Family violence has no boundaries Conference

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Maria Dimopoulos is nationally and internationally recognised as an expert on gender equality and violence against women with a particular expertise in working with multicultural communities. Much of her work has been aimed at promoting and enhancing a gendered approach in the ongoing complex legal and political reform processes and in ensuring the meaningful inclusion of diverse women’s voices and perspectives in those reform processes. 

Maria’s expert contributions have included knowledge provision and advisory roles in gender justice, advocacy, bridging and supporting participation in mainstream processes, coordination, capacity-building, and piloting innovative projects. In 2008, she was appointed by the Federal government to the National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children. The Council provided expert advice to Government on reducing the incidence and impact of domestic and family violence and sexual assault on women and their children and was tasked with the development and distribution of a National Plan of Action. Maria was also a member of the Access and Equity Inquiry Panel which reported to Government in 2012 on the accessibility of government services to multicultural Australia.

Maria is also a recipient of an Amnesty International Human Rights Award for her work on the legal and human rights of women from culturally, religiously and diverse background and was selected to participate in a Global Leadership Course offered to a select 20 people from around the world at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ USA. Maria has undertaken extensive sensitive research with a range of diverse communities and organisations and has had research published in a range of professional publications and peer reviewed journals including the Feminist Law Journal, Family and Domestic Violence Clearinghouse, and the Australian Institute of Criminology. She has also co-authored the book ‘Blood on Whose Hands’ – the Killing of Women and Children in Domestic Relationships. Maria’s collaborative approach to working across sectors and within diverse immigrant communities has made significant contributions to the design and delivery of violence prevention strategies that recognise the complex dynamics of violence against different groups of women, including those who are newly-arrived, from well-established communities, in precarious employment, or from visible minority groups.


Khadija Gbla is the Executive Director of not for profit organisation No FGM Australia which works to protect Australian girls from FGM and to support survivors of FGM. She is an Ambassador for Our Watch, an organisation established to change attitudes of violence towards women and their children.; CEO of her own consultancy, Khadija Gbla Consultancy; Ambassador and specialist advisor for International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation,; Ambassador and specialist advisor for AIDS Global Fund for Women; Director of Reacher’s Philanthropy - Committed to Women's and Girl's Self-Empowerment; 2011 State Finalist Young Australian of the Year; 2014 The Advertiser South Australia’s 50 most Influential Women; 2013 Madison Magazine Australia's top 100 inspiring Women; 2009 South Australian Women’s Honour Roll.

Khadija is a staunch for the rights of girls and women who are facing violence in many forms. Her Tedx talk in Canberra in 2014 has received over 1 million views and has inspired many people to take action against female genital mutilation. Khadija loves being an African Australian and has worked hard to honour all that is wonderful about being an African and combine with all that is good about being an Australian. She acknowledges though that there are practices and behaviours which may previously have been considered acceptable but which we know now to be harmful. Khadija advocates that through education and the application of the law, girls should be safe from violence of all forms, including FGM. 

Born in Sierra Leone, but now naturalised as an Australian citizen, Khadija views herself as an African Australian. She understands different cultures may view parenting and relationships in different ways. What is seen as a form of protecting a child or a normal part of a relationship may be seen by another as a form of child abuse or family violence. Khadija wants to help open up a space to discuss how to help people to make sense of practices that may be culturally acceptable at home, but are harmful, and illegal in Australia.


Bernie has worked with vulnerable young people and their families for over 40 years. During this time he has been an advisor and advocate on issues relating to vulnerable young people and their families.

He began as Victoria’s first outreach youth worker in Melbourne’s West Heidelberg area, and managed the Brosnan Centre prior to becoming the CEO of Jesuit Social Services. 

