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Helping to end the violence – Centacare’s Men’s Behaviour Change Program builds coping skills

All that matters: “It was his family. He knew this was what mattered to him and he was losing everything that meant everything to him.”

THE man stood in the halls of the Southport court barely able to string three words together.

A dominating, fearful figure in his own home, he was a pale, bumbling mess.

He was about to walk into a court room to listen to police request that a domestic violence order be placed on him.

For 12 years, he had intimidated his wife and two children with violent, controlling behaviour.

His wife was ready to end the marriage. 

She wanted a divorce because she thought it was the only way that she and her children could be safe.

The court granted the protection order with various conditions and the man’s life changed.

He was no longer allowed to enter his own home. 

He had to find somewhere to live. 

He had to make a written request to his wife to see his children. 

And he was advised by the court that Centacare’s Men’s Behaviour Change Program would be good for him. Perhaps it was his only chance to live with his children again.

Centacare’s Family and Relationships Services team has seen so many stories like this.

The man joined the 16-week program and became a star pupil.

But that was only after he confronted the likelihood that his marriage was finished.

“This was the moment that he began to understand that everything that was really important to him was coming to an end,” a Centacare Family and Relationships practitioner said.

“It was only now that he understood what was really important in life.

“It wasn’t about going to work 40 hours a week, the nice house, the nice car. 

“It was his family. He knew this was what mattered to him and he was losing everything that meant everything to him.”

Centacare’s women’s advocate was in touch with his wife during the 16-week program. 

She relayed to Centacare that the marriage was coming to an end.

But then the change began.

“This man rolled his sleeves up and started doing the program. He started to make changes in his life. He took responsibility for his behaviour and he gained an understanding that it was actually his behaviour – his domestic violence – that was causing the problems,” the women’s advocate said.

Centacare’s women’s advocate heard from the wife that the changes were noticeable.

“She reported that the changes that he was making were real. He was taking ownership for his behaviour. She instigated more contact with herself and the children to see if his behaviour was more consistent and she reported that it was,” the women’s advocate said.

“She sat down and had a conversation of what the future may look like.

“You know, Dad could actually talk to them without yelling and screaming and throwing things.

“Eventually she said things are really back on track with that family. What a family we are now. Things are really sustainable.”

In the program, the man interrupted the final session to deliver a message from his wife.

“He said that his wife has just asked that he says a big thank-you on her behalf for what’s happening at home,” the Centacare Family and Relationships practitioner said.

“He’s using the skills that he’s learning. He’s using his awareness of what he’s done on the program. We’re now seeing the family out in the community. 

“There’s not domestic violence in that home. We’re just so happy for the family when that happens – it’s a good outcome. 

“He finished the program, never missed a session and he did the work. That’s what we ask.”

Behaving better shows high results

THE facilitators of an in-demand course for domestic and family violence perpetrators say they are helping men from across all walks of life on the Gold Coast.

Centacare’s Men’s Behaviour Change Program is praised by key judicial figures who have seen the positive impact of the 16-week course on Gold Coast families.

Men often link with the program while answering domestic and family violence matters in Southport court, where Centacare’s Family and Relationships Services team works with alleged perpetrators and their families.

Each course includes a maximum of 16 men who often form close bonds regardless of their backgrounds.

“We’ll see men who are out of work and struggling to house themselves and feed themselves but at the other end of the spectrum we will see men who are professionals and very high earners. Domestic violence lives in any house,” Centacare facilitator Wayne McTaggart said.

“(During the program) I will often see a man who may be a tradie making a friendship with a man who may be a professional. They have never met in life and they start making a connection. And they start to support each other. 

“In the breaks, they’re exchanging phone numbers. If they’re having a tough moment during the week, they will call each other.”

Mr McTaggart said Centacare’s course included a women’s advocate who worked with female partners to provide support.

The course doesn’t work for all men – some have struggled in the group environment – but there has been a strong success rate in assisting families in the most difficult times of their lives.

Mr McTaggart said men made an agreement at the start of their course to make changes in their lives.

He said the course provided men with tips on how they could deal with the problems that were impacting on their families.

“We do hear good stories that show that the men take in these suggestions of how they can change,” Mr McTaggart said.

“We’ve heard from partners that the men are using some of the tools and strategies that they have learned in the behaviour change program.

“He’s learning how to take time out when he’s starting to feel angry or anxious. Previously, he may have been unable to identify those emotions.

“We had one man who would walk to the corner shop and sit in a park when he needed time out. He knew that was a place that he could go before things turned bad in his house.

“When he took the time out, he would return home much calmer.”   

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