Maggie Carey, Rob Hall, and Shona Russell

Peggy Sax: February 28, 2011

The   “Narrative Practices Adelaide” certificate programme is about to start another year. In preparation, I am starting this special interest group so we can really make the most of the opportunity to bring together people with a particular interest in working with men who use violence against their partners. A good place to begin is to read Rob Hall’s article, Pitfalls and challenges in work with men and to join in with the conversation.

If you share a particular interest in this topic, can you share a bit about your work context? What particularly draws you to this work? What kind of conversation would be most helpful to you? Peggy

Margaret Wells

I’ve just finished reading this article this afternoon.  I was interested to read what approach one might take.  This is certainly an area of work I have avoided.  Interesting because in Brisbane (to my understanding) it’s fairly hard to find people who work in this field.  I was really encouraged to think carefully about some of the ideas promoted.  I wonder how you find that balance about encouraging responsibility and keeping the victims in mind.  It’s such a complex consideration I think, to ensure safety, really for all concerned, partners, children, family and therapists.  I really liked the idea of having equal gender representation in the therapy context and being thoughtful about the role modeling implications of this.  I’d like a conversation to discuss  successful approaches.  I’d like to learn more about how people navigate this work.

Sonja-Bar-Am_profile-150x150Sonja Bar-Am

Hi Margaret, my name is Sonja and I am here in Adelaide. I have done some fantastic training with Rob Hall at Narrative Practices Adelaide and I would like to invite Rob also to reply to your post. I co-facilitate a Mens group for men who would like to stop using violence in their lives, particularly to the women and children they love. I would like to share with you our experiences, particularly around Partner Contact whereby we, as workers, are able to hopefully increase and remain accountable to the women and children effected by violence, and this will hopefully help the perpetrators to move toward practices of responsibility and accountability. We have processes in our team to enable this in our work, but I am always aware that we could be doing more and differently perhaps. We are looking at these processes in our Team at present, I am mapping our work now as a project in the team.

I would like to open up this conversation more – but presently I need to do the school run with my children.  :mrgreen:

So I will rush off now and hopefully log back in a bit later. I hope the above is a little bit helpful.

Warm regards /Sonja


Thanks Sonja, I’m really looking forward to learning more about the work that you’re doing and the practices you’ve found helpful.  Best regards


Peggy-Sax 2Peggy: Hey – I’m now working on transcribing a 75 minute audio recording where Rob Hall speaks about his approach to working with men who use violence against their partners. While cycling today, I kept remembering parts of this conversation between Rob, Shona and Maggie. I only have about 10 minutes left to transcribe, and it feels a bit like I have felt when nearing the end of a good book. As a sneak preview, I will paste the first few paragraphs here:

Maggie: Rob, this conversation is a chance for us to catch up around your work with men in responding to men who use violence in their relationships. This is a starting point. Michael had an intention to share some thoughts and ideas with you around your work and that didn’t have a chance to happen.  Right now, (we want) to think about some of your work and …

Rob: Michael had an interest in this work for a long, long time. He always used to say this even before we became close friends when we would have lunch together. As we became close, he had me review a couple of articles around these issues. When he set up his own centre he made it really clear he wanted to talk more and share more. Michael had clearly done a lot of thinking about this work with men. We were looking forward to developing these ideas together and that was very exciting for me – and my colleague Alan Jenkins – because Allen has been pivotal in the developing this work as well. I don’t know how that conversation would have gone but I was certainly really looking forward to having the chance to develop it with Michael….But still… We move on…..

Shona: I’d be interested in hearing about those articles that Michael asked you to review. Do you remember what they were? Was there an edge of interest back then?

Rob: There were three things that Michael consulted with me about. One of them was an article that someone else had written that he asked me to give feedback on. Another was around the idea of men’s ways of being.  He consulted with me around a whole presentation about that. And then , of course, around about accountability, he was really interested in developing that idea.

I think Michael’s interest started around 1980 or something like that when we first began running men’s groups that had a sort of working brief on what we were doing and the concepts we were working with. Not having the confidence to write myself, I later put together an article called “work in progress.”

Shona: is it okay to pause? I think there are already some interesting things you are speaking about. Rob, you talked about 1980 and the concepts emerging in the men’s groups you were doing. Would you be willing to reflect a bit on some of those concepts, and the history of those?

Rob: Probably the most powerful concept back then – which is still very helpful and viable concept today – is the notion of responsibility. I remember when I was working for a crisis counseling service, and we were very aware that part of the job was to help women get to safe housing or shelter. There wasn’t any counseling for men at all back then. In conversation as workers, it was brought out that women were bearing the burden and responsibility of living with men with violence.. There was no expectation of men to do anything about their behavior in many respects. So we started to toy with a process that would take men into a place where they carried some of the responsibility.

See what I mean? SO INTERESTING! This is only the first page (about 1/12th of the conversation). You’ll also be able to hear the audio version. What do you think? Rob, Shona and Maggie – I hope it’s okay if I give this sneak preview. I trust everyone here knows you are looking over our shoulders, sort of like looking at an unpublished manuscript. It’s a work in progress- not yet to be shared outside of this study group.

Amy-Vaughan_profile-150x150Amy Vaughan

Peggy I would be VERY interested in the rest of this conversation! I know it is a labour of love to transcribe, thank you so much. I work with families where children or a male partner have been removed because he was being abusive. After he has attended a ‘men’s group’ he is usually allowed to be reunited with his family, and the social workers more or less hope for the best. In the short time I’ve been working there, it seems that while the physically abusive behaviour stops when they’re reunited, the attitudes or maybe a better word would be worldview of the man hasn’t really changed. I identify with Margaret about having avoided this area of learning, but would be very curious about Rob’s and Micheal’s ideas around how to approach men or women who’ve been abusive.

