Responding to adolescent family violence: doing more harm than good?

November 5, 2018

The upcoming 2018 STOP Domestic Violence Conference will be held at QT, Gold Coast over 3 and 4 December with optional workshops on 5 December. 

Joining us at the conference is Ms Elena Campbell, Associate Director at Centre for Innovative Justice, RMIT University who will present on ‘Responding to adolescent family violence: doing more harm than good?’


With family violence front and centre of policy discussions, the community has rightly called for a proactive policing and justice response. Yet currently this response – designed to address adult intimate partner violence – can have disastrous consequences for children who use violence, as well as for families who have sought the system’s help.

The Centre for Innovative Justice’s PIPA Project – Positive Interventions for Perpetrator of Adolescent violence in the home – has found that current responses to family violence used by young people is often causing more harm than good. This includes propelling young people into contact with the law who are may be victims of family violence themselves, or who may be living with significant disability but received inadequate community support.

What’s more, civil responses may be capturing more vulnerable children than criminal justice mechanisms, because of fewer imperatives to assess risk or the factors driving offending. This means that, in some cases, the justice system is colluding in and perpetuating the harm that children have already experienced.

Through its analysis of over 300 case files and research with over 150 practitioners across three Australian jurisdictions, the PIPA Project unpacks what is currently happening when families living with adolescent family violence seek the justice system’s help. In doing so, it highlights the enormous service system gaps which exist in response to this issue – even in Victoria, where adolescents consistently represent 10% of respondents in police family violence callouts and protection order applications.

Most importantly, the PIPA Project highlights that our attempts to hold those who use violence accountable should not fail to identify risk, nor render victims less willing to call for help. Unless we acknowledge the complexity, diversity, and vulnerability of perpetrators of adolescent family violence, however, this is exactly the result we will achieve.


Lawyer, former political staff writer and legal consultant, Elena Campbell has worked in social and justice policy for twenty years. Now Associate Director at the Centre for Innovative Justice, Elena leads a program of research into family violence, with particular focus on perpetrator interventions, young people’s experience and use of violence, court processes which respond to family violence and the way in which experiences of violence can propel people into criminalisation.

For further information and to book tickets for the 2018 STOP Domestic Violence Conference please visit

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