CENTACARE has launched National Child Protection Week with a focus on positive parenting and keeping children safe from domestic violence.

Speaking at a morning tea held at Centacare’s Adelaide headquarters, Assistant Director Pauline Connelly said perpetrating domestic violence must be seen as a parenting choice.

“Our theme is about placing our society’s children at the centre of our world and our decision-making,” Pauline said.

“I do believe we need to relearn how to do that and to discover what it looks like in terms of our own personal decisions, our choices and behaviours, the community’s response to events, our organisational values and our government policy.”

Pauline used the event to highlight the role of social workers and community service organisations who work to protect women and children from family violence, abuse and neglect.

“I want to recognise the work that you do and the challenge that it is just to go out every day and face the situations you do without always having the answers,” she said.

“I also want to acknowledge the managers in the way they try and support their staff. The managers try their best with regard to structures and policies we have in the organisation, but nothing can replace the support they give in terms of debriefing, the protection from vicarious trauma and the deep encouragement that is needed.”

David Mandel, an international expert on the prevention of violence against women, spoke via video at the launch.

David visited Adelaide in April to train Centacare staff on his perpetrator pattern-based approach to domestic violence cases involving children.

His approach looks at the perpetrator’s behaviour, not the relationship or the survivor’s behaviour, as the foundation of moving toward a domestic violence-informed child welfare system.

“We need to be thinking through the lens that domestic violence perpetration is a parenting choice,” he said. “We need to hold domestic violence perpetrators accountable.

“We need to make visible what is often invisible because we hold men to such low expectations as parents and we hold women to such high expectations.

“By talking about domestic violence perpetration as a parenting choice and when we say that to a domestic violence survivor, it is an immediate intervention in some cases to really start alleviating the guilt and shame she feels.

“Good practice really involves us talking about the story of what the perpetrator did and how it harmed the child and family function. That, in some ways, is really the heart and soul of this idea that perpetration is a parenting choice.”

National Child Protection Week is coordinated by NAPCAN (National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect) and runs from September 6-12.