Men who admit they are abusive join long waiting list to get help at Bayswater, Box Hill and Lilydale
TROUBLED men who are voluntarily seeking counselling for their abusive behaviour are languishing on waiting lists for months because the family violence sector is overstretched, according to experts.
Anglicare Victoria runs weekly men’s behavioural change programs in Bayswater, Box Hill and Lilydale, but program manager Jim Allen said men who signed up voluntarily could sometimes spend two months waiting for an opening.
“We have concerns about that because men can sometimes lose the internal motivation to attend the program in that time,” he said.
Mr Allen, a 20-year veteran of family violence prevention, said some of the men who signed up for the programs might have already perpetrated violence or were fearful their behaviour could escalate.
Behavioural change programs are often court or police mandated, requiring those found guilty of family violence to prove they have attended counselling.
Mr Allen said more funding was desperately needed to increase the reach of such programs.
“We need to be there in the Ringwood Magistrates Court and being more active about meeting with men in the community,” he said.
Lifeworks family violence co-ordinator Nick Valentine said the programs were vital because relying on punitive measures alone would not change the community’s attitudes towards violence.
“Across the state, even across the country, there is a huge demand for these programs, but the demand exceeds the supply,” he said.
“There are just not enough programs running, and that is a real concern.”
In April, Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge announced a $2.1 million boost for men’s behavioural change programs across the state. The increase was directed to areas with “high incidences” of family violence, but Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs missed out.
Despite calling for better funding, Mr Valentine said the success of the programs was difficult to measure.
“It’s not a magic wand and for a lot of men it’s often just a first step,” he said.