For many years a special list to hear criminal charges against men who have allegedly assaulted a family member has been operating at the Elizabeth and Adelaide Magistrates Court.
Having a designated court enables the police to provide special assistance to victims and enabled Violence Intervention Program (VIP) staff to attend to provide information, advocacy and support services to victims and their children. The VIPs were operated by external agencies and offered information, advocacy and support services to victims and their children and provided a 24 week “Stopping Violence” group for men referred by the Court, as part of a condition of bail or a bond. The Northern Family Violence Program (NVIP) and the Central Family Violence Program (CVIP) ceased operating at the end of March 2011 and have been replaced with the Abuse Prevention Program which falls under the responsibility of the Courts Administration Authority.
The Abuse Prevention Program provides an opportunity for men to undertake an intervention program aimed at stopping their abusive behaviour towards their female partner or former partner. These programs are called DV Prevention Programs (DVPPs).
The Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Act 2009 aims to:
(a) to assist in preventing domestic and non‑domestic abuse, and the exposure of children to the effects of domestic and non‑domestic abuse, by providing for—
(i) the issuing of intervention orders by police and the Court; and
(ii) the issuing of associated orders relating to problem gambling and tenancy agreements; and
(iii) the registration of foreign intervention orders; and
(iv) the enforcement of South Australian and foreign intervention orders; and
(b) to provide special police powers of arrest, detention and search in connection with issuing, serving and enforcing intervention orders; and
(c) to further protect persons suffering or witnessing domestic or non‑domestic abuse by—
(i) providing for special arrangements for witnesses in proceedings under this Act; and
(ii) imposing limitations on publishing reports about proceedings or orders under this Act.
Under the Act the meaning of abuse—domestic and non‑domestic includes physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or economic abuse.
An act is an act of abuse against a person if it results in or is intended to result in—
(a) physical injury; or
(b) emotional or psychological harm; or
(c) an unreasonable and non‑consensual denial of financial, social or personal autonomy; or
(d) damage to property in the ownership or possession of the person or used or otherwise enjoyed by the person.
(1) An intervention order may be issued for the protection of—
(a) any person against whom it is suspected the defendant will commit an act of abuse; or
(b) any child who may hear or witness, or otherwise be exposed to the effects of, an act of abuse committed by the defendant against a person.
(2) An intervention order may be issued for the protection of a person even if that person is not an applicant for the order and the application is not made on his or her behalf.
(3) If an issuing authority proposes to intervene against a defendant for the protection of more than 1 person, it may do so by issuing a single intervention order or by issuing multiple intervention orders, as it considers appropriate in the circumstances.
The South Australian Police are usually the first point of contact for a victim of domestic violence and can issue an interim intervention order to protect the victim. This order must be reviewed by a Magistrate within 8 days.
The review of interim Intervention Orders is usually held in a special court hearing called the Family Violence Court. It may also be heard in a general court hearing.
The Magistrate may refer a man to the Abuse Prevention Program to undertake an assessment for an intervention program to address his abusive behaviour. If the man is referred as a condition of the Intervention Order he is required by law to attend. He may be referred as a condition of bail if he is facing a criminal charge related to domestic violence.
The Abuse Prevention Program is available to men referred by the Court as a condition of an Intervention Order or bail.
Men must be able to participate appropriately in a program. Those with mental impairment or substance dependence issues may not be eligible if the condition affects their cognitive functioning and/or poses a risk to the safety of the program providers or other participants.
Men must reside at a location where services are available and be able to attend regular sessions. Daytime and evening sessions are offered, depending upon location. Service locations are discussed further on.
The Abuse Prevention Program:
is not available to women who have been charged with a domestic violence related offence or who have been issued with an Intervention Order; and
is not available for male defendants who have been issued with an Intervention Order against another male/a parent/child/neighbor, or charged with an offence against that person.
Stage 1 – Men referred by the Court are assessed to determine their suitability to undertake a DV Prevention Program. If the man is considered suitable he is referred to an appropriate DV Prevention Program.
Stage 2 – Monitoring Compliance with the Order. Men’s compliance with the condition of the Intervention Order relating to a DV Prevention Program and their progress on the program is monitored. Progress reports covering attendance and participation are sent to the Court at various times throughout the program. A final report, outlining the man’s progress through the program, is delivered when he has completed. The police are notified if a man fails to comply with the condition. This is discussed in more detail further on.
The Abuse Prevention Program
The intervention program that operates in the Family Violence Court is called the Abuse Prevention Program. This program was established for male defendant’s who have been issued with an intervention order and who are facing charges for domestic violence related offences. Men can also be referred to the program under the Bail Act as an alternative to the Court making participation a condition of the Intervention Order. A defendant has to agree to a referral under the Bail Act.
Family Violence Courts (FVCs) are a special list where matters related to intervention order applications and related criminal charges are heard. They operate in all metropolitan Magistrates Courts and at the Port Augusta, Mount Gambier and Murray Bridge Magistrates Courts.
Under the Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Act 2009 perpetrators of abuse can be in various different types of relationship with the victim, but by far the majority of intervention orders are made out against men for the protection of their female (ex) partner and children. The Abuse Prevention Program was established as part of an intergovernmental response model to enhance and ensure the safety and protection of women and children from domestic violence and is therefore only available for men issued with an intervention order.
The Abuse Prevention Program provides the assessment, referral, supervision and monitoring components for the FVC and the actual treatment/behaviour change programs are delivered by non-government organisations OARS-Community Transitions and Kornar Winmil Yunti (KWY), under contract to the Courts Administration Authority. The general term for these programs is Domestic Violence Prevention Programs (DVPPs) but they are also known in other places as Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programs or Men’s Behaviour Change Programs.
