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Perpetrator Accountability Project

In 2021, First Step Legal (FSL) commenced a partnership with Better Health Network where we provided legal services to both victim survivors and perpetrators of family violence. From the start, our work highlighted the need for a distinct approach to providing legal assistance to men who use family violence but there were no health justice partnerships operating with a perpetrator lens.

Our work helped us to understand that engaging with men to build an understanding of and compliance with family violence related orders is vital to the safety of victim survivors. This need is most acute where there are intersecting family violence and family law matters. Also, contact between the justice system and perpetrators of family violence presents an opportunity to hold individuals to account while providing treatment and support to address the underlying drivers of their behaviour. However, many adult respondents to intervention orders simply do not understand the conditions that orders contain and breach rates are particularly high among those with mental health conditions and cognitive impairment, including acquired brain injury.

FSL was successful in securing substantial two-year funding under the National Partnership in Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Response to design and deliver a specialist legal service for male perpetrators of family violence. This initiative commenced in July 2022. Through this project we embed criminal and family law specialists and associated case management support within our partner organisations to provide legal help to male perpetrators of family violence. We do this through three streams of activity, a) legal education b) legal information supported referral, discrete legal advice and ongoing legal casework, and c) capacity building and collaborative work with our partners.

The legal education component which is provided through the Mens Behaviour Change Program (MBCP) has now been piloted and we are looking to partner with additional providers over the next 12 months. We have recently expanded our partnership to deliver the education module to MBCP groups with Meli in the Geelong area. The Perpetrator Accountability Project is being independently evaluated to ensure that learnings are constantly incorporated, and the model refined.

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