A thriving perpetrator intervention sector is crucial to addressing the scourge of domestic violence in NSW – the 2023 NSW Election Tour was part of our wider strategy to make this happen.
In February and March 2023, No to Violence toured NSW ahead of the state election to meet with our members, the domestic and family violence sector and local political candidates.
The aim of the tour was to facilitate a conversation between the perpetrator intervention sector that No to Violence represents, as well as the political hopefuls that are vying for seats, about the challenges of preventing and responding to domestic and family violence in their local communities.
We visited seven locations: Blacktown, Penrith, Orange, Nowra, Lismore, Wagga Wagga and Charlestown.
We would like to extend our sincerest thanks to our members and the wider sector for attending our events and sharing their thoughts. It was great to meet everyone in person after a couple of years of talking to each other through screens.
Our full report and findings will be released next month. Until then, here’s a wrap of the key issues unearthed from the Tour.
“People are competing against each other for funding, rather than working together. We need collaboration not competition.”
We kicked off our tour in Blacktown at Max Webber Library. We were joined by representatives from Relationships Australia, Catholic Care, Settlement Services International, SydWest, BaptistCare, NSW Legal Aid, and the Institute of Non-Violence, as well as local Labor candidates Hugh McDermott (Prospect) and Stephen Bali (Blacktown).
Blacktown is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Australia, with over 70 different languages spoken in homes across the LGA. We heard their calls for the need for culturally-specific men’s behaviour change programs and deeper collaboration across the sector.
“The candidates are showing how much they care, which is clearly very little. No politician has shown up today.”
Representatives from Relationships Australia, Community Restorative Centre, Nepean Community and Neighborhood Services, Western Sydney Community Legal Centre, Mountains Youth Services Team and Transforming Justice Australia joined us for a lively discussion in Penrith.
Despite extending invitations to all local political candidates, we were disappointed to see that none attended the event. It was a missed opportunity to learn about how Penrith’s lack of housing is contributing to high rates of family violence, and that government needs to invest in perpetrator intervention programs that already exist.
“We need to get rid of the expectation that men will complete a program and they’ll be ‘fixed.’ We need more funding over longer periods of time.”
In Orange the room was filled with representatives from Mission Australia, Catholic Care, Birrang, Housing Plus, FACS, the Benevolent Society, and Stride, as well as local candidates Heather Dunn (Labor), Philip Donato (Independent) and Tony Mileto (Nationals).
We heard that short-term funding is making it almost impossible to recruit staff, and that the housing crisis is impacting the family violence sector acutely, with victim-survivors unable to access emergency accommodation and perpetrators unable to leave the home while they seek support to change their behaviour.
“[Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs)] don’t get funding for tender and policy staff. Meanwhile, larger organisations that get the funding don’t have the expertise to work with communities.”
We had a full house in Nowra, with representatives from Anglicare, Waminda, South Coast Medical Service Aboriginal Corporation, Mission Australia, Illawarra Koori Men’s Support Group, Shoalcoast Community Legal Centre, and the Aboriginal Legal Service, as well as local candidates Liza Butler (Labor), Amanda Findley (Greens), and Luke Sikora (Liberal).
The Nowra community explained the challenges that a lack of funding has created for the sector, with smaller groups, like ACCOs, unable to compete with larger services that have the funding to employ policy and tender staff.
“Albury is the nearest men’s behaviour change program, and that’s 90 minutes away. It’s absolutely ridiculous that there isn’t one here.”
In Wagga Wagga we were joined by representatives from CentaCare NSW, Mission Australia, Relationships Australia, Linking Communities Network (LCN), Taster Property, and Wagga Women’s Health Centre, as well as local candidates Joe McGirr (Independent), Keryn Foley (Labor), and Ray Goodlass (Greens).
There are no accredited men’s behaviour change programs in Wagga Wagga. And with no support for men to take accountability for their violent behaviour, the onus inevitably falls on women to protect themselves and their children. This should never be the case.
We need to do more to shift the burden of responsibility from victim-survivors to the men who use violence.
“We need safe, affordable, accessible accommodation immediately. We need it yesterday.”
At our Lismore event, we were joined by Women Up North Housing, My Momentum, Northern Rivers Women and Children’s Services (NORWACS), Men and Family Centre, and Bunjum, as well as local candidates Janelle Saffin (Labor), Alex Rubin (Nationals), and Adam Guise (Greens).
The local family and domestic violence sector continues to suffer the effects of the devastating floods, with housing presenting as the most prominent issue. Lismore is crying out for support.
Many of the issues raised in Lismore reinforced what we heard during our previous stops on the Tour. But Lismore faces some unique challenges as the region continues dealing with the aftermath of the 2022 floods. A lack of housing in the area has become a huge barrier to safety, and increased funding is needed to serve and supplement the perpetrator intervention programs and initiatives that currently exist.
“We have had to take funding from homelessness services and other programs to deliver perpetrator work because we’re not getting any funding to work with men.”
We were joined by representatives from Coast Shelter, CatholicCare, Jenny’s Place, Relationships Australia, Family Support Newcastle, Joplin Lawyers, Port Stephens Family and Neighbourhood Services, Victims of Crime Assistance League and Mosaic Multicultural Connections, as well as local candidates Jodie Harrison (Labor) and Greg Watkinson (Greens) in Charlestown.
Charlestown service providers spoke about the challenges of chronic underfunding, which in the Hunter region has forced service providers to redirect funds from other vital programs in order to work with men. All attendees agreed that funding for perpetrator interventions should be provided on top of the funding that already supports existing services.
Keep an eye out for our final NSW Election Tour Report, which will be released next month
Want to become a No to Violence member and get involved in our next tour? Sign up here.
If you are concerned about someone using violence, call Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491 or visit ntv.org.au/get-help/ for advice and support.