Narratives of violence and how they affect youth justice prevention and response initiatives

Dr Rebecca Goodbourn1, Dr Heather Nancarrow2, Mr Andrew Taukolo3, Dr Karen Struthers4, Ms Elena Campbell5

1Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety, Sydney, Australia, 2Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety, Sydney, Australia, 3YFS Ltd, Logan, Australia, 4Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia, 5RMIT, Melbourne, Australia

Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) is a not-for-profit independent national research organisation. ANROWS produces, disseminates and assists in applying evidence for policy and practice addressing violence against women and their children. For the Australasian Youth Justice Conference, ANROWS is convening a panel to share some exciting upcoming projects that explore narratives of violence in relation to young people, and how those narratives impact prevention initiatives as well as responses.

Dr Heather Nancarrow will open the panel by speaking to the context of the upcoming research projects and the aims of the arising recommendations.  Under Australia’s National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022, there are six identified national outcomes: communities are safe and free from violence; relationships are respectful; Indigenous communities are strengthened; services meet the needs of women and their children experiencing violence; justice responses are effective; and perpetrators stop their violence and are held to account. Dr Nancarrow will talk through the ways in which these intersecting outcomes are addressed by the upcoming research, and how the recommendations of the research work toward long-term, sustainable, evidence-based responses to violence against women and children.

Andrew Taukolo and Dr Karen Struthers will draw on recent Australian research regarding a peer-to-peer respectful relationships education program to discuss “On the right side of the line: the legal and moral line between unhealthy and healthy relationships for young people”. This will cover evidence and findings on the challenges for young people in knowing the line on sexual violence, consent, sexting and more, and how healthy relationships can keep young people safer and out of trouble. It will also highlight the upcoming release of the youth report of the 2017 National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey.

The panel will then move to focus on conceptions of adolescent family violence, and the responses that are influenced by those conceptions. Elena Campbell will present research on legal and service responses to adolescent family violence in three Australian jurisdictions. This project found that legal responses primarily designed to address adult, intimate partner violence are being imposed on children. This portion of the panel will question whether a legal response to the use of power and control should replicate that use of power over vulnerable children—the project found evidence of high rates of children involved with the legal system who had histories of trauma and/or psychosocial disabilities. These types of responses could deter families from help-seeking behaviour and prevent the legal system from understanding the problem’s true scale.

The panel will conclude with a brief discussion between the panellists bringing together the importance of narratives of violence across the projects. It will emphasise how these narratives impact youth justice initiatives from prevention to legal responses, and in particular, the effect on perpetuating intergenerational cycles of violence. Together the panellists will suggest ways forward in changing the narrative to promote effective youth justice initiatives.


Dr Heather Nancarrow (chair) is the CEO of Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS). For more than 35 years, Heather has worked to address violence against women, including in community services and advocacy, policy and research. In 2008-09 she was Deputy Chair of the National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, which produced Time for Action, the blue-print for COAG’s National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022. She was co-Deputy Chair of the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) Advisory Panel to Reduce Violence against Women 2015-16; and in 2014-15 she was a member of the Queensland Premier’s Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence, which resulted in the report Not Now, Not Ever, and a raft of major reforms in Queensland. Heather has a PhD in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Her scholarship is focused on justice responses to violence against women, particularly as they relate to violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Andrew Taukolo (panellist) is an R4Respect Youth Leader and a Case Manager for the Youthlink Program at YFS Ltd. R4Respect is a peer-to-peer education program aimed at preventing violence in relationships —led by young people for young people. Andrew graduated from Griffith University with a Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice and is also a member of the National Communities Attitudes Towards Violence Against Women (NCAS) Project Advisory Group.

Dr Karen Struthers (panellist) is a Research Fellow at Griffith University School of Human Services and Social Work and a consultant focusing on service innovation and evaluation. Karen was a former Minister in the Queensland Government with portfolio responsibility for Community Services, Housing and Women.

Elena Campbell (panellist) is the Associate Director of Research, Advocacy & Policy of the Centre for Innovative Justice at RMIT. Elena is a lawyer, speechwriter and former political staffer who has worked in legal and social policy for nearly 20 years. Elena’s expertise includes therapeutic justice, equal opportunity and human rights, as well as the prevention and elimination of violence against women.

At the CIJ Elena oversees a program of research which predominantly focuses on family violence. Within this program, the CIJ has developed particular knowledge in the area of perpetrator interventions, as well as in the value and operation of Intervention Orders and other court processes which attempt to respond to family violence. In this capacity, Elena has lead projects for Government departments and courts, to support the implementation of recommendations from Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence. Elena is also involved in ANROWS funded projects focusing on interventions with perpetrators of family violence.

In particular, Elena is leading the ground-breaking PIPA Project – Positive Interventions for Perpetrators of Adolescent violence in the home – which brings together the CIJ’s emphasis on addressing family violence with its focus on ensuring that the justice system functions as a positive intervention in people’s lives. She is also a Chief Investigator in a national project with five Universities around Australia looking at the development of Perpetrator Intervention systems.

Previously Elena worked as a legal adviser and staffer in the Victorian Government for over a decade. Elena has also been employed as a consultant for a range of social policy and justice organisations, including the Australian Human Rights Commission, focusing on gender discrimination. Elena sits on a number of advisory bodies in relation to family violence and also oversees the production of much of the CIJ’s written publications.