If the Court refers a man to the Abuse Prevention Program as a term of an Intervention Order or of bail, the man is expected to comply with this term or he may face legal consequences. In the first instance he has 2 working days to contact the office to make an appointment for an assessment. He must then attend the assessment and if he is recommended he must regularly attend and participate in a DVPP until he has satisfactorily completed all the program course work. His compliance with these conditions is monitored and action is taken to notify the police and the court if he does not comply with the conditions.
Domestic Violence Prevention Programs (DVPPs)
There are a range of programs available to address the different needs of the men and overall there are places for approximately 300 men per 12 month period.
In the Adelaide metropolitan area there is the DV/MRT Bringing Peace to Relationships Program which takes a minimum of 24 weeks to complete, a 12 week program called Safe Relationships and individual counselling sessions for men who cannot participate in the group sessions due to language or literacy issues or other reasons. Men from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds can receive a counselling based intervention using the assistance of accredited interpreters. This service is only available during business hours.
Programs for Aboriginal Men
The Aboriginal men’s wellness organisation, Kornar Winmil Yunti (KWY), deliver a 12 week group program for men who identify as Aboriginal in metropolitan Adelaide. A culturally sensitive psycho-educational and narrative approach is used to address Aboriginal men’s experiences and the expectations of the Aboriginal community with regard to men engaging in appropriate non-violent behaviour.
A Family Violence Court operates at Port Augusta, Murray Bridge and Mount Gambier once a month. Men can be referred from these courts to a DVPP and the Women’s Safety Contact Program also operates in these regions to provide support for the (ex) partners of the men who are referred.
At Port Augusta KWY deliver a 3-day intensive group program for Aboriginal men living in or around the regional centre of Port Augusta. This can be run on a monthly basis if there are a minimum of 4 men and up to a maximum of 12 men. There are also individual counselling sessions available on a monthly basis for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal men.
Individual counselling sessions are available for men referred from the Murray Bridge and Mount Gambier Courts and there is flexibility to run a group program in these locations if there are sufficient numbers of men referred.
There are attendance requirements for the Abuse Prevention Program and attendance and participation requirements if men are referred to a DV Prevention Program.
Making the Appointment
Where an Intervention Order includes a condition to contact the Intervention Program Manager, it usually states he must call within 2 business days to make an appointment for an assessment. If he does not do this police are notified and he may face a legal sanction.
Keeping the Appointment
If the man makes an appointment within the 2 day period but fails to attend for the assessment without reasonable excuse and/or fails to reschedule another appointment, he will be in contravention of the Order and he may face a legal sanction.
Attending a DV Prevention Program
If a man is assessed and deemed eligible for a DV Prevention Program and the Magistrate makes his attendance a condition of the Intervention Order, he will be in contravention of the Order if he fails to attend the DV Prevention Program without reasonable excuse. The man is required to attend regularly and on time and not to miss sessions without a reasonable excuse. Depending on how many sessions are missed, this may be considered non-compliant with the condition of the Intervention Order and the man may face a legal sanction.
The programs take men on a journey to learn to become better men, better partners and better fathers. This is not often appreciated at the time and men can feel angry and resentful about having to attend. However, argumentative, rude or threatening behaviour towards program staff will not be tolerated and may result in removal from the program and notification to the police and the Court.
Men’s attendance and progress in a DV Prevention Program is monitored by the Court through the Abuse Prevention Program staff. If progress is not satisfactory the Abuse Prevention Program staff may notify the police that a condition of the Intervention Order has not been complied with and/or they may provide a report for the Court which indicates progress is not satisfactory.
Satisfactory participation and successful program completion is demonstrated by:
Attending regularly and taking an active part in group discussions.
Completing all exercises in the workbook to a satisfactory standard before each session.
Demonstrating an understanding of the beliefs and attitudes that have underpinned his choices to use violence and abuse.
Demonstrating how he is making changes and stopping his abusive behaviour
Respectfully interacting with the program facilitators and other group members.
Complying with the conditions of the Intervention Order.
A specialist service is available for the partners or former partners and children of the men who are referred to a DV Prevention Program. Women are invited to take up the offer of support and services without there being a formal referral.
This service is called the Women’s Safety Contact Program and it offers a range of services to these women:
Domestic and Aboriginal family violence counselling
Risk assessment and safety planning
Provision of general information about the DV Prevention Program and updates about her (ex)partner’s attendance in a DV Prevention Program.
Support to access and advocacy within the criminal justice system for domestic violence related matters
Referral to other agencies and services to meet her and her children’s needs
The Women’s Safety Contact officers are available to attend the Magistrates Court where the women’s domestic and family violence related matters are being heard.
The Women’s Safety Contact Program operates in all the locations where a DV prevention program is provided and there is ongoing communication and collaboration between the services to ensure that information relating to risks to women’s safety is shared and prioritised.
Is the Abuse Prevention Program contributing to keeping female victims domestic violence safe?
The third and final report of the intervention order evaluation conducted by the Office of Crime Statistics and Research (OCSAR) from June 2012 to June 2014 presents the results of an outcome evaluation of the Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Act and the Intervention Response Model (IRM), which includes the Abuse Prevention Program and the DV Perpetrator Program (DVPP). DVPP is the title used by the Department for Correctional Services that previously delivered the 24-week group program.
Although there was limited evidence regarding the impact of the DVPP on participants, the results of the re-offending analysis suggested that intervention orders are associated with a positive change in the level and type of offending behaviour. There was also evidence that defendants who completed the DVPP had slightly better offending outcomes than male domestic IO defendants who had no exposure to the program.
There are approximately 110 to 120 men participating in a DV Prevention Program at any time in South Australia. For more information about the number of men participating in and completing a DV Prevention Program please refer to the CAA annual report
, Magistrates Court, Intervention Programs, Abuse Prevention Program.