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Featured News New tools to curb violence

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Fri, 9 Mar 2018

New tools to curb violence

James Cook University researchers believe they have a new framework to effectively intervene in problem situations before they become violent.

JCU’s Dr William Liley and Dr Anne Stephens designed the approach. Dr Liley said better tools to understanding violence are urgently needed.

“Whether it’s interpersonal violence, workplace or self-directed, we think we now have a system to help people look at specific factors for risk and then develop strategies for change before any choice to become violent happens,” he said.

Dr Liley said the program is designed for health professionals and counsellors to use.

He said the work was based on theorising that violence can only be initiated when six factors are all present and then only if each of these factors rise above a necessary threshold.

“These factors are isolation, frustration, desperation, prejudice, place and a trigger. If someone can keep just one of these factors below the necessary threshold for themselves at that time, then any act of violence will be delayed and might then be avoided,” said Dr Liley.

He said that alcohol, previous trauma, and impulse control problems modify the factors but are not primary factors themselves.

“The model does not remove responsibility or diminish the choices people take with their use of interpersonal power.  As a model it is useful to work through to understand a situation without assigning blame or deciding someone is inherently evil or always going to be a wrong-doer.”

Dr Stephens said the program is known as the Cooktown Ten or C-10.

“Ten because we’ve drawn together the 4 processes that go on in every life - getting things in; taking things out; moving, meeting and mixing with others; and managing endings - and the 6 factors that can come together with problems that arise in the 4 processes. The name includes a respectful positive reference to Cooktown in reference to Dr Liley’s work in the community.

“It follows an old and at times out of fashion model of using a systems frame to analyse a problem. It’s a synthesis of many different thinkers in diverse fields in sociology, psychology, counselling, education and health care.  Explicitly, the ten factors are analysed with the situation and person in focus to enable more effective problem structuring,” she said.

Dr Liley said the program grew out of years of frontline work in clinical and research roles in many parts of the state and most recently in Far North Queensland.

“The hope is this project will expand to create more clinically useful tools and strategies to help prevent violence before it occurs and then becomes an entrenched problem,” he said.

Dr Liley is an Adjunct Professor of Research at the Cairns Institute and a Rural Generalist Specialist General Practitioner at Cooktown Medical Centre.

Dr Stephens is an education sociologist who Lecturers in Education with James Cook University’s College of Arts, Education and Society, and Adjunct Senior Researcher at the Cairns Institute.


Australian Police are called to a domestic and family violence event at a rate of one every two minutes.

One in six women in Australia have been subjected to physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner and one in 19 men.

Since 2000, at least 2,000 Australians have died by suicide each year and 20,000 have been admitted to hospitals as a result of deliberately inflicted self-harm.


Dr William Liley.