Ways to improve integrated responses to domestic and family violence

Ways to improve integrated responses to domestic and family violence

family violence

Family violence is a crisis that builds momentum with every passing moment. With at least one woman killed each week in Australia, the nation is in dire need of reform.

The Working with Men to End Family Violence Conference hosted by The Hatchery, held a two-day conference featuring experts working in the law enforcement, community rehabilitation and crisis response systems on how to work with men including early intervention to ensure accountability.

The panel discussions focused on ways to engage men who use violence in evidence-based programs to reduce risk and bring about lasting change.

Jacqui Watt, Chief Executive Officer of No to Violence, hosted the discussion titled “New ways of improving integrated responses to keep women & children safe”, where three experts considered ways for the formal social systems to mitigate post-separation risk for women and children and how children’s experiences as victims of family violence can be recognised.

Emma Rogers, a regional Domestic and Family Violence Senior Practitioner from the Department of Children, Youth Justice & Multicultural Affairs, Queensland, believes it is crucial to have cultural advice consultation among service providers working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. 

“Knowledge with an informed practice is what we need,” Rogers said. “I don’t think we can do it well unless we have them both together.”

“Father figures matter. We need to honour their role in society. If we don’t, then it makes them more invisible. We need to keep them at the forefront and work with them, looking at their behaviours and supporting them and be safer and better connected dads.”

Anna Haylock, a psychologist at Anglicare Southern Queensland believes that it is crucial to have enduring, engaged programs, ”… having a smooth transition, so that we are not the last port of call for having meaning, having contact with victims.”

“Survivors are incredibly important in terms of a holding account as well as supporting their strengths and empowering women and children to recover,” she said.

Anglicare Southern Queensland has an Aboriginal advisor on their team who provides all cultural awareness and cultural safety training to all staff.

“I think the ground of what we’re doing is saying that we need to be survivor-focused,” Rogers said.

“We need to be adult and child survivor led. That means that we need to hear their voices in regards to what they want [the perpetrator] to stop, what they want him to start, what they want him to continue with in regards to the strength that they get in regards to their father or stepfather or father figure.”

“We can support him to be safer, better connected, and also doing that individually with each child because it’s very different for each child in the family.”

“Sometimes it could be the set of children that he might have more destructive behaviours with than with his own children.”

“So for us it’s actually hearing from them as much as we can individually, and making a plan around that in regards to what can we talk to him safely about…what can we talk to him in regards to his fathering.”

Haylock fundamentally believes it is important to have access to information as soon as organisations obtain them to enable risk assessment and“…to enable us a fast track made into the service so that we can make contact with the victims and survivors.” 

“The way we are connected with victims, survivors and women is what influences our interview process, so that we can really have a focus on partnering with and mapping the perpetrators’ behaviour, and the ways in which his behaviour causes harm to children and mothers.”

Rogers believes focusing on altering the culture of father figures and their behaviours may be key to seeing positive changes.

“[focusing on] the fathers’ behaviours is important because it’s saying what he does matters to the kids, to where he is harming the mum or not, or not supporting her, or if he is not actually meeting the needs of the children.”

“[Mothers and children] want him to choose a better way for them and want them to think about their needs, and what’s best for them.” 

“We work with many dads, and they don’t want to scare their kids,” she continued. “They don’t want their kids to be frightened of them so what can they do in regards to changing those behaviours?”

“Every dad that I’ve worked with has a father, and for us it’s about working out what behaviours that don’t match that and work with him on those behaviours that don’t match that.”

Good news is that both women see a positive yearning for perpetrators of violence who are also parents to improve their behaviour. 

“Our experience said that men are very motivated when it comes to children and building relationships with their children,” Haylock said.

“A key consideration is that they need to appreciate that it’s harming children to be putting their mother down or being violent towards their mother.”

“It’s a bit of a hurdle for men to overcome that and realise that they need to actually be respectful and to realise that it does harm children.”

Rogers believes keeping track and documenting behaviours is important. 

“Documentation is crucially important,” she said. “What Anna was saying about the mapping tool, using a mapping tool, and actually having all those patterns of behaviours written down and documented can be shared across the systems.”

“We’ve seen that some really great outcomes using that tool. Magistrates can then make informed decisions around fathers’ behaviours, getting it documented and sharing that with the services.” 

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