Australia-first domestic violence initiative targets teen boys and mums

Queensland is pioneering an Australia-first initiative to break the cycle of domestic violence by stopping it when it first appears – in boyhood.

Across the country, children as young as 10 are perpetrating family violence against their mothers and sisters often after witnessing or experiencing violence from men. More than 1500 incidents of domestic violence were perpetrated by children aged between 10 and 18 years in Queensland in the three years to December 2015.

On 14 September 2016 Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, The Hon. Shannon Fentiman MP, officially launched ReNew – an innovative two-year program by child-trauma specialist Carinity and Ipswich-based Domestic Violence Action Centre.

“Violence used against your mother is a major risk factor for perpetrating domestic violence as an adult. The human, social and financial costs of domestic violence are enormous and in Australia it’s estimated to save governments and communities more than $2.5 million for every teenage boy diverted away from the criminal justice system,” says ReNew Co-Facilitator Dave Burck.

“Unlike most other programs focused on adults, ReNew intervenes at a critical time to steer young people away from violence leading to the renewal of healthy and respectful relationships.”


    • challenges beliefs about gender and violence across cultures;
    • addresses the impacts of domestic violence experiences as a family;
    • strengthens the bonds between mothers and sons;
    • creating options and training participants to use non-violent problem-solving skills; and
    • increasing mothers’ confidence in their parenting abilities.

Funded by the Queensland Government and delivered by respected community organisations, ReNew is expected to lead to:

    • a reduction in violence towards mothers;
    • increased attachment between mothers and sons; and
    • a reduced risk of the young people using domestic violence as adults.

While focused primarily on boys and teenagers, ReNew will also look at working with transgender young people who are using domestic violence against their mothers or carers.

Griffith University’s School of Human Services and Social Work and the Menzies Health Institute at Logan will conduct a two-year evaluation of ReNew including a longitudinal research of participants to monitor any lasting behavioural and life changes for boys and their mothers.

The pilot program in Brisbane and Ipswich will be reviewed in late 2018 with the potential to be rolled out across Queensland and Australia.

Co-Facilitator Leia Mackie says the 20-week program, which began last month in Goodna, is based on best-practice principles and is being closely observed by the global leaders in family violence, the US-based Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs organisation (Duluth).

ReNew delivers tailored responses to each family, delivering a culturally appropriate violence solution to a broad range of people. The intensive personalised counselling in ReNew helps mums re-establish their role in the family unit. For the adolescents we work through their past abuse or trauma and hold them accountable for their violent behaviour,” says Leia.

ReNew is provided free of charge to participants and addresses last year’s Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland’s Not Now, Not Ever report recommendations to establish innovative and early intervention programs for perpetrators, especially adolescents. Violence against women is estimated to cost the Australian economy $21.7 billion annually.

The Not Now, Not Ever report estimates family violence costs the Queensland economy $3.2 billion annually. Queensland Police recorded 66,016 family violence occurrences in 2013-14. This represent $48,500 per incident. The perpetration of violence once a year for 50 years equates to a community cost of around $2.5M for each individual.

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James Woods

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