AM with Sabra Lane


Topics: Innovative Perpetrator Response program; Safe Places; Rupert Murdoch

SABRA LANE, HOST: Nearly a year ago, the Albanese Government made a promise to end family violence within ten years. Today, the Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth is in Hobart announcing funding for two trial programs aiming to intervene with perpetrators to stop them from committing violence again. She joins me in the studio. Welcome.


SABRA LANE: One of these trials will be run through the courts with judges able to order perpetrators to behaviour change programs. How will that work and how will you make sure that victims aren't actually put at risk?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: That's a really good question. One of the really key elements of our National Plan that came through from victim-survivors is that we can't just be constantly intervening with victim-survivors. That's effectively putting, to some extent, the problem onto them. So, this program is about working with the Tasmanian Government to actually look at how we do change behaviour. But as part of that, part of the model is that there are check-ins with the victim-survivors as well, to make sure that they are safe. So, we're looking at a really holistic program, but the real focus is if we do not look at how we change behaviour, then we're going to see this cycle just reoccurring over and over again.

SABRA LANE: But how exactly? You can order people to behaviour change programs – how practically is that going to work?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: In terms of the behaviour change program, it is really very holistic. It looks at both psychosocial education, therapy, counselling and we will be looking at the results of this to see if it does work. But doing more of the same is not working. And so, we do need to try and gather evidence about what works. And this behaviour change program is built with the latest evidence to try and actually see if we can shift the dial on perpetrator behaviour.

SABRA LANE: You talk about evidence. Hasn't that been one of the problems, is that we haven't had clear evidence and we haven't captured that data to know actually what is working and what's not? How do you know that you're not replicating something that's been done elsewhere?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: This is really an innovative program and we will be evaluating it. And you're exactly right. Part of the problem is there hasn't been a focus on what interventions work with perpetrators to change their behaviour. How do we get in early? How do we stop the cycle? So, this program is a pilot to see if it does work. It's a new type of program built on evidence that we already have, but it will be evaluated to see if it does work and does make a difference.

SABRA LANE: And how will Australians know that this evidence, that these trials, are working, that they're not simply copying something else that's failed? How will we actually have oversight of that?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We will be working with states and territories, because we work through states and territories, we don't run the prison system. So, for example, in Tasmania we'll be working with the Tasmanian Government, but these are time limited and there will be evaluation and we want to share that knowledge. One of the key areas here is if we find things that work, then we want to be sharing that right across the country. And we'll be working with our research institute – ANROWS does a lot of great work in evaluating what works and what doesn’t. They, as an institute, have already collected a lot of really useful information and we will continue to evaluate these programs.

SABRA LANE: You've also alluded to the fact that there'll be one program in prison here. These programs are funded over four years. How many people are you expecting it will help in that time? And how soon before you think researchers are able to definitively say, yes, they're working, or no, they're not?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well behaviour change doesn't immediately resolve overnight so I think this will take some time. But the program in the prison is a really innovative one. Looking at those people that may be in for a short period of time and trying to intervene at that point, putting relationship education, making sure that the person's got stable housing et cetera, to ensure that they have a holistic support. We think that really is something, a new approach, and we hope that it will work. So, in terms of when people understand we need to see this rolled out over a four year period, this will take some time. In terms of how many people…

SABRA LANE: Sorry, just on that point, do you think you'll have a fair idea within four years as to whether they're working or not?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I think within a four year period, we will have a better idea of how these approaches are working. In terms of the numbers, it really depends on how many people are coming through. But certainly this program is designed for people that may have a short contact with the prison system, but have been identified as family and domestic violence as an issue. So, getting in at that point, rather than just releasing people and saying get on with your life, I think is a really important intervention and something that I think will yield positive results.

SABRA LANE: The cost of family violence is put at $15 billion a year. These programs are $27 million over four years. It seems like a small amount?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: This is only one of the many programs that the Commonwealth is funding. I would make the point that yesterday we announced $100 million for our Safe Places program. This is the second round of Safe Places, which is emergency crisis accommodation. In total our Government, over two budgets, has invested $2.3 billion to tackling the scourge of domestic and family and sexual violence. This is just one of the programs that we're investing in.

SABRA LANE: All right. You're from Adelaide. Today's big story is Rupert Murdoch. He started in Adelaide. What do you make of his decision?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I was surprised when I read the news today. Obviously, he's been a pretty key element of News Corp for such a long time. I'm a bit biased but I think Adelaide is the centre of the world sometimes. It certainly was the centre of where Rupert Murdoch started, but ultimately, he's built a significant empire and changed the face of international journalism. So, it is a significant day and one where I'm sure there'll be a lot of reflections made.

SABRA LANE: Amanda Rishworth, thanks for talking to AM this morning.