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How can we better engage men in our family violence work?

How can we better engage men in our family violence work?

A panel of people sitting on stage at a conference

DVRCV’s CEO Emily Maguire had the pleasure of attending the recent Australasian Working Together to End Men’s Family Violence Conference. The conference explored ways in which the sector can strengthen practice approaches to men who use domestic and family violence through a whole-of-community approach.

One of the highlights of the conference was the panel discussion ‘Changing systems and practice that allow violence to occur.’ Men play a central role in shifting the narrative on family violence, but the systems within which men operate – as employees, fathers, leaders or men who chose to use violence – also have an incredible impact on how individual men can engage with change. With this in mind, panel members were asked to provide one suggestion as to how the sector can more effectively engage with men in addressing family violence as well as those men who perpetrate violence.  More specifically, the panel spoke to systemic issues, sociocultural considerations, barriers to accessing services and ways to hold perpetrators accountable.

The panel’s responses reflected the complexity of addressing the issue from systemic, behavioural and practice-oriented levels. Dr Debra Parkinson, Manager of the Gender and Disaster Pod, stressed the need to deconstruct gendered norms and expectations about behaviour whilst Rosie Batty highlighted the importance of starting at the individual level whereby we teach and model behaviours to our children that don’t reinforce toxic masculinity or inequality. This was validated by other panel members who emphasised the cost that toxic masculinity has on men as well as on women.

On a systems level, Anne-lise Ah-fat from Undercurrent emphasised to the need to shift away from the punitive approach of incarcerating men because it doesn’t lead to a decrease in family violence, and Elena Campbell from the Advocacy and Policy Centre for Innovative Justice spoke eloquently about the impacts on behaviour change that come from violent men being entrenched in social and legal systems that don’t always or often don’t adequately hold men to account for their behaviour.

Leah Van Poppel from Women with Disabilities Victoria highlighted the intersection between ableism and family violence perpetration, noting that ableism can help to excuse perpetrator behaviour. She also spoke about the importance of seeing violence perpetrated by men with a disability as an issue of violence and gender inequality.  

Annette Lancy from Family Safety Victoria emphasised the need for legislation that enables multi-agency risk assessment and information sharing. This would have the benefit of giving the sector a platform to know where men, as fathers, teachers, patients and perpetrators of family violence are located and thereby identify who they are engaging with in order to work with them to change their behaviour earlier on. 

We’d like to thank No to Violence for hosting such a thought-provoking conference that will continue to galvanise the work of the sector to shift the discourse around men’s role in addressing family violence.