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Violence elimination on the menu at women’s breakfast


When Leigh Gassner was a police officer all anyone wanted to talk about at dinner parties were the headline grabbers of police corruption and the gangland killings.

When he suggested that violence against women and children was a bigger problem in the community, the conversation would take an abrupt turn.

“People just did not want to talk about it,” he told a Victoria Women Lawyers and LIV breakfast, held in July to mark the centenary of women’s suffrage in Victoria. The breakfast was also in support of White Ribbon Day and the International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA).

A former Victoria Police assistant commissioner, Dr Gassner spoke in his capacity as a board member of the White Ribbon Day Foundation.

“White Ribbon Day is about raising that awareness, it is about prevention and attitudinal change,” he told the 100-strong audience at the RACV Club.

“Critically, it is about men standing up and saying violence against women will not be tolerated any longer.”

The White Ribbon Day Foundation aims to eliminate violence against women by promoting a cultural shift around the issue.

It uses a national media campaign as well as education and male leadership programs for men and boys.

Dr Gassner said while law reform was important, a “whole-of- government and community” response to preventing family violence was needed.

“It is not down to one agency such as the police,” he said.

“Victims often don’t want to enter the criminal justice system, they just want it to stop.”

He told the breakfast that Access Economics had estimated violence against women cost the Australian economy $8 billion a year, and the Victorian economy $2 billion.

Another organisation which aims to improve women’s lives is IWDA, an Australian non-profit organisation founded in 1985 that aims to alleviate poverty and improve women’s lives at the community level.

The other breakfast speaker, IWDA adviser Jo Crawford, told the audience that for millions of women world-wide, gender inequality had a “real, direct, personal and daily cost”.

“Empowering women, building their confidence and capacity to contribute, providing pathways and challenging views about what leadership involves are central to helping ensure that as a global community we can benefit from the skills of women as well as men,” she said.

The IWDA has worked in partnership with more than 140 local women’s community groups in more than 45 countries. In recent years it has focused on projects in Asia and the Pacific.

For more information about the International Women’s Development Agency see For more information about White Ribbon Day see


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