Domestic violence offences are one of the biggest social issues for the current generation, but one far west police officer is exploring strategies to stop re-offending.
Central North Police District Commander, Superintendent Andrew Hurst has been named a 2020 Churchill Fellow.
He is one of 112 Australians awarded the Churchill Fellowship to create positive change in our communities.
After a two-year program through the University of Cambridge, Superintendent Hurst completed a thesis exploring diversionary strategies in line with the criminal justice system, to help change the behaviour of domestic violence offenders and reduce re-offending.
Through the fellowship program he will travel to the United States, United Kingdom and Canada to further research diversionary strategies and programs for domestic violence offenders used overseas, to discover what can be implemented here in Australia.
Inspiration for the project came from witnessing domestic violence as a constable at Bourke in 1999, and returning 20 years later to arrest the children of those offenders for the same crimes.
“There’s got to be another way to try and circuit break this cycle of re-offending we see from generations of people that go on to commit harm and suffering in their families,” he said.
“I think just accepting the way we’ve always done it is the best way do it in the future, I just don’t think we can sit idle and accept that’s the best way to approach this in the future.”
He said his thesis demonstrated the majority of domestic violence offenders had a wide range of contributing factors, which led to offending, such as drug use, drug abuse and mental health.
However Supt Hurst said some programs in the United Kingdom promoted deterrence and desistance through the judicial system, while others in the United States were through community-led agencies.
There’s got to be another way to try and circuit break this cycle of re-offending we see from generations of people that go on to commit harm and suffering in their families,Superintendent Andrew Hurst
“If someone has undiagnosed mental health and they’re abusing drugs and alcohol and assaulting a family member because they’re abusing drugs, then their drug habit and mental health issues are part of what needs to be targeted to stop that person from re-offending,” Supt Hurst said.
The project will also look at diversionary programs in Aboriginal communities of Alaska and British Columbia and how they could be introduced into Indigenous communities of Australia.
“So it really covers a broad review of domestic violence interventions in three countries, and putting that into some sort of perspective of how we could we bring it back here and could it have applicability in Australia,” Supt Hurst said.
“And from my perspective being here in Bourke, could other things that are going on elsewhere in the world, could I introduce in NSW in Aboriginal communities that could have some impact on preventing domestic violence offenders from re-offending.”
This year’s Churchill fellows have been granted an additional year to complete their travel scholarships, however the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust has decided not to offer scholarships in 2021.https://18d345e2c01637bc8e33ad2c93b3382a.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
Supt Hurst is hoping to travel at the end of next year, but would use the extra preparation time to build contacts overseas ahead of his travel.
“There may be a silver lining on that,” he said.
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