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Finance and Public Administration References Committee
Domestic violence in Australia

SMYTH, Dr David, Chair, The Family Violence Prevention Foundation of Australia, trading as Violence Free Families

VLAIS, Mr Rodney Stephen, Acting Chief Executive Officer, No To Violence Male Family Violence Prevention Association Incorporated


CHAIR: I would like to formally welcome representatives of No To Violence and Violence Free Families. Information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses in giving evidence to Senate committees has been provided to you. I invite each of you to make an opening statement.

Mr Vlais : In the two or three minutes that I will focus on at the beginning, I really want to stress that my focus is on having a Commonwealth gaze. I think there have been many who have focused on issues that are relevant both for the Commonwealth and also for state and territory jurisdictions. My submission focused on four particular Commonwealth areas.

One of them was the focus of the inquiry on women with disabilities. We cannot go past the tremendous work done in the Voices Against Violence research and recommendations by Women with Disabilities Victoria. I think a lot of the work has already been done there. It is a fantastic set of reports and I think there is a real case for not reinventing the wheel with that.

A second issue that I focused on is that despite the national plan there is a real potential opportunity for the Commonwealth to take an active role in bringing together different state and territory departments, in particular, domains to really focus on lifting response and prevention, including perpetrator accountability in domestic and family violence. I wrote briefly about what it might mean to bring together, for example: corrections ministers; heads of corrections, probation and parole departments; chief and assistant police commissioners and other senior police across states and territories; senior child protection practitioners; and policy makers. You could do that in what could be called summits or something else that also bring in relevant international expertise from other jurisdictions that have similarities—whether those be New Zealand, Canada, the UK, the United States, Europe et cetera—really with the aim of sharing best practice that is already occurring within Australia and clarifying the visions and goals around particular things, like what 'perpetrator accountability' means.

I guess it is having some more consistency across states and territories, but in particular to learn from each other. I think we might have one state and territory, for example, that might be ahead of others in perpetrator accountability and child protection practice, another in policing and another in corrections. I think there is a lot to learn from each other.

A third thing that I focused on was that a wide range of economic and social policies have strong effects on family and domestic violence. They affect the ability of women to work towards their safety for themselves and their family. There is the raft of changes that have to do with income and with the Department of Social Security, and that affect single mothers and young, unemployed women—young women are particularly vulnerable to family and domestic violence.

All of those policies might affect not only their ability to leave or their confidence to leave and make a secure life for themselves and their children but also, as I wrote in the submission, the tactics of the men who use violence against women and who can use those policies as part of their coercive control. If he knows that it is going to be harder for his 26-year-old partner to leave with a young child because of these social and economic policies, he can increase his financial abuse and social control tactics. So I suggest that it would be really a great opportunity for the Commonwealth to do an audit of not only the range of social and economic policies in terms of what affects they might have on the ability of women to work towards safety for themselves and against the financial, economic, social, emotional, physical and sexual abuse of their partner or former partner but also what those policies might mean for the ability of men to coercively control and entrap their partners.

The final issue, which I have referred to very briefly—and obviously there is so much that we could talk about here—is that, while Aboriginal men are still individually responsible for the violence they use, we cannot at the same time ignore what colonisation and dislocation of Aboriginal communities mean, what the intergenerational trauma and suffering mean or what the unfinished business in terms of sovereignty, treaty et cetera for recognition of Aboriginal sovereign ownership of their land mean to them. That sense of being in place, that sense of reconnection to Aboriginal spiritual world views and that sense of the collective identity that comes from Aboriginal men knowing their place in land and in relationship to community has a role to play in their use of family and domestic violence. While we cannot say that it is the only reason or cannot even use that as an excuse—we want Aboriginal men, like all men, to stop their use of family violence now—the unfinished business is relevant to the matters of this inquiry

Dr Smyth : I have been given a strict time limit for this presentation so I decided that, with your permission, I will highlight two aspects of our submission rather than canvass the whole.

CHAIR: Dr Smyth, if you feel that you were not able to make a point, you are always able to subsequently correspond with the committee further.

