One of the challenges in reducing the incidence of domestic violence is addressing cultural differences. But some communities are embracing the message of respect - and one highly successful pilot program is leading the charge.
A soccer-based program for Iranian immigrants in Melbourne is breaking down cultural barriers to confronting domestic violence.
The pilot program brings young Iranian men together to attend awareness classes, and play some soccer, in Melbourne’s north.
Participant Tehran-born Alireza Samaditehrani says he saw the need for young men from Iran to attend the classes.
“Because in my country the way man treat women is different,” he said.
The 20-year-old said he learned crucial lessons during the 10-week course.
“Stuff like respect, violence - I thought violence was just physical but in the classes we learned it can be verbal,” he said.
Family violence counsellor Mojdeh Abedi says the positive changes the men demonstrated were beyond expectation.
“I remember in the first session they said family violence is a private issue, but in the last session they were saying as a bystander I have to do something,” she said.
The concept of the program was conceived and driven by newly arrived Iranian women who suggested young men within the community should be the focus of the course - with soccer the logical "hook."
Alireza Samaditehrani said within a few sessions, the men became equally enthusiastic about participating in the class-based learning, and believes the benefits of future programs will be significant.
“I think if we continue with the program we will have a healthier community, and I'm quite sure there's a lot more men like me who don't know about the difference in law and culture. I'm sure these classes will help them”.
Evidence of the program’s success is best described by Alireza’s sister Hadiseh, who says her own brother has changed behaviour.
“Before he was really angry; we couldn't talk to him, but now he is much friendlier. He tell us that he love us,” she said.