Concurrent session - Day 1 - Indian Ocean Room

Holding perpetrators to account

Michael Sheehan & Deb Cornwell

Michael is currently Executive Director at Relationships Australia Western Australia and oversees its Family Mental Health, Domestic Violence and Child Contact Services. For over 25 years, he has held senior management positions within the community services sector, involving setting up and managing mental health, substance use and government and community services, university lecturing and presenting professional development workshops.

Deb has a Master’ s degree in Counselling. Her areas of expertise are working with both children and parents. Deb works therapeutically with children who have experienced DFV and other traumas as well as children with diagnoses of ADHD, ASD and other mental health concerns. She has extensive knowledge and experience working with parents in supervised contact. These parents consist of both survivors and perpetrators of FDV. Deb also works in the mediation area, under the parenting co-ordination program, with separated parents, most of whom are referred from the Family Law Court of WA.

Supervised time & DFV: Putting children at risk

Domestic and family violence (DFV) has become the ‘core’ business of the Family Court in post-separation parenting matters with fathers being the overwhelming perpetrators of DFV. The ‘best interests of the child’ principle in Family Law has been criticised as prioritising abusive fathers’ right to have contact with their children over their safety. Underlying this is the assumption that father involvement is beneficial for children and a good mother should foster this relationship. This approach, however, mistakenly assumes that violence is unrelated to a father’s relationship with his child and his parenting. Pressure on mothers to facilitate contact leads abusive fathers to agree to participate ‘without admission’ in supervised time at a Children’s Contact Centre or in a men’s behaviour change program (MBCP). But what are the benefits of supervised time or an MBCP when a father refuses to admit his abuse and wants the mother and children’s disclosures to be disbelieved? This presentation contends that sanctioning supervised time in DFV matters can be invalidating to child victims by pretending abuse has not occurred. This is highlighted when children witness a neutral supervisor acting politely and accommodatingly to an abusive father whose insincere and dishonest behaviours are ‘positively’ reported back to the Court, leading to the granting of unsupervised time. This re-exposures children to further abuse and consolidates their beliefs that the world is unpredictable and victimisation is normal. This presentation argues that there needs to be a more critical examination of the pro-contact culture whereby even supervised time should not be automatically assumed as an option for children experiencing DFV.

Noelene Iannello & Michael Sheehan

Noelene has worked within the family and domestic violence sector in WA for over 17 years. Noelene is currently the Senior Manager – Family and Domestic Violence Services with Relationships Australia WA.

Michael is currently Executive Director at Relationships Australia Western Australia and oversees its Family Mental Health, Domestic Violence and Child Contact Services. For over 25 years, he has held senior management positions within the community services sector, involving setting up and managing mental health, substance use and government and community services, university lecturing and presenting professional development workshops.

FDV Pilot Program for Family Court Fathers

This presentation evaluates a pilot group program called “Fathering for Life” in collaboration with the Family Court of WA to respond to fathers who perpetrate domestic and family violence (DFV). With agreed-upon proforma Court Orders, the Family Court refers fathers to a 15 week group program in which they are invited to examine the impact of their behaviours and consider the attitudes and beliefs that support abusive parenting practices. In particular, participants are invited to step into the shoes of their children and consider how different fathering choices affect children. In exploring their roles as fathers and parenting partners, men are also invited to develop more engaging and nurturing relationships with their children that promote their safety and wellbeing. As it is a requirement of acceptance into the group that the service has contact with the children’s mother, the presentation also discusses why this is a critical component of this program to ensure their safety. At the end of the group program, a report is provided to the Family Court with recommendations around the father’s parenting time with his children. This presentation will also highlight the unique challenges of working with fathers within the family court system where allegations of domestic violence are raised by mothers but denied by fathers. It is hoped that by addressing the notion that violence towards their children’s mother is a parenting choice and constitutes child abuse, fathers can build more nurturing and child-focused relationships with their children which, in turn, can further enhance their safety and that of their mothers.

