David Nugent was introduced early to domestic violence. His father regularly beat his mother. The boy was accustomed to police knocking at the door.
After one of the more brutal attacks, David's mother was left helpless on the floor, blood trickling from her head. She now suffers hearing problems.
When David Nugent married in his early 20's, he bought the propensity for violence with him. The marriage collapsed after five years. The pattern continued into Mr Nugent's second relationship. He once smashed a car with a steel pipe after becoming agitated at a family gathering.
Mr Nugent, now 42, sought help with the encouragement of his new partner, Monica. He now counsels men's groups on how to prevent family violence.
Last week Mr Nugent was one of 23 Victorians to graduate with the first Australian tertiary qualification in running men's programs for the prevention of family violence. The graduates - 16 men and seven women - were the first to complete the Graduate Certificate in Social Science (Male Family Violence), majoring in group behaviour training, at Melbourne's Swinburne University of Technology,
Fourteen other male students completed the telephone counselling stream of the certificate, which has been offered for the past five years.
Mr Nugent now runs men's help programs at the Whitehorse Community Centre in Box Hill.
"It is very important to have services for men with family violence problems because men tend to isolate themselves and their egos don't let them talk about these issues with friends," he said.
The new university program's co-ordinator, David Ellis, said the graduates were needed to help in Victoria's 31 men's behaviour change programs, which had 300 attendees each week.
"There is a crucial demand out there to work with men who are trying to address their violence issues," he said.
Tony Kelleher, 58, who also graduated last week, said that as a volunteer phone counsellor he had spoken to more than 1000 men about family violence. For most, it was the first time they had admitted to needing help.
Danny Blay from No To Violence, a Victorian agency working to prevent male-instigated family violence and which helped develop the tertiary certificate, said the problem of family violence was just beginning to be recognised.
He said it was known that there were more than 25,000 cases of family violence in Victoria las financial year and that those cases comprised just 20 per cent of all such incidents.
My Blay said the Men's Referal Service, a telephone help line for men who want to stop their violent or abusive behaviour towards family members, had had a 12.5 per cent jump in calls over the past year, to 3392.
The new certificate was important, he said, because it tackled why men were responsible for most family violence.
Results from the Victorian Family Violence Database confirm research that shows that family violence is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women, Mr Blay said.
In the first report from the database, released last year, 80 per cent of victims of family violence reported by police were female and 95 per cent of adults seeking emergency accomodation as a result of family violence were women.
By Jason Dowling