Dr Smyth : Thank you. The first matter I would like to highlight is Violence Free Families itself—who are we? We are an independent community based national charity, and we have 19 years of continuous experience in behaviour change programs for violent men. We have provided programs; we have done research into improving programs; and, as I will mention shortly, we have now developed a new program. Our research work has been supported by the Commonwealth government, and we have been very grateful for that funding.

Our origins, as I said, go back 19 years. They lie with the Rotary Club of Brighton, in Victoria, which incorporated Violence Free Families five years ago as a vehicle for pooling the resources of Rotary nationally and for engaging the wider community in giving it a way to express the widespread concern about family violence. I have the honour to chair an excellent multidisciplinary board. We have four men and four women, you will be pleased to know.

Senator MOORE: Without quotas?

Dr Smyth : Without quotas. We select people on the best available of those who are willing to contribute. It is a terrific board, I have got to say. The skills range from social work to engineering, from IT to business and general management; so it is a very broad based group. As a small charity with limited resources, we have chosen to focus on men's behaviour change programs, because we believe that they are one of the most cost-effective methods of prevention available.

The second matter I would like to come to is our new behaviour change program. Behaviour change programs to date have always been done face-to-face, typically with two facilitators in a room with a dozen or so men. The men, of course, have to be there in person—and that is a problem for many men, because there are no programs or very few programs in rural areas, by and large, because we have a lot of fly-in fly-out workers, shift workers and all sorts of other people who cannot attend for various reasons. And we have a lot of men who simply will not go because they are afraid of being shamed in public.

So, to address this problem—at the suggestion, actually, of a serving police officer—we have developed a new online group interactive behaviour change program. We engaged a consortium of experts to do this and we have also engaged Melbourne university on a separate contract for ongoing evaluation and to report on improvements. We are finding in the trials that the advantage of this program, apart from, obviously, its wider availability, is that the relative anonymity of the men—they give their names but they are not seeing each other—is leading to much greater openness and a readiness to admit that they have problems and to address them. It is slightly unexpected, but that is what is happening. Secondly, the design of the program is rather different from a face-to-face program, and the men give approximately 50 per cent more time to addressing their problems because we give them homework offline between sessions. Also, there is a great advantage in the fact that they do not have to travel. That saves costs and time, babysitters, you name it. The trials are well advanced. We are more than halfway through three trials, and the results to date have been really pleasing. There are excellent results, and we are very happy with what is going on there.

This is an exciting new opportunity to bring to bear a new tool in the range of tools we have to prevent family violence. It is a program that is inherently without borders; it can reach all states and territories and most parts of them. As such, we believe that it warrants Commonwealth government support to roll it out and to develop it in the way described in our submission. Thank you again for the opportunity to be here. I look forward to answering any questions you might have.

CHAIR: Thank you, Dr Smyth. Senator Bernardi.

Senator BERNARDI: Dr Smyth, how do you choose the men for the program that you have just discussed? How are they selected? Do they self-select? How do you identify them?

Senator MOORE: For the online program or the general one?

Senator BERNARDI: The online one.

Dr Smyth : The men, to date, have been men who have presented at LifeWorks for their face-to-face program and have chosen to go into the trials of the online program.

Senator BERNARDI: So they have recognised already that they have an issue and they want some help with it?

Dr Smyth : Yes. We have mandated men in the second trial but not in the first trial. Generally, that is the route into the program at the moment.

Senator BERNARDI: How many men are undertaking it?

Dr Smyth : In the first trial, we ran it with only four men—deliberately, because we all had our L-plates on at that time. The second trial has about nine men in it currently.

Senator BERNARDI: Does it cater exclusively to men? Are there any instances of women participating in your programs?

Dr Smyth : At this stage, it is designed for men, but one of the potentials of this program is to design a program for women or for Indigenous people—we would probably need a number of Indigenous programs, given the diversity of Indigenous communities—or for various CALD communities. It has the potential to be developed to serve a lot of different needs.

CHAIR: I have a question too about that program, Dr Smyth. You mentioned at the conclusion of your opening statement that you would like to see the program rolled out nationally. Are you actively seeking Commonwealth government funding for the post-trial rollout of this, based on early results?

