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Expert calls for government to get serious about violence

Doctor Brian Sullivan has been delivering the Duluth program to male perpetrators on the Gold Coast.
Doctor Brian Sullivan has been delivering the Duluth program to male perpetrators on the Gold Coast. Contributed

A LEADING facilitator of a mandatory men's behavioural change program has championed the NewsMail's call for court-ordered programs in Bundaberg to stop domestic violence.

Doctor Brian Sullivan has been delivering the Duluth program to male perpetrators on the Gold Coast and overseas, and said the 26-week program was a crucial part of making men accountable for their actions.

His comments come after the launch of the NewsMail's campaign to lobby the State Government to fund a mandatory behavioural change perpetrator program, similar to the Duluth model.

"If we don't have a court-mandated response in Queensland, it's like we're saying beating up a woman is not the same level of seriousness as beating up someone on the street," Dr Sullivan said.

"If we leave it up to the man who's doing the beating (to attend the program), I think we've lost the plot."

Dr Sullivan, a counselling expert with more than 12 years experience in the domestic violence field, said the program he ran started in the 1980s in a city in Minnesota called Duluth, which is of similar size to Bundaberg.

"The Duluth program is a community response to the problems of gender violence," he said.

"A group of stakeholders got together and said, 'let's try and deal with the gender-based violence at a systemic level'."

Dr Sullivan said part of the Duluth model's success was based on it being a court-ordered program, which was likely to keep men in the program longer.

"What we find with men who are invited to go, they can go and look good for a while, but when it suits them they'll drop out," he said.

He also emphasised the program was education, and not therapy.

"This is a program which is extremely respectful of men, so men will see what respect is like," Dr Sullivan said.

"We want them to see they've got a choice to be violent or non-violent."

Dr Sullivan said some research had shown about 80% of men who completed a long-term, court-mandated program ended up violence-free.

"While some men come in kicking and screaming, we've seen them leave sad that the program has finished, and wanting to come back," he said.

Dr Sullivan said he believed court-ordered programs were "the only way to go".

"If the Department of Communities is serious about behavioural change programs, it actually has to fund it properly," he said.

"Until we bite the bullet and take the lead, I think we'll be plagued with the problem of domestic violence increasingly."

Topics:  duluth, respect rebuild


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