Working for women and children’s safety at the intersection of men’s behaviour change programs and child protection

Stream: Reform and Safety Issues for Women and Children
Date: Thursday, 12 February 2015
Time: 1.45 pm – 3.30 pm


This study involved 69 in depth qualitative interviews with men, women and workers across four Men’s Behaviour Change Programs in rural Victoria. Formal and informal consequences experienced by men for family violence and the impacts on accountability and responsibility were considered. Children and the impact of men's violence on children emerged as an important informal consequence in holding men accountable for their violence against women and children and supporting men's behaviour change. Whilst access and retention at MBC programs was created via Child Protection referral, the adversarial interaction with CP created resistance to engaging in change processes. Men used CP to obfuscate responsibility and reinforce constructions of victimisation. Denial and minimisation were facilitated by inconsistent responses, time delays and staff shortages. Women also did not feel assisted by CP in efforts to protect their children and support partners' behaviour change. There were lost opportunities to create alliances with women's attempts to stand up to their partners' violence, when women faced the possibility of losing their children. Resolving the dilemmas of protecting children and supporting women's efforts to keep families intact and free from violence, is an ongoing challenge for practitioners. A number of issues for policy and practice are highlighted.


Joanie Smith (Presenter), Federation Univeristy
Joanie Smith commenced her Social Work career in family violence services. WIth over twenty years experience working, researching and teaching in the social welfare arena in family violence and youth services. Joanie has undertaken a number of research projects into family violence, homelessness, healthy ageing, and rehabilitation services. She has been involved in consultancies for the Department of Human Services, Latrobe City, and Monash University. Joanie’s qualifications span welfare, social sciences, social work and education fields. She completed her PhD at the University of Melbourne as part of the SAFER Research project: Safety and Accountability in Families: Evidence and Research

Cathy Humphreys (Presenter), Univeristy of Melbourne
Cathy Humphreys is Professor of Social Work at University of Melbourne. For 5 years she held the Alfred Felton Chair of Child and Family Welfare, a professorship established in collaboration with the Alfred Felton Trust, Department of Social Work at University of Melbourne and The Centre for Excellence for Child and Family Welfare in Victoria, the peak body for more than 95 child and family welfare agencies in Victoria. The Chair is now supported by the University of Melbourne-Sector Research Partnership, a consortium of 14 Victorian community sector organisations which are driving research in the children, youth and families area.

Chris Laming (Presenter), Federation Univeristy
Chris Laming has been engaged in groupwork with men, both in Australia and overseas for about thirty years. Chris was the founding coordinator of the Men’s SHED (Self-Help Ending Domestics) Project at Moe in 1994. He completed his PhD research entitled: A Constructivist Approach to Challenging Men’s Violent Against Women, graduating from University of Melbourne in 2006. He teaches in the Social and Community Welfare course and coordinates field education and practice and was part of the SAFER Research project: Safety and Accountability in Families: Evidence and Research