Dr Smyth : At the moment, we have not made a submission, but that is in our minds.

CHAIR: I do not want to pre-empt your activity, but I just wanted to clarify whether that request had been made yet. It has not been made yet, but you are optimistic about the results of the trial.

Dr Smyth : We are likely to make one, yes. We are working on the mechanism for rolling it out—who will do it, how, under what conditions and so on. We have active ongoing discussions along those lines, and when we have made a little more progress with that then we will have the basis for a concrete proposal.

CHAIR: I am interested in the structure of your program and its relationship with Rotary clubs. You mentioned Brighton and, I think, one other. To what extent does your board, and indeed Rotary, draw on what we heard from our previous witnesses about the shared learnings that were coming out of the improvements in knowledge and understanding and mutual understandings about domestic violence? How do you network yourself into that broader movement, if you like?

Dr Smyth : We have ongoing discussions with a number of players. We have been engaging with the Domestic Violence Resource Centre here in Victoria for some time, and with several others, especially through LifeWorks. With me here today is Kaye Swanton, who has just recently retired as Chief Executive of LifeWorks, and with your permission I could invite her to also answer that question.

CHAIR: We do not really have time for that. I was just wanting to get a feel for it. Do you liaise with VicHealth and their work on domestic violence?

Dr Smyth : We do not regularly consult with VicHealth but we do look at the literature, and our research work that is running at Monash University keeps us in touch with that ongoing research, especially in the field of behaviour change programs, which is where we are focusing. Rather than spreading our limited resources all over the place, we want to make a good job of what we are doing.

CHAIR: Thank you. Mr Vlais, can I ask you a question. You mentioned a strong Commonwealth focus, and I note in your opening statements you referenced international best practice and the role that a range of jurisdictions could play in contributing to a common knowledge in this area. Can you give the committee an insight into how Australia or jurisdictions within Australia—and it might be state or even local government jurisdictions—fare on that international best practice scale? I am not asking for quantity. I am asking for your opinion about how Australia is tracking at local, state or federal government level, on that international scale. Are we part of that leadership conversation in this area, or are we not?

Mr Vlais : It varies. I might just briefly talk about a few areas. Our main area of expertise is around men's behaviour change programs. We are the Victorian peak body for men's behaviour change programs. We are the only NGO in Australia that focuses specifically on providing training, professional development, practice resources et cetera. We run a graduate certificate, which is the only training qualification for men's behaviour change program workers. So we are quite well internationally networked. In that particular area, we are probably around the average of the pack, you could say, around working with men who perpetrate family and domestic violence.

In terms of research, we are aware of the national plan's research that will be upcoming through ANROWS, which will be fantastic, but the best research out there is in the UK currently through a program called Project Mirabal. You can find details from our website. That is an example of leading practice in terms of research.

In terms of our standards, our various minimum standards for men's behaviour change program work in Australia are probably on average fairly weak compared to other countries. Just to give an example, the UK accreditation standard—they call them DV perpetrator programs there—is a minimum of 60 hours face-to-face intervention in order for programs to be seen as safe and appropriate in the UK. Whereas we have many existing minimum standards for men's behaviour change programs in Australia where the minimum is still 24 hours face to face. And we know that is insufficient. We are just not able to get the funding to update our standards.

So I think in that area there is more that we can do, and the Commonwealth can take a lead. It is partly about looking through the national plan of action about a number of questions: how long do programs need to be? What is the mechanism? I think the online work from our perspective is new; it is interesting; it is certainly worth a look at; but it is very new compared to a lot of other interventions.

If we look at other areas—child protection practice—probably on average there is a lot of enthusiasm in some child protection jurisdictions in Australia around: what does it mean to make men who perpetrate family violence more visible? Because so much child protection work is due to family violence. I think there is a lot of enthusiasm but not a lot of really strong models out there about what it means for family violence and child protection systems to work closely together. We can look to the US for some examples, like the work of the Safe and Together Model by David Mandel and Associates.

