Western Sydney youth workers address the foundations of family violence

Young people who face homelessness have often already felt the effects of domestic violence and are at an increased risk of continuing the cycle.

Western Sydney Health youth health coordinator Graeme Pringle works with high-risk youth through two centres in Mount Druitt and Harris Park. The centres offer 24-hour access to basic needs including food, showers and a laundry, as well as counselling, nursing, and medical services.

Mr Pringle said young people exposed to family violence often become desensitised to it, and are more likely to become perpetrators or victims.

His key message for anyone affected: seek help.

“Whether you are a perpetrator, a victim or a witness, violence has an impact,” he said.

“Seek help. Seek advice. There are services everywhere that really want to help. Health, police, community services; people don’t go into this field for any other reason other than they actually care about people.”

STRONG TEAM: Western Sydney Health youth coordinator Graeme Pringle (left) with Grace Joo, Jessica Easterbrook and Christian San Juan. Picture: Supplied

STRONG TEAM: Western Sydney Health youth coordinator Graeme Pringle (left) with Grace Joo, Jessica Easterbrook and Christian San Juan. Picture: Supplied

Mr Pringle said breaking the cycle of family violence is “the only way we’ll make any dint” on the issue.

“Treatment is incredibly important. Intervention at that crisis point is absolutely essential, and we need to support people in those situations.

“But if we’re going to actually make an impact on violence, and the effect that violence has on the community and also on children coming through those situations, we need to get in and address the causes.”

Western Sydney Health runs a range of programs to address emotional regulation and anger, including RAGE and Managing The Bull. Other programs that fall under the Healthy Relationships framework, including Love Bites, examine modern relationships to educate about concepts including sexting, assault and consent.

The two youth centres run about 15 sessions of RAGE each year for small groups of similarly-aged young people – primarily men, although more women are taking part.

Mr Pringle said he has seen great outcomes from the practical, solution-based framework, but change does not happen overnight.

“It’s long, it’s ongoing, and the reality is for the outcomes right now, it’s expensive,” he said.

“We're not stopping it happening tomorrow. Behavioural change programs have a longer-term effect because it’s about teaching people new skills, and that can take time. We need to put them in situations where they can practice that over and over again.”

The program receives many of its referrals through the juvenile justice system, and some participants complete it at least three times.

Mr Pringle said they don’t have the resources to reach as many people as they would like, meaning they are forced to focus on high-risk, disengaged young people. A current proposal would help the centres get funding to reach more people with their integrated violence prevention services.