With over 30 years experience under his belt, Michael Brandenburg has had a range of roles in the family violence sector. Originally a youth worker moving into foster care, Michael’s introduction to family violence came fortuitously when he was invited to step in as a facilitator on a men’s behaviour change program to cover for an absent colleague. This was the start of a career journey that continues today.
“One of the great things about working in the community sector is that there are lots of opportunities. I went from working as a facilitator to establishing and managing a range of community programs. Now I’m working at the next level helping to drive policy direction.”
Michael’s current role as a policy officer in the Policy and Research team at No to Violence enables him to help others while influencing how Victoria responds to and prevents men’s family violence. No to violence is the peak body for men’s behaviour change programs across Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania.
“As a policy officer I engage with our members, consulting them and advocating for them. We drive policy directions and support government to make good decisions about where we should be going. With a strong background in working with men who use family violence, my role includes supporting organisations who are doing this work."
“I love hearing our members’ stories – their challenges and successes. I really love being part of a team driving change and working with people across men’s, women’s and children’s services.”
When asked how people outside the sector react when he tells them about his work, he says things have changed but some popular myths persist.
“Thirty years ago family violence wasn’t spoken about, talked or written about. Now it’s become a common topic of conversation. There’s a greater understanding in our community about what family violence is and about who the victims and perpetrators are".
“But I still get different reactions when I talk about my job. Some ask ‘is it safe?’ or ‘what about men who are victims?’"
“I challenge the notion that family violence work is unsafe. Most jobs out there will challenge you mentally and physically. Every job has risks. In my 30 years of experience I can count on one hand the number of times I felt unsafe. And I think if I asked my colleagues in the sector they would say the same thing.”
Michael notes the importance of having a supportive network for maintaining wellbeing in the long term.
“Having supportive colleagues; having a sense of humour; being resilient; not taking things personally, and working for an organisation that provides good supervision, professional development and training will all help to sustain people in this field for a long time.”
He is particularly proud to have been part of the expert advisory committee that helped shape the interventions that came out of the Royal Commission into Family Violence in Victoria.
“I was able to offer advice and direction on how our sector could work together to better respond to this issue. Now I’m working to help build a service system to make women and children safer while engaging with men who use family violence.
Since the Royal Commission I think there’s a greater interest in working with men. I also see more young men and women joining the workforce and greater cultural diversity. It’s an exciting time – programs are being developed across the sector that acknowledge differences in culture and gender and increasingly we are engaging with people who use violence.”
For graduates and mid-career changers interested in working in the sector, his advice is the same: seek out the information and be willing to give it a try.
“I went from a foster care worker to manager to policy adviser. Modern family violence organisations are well structured to provide professional development and training to support their staff. If you’re prepared to learn and are willing to be open, the sector can support you to get those skills".
“I see plenty of people coming into the men’s family violence sector without specialist skills but they have a strong interest in working with men to stop their use of violence and make their community safer. You need to be motivated to engage with these men as people, without judgement".
“The work is challenging and confronting, but it’s also rewarding. If you can see the person behind the behaviour, you can do great work and have a satisfying career.”
How to become a practitioner in perpetrator services
If you are interested in working in a role in perpetrator services, you may be expected to have completed a qualification in Social Work, Psychology, Counselling, Community Services or equivalent..
You may also undertake a , which is provided by Swinburne University of Technology. This course is designed for experienced practitioners in the health and community service sectors who provide specialist services to clients with complex and diverse needs, such as men who use violence.
Practitioners who work in perpetrator services generally have experience in intake and assessment, counselling, group facilitation and case management.
Reviewed 11 December 2020