In corrections and probation, in the UK many probation orders for family and domestic violence are for two years, because they know that it is a journey of time for many offenders to get to a point of sufficient behaviour change so that their family members are safer. Whereas I think that all correction or probation orders here are one year. It really depends. In police practice, it varies across Australia. It comes back to my point that there is some really good overseas practice. Some of it is relevant here, some of it is not; some of it is about legislation and some of it is not about legislation but about things that can be changed without the need for those steps. I think that the Commonwealth can play a leading role in helping to look at some of the good practice overseas but also within Australia and helping us to share that.

Finally, it comes down to the men's behaviour change program practice too. It varies considerably. The New South Wales government provides no dedicated funding for men's behaviour change program work, even though there are about 12 registered programs there. Queensland and Victoria provide some, as does Western Australia, but great parts of Western Australia are not covered by a program et cetera. So there is a lot of inconsistency.

Senator MOORE: I am just clarifying the funding arrangement. These programs are state funded—there are no Commonwealth funded programs—and it is part of their own process. We heard some evidence yesterday about a program at Woorabinda. I do not know whether you have had a chance to look at the other submissions—there are only about three tonnes of them, so I would be surprised if you had. But we heard about a specific program at Woorabinda, and I am interested in whether either of you have seen the work that is being done there. It is very specialised, because it is an Indigenous community, and they have statistics. We want to work those through.

Dr Smyth, in your submission, you talk about a national evaluation of men's behaviour change programs. What is the status of that? We have not heard about that before. Is that funding through the national plan?

Dr Smyth : It is not through the national plan. Violence Free Families commissioned Monash University to run a long-term longitudinal study into the results of behaviour change programs. In Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia we are doing that. That program has largely been funded by charitable donations raised by Violence Free Families, but a couple of years ago we were the recipients of $100,000 from the Commonwealth government as a special grant to assist with the costs of that long-term study.

Senator MOORE: Can you tell me which hat that grant came under? You can take that on notice. It just says here that the Commonwealth funded it. Can you give us any idea about how long that has been going on and when we can expect to see outcomes?

Dr Smyth : It has been running for three years. The first part of that was involved with getting ethics committee clearances, formulating the program, and raising funds to go get going and so on. We then commenced data collection for the baseline. Unfortunately, we have had to extend that period longer than we would have liked. Coming up towards the end of this year, we will complete the collection of baseline data. Then we need to follow those men further to see what the longer term outcomes of these programs are.

Senator MOORE: Can you give me, on notice again, the parameters of the grant in terms of what the Commonwealth is going to see, as a result of that, for its $100,000? Is it a paper? Are you going to follow it through for two years? Is it going to be ongoing communication? I am trying to find out where it is going.

Dr Smyth : We completed that grant and fully expended the money last year. We believe that we have no ongoing obligations to report, although, of course, as conscientious people, we will be reporting. We do not yet have enough results to go public with them. They are interesting, as far as they have gone, and we will wait and see if those preliminary results are confirmed before we start publishing them.

Senator MOORE: Mr Vlais, are there some concerns about your organisation's engagement in this process?

Mr Vlais : Yes, probably about three years ago we had a look at the research, and we had some concerns at that stage. But I do not have more recent information on the last two or three years regarding the research.

Senator MOORE: Have you been involved in any of the ongoing data collection or anything of that nature?

Mr Vlais : No.

Senator RICE: Thank you for your submissions, and thank you, Mr Vlais, in particular, as I really enjoyed your assessment of the violence in Aboriginal communities and the connection with dispossession. I want to ask more about evaluation. Dr Smyth, I think you just said that your evaluation of your online program is preliminary. Given that you have said you are very pleased with the results from your first trails, is there anything you can share with the committee, given that this is a new and emerging area and it would be very useful to have some evaluation of that program?

Dr Smyth : As I mentioned, we engaged Monash University to evaluate it in an ongoing way. We planned three trials of 14 weeks in duration. We are just past half-way through the second trial. At the conclusion of the first trial Monash University was very thorough. They canvassed the opinions of the facilitators of the men and of their partners, and they actually ran a focus group for the men. We got universally positive views back from them. The facilitators, who are extremely experienced—I believe one of them has 14 years in this field—said that the men opened up more quickly and responded better, and that the whole program was at least as good as a face-to-face program, from their perspective. The informal responses from the facilitators in this current trial are similar in nature.

