Bell seeks regional DV funding commitment

Tuesday March 19, 2019

Published by Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell MP

A pioneering regional program aimed at changing the behaviour of future domestic violence perpetrators should be trialled in Mount Gambier, says Independent MP Troy Bell.

The Mount Gambier MP will make a three-part motion on Wednesday, seeking support from the State Government to provide funding for a regionally based perpetrator intervention program, outside the criminal justice system.

Mr Bell said a proposed program model, developed by a group of Limestone Coast service providers, took shape following discussion at last year’s Limestone Coast Domestic Violence Roundtable.

“As one, our frontline domestic violence workers spoke of the need for men’s violence intervention programs, external to our criminal justice system,” he said.

“Domestic violence is a behavioural choice and the onus of responsibility needs to be put squarely on the perpetrator, rather than on service providers, police and courts.”

Mr Bell said the lack of a community-level program aimed at changing men’s behaviour had been a long-standing issue for those working in the local domestic violence sector.

“Once incidents of domestic or family violence get to the level of police or courts, there is already irreparable harm done to the family involved,” he said.

“The research done locally clearly indicates that domestic and family violence is a dominant feature in child protection reports, so if we can look at family violence and child protection in the same strategy, it has positive repercussions across the entire community.”

Currently, Mr Bell said men’s behaviour change programs were only available in Western Victoria and Adelaide and it was costing State Departments thousands of dollars in travel and accommodation to send Limestone Coast men to access the programs.

Bell questioned the relevance of a metropolitan program to a regional perpetrator.

“The fact is, a man living with a family on a remote property at Carpenters Rocks has vastly different motivating factors and proximity to services than a man living in the city of Adelaide,” he said.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to DV and strategies and programs, designed in conjunction with local service providers to tackle their specific issues, are key.”

Mr Bell said more funding should be directed towards early intervention and prevention strategies and programs, to relieve pressure on a system already struggling to deal with demand.

“The Limestone Coast Domestic Violence Service has just 3.4 full time equivalent case workers to service the Limestone Coast region of more than 66,000 people,” he said.

“I’m also told around one full day per week in Mount Gambier’s Magistrates Court is taken up with intervention orders, yet many of the major crimes involving domestic violence in this state have occurred when intervention orders have been in place.”

Mr Bell praised the local group behind the proposed program, including Centacare’s Craig Wood, Susie Smith from the Limestone Coast Domestic Violence Service, Sonya Mezinec from Victim Support South East, Rachel Fenn from the Limestone Coast Department of Child Protection and Andrew Birtwistle Smith, CEO of Pangula Mannamurna.

The pilot program had been costed at $362,000 and would fit within existing service delivery frameworks in the Limestone Coast region.

Mr Bell said it was an opportunity for the State Government to further demonstrate their commitment to tackling the issue of domestic and family violence.

“This group has seen a need in our local community and responded to it proactively and with an impressive level of insight, research and detail,” he said.

“Craig Wood summed it up perfectly for me when he said, ‘let’s get in early, create some sustained change and keep families out of the system’.

“The hard work has been done - all it needs is the financial support and backing of this State Government.”