No funding for men's program in South West

Funding for a South West men's behaviour change program which aims to make men accountable for their actions has been redirected to prison programs. Image by Shutterstock.

Funding for a South West men's behaviour change program which aims to make men accountable for their actions has been redirected to prison programs. Image by Shutterstock.

While the rate of domestic violence is the highest it has ever been in 30 years, a program which aims to rehabilitate perpetrators has been cut.

Relationships Australia runs a 24 week group men's behaviour change program which aims to make men accountable for their actions.

Relationships Australia WA executive director Michael Sheehan said the program helped men understand what abuse means, helps them acknowledge their actions, see the impact it has had on the people around then and then how to make amends.

The program had been running in the South West for 10 years and was funded by WA's Department of Justice.

Mr Sheehan said last year he was told by the department that they had to redirect the funding from the program to go to more urgent prison programs.

He understands the programs the money went towards was more related to drug, alcohol and building life skills.

"These programs are important but domestic violence is such a huge issue," he said.

"WA has the second highest rate of domestic violence in the country but the state government's funding towards it is the poorest in the country."

The Relationships Australia program finished in March 2020 and the Department of Communities fund the program in Perth, however the waiting list is currently 15 weeks Mr Sheehan said.

Since Mr Sheehan was told about the funding cut the organisation has been lobbying the government hard to get funding for the program to up and running again in the regions.

"Since the program stopped we have had a lot of inquiries and referrals from people wanting help," he said.

"We have been offering one on one counselling for men but they have to pay for it, we try and give them concessions but not everyone can afford it.

"It also isn't as effective as the group program."

For the last seven years, South West resident Kelvin Whitwell has been fundraising for the program through organising an annual event called Stop the Violence Charity Festival.

However, he recently got a call from Relationships Australia saying they couldn't accept his donation this year because the program was no longer running.

Mr Whitwell couldn't believe it and said he was shocked that funding would be cut to such necessary program.

"Years ago I went off the rails and underwent the program and it turned my life around," he said.

His event is still taking place on December 5 but this year the proceeds will go to Waratah, an organisation that helps women and children impacted by family violence.

Busselton resident and president of MATES Robert Reekie said it was a big loss to hear about the funding cut to men's behaviour change program.

MATES is a not-for-profit organisation that provides a 20 week course and a safety house for male perpetrators.

Now Mr Reekie's organisation is the only one in the South West that offers a program for men.

"If they [the government] are serious in reducing domestic violence they need to take the perpetrator groups and aid them as much as possible," he said.

"You can't throw millions towards saying there is a problem and have nothing there to reduce the problem."

Mr Reekie said it was important to be ready to help when a man seeks out help, because he would only seek it out once.

"You need to get to them before they go to their friends or before they go to the pub," he said.

MATES doesn't receive any government funding and Mr Reekie said he has stopped trying to get any.

He said the main reason he didn't receive money in the past was because his diploma in counselling wasn't a high enough qualification and the government of the time wasn't investing in male programs.

The Department of Communities and Attorney General's office were contacted for comment but did not respond in time for publication.

This story No funding for men's program in South West first appeared on Busselton-Dunsborough Mail.