One particularly powerful remark came out of the focus group evaluation, which was recorded. One of the men said that because there was a degree of anonymity, because they could not be seen—but to be heard and they can write and see their writings—he was able to cry when he realised what he had been doing, and he would never have done that in a face-to-face group.

Senator RICE: Would we be able to have copies of the evaluation of your first trial?

Dr Smyth : The first evaluation report from Melbourne University is actually up on our web site—at least I trust it is. A summary and the full report should be there. If it is not I certainly will make it available. For the second report, we of course have to wait until the end of the year, when the second trial is completed. But we have every reason to believe it will be similar to the first one.

Senator RICE: If the details of where that is could be forwarded to the committee that would be good.

Dr Smyth : Yes, we can do that.

Senator RICE: Following on from the perpetrator programs, Mr Vlais, what do you see as the future for men's behaviour-change programs?

Mr Vlais : This also comes back to evaluation. The old view of these programs is that they are seen as an intervention. You grab a good man and you put them through the group intervention and they come out supposedly changed. I think now we are really understanding that we have to be really careful about what we expect from these programs. They are not just a standalone intervention. They are really part of a whole integrated response. The ability of the program to work towards the safety, dignity and human rights of women and children and others affected by men's violence can be shown in a number of different ways. Yes, some men do change their behaviour. Some men change from violence and then slip back. That is why evaluation really needs to be long-term over 15 months or two years. Some men will change some tactics of their violence and increase others.

But other outcomes are through the partner contact and partner support work, where she sees him not changing and then she realises that she does need to leave. It is the ability of the program to support a corrections or child protection worker to do their job better in supervising an offender. It is the improvement in police practices through the program, working together with police. It is the increase, sometimes, in recidivism that occurs through an effective program, because women feel safer reporting breaches. The program is working closely with a corrections officer, which means the corrections officer becomes more skilled at being able to detect if he is actually breaching the conditions of the probation order. That means more criminal justice system activity, but that is holding him accountable.

So I think the future for the programs is seeing them not as standalone interventions but as part of a coordinated community network of services, and the evaluations need to reflect that. The evaluations need to reflect what impact a program is having on his ability to be a good father and the ability of the child protection or family services system to work with him. How is it supporting corrections to do their job better? How is it having direct benefits for her safety, because she is starting to feel stronger now. She is starting to feel that because a program is engaging him she can now make more demands slightly more safely about him changing, and how we support her to do that. The new wave of evaluation work, which is reflected in Project Mirabal is trying to get at all of these multiple outcomes, rather than the old way of asking if he has or has not changed, because that is not so much the purpose of the programs. It is a big part of it but it is not just that.

Senator MOORE: Did you want to add to that, Dr Smyth?

Dr Smyth : I would like to support the theme of Mr Vlais's remarks, but perhaps from a slightly different perspective. When a man presents at an agency, ostensibly with behaviour problems—violence problems—it is normal to do an intake and assessment interview with that man. At that time quite a lot of men are assessed as having problems that need to be addressed, apart from this violence problem—substance abuse and mental illness are among them, and many other problems can emerge. Where we need an integrated approach at a therapeutic level is to be able to assess the men and divert them into the program that is most suitable for their needs, rather than having a one size fits all behaviour change program. That is lacking. That is beyond the resources of most agencies.

Senator WATERS: Thank you for coming today and for your submissions. Like Senator Rice, I particularly enjoyed your submission, Mr Vlais. Thank you for the thought you have put into it. I want to thank you for addressing one of the terms of reference of the inquiry, which was to look at the impact of Commonwealth policies on the ability of women to escape violence. I appreciated your analysis of the combined impact of the changes to the low-income super supplement, the proposed family tax benefit changes, the restrictions in Newstart and Youth Allowance for young people and the tightened eligibility for Disability Support Pension, which you have extracted in your submission. Can you reflect on the impact of the funding reductions to community legal centres, particularly women's legal services and other legal aid programs that are designed to assist women to escape from violence, and also the changes to housing funding, including the only 12-month increase on the homelessness agreement and the abolition of the National Rental Affordability Scheme?