Peggy-Sax 2Peggy

thank-you, Amy! It is indeed a labor of love. It is also absolutely BEAUTIFUL outside but I am totally riveted. I will look forward to sharing this with you. I think the work Rob is doing in Adelaide – along with his colleagues, and with Alan Jenkins – is absolutely awe-inspiring and very very important. Here are another couple of paragraphs:

That idea of accountability at that political level is one thing.  The other thing is around the work with men itself – if you work with your client and you are not contemplating what that work means for the people who have been subjugated to men’s violence, then I think you are running a risk. One of the things we need to keep in mind is the experience of people who have been hurt.

This is probably put clearest, if a man gets to a point where he is interested to take into account the violence he has done, and he wants to consult with his partner about this; it’s very tempting as a counselor to be so  enthused about the realizations someone has made, that you end up wanting the partner to be responsive to what the man is offering. The risk of that, of course, is that you are once again putting his intentions, or his needs, or his wants ahead of where she might be at. Being accountable means that you really want to check where she was at, and to check in a way that wasn’t coercive or intrusive so if there was a space where she’d expressed an interest at some point in wanting to understand what he has realized then you would want to establish a way could make contact with her around that. What might be appropriate is to consult with the person she is consulting with, and that person who is trusted and respected by her asks if she still wants it or is ready for it, and what she might need before she felt able to take this onboard, if she was interested.

Julie Maloney

Hi Peggy I am really looking forward to reading the rest of this transcript. I have for many years worked with women, children and young people experiencing domestic and family violence.The expectation of men taking responsibility was almost non existent. Men were invisible in their actions and in being accountable for their actions. Women and children were the ones who had to leave their homes, schools, families. To the point where if the violence by the perpetrator was extreme and there were children in the relationship, the system would place the responsibility on the woman to remove herself and the children from the relationship or risk having her children removed. Changes in systems and the law, the White Ribbon Campaign and conversations are slowly making a difference to how we respond to the violence.

As part of my work now, I am  working with men who use violence against their partners. Here in Adelaide we have just had three days with Rob Hall. Just fantastic. I found the training relevant and stimulating and look forward to reviewing the work.

Peggy-Sax 2Hi Julie,

It’s a joy for me to find your recent posts. Your work sounds really engaging – and demanding. What sustains you, making it possible for you  to commit to doing such intense work?  I’m envious that you just spent 3 days with Rob. I finished the transcription, and just sent it to Rob, Shona & Maggie for review. I look forward to sharing it with you. I am in awe of new possibilities in this work with men, and the relevance of notions of responsibility and accountability.  I can’t find the words to adequately convey how deeply moved I am by this work – not only the intentions but the openings that make change more than a visionary concept – an everyday reality that can have ripple effects into so many lives.


Julie Maloney

Hi Peggy,

I have to say that I love the work I do. What sustains me is the diversity my work allows, the wonderful team in which I sit and the possibilities that can open up meaning for individuals to give capacity to be accountable and to take up responsibility for their actions.  I work in an Aboriginal Health Service in Adelaide South Australia. I feel incredibly humble to have this opportunity. In relation to the ripple effect you mention, I see the change in one client I have been working with. I started working with him whilst he was incarcerated. He spoke of the volatility in his relationship and how “she would push his buttons”. When he was released, he went straight back into the same relationship in much the same way.

At some point he started to take responsibility and removed himself completely out of the relationship, continued to come to counselling and went back to study. As an Aboriginal man he sees the self worth that was invisible to him in the past. His community have had little to do with him due to past history. He is now being accepted back into his community and having an influence on the youth first hand.

Pretty big ripple.

Thanks for your hard work in transcribing Will be great to read


Cate-Ryan 2Cate Ryan

Hi Everyone,

I realise this conversation has been quiet for a little while, however I just wanted to share somewhere with the group that i had the most awesome week last week exploring this area of work with Rob Hall in my community.  :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

For the last for years I’ve been lead project worker for firstly what was named ‘Addressing Violence in Relationships’ and has shifted to ‘Respectful Relationships’ in my organisation. This project came about in response to the messages we received from young woman about the violence they’d experienced in relationships and how they wanted others to reduce the acceptance of violence in their lives. It has been a hell of a journey from these initial stages and at the early stages when we were delivering workshops in schools to young people, there always felt like something was missing when we stacked up the girp this issue has on society compared to the 2.5hours we were afforded by the school institutions. After staffing changes in the team we also began to realise that the knowledge of responding to the presence of violence more often then not, leaves with the staff and new workers have a lot of space to transvers in the ‘possible to know’ landscape of practice. That is why we are in the stage of developing an organisational framework to respond to the presence of violence in the communities we work and it was so wonderful that Rob accepted our invitation to come to visit and share his practice. This is the 2nd time i’ve heard this workshop (the first as a part of the NPA course last year) and I find inspiration and opportunities to open doors in this area of work like no other practice I’ve yet to come across and i find myself thinking ‘i can and want to do this work’ – this is such a different feeling then the moralistic weight and fight that more traditional ways of approaching this work leave me. Each time i look closer at the theory of this work I am struck by how many ways the dominate discourse of patriarchal ways is promoted in society, especially in the media. I’m very keen to reflect on the feedback of participant regarding resonance and elements that would be useful to integrate into our work and hope we can continue to slowly generate a position that invites families and young people to stand up for the ethics they want to live their life by.

Peggy – i’m excited that Rob will be heading your way later in the year, such a delight.

cheers, Cate