difficult to address in a group setting,” Simon says.

“Partner contact also needs to be funded and to be central to these programs.

“If there were capacity to do work with children—that would be ideal.”