Program to help violent offenders

FAMILIES in the Ballarat area with violent teenagers will have more support than before, after Child and Family Services Ballarat received $800,000 in new funding for its Adolescent Family Violence program, which also services Bacchus Marsh and Daylesford.

The program has operated since 2013 under the name Get-up, and the new state government money, to be distributed over four years, is expected to expand and assist 50 families in the coming weeks.

Victoria Police Ballarat’s family violence consultant Sergeant Joe Cahir said it was good news the program would be expanded.

“Before we had something like this, there was nowhere to refer these adolescents, and for parents already struggling with the embarrassment of the violence, they had no one to turn to except the police,” he said.

Sergeant Cahir said that while the police treated physically violent teenagers like any other violent offender, it needed a holistic response rather than just criminal proceedings and counselling.

Sergeant Joe Cahir

Sergeant Joe Cahir

“This looks at all the different reasons behind the violence. If we can stop violence when they’re adolescents, we can stop them committing that violence later on with their own partners and children,” he said.

Statewide figures show that almost 8 per cent of all domestic violence incidents police attend are committed by a teenager, and the majority of these are by males, said Sergeant Cahir.

He also defined violence as being both physical and psychological, and said most cases occurred because of a “power imbalance” within the household.

Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge said it was important to address violence in the home whenever it breaks out.

“This type of behaviour can have a devastating impact on parents, carers, siblings and other relatives, and of course, on young people themselves.”