Mr Vlais : Certainly. To be honest, many of us would not be here today addressing the committee without the legal reform changes that have happened in Victoria. The Victorian Law Reform Commission drove the Family Violence Protection Act 2008. It identified so many of the deficiencies in family violence service systems. It is that incredibly important community grassroots based legal work that identifies where systems fall down and how they can be improved, because civil and criminal justice system processes are at the heart of everything to do with family and domestic violence. Whether it is do to with intervention order applications, or trying to hold perpetrators accountable, or supporting women and children through police processes, they are essential. So grassroots community legal practitioners often are at the coal face, as much as anyone else, in knowing what is needed. They are a critical voice. They have some critically important information on how to support the safety of women and children and how to work towards placing restraints around the behaviour of dangerous men, and they are able to translate that into legal language. They are able to translate it into potential legislative changes and into looking at legal system and how they relate with police, corrections, women's services and Commonwealth funded services such as Centrelink, Medicare et cetera. From a research perspective they are an incredibly cost-effective way to provide state, territory and Commonwealth jurisdictions with really important, rich information about how we need to improve systems to keep women and children safe and to hold men accountable for their behaviour. That work that they do to translate their on-the-ground practice in services, in supporting women and children and in providing legal services into systems-level recommendations is incredibly important. They do not need much money to do it, but they do not have that money with the funding changes. I think this narrative that separates out direct service work from advocacy is really a false narrative, because it all folds into each other. The advocacy comes from looking at what are those systemic changes that are needed to make their work better.

Very briefly, my professional background is as a psychologist. If all I ever did was just see clients and I never tried to use that information about what is needed to change organisational structures or what is needed to change a code of practice or what is needed to change the way we respond in a duty of care way, we would be stuck back in the 1950s. We would not be reporting so many things; we would be having a range of different practices which are problematic. I translate what I do with my individual work into something bigger. You could call that advocacy, but it is really essential. So I think it has had, potentially, a really detrimental impact, and that that funding needs to be restored and, if anything, increased.

In terms of the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness—that insecurity has a major effect on services. Yes, state and territory governments have a strong responsibility to provide a big step up in funding for family and domestic violence, in both response and prevention. Yes, not just a top-up—a step up is needed. With family and domestic violence being one of the top five or six economic, social and health issues, it needs to be funded as such, and it is not. Having said that, there are areas where Commonwealth work does matter, as we know. Homelessness is an area where it is so entrenched and where men's use of family and domestic violence has such a big impact in driving homelessness that Commonwealth leadership is very, very important to work in a bipartisan way with the states and territories.

That funding has enabled a range of initiatives which the state government here in Victoria have not been able to fund, and they are initiatives which relate to case management work for men, which picks up on what you were saying, David. Some of that money has enabled some work with men who, yes, are going through men's behaviour change programs, but have other so-called criminogenic needs—where we do need to work on their alcohol use at the same time and we need to work on their housing. It has enabled women's family violence services to be able to do more case management work beyond the crisis-driven work. With increasing referrals happening—as systems getting better and police getting better in identifying family violence—demand increases significantly. Women's services often are forced to provide more and more resources at that crisis end and do not have that ability to do long-term advocacy. So when we have this money that is so insecure, where you do not know three or four months out whether you are going to have it for the next financial year and you need to start laying off staff, it makes it incredibly insecure. Women and children, to escape to recover to rebuild their lives from family violence, need a journey of a year or two or three or longer of support. And the men who are using that violence need to often be worked with for that period of time. When you have that insecurity it makes that work incredibly tricky.

Senator WATERS: Thank you very much. I note your recommendation that significant Commonwealth economic and social policy reforms be put through a modelling exercise to project potential impacts on women's access to affordable and safe housing options, and on their ability to achieve economic and financial independence for themselves and their children. I think that is an excellent recommendation. Are you aware of whether or not the Office for Women is meant to do that sort of work? Do you have a view on whether that needs to be further entrenched, increased or supercharged? And can you reflect on the lack of a women's budget impact statement for the first time in about 30 years in that context?

