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Key findings and suggested actions

The landscape for perpetrator interventions has shifted significantly in Victoria since the Royal Commission. Perpetrator interventions are no longer limited to group men’s behaviour programs, with a range of new programs being developed and trialled. Early evaluation data shows that many pilots – such as providing accommodation to keep perpetrators out of the victim survivor’s home – are promising, but they have not yet been scaled up to meet the urgent level of need conveyed in our stakeholder consultations. More work on evaluation and research is needed to show which approaches are most effective in improving perpetrator accountability. However, due to the current level of unmet need, there is an imperative to act first and then adapt because developing the full evidence base on perpetrator interventions will take time.

Rather than being seen as taking funding away from victim survivors’ services, perpetrator interventions are now accepted as a key part of the mainstream family violence response sector. Incorporating perpetrator practice into The Orange Door network reflects this key shift, but there are opportunities for improving the timeliness of referrals to avoid losing momentum at the crisis point when a client may be most motivated to change. Intake, assessment and decision-making processes need to be streamlined to ensure the focus is on referring clients into the right services at the right time.

We repeatedly heard during stakeholder consultations of the large demand and long waitlists for perpetrator programs, yet many initiatives – particularly pilots – had unfilled spots due to the lack of coordination of referrals and visibility of program availability and completions. This means that scarce resources and opportunities to promote perpetrator accountability are being lost due a lack of centralised information management. Better data on program completion and the attrition rates could also inform strategies on participant engagement and evidence on which programs represent a better return on investment. While attendance alone does not guarantee behaviour change, it provides an opportunity to engage and at a minimum to keep the perpetrator in view of the service system.

Stakeholders also drew our attention to the need to update the Men’s Behaviour Change Minimum Standards to keep pace with new perpetrator initiatives and shifting modes of program delivery such as individual case management, perpetrator accommodation and online engagement. As practitioners and providers working with perpetrators need to be highly skilled to avoid collusion and unintended negative outcomes, stakeholders also urged the strengthening of Victoria’s accreditation and oversight processes.

While there is a whole-of-government work program (articulated in the Family Violence Reform Rolling Action Plan 2020–2023) with a vision of a whole-of-system approach to driving perpetrator accountability, our report primarily reflects the main issues expressed in our stakeholder consultations, which largely focused on the implementation of perpetrator programs and The Orange Door. We suggest that more work is needed to operationalise the Rolling Action Plan’s ‘web of accountability’ where the service system – and the broader community – joins forces to hold perpetrators to account and stop them from committing further violence.

Based on our analysis, we make the following high-level findings about the service response to perpetrators and people using violence. These findings form the main sections in this report:

  1. There has been progress in increasing the focus on people using family violence, but more work is required to ensure a whole-of-system approach
  2. The range of programmatic and service responses for people using violence has expanded, but availability is not able to meet demand or cater to the diversity of perpetrator need
  3. Some coordination challenges need to be addressed to improve service responses to perpetrators
  4. Continued efforts are needed to expand the evidence base for a robust suite of perpetrator interventions
  5. Further development of Victoria’s compliance and accreditation model is needed for men’s behaviour change service providers to ensure robust program delivery.

In response to these matters, we propose the following actions (Figure 1).

Figure 3: Proposed actions to strengthen Victoria’s service response to perpetrators

Whole-of-system approach

  1. Drive implementation of the perpetrator ‘web of accountability’, including by:
    1. clearly articulating the roles of all parts of the ‘web’ and how they will work together to prevent perpetrators from committing further violence
    2. implementing the MARAM perpetrator practice guidance.

Access to perpetrator interventions

  1. Invest in scaling up promising pilot interventions to meet demand, in particular perpetrator accommodation programs, responses for refugees and migrants and case management to prepare perpetrators for group programs

Perpetrator practice at The Orange Door

  1. Streamline the intake/assessment process at The Orange Door to focus on referring perpetrators to the right services at the right time.

Standards, monitoring and compliance

  1. Convene an independent expert advisory group to provide ongoing advice to the government on best practices and establish an accreditation and compliance model for perpetrator program providers.
  2. Update the Men’s Behaviour Change Minimum Standards to reflect the current range of perpetrator interventions and best practices.

Coordination and data

  1. Establish a centralised database for perpetrator interventions to give referrers and decision-makers access to data about demand, available placements and participant attrition/completions. Ensure that appropriate data governance from the outset to enable monitoring and sharing of information pertinent to evaluations and policy decisions across Victorian Government agencies.