Magistrate criticizes delay for help

A MAGISTRATE has blasted a seven-month wait for access to a program addressing domestic violence.

Peter Mellas criticised Corrections Victoria’s provision of services after being told a men's behaviour change program - a crucial plank in the fight against family violence - was not available in Warrnambool until March next year.

The clearly frustrated magistrate said he needed to stop encouraging defendants ​to change their behaviour when the support programs were not available in country areas.

"It undermines the whole sentencing process,” he said.

Mr Mellas said Corrections Victoria "talked big" about service provision at a recent magistrates conference.

"But you specifically ask about services outside metropolitan Melbourne and they go quiet," he said.

He was presiding over the case of Dylan John Geen, 21, of Laverock Road, Warrnambool, who pleaded guilty to a number of charges, including breaching an intervention order and wilfully causing damage.

The court was told Geen had been in a relationship which had ​resulted in police​ attend​ing his home 17 times. He was jailed for one month but had already served 34 days in custody and has to comply with an existing corrections order.

A Corrections Victoria spokesman said the Change About program was for family-violence offenders assessed as a medium or high risk of reoffending. He said it would work to quickly refer offenders to appropriate programs.

“In October 2015, the Victorian Government allocated $16.64 million over three years so Corrections Victoria could establish a panel of Men’s Behaviour Change Program (MBCP) providers across Victoria,” he said.

“Corrections Victoria has appointed 15 MBCP providers. This includes the Brophy Family Youth Service, which has been allocated $77,000 to deliver programs in the Warrnambool area.

“The Royal Commission into Family Violence found there was a need for more programs to help family-violence perpetrators change their behaviour. The increasing demand for the MBCP is widely acknowledged across the sector, and these 15 providers are helping to increase access to the programs.

“Separately from the MBCP, Corrections Victoria clinicians deliver the Change About program to family-violence offenders who are assessed as a medium or high risk of reoffending. 

“Corrections Victoria will continue to work with its providers and other key stakeholders to ensure offenders assessed as appropriate for family-violence treatment are referred to the appropriate programs as quickly as possible.”