Mr Vlais : I am not aware of the Office for Women doing that work, but of course I am not privy to their work plans or what might be in the pipeline there. Part of that comes to the place of an office of women—excuse the wrong terminology here—within the suite of Commonwealth departments, and the same with the states. Just to give a quick Victoria based example, our Office of Women's Affairs used to be within what was I think called the department of planning and community development. That enabled it to have a bit of interdepartmental focus. It enabled it, because of the way it was sited, to do work with other departments to strengthen an interdepartmental and cross-portfolio approach towards family violence. From ministers and heads of departments down, there were top-level meetings around how each of these portfolios and the work that has been done was relevant towards the state addressing family violence. That was moved into the Department of Human Services. You could say that that puts it into more of a welfare setting and makes it harder for it to do that cross-department, cross-portfolio work. So the imprimatur and the authorisation that an Office of Women might have is really key here. It is not really rocket science.

If we look at disability services, most government departments and portfolios will not hesitate when an audit is done in a disability services department and recommendations are made about how to change things. We do not blink an eye; we know that we need to do that to work against disablism. Yet we do not yet have that in terms of gender issues or effects on family violence policy. What this is really about is applying the same mechanisms we have, when we are looking at issues like disability et cetera, to gender and to the impact of policies on family and domestic violence. It is raising it up to that same precedent that we have established in other areas.

Senator WATERS: You mentioned that in the UK there are moves to encourage more men to become involved in the childcare industry. What lessons do you think we can draw from those initial forays here in Australia? Is there any interest in Australia, either in the groups or in government, to think about those sorts of initiatives?

Mr Vlais : Briefly, there is some really good primary prevention work being done in Australia, including in Victoria, led by a range of organisations, including VicHealth, but also many, many others now. I think the next step in that work is to look at what it means around men and masculinity, what it means around male privilege and entitlement, in a positive way for men. This quota issue is an example of that. We can talk about minimum quotas for women or we can talk about maximum quotas for men. Flipping the focus on men and the power that we take and hold changes the language from, 'How do we empower women?' to, 'How do we actually help men to realise, "How are we taking up too much space? In what ways are we taking away the opportunities for women to be able to live free lives?"' Maybe we need to look at ourselves and what we are doing rather than empowering women. That is positive for men.

The research still shows that men play a small role as carers in our society. US research, for example, shows that adult daughters perform about 2.4 times as much work caring for their elderly parents than adult men. So if I have a sister—I do not—on average, she would be spending about 2½ times more caring for my parents than what I would. This campaign in the UK is a positive campaign for men. It is about saying, as men, that we can broaden our sense of masculinity. We do not have to define ourselves by the 'othering'—the othering of saying, 'We are not feminine; we are not gay.' The sexism, homophobia, transphobia et cetera is built into a sense of masculinity, where, as men, we have to say that we are not that, that we are above that. If we spend more time caring for our children, for other children, for our parents, for our communities, it just broadens our sense of masculinity. It means that we are going to do some of the work that we often just leave for women—an invisible burden of responsibility. It will create more opportunities for women, because we are doing more of that work rather than just leaving it for women, and we will be leading better lives for ourselves. In Australia currently only two per cent of childcare workers are male. What does that say about us as men? It is really sad. What does that say about what women's work is meant to be and what men's work means to be? Those things drive sexism, and the male privilege and entitlement we use to not do that work is sad for ourselves; it drives sexism and it drives men's violence against women.

That campaign in the UK involved industry, unions and government. It is cross-political. It is a lovely example of something which addresses in structural way something that can be really helpful for us as well as changing sexist attitudes.

CHAIR: We have run out of time. I would like to thank you both for appearing before the committee this morning, for your submissions and for the time you have taken in giving evidence today.

Senator MOORE: Could I quickly put a question on notice? Yesterday, we had evidence from an organisation called One in Three that made comment about male perpetrators and the approach. The Hansard of that evidence should be available within a couple of days. If you have the time, and I know you are both very busy, it would be useful if you could look at what was said there in that exchange about male perpetrators.

CHAIR: The committee will suspend for morning tea.

Proceedings suspended from 10:36 to 10:54