Perpetrator Interventions in the Justice System
Fourth Action Plan actions
- Improve support and service system responses
- 19 Build the evidence base to inform responses to domestic, family and sexual violence by strengthening the focus on what works to reduce violence, improving data and supporting the Fourth Action Plan priorities.
What are we doing?
Recommendation 87 of Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence relates to research, trialling and evaluation of interventions for perpetrators of family violence. To progress this recommendation, Victoria is trialling new perpetrator interventions in Corrections Victoria, across the Court system and for perpetrators who have had contact with the justice system, through government initiatives and grants to community service organisations.
- The Victorian Government has provided $16.4 million between 2017-18 and 2020-21 to fund Family Violence Perpetrator Interventions in the Justice system.
What have we achieved so far?
The Family Violence Perpetrator Interventions Grants Program has funded ten program trials across the Victorian family violence system, including five funded and managed by the Department of Justice and Community Safety (DJCS) and five funded and managed by Family Safety Victoria (FSV). Funding has also been provided for programs to be delivered through the Courts.
Department of Justice and Community Safety
- Group and individual support for fathers who are perpetrators of family violence designed as an invitation to eligible men to stop using violence and take steps to restore their relationship with their children.
- Cross-sector coordination for adult male perpetrators of family violence, which establishes a multi-agency, accountability response by coordinating care around the primary causal and reinforcing factors by working with co-located services.
- Healing and strengthening program for Aboriginal men which focusses on breaking the cycle of family violence, crime and imprisonment by supporting Aboriginal men to recognise intergenerational trauma, understand cycles of violence, commit to behaviour change, heal their spirit and develop a positive vision for their lives.
- Case management therapeutic cultural group program for Aboriginal men with the aim of working collaboratively and in a holistic way to get the best outcomes.
- An integrated service response for cis women, trans and gender diverse people who have used violence within a family setting. It uses a trauma informed lens to focus on empowerment, based on understanding the pathways to crime common for women, including their high rates of victimisation, mental health distress and substance use disorders.
- In 2020-21 DJCS funded a range of in prison and individualised community-based support for perpetrators delivered through the Department of Justice and Community Safety, including introduction of individual perpetrator case management for family violence offenders in the community, a parenting program for male and female prisoners, and a new program for women who use force at Tarrengower prison.
- DJCS has also expanded the Tuning into Respectful Relationships program to additional prisons across the state.
- In 2021-2022, the Victorian Government funded $2.54 million for better identification of perpetrators and continuation of tailored intervention programs to support behaviour change and help break the cycle of family violence
Courts Services Victoria
- On 1 January 2020, the Court Mandated Counselling Order Program (CMCOP) commenced at five Magistrates’ Courts: Shepparton, Ballarat, Moorabbin, Heidelberg and Frankston. The CMCOP supports the implementation of counselling orders in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria (MCV). Counselling orders are a legislative tool that a magistrate can use in some Family Violence Intervention Order (FVIO) matters to direct a male respondent to attend a Men’s Behaviour Change Program (MBCP).
- In 2021, the Integrated Counselling and Case Management (ICCM) Pilot Program commenced at Ballarat Magistrates’ Court. This program is for respondents using family violence that present with complex issues, including alcohol and other drugs use and/or mental illness. The Pilot will provide advanced assessment, case management, and affected family member contact services
In response to COVID-19, Corrections Victoria adapted service delivery in a variety of ways to ensure optimal outcomes, including:
- Due to social distancing restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, many services, delivered both in the community and in the Victorian prison system, adapted their service delivery to continue to ensure that perpetrators were held to account and in view and to ensure the safety and wellbeing of family violence victim survivors. Community Correctional Services implemented significant operational changes to continue its oversight of offenders in the community including, shifting to a remote service delivery model for all low risk offenders and offenders on reparation orders and using a mix of supervision techniques, including face to face supervision and technology to monitor medium and high-risk offenders.
- Family violence perpetrator programs delivered both in the community and in the Victorian prison system transitioned and adapted to remote service delivery. Some continued program delivery via zoom sessions and other adapted to focus on individual counselling, risk management and safety planning.
- Emergency crisis procurement was used to purchase placements for individual case management support for perpetrators who were subject to community correctional services supervision.
- Support services for family violence victim survivors continued to be delivered for example, safety planning for women with pending release dates, provision of legal and non-legal support for Aboriginal women and Specialist Trauma Counselling via zoom or telephone.
What is next?
An evaluation of the Family Violence Perpetrator Intervention Grant Program trials has been completed and FSV and DJCS are working together to determine future funding opportunities for innovative perpetrator interventions in the justice system, including Corrections, Courts and Victoria Police. In addition, DJCS is undertaking a project to evaluate perpetrator interventions for justice clients. A comprehensive literature review of perpetrator interventions has culminated in minimum program standards. Current perpetrator interventions will be assessed against these standards, and the perpetrator outcome domains of Victoria’s Family Violence Outcomes Framework. The project will also support Family Safety Victoria’s development of an overarching monitoring and evaluation framework (MEF) for perpetrator interventions, with a focus on representing the justice cohort. In addition, DJCS is working in consultation with FSV on a meta-evaluation of perpetrator interventions that will focus on lessons learned from previous evaluations. With an expected completion date of July 2021, the meta-evaluation will also include a literature review that looks at a wide variety of perpetrator programs.
The second Family Violence Reform Rolling Action Plan 2020-2023 was released in December 2020 and includes Perpetrator and people who use violence as one of the reform priority areas for 2020-2023. The RAP sets out a range of activities responding to the vision and intent of the Expert Advisory Committee on Perpetrator Interventions’ report, with the key themes of enhanced service responses, cultural safety and inclusion; and enablers (data and evidence; workforce capability, capacity and practice; and information sharing and risk coordination).
What difference will we make?
The availability of effective perpetrator interventions is critical to creating accountability and behaviour change and supporting the safety of victim survivors. Prior to Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence there had been chronic under-investment in perpetrator programs and the main intervention available (Men’s Behaviour Change Programs) had limited places, was largely inaccessible, and ineffective for many perpetrator cohorts. The new programs, delivered through Perpetrator Interventions in the Justice System, address service gaps and encourage collaboration to meet complexity and need. Trial and evaluation of these new interventions will build the evidence base on what works.
The current perpetrator interventions trials across the justice system have made some inroads into addressing service gaps and reducing barriers to access for diverse cohorts and those with complex problems, such as mental health and drug and alcohol addiction which contribute to their offending behaviour.
The ultimate outcomes include: perpetrators are kept in view, perpetrators are accountable for their behaviour and perpetrators are held to account.