Bianca Johnston & Michael Hail

Bianca Johnston is a Criminologist and Social Worker with over 14 years of direct practice working with young people. She has worked across diverse areas including community development, youth alcohol and other drugs, family violence, crime prevention and early intervention. Her work has ranged from individual support, therapeutic groups, youth advocacy groups, research, large scale community arts projects and workforce and sector capacity building. Much of Bianca’s research has focused on welfare and forensic responses to young people, in particular young women. From 2018 onwards Bianca has designed, coordinated and delivered a capacity building project at YSAS aiming to enhance youth and Youth AoD responses to family violence.
In addition to her work at YSAS, Bianca currently completes a Masters of Philosophy (via research) through Monash University in relation to young women’s experiences of intimate partner violence. She is a committed advocate for violence prevention

Michael Hail is a Community Educator with over 12 years’ experience in the youth work field. His work experience has focused on social inclusion topics, such as challenging sectarianism, preventing violent extremism amongst young people and reducing gender based violence within communities. This work has taken place across Europe and further afield, including Malawi, Pakistan, and China.
Michael holds a BA Hons in Community Education and is a member of the Community Learning and Development Standards Council for Scotland.
As well as his current work as a Training Practitioner for NTV, Michael has worked with local and national Government bodies, Police Scotland, national charities and as a freelance trainer.

Adolescent Intimate Partner Violence Responses

Specialist practice, training and responses to adolescent intimate partner violence and adolescent substance use coercion are largely absent from the dominant family violence discourse.

The Youth Support and Advocacy Service (YSAS) is Victoria’s largest Youth Alcohol and other Drug (AoD) Service, working with young people with diverse and complex needs and high levels of vulnerability. No to Violence (NTV) is a peak body for organisations and individuals working with men to end family violence and operator of the Men’s Referral Service.
In 2020-2021, NTV and YSAS partnered to develop training specifically focused on adolescent intimate partner violence identification, practice and interventions for change. This online package was piloted as a part of a family violence capacity building curriculum currently being undertaken at YSAS.
The YSAS/NTV partnership has resulted in the establishment of innovative lessons for practitioners and material that provides a linkage between violence prevention and substance use responses for youth. This work particularly focuses on adolescent intimate partner violence and substance use coercion.
This discussion explores the journey and lessons of both practitioners and agencies to bridge disciplines in order to merge research, expertise and practice in responding to and preventing adolescent intimate partner violence and substance use coercion.

Damian Green

Damian Green, CEO of Stopping Family Violence is one of three Accredited Caring Dad’s Trainers in Australia and the only trainer in Western Australia. Damian will share his insights and learnings for developing Caring Dads within the WA context, the importance of providing varied and responsive intervention for men choosing to use violence against their partner and children, as well as the necessity for interventions such as Caring Dads to be included in Australia’s broader system response to family, domestic and sexual violence.

Caring Dads in the WA context

Despite the importance of fathers to families, many of our systems tend to work primarily with mothers; a trend that is exacerbated when fathers are deemed to be high risk. Ironically, this means that those fathers who most need to be kept within view and offered opportunities to change are left isolated and disappear. Unfortunately, it is women and children who often pay the price, with children of violent fathers experiencing higher rates of aggression, substance use, criminal involvement, suicide attempts, mental health problems and chronic health conditions. When we put this information together, we see numerous advantages to engaging fathers who use violence in efforts to enhance the safety and well-being of their children. Potential benefits include; improved child centred fathering, improved father-child relationships, better coparenting beliefs and values, address fathers’ potential use of abuse in future relationships and with other children, and increased opportunities to monitor and contain risk from fathers.

The Caring Dads intervention program developed in Canada 2001, is firmly situated within the realm of gender-based violence, and, indeed, within the framework of gender equality in general. The program was specifically developed from the premise that violence against women and violence against children are intricately intertwined, and that these two experiences needed dedicated attention.

