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20 Jun 2024 12:27
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  •   Home > News > International

    Waitlist times for men seeking help for violent behaviour reach five months as organisations call for more support

    Behavioural change programs are essential for getting perpetrators of domestic violence back on the right path — but support organisations say they need more support as waitlists get longer.

    Men's Behaviour Change Programs (MBCPs) are experiencing a surge in demand across the country, with men self-reporting as violent and urgently seeking help.

    "At the moment with the level of community discussion about this, we're getting four inquiries a day. [But] those men are added to our waiting list," CEO of Relationships Australia NSW Elisabeth Shaw revealed to News Breakfast.

    "We also have, in our parallel stream for women and children, 167 on that waiting list. So, we're very concerned."

    The organisation is funded to run four types of behavioural programs in New South Wales, with three face-to-face models and one online program.

    "We have substantial waiting lists."

    "In New South Wales, we have 245 men on our waiting list, waiting up to five months to get a place."

    One of their main programs varies between 18 to 20 weeks, and involves group therapy sessions and case work tailored to the participant.

    Jake* is a former participant of the Caring Dads program, which is a Men's Behaviour Change Program operated by Anglicare Victoria.

    "Some of those things I've done won't ever leave me… those memories sometimes play in my head like a movie," he told News Breakfast.

    The young father has admitted to being violent with his ex-partners and having drug addiction issues which landed him behind bars.

    "It was my rock bottom, I struggled mentally, and I just decided if I got a second chance and I got out, I was going to make it count."

    After Jake was released from jail, he successfully completed the program and said he's been clean from drugs for two years, resulting in 50-50 custody of his child with his ex-partner.

    "There's never any excuse to harm anyone. I wish I could go back and change those decisions. I can't, all I can do is grow from them."

    The program runs for 17 weeks and involves one session a week for two hours with two facilitators.

    The focus of the model is for fathers to reflect on their role as a parent, and how their choices affect their children.

    Relationships Australia NSW's programs are for men who are mandated by the courts to attend, but Ms Shaw said a larger proportion of participants come into the programs through 'self-referral'.

    "The person themselves can been streamed into the program, it may be that the police were called for the first time, and this is very unusual for this family, and they are shocked and want to get help."

    The results of the programs vary. Every participant has a different likelihood of completing the weeks of counselling and case work, depending on their history.

    "What we know is that these programs do not work for everyone… we have some ideas about who are most likely to drop out and why, but we need to know a whole lot more," she said.

    "The program really is quite challenging for men. Men really have to face some of the actions that they've taken within their family circumstances [and] look at their violent behaviour," Sue Sealey from Anglicare Victoria told News Breakfast.

    But Ms Sealey said the demand for the Caring Dads program, especially in regional areas, is overwhelming.

    "I was talking to one of our leaders last week and she said, 'we just opened, we advertised a program, and it was immediately filled, and we've got 30 or 40 on the waitlist."

    Despite the increase in men seeking help for violent behaviour, Ms Shaw says Relationships Australia NSW may need to scale back their services due to the increasing cost of running them and lack of government investment in gendered violence prevention.

    "In this space, where women are being killed and women and children are at risk, we're just not investing anywhere near in the way that we need to, to make inroads in what really is a public health crisis."

    For Jake and many other men like him looking for support to change their violent behaviour, though, the programs are invaluable.

    "I always convinced myself I was a great dad. And there are certain aspects, you know, back then that I was great at, but the choices and the decisions, the choices to use drugs, they were parent-centred decisions, not child-centred decisions," he said.

    "It made me see things so much differently."

    * Name has been changed for privacy reasons.


    © 2024 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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