Good Beginnings’ has been collaboratively developed by the ‘Sir Zelman Cowen Centre’ at Victoria University and ‘Benevolence Australia, as a pre-marriage counselling resource for Muslim couples.

It is a world first primary prevention program funded by the Department of Social Services (Community-led Projects to Prevent Violence against Women and their Children – 4-DPV4EVR) to address the gendered drivers of violence against women using OurWatch’s primary prevention framework ’Change the Story’.

The program works to create opportunities for conversations with Muslim pre-marriage couples about how to build respectful relationships and strong marriages when they are at the beginning of their journeys together.

Good Beginnings was first conceived through the identification of a resource gap for pre-marital Muslim couples. While there are many resources for secular and other faith-based couples, there is no specific resource for young Muslim to-be-weds.

Recognising that community members are the experts in their own needs, the diverse Muslim community informed the content and delivery of the program. Extensive community consultations have been ongoing throughout Good Beginning’s development and delivery; with community’s voice informing the content and scope of the resources as well as program delivery.

Leaders in the Muslim community, experts in counselling and psychology and the wider Muslim community were all consulted in this process. The consultation focused on currently available pre-marriage programs, cultural and context specific needs of Victoria’s Muslim community, and best method of delivery.

By partnering with community members and organisations every step of the way, Good Beginnings has been able to incorporate Islamic teachings, best practice primary prevention models, scientific theory, and counselling techniques to make this a world first program that is tailored to the Australian context, and Muslim faith.

 

Using a train-the-trainer method, Good Beginnings trains Muslim community members who currently work as counsellors, marriage celebrants, psychologists, mental health workers or social workers to use the Good Beginnings model in pre-marriage sessions with engaged Muslim couples. The course is nonprescriptive, rather it meets each couple where they are and teaches them simple techniques to turn the inevitable conflict that comes with marriage into opportunities for growth.

First Marriage Mentor training session online

The first group of Marriage Mentors celebrated their graduation on Thursday the 24th of March. The Pilot Marriage Mentor cohort comprises of 11 individuals from across Victoria’s diverse Muslim community including Sheikh’s, General Practitioners, Marriage Celebrants, Counsellors and Psychologists. They are now all qualified to work with Muslim pre-marriage couples and equip couples with the tools to create long lasting healthy marriages.

Marriage Mentors and the team at Sir Zelman Cowen Centre and Benevolence Australia

If you would like to find out more and get involved in this Good Beginnings as a Marriage Mentor or take the course as a couple, please visit the Good Beginnings website or reach out via email to [email protected].

Videographer Hannah Moon, Benevolence CEO Saara Sabbagh and SZCC Project Officer Annie Wohlgehagen wrap filming for the program