ACT News


Campaigns to curb violence against women fail to address 'root cause': Menslink

Campaigns that aim to curb violence solely against women fail to address the "root cause" of domestic and family violence, a Canberra men's charity has warned.

In a submission to an ACT Legislative Assembly inquiry examining the territory government's response to domestic and family violence, Menslink chief executive Martin Fisk said young men needed to learn using violence against anyone was unacceptable.

Menslink helps about 500 men every year in Canberra with mentoring and counselling.

Mr Fisk believed nearly all of their clients being treated for anger management - about 30 per cent  of their total client base - used violence and aggression at home.

"Young men struggling with anger management tend to use violence and aggression indiscriminately," Mr Fisk wrote.

"However, our observations are that, given there are often fewer consequences to their behaviour in the family home, this is where it is most prevalent."


But Mr Fisk said this violence was not gender-based.

"That is they do not target women (mothers and sisters) specifically. The target for their behaviour may simply be family members who 'irritate' them or who might prevent them in some way from getting what they want," he said.

"Where a brother is present in the family home they are often targets of violence as much, if not more, than sisters or mothers."

Mr Fisk said the violence stemmed from a power imbalance, whether physical or psychological.

"The young men we see using violence in the family home have mostly experienced violent or aggressive behaviour in the past. They have either been direct victims themselves or witnessed violence and aggression between their parents," Mr Fisk said.

"Not only has this led to direct trauma for the young men, but often the violence has influenced their world view - that it is prevalent and an 'effective' way of dealing with relationship issues, interpersonal conflict or simply getting what you want."

Mr Fisk said the solution was to work with young men from an early age to show them alternatives to violence against those weaker than them, not just women.

"We believe that restricting family violence education and support services to focus only on intimate partner violence is not addressing the root cause and could mean that violent individuals simply look for alternative victims," Mr Fisk wrote.

"Unless young men learn practical and alternative approaches to anger management, use of aggression or violence as a whole, they will not learn to curb their behaviour, regardless of who the victim is.

"We believe firmly in teaching an anger management and anti-violence message, rather than targeting one victim group. A young man who has learned non-violent ways of managing his emotions and relationship conflicts benefit everyone, not just his mother or intimate partner."

The ACT government introduced a $21 million domestic violence package in 2016 after a cluster of related deaths.

The package is funded by a $30 levy on all households and its impact on stopping domestic violence is one of the committee's key focuses.