In Australia, our child protection and child and family service systems have traditionally worked primarily with mothers with little, if any, direct engagement and intervention with fathers as the cause of harm. This means that those fathers who most need to be monitored and offered opportunities to change as a result of the family seeking support are often not the target for intervention.  This so often leaves mothers and family members with the responsibility to reduce risk and provide safety rather than receiving the support and assistance they need for their own experiences of violence. The announcement this year by WA State Government to invest in a Caring Dads program in the Peel region is an important step forward. Recognising there are numerous advantages to changing practice to better include fathers in efforts to enhance the safety and well-being of their children offers an additional pathway to ending violence against women

Cheryl Munzel, Yvette Jaczina, Margaret Augerinos & Robin Trainor

Cheryl Munzel – (lead presenter) (Che) oversees and delivers therapeutic/clinical services that are trauma informed, evidence based and informed, and underpinned by feminist theoretical frameworks. She has a long-standing commitment to understanding societal structures and culture. Cheryl holds a Bachelor of Social Work and a Master of Narrative Therapy & Community Work and has worked for the Centre for Non-Violence since 2002.

Yvette Jaczina is instrumental in establishing strong partnerships, delivery of services and practices that deliver positive outcomes for service users and the broader community, in line with the CNV strategic plan and feminist philosophy. Starting her career as a social worker, Yvette has been working in the community sector since 2000. Since then she has held senior strategic leadership positions in mental health, homelessness, youth services and family services. She has a strong commitment to women’s and children’s safety and to women’s empowerment.

Margaret Augerinos (B.SW) is a qualified Social Worker who has been working in the not-for-profit community services sector for the last 30 years. Margaret has worked in many different settings including family counselling, community health, community legal services, and advocacy and rights organisations.
Margaret has served on a number of Boards and Committees over the years and is presently the Victorian representative on WESNET (Women’s Services Network – Australian Women’s Domestic and Family Violence peak), a board member of Homelessness Australia, an Executive Member of the Australian Women Against Violence Alliance and is on the Interim Board of the Global Network of Women’s Shelters.
Margaret has presented at many conferences nationally and internationally and has presented at side and parallel events at a number of sessions of the United Nations Committee for the Status of Women.
Margaret is a passionate supporter of human rights and in ending gender-based violence against women.

Robyn Trainor is a qualified social worker who brings a strong research and policy focus to her work. She is committed to social work and social change, using research, evaluation and evidence to demonstrate the social impact of CNV’s work.
She has previous experience working at CNV in the role of General Manager – Prevention and Development and as the Regional Integration Coordinator (Loddon Campaspe), working to improve family violence service and system responses. Prior to working with CNV, Robyn was a Lecturer and Seminar Leader within Social Work Education and Education Curriculum at La Trobe University (Bendigo).

Workshop – Fathers making aMENds @restoring relationships

We will present the Making aMENds program “MA”, an innovative family focused program, developed by the Centre for Non-Violence in Victoria. It offers individual and group work interventions for fathers who use family violence and tailored safety planning and risk management support to victim/survivors. The program places children’s safety at the centre and is restorative in practice, underpinned by a commitment to the safety of all victim/survivors and addressing the impacts of control, coercion, and violence on fathering and parenting relationships.
“MA” is influenced by best practice and informed by women and their children (victim/survivors), who often tell us they want to continue relationships with the perpetrator but want the violence and abuse to stop. Separation remains a key risk time for victim/survivors and children, often with escalation of using children to continue tactics and behaviour towards the mother.
“MA” uses a narrative approach to explore and address the attitudes, beliefs, stereotypes, and norms that influence fathering behaviour, thinking and actions. “MA” invites fathers to consider the impact of their violence and abuse and uses children’s voices to invite change. We use restorative practices for children to voice their experiences, while messaging safe, non-violent and respectful relationships. The program is underpinned by CNV’s integrated family violence program and services, with a common vision for safety and accountability. Inter-agency risk assessment and management is ongoing and reviewed throughout family contact. We partner with victim/survivors and work in partnership with key stakeholders, including child protection and family services to monitor and minimise risk and increase safety and accountability. We keep the perpetrator in view and work to provide a system of support to address the impact of violence, abuse, control, and coercion on children, parenting and family safety.