No to Violence has worked directly with men who use family violence for 30 years.
Ultimately, the organisation’s vision is “a world free from violence”, something that CEO Jacqui Watt admits is “quite a big vision”.
“Especially when you consider that this year alone, in the first 15 weeks, 17 women have been murdered by their current or former partner,” Jacqui says.
As the largest peak body in Australia for organisations and individuals who work with men to end family violence, No to Violence’s work encompasses advocacy, training, sector development and – crucially – they also operate the Men’s Referral Service.
At the heart of their work is a belief in the need for early intervention – to work with men now, instead of locking them up later.
“At the extreme end, family violence is causing significant and serious harm to the community and to the families affected. But we also know that things can start with something that might seem quite small,” Jacqui says.
“Our job is to find ways, working with others, to get in there earlier, when the first signs of abuse or violence appear; to change the trajectory so that it doesn't end up where someone's life is taken by someone abusing them and using violence against them.”
Ideally, early intervention starts with primary prevention – working with whole communities to stop violence before it even starts.
“This means arming young women with the ability to keep themselves safe, but equally, arming and educating our young boys and men to think of themselves as men in different ways from the rigid, stereotypical masculinities that we see promulgated across the country,” Jacqui says.
“Rigid masculinity is a trap for men as well.”
For No to Violence, the services they offer are about meeting men where they are at in their journey of change – and having the skills to keep a conversation open enough to try and shift their thinking.
While No to Violence specialises in effective and evidence-informed engagement with men, its primary concern is the safety and wellbeing of women and children. It describes itself as pro-feminist organisation and acknowledges the gendered nature of family violence.
As Jacqui explains, family violence is everyone’s problem, but it begins – and ends – with men.
“Violence is a choice. And No to Violence is here to help men make a different choice.
“Unless and until we work to stop the root cause of it, we're only ever going to be applying band-aid solutions to a serious societal issue,” Jacqui says.
She laments the lack of services that are available at the moment, pointing to a “postcode lottery”, long waiting lists and the crucial need for sustainable funding, so “anyone, anywhere in Australia, if they're using violence or if they see someone close to them who they think is using violence, and they need advice about how to handle it, they know they can call the Men’s Referral Service, any day of the week on 1300 766 491,” Jacqui says.
Despite the challenges the sector is facing, Jacqui says she is optimistic. She believes that with the 10-year National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children, and the right policy and funding settings, change is possible.
“I think we're at a very big and generous time for thinking about the work and really targeting resources going forward,” she says.
While No to Violence is a proud Bank Australia customer, Jacqui’s personal relationship with the bank goes back to when she first came to Australia, from Scotland, to work in social housing.
“MECU (which later became Bank Australia) was one of the few funding institutions that were funding the building of new social housing, under the Rudd Government Nation Building response to the global financial crisis in 2008,” she recalls.
“The bank always had a great reputation for funding the projects that need to be funded. It's a no brainer for us to be members,” she says.
If you're concerned about your behaviour or of someone using violence, free and confidential support is available. Call the Men's Referral Service on 1300 766 491 or visit mrs.org.au