Bernie has served on the Victorian Youth Parole Board (1988-2005), Premier’s Drug Advisory Councils in 1999 and 2001, the Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council (2005–2008) and the Victorian Children’s Council (2005-2013). He received an Honorary Masters Degree from RMIT in 2004, and an Honorary Doctorate from ACU in 2088. As the inaugural Child Safety Commissioner appointed 2005, Bernie and his staff work hard to enhance the safety and wellbeing of Victoria’s children, especially those more vulnerable, in Child Protection and Out of Home Care. On 1 March 2013, the Commissions powers and independence were broadened and Bernie commenced as the Principal Commissioner, Commission for Children and Young People. The Commission has wide ranging powers and responsibilities including the capacity to initiate inquiries where it believes there have been issues of concern in the delivery of services that effect children and young people. The Commission is independent of government and reports to the Victorian Parliament. Bernie and his wife Therese have 5 children, 10 grandchildren.


Anne Goldsbrough has been a Victorian Magistrate since 1996. She has a long-standing interest in the Court’s Family Violence and Family Law jurisdictions. Since her appointment, she has also undertaken all areas of the court’s work at a number of Magistrates’ Court locations, including the Children’s Court. Anne was the Supervising Magistrate for the Family Violence and Family Law for the years 2002- 2007 and oversaw the development and introduction of the Courts’ specialist Family Violence Court Division.

In 2009, Anne was appointed the Part-Time Law Reform Commission for the Australian Law Reform Commissions’ inquiry into the interaction of laws and practice in Family Law, family violence, child protection, sexual assault and criminal laws. The ALRC and the NSWLRC delivered the two volume Report "Family Violence – a National Legal Response" in October 2010.

Anne has held the role of magistrate with responsibility for the Multicultural and Diversity Portfolio in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria since 2011 and was appointed a member of the National Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity in November 2014. The Judicial Council is a policy-making body of judicial officers, judicial education institutions and community advocates from across the country with the aim of improving access to justice for indigenous and migrant Australians. She also contributes regularly to ongoing legal and judicial professional development both inside and outside the court, and to a range of community information and education programs.


Alison Macdonald is the Policy and Program Manager with Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic). DV Vic is the peak body for family / domestic violence services in Victoria that provide support to women and children to live free from violence. With the safety and the best interests of women and children as central, DV Vic provides leadership to change and enhance systems that prevent and respond to family violence.

Alison has worked in this role for six years, during which she has concentrated on family violence law reform, homelessness policy, integrated family violence reform and primary prevention of violence against women among other areas.

She has previously worked in the sexual and reproductive health and international development fields.


Assistant Commissioner Dean McWhirter has had a diverse career during his 35 years in Victoria Police. He has worked at various supervisory levels across Victoria Police including the Intelligence and Covert Support Department, Transit Safety Division and the Ethical Standards Department. Dean was also manager of the Yarra Police Service Area (Richmond, Collingwood and Fitzroy).

In 2014, Dean was appointed as the Superintendent, People Development Command and was responsible for the oversight of foundation training for police recruits and protective security officers.

In March 2015, appointed as the Assistant Commissioner, Family Violence Command. This Command is the first of its kind in any policing jurisdiction in Australia.

Dean has completed a Graduate Certificate Management (Public Sector) at RMIT and Masters of Leadership & Management (Policing) at Charles Sturt University.


26 years of marriage life and a father of six children

Immigrated to Australia with his family in 2004

Ordained permanent Deacon in the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne with the first seven Deacons in 2012.

Appointed Chaplain to the South Sudanese Catholics community in the Archdiocese of Melbourne and St Mary’s Parish Dandenong in 2012.

Chaplain to St John’s Reginal College Dandenong.

Finished theological studies in Catholic Theological College under University of Divinity in 2012 and graduated Bachelor of Theology in 2013.

Chair of South Sudanese unification committee 2013 -2015 which let to the establishment of South Sudanese Community Association of Victoria this year.

Edmund Rise board of management committee member.


Ethiopian Tigrian Community a Business leader and a Victim of Family Violence 

Mrs. Mokenen is the mother of six children and Fasil and is the eldest son, Fasil has had supported his mother since he was five years old. As single mother Abadit worked tirelessly to bring up the kids as a father and mother. Ms. Abadit has a business in Footscray and known also in the Ethiopian community as caring, loving, honest and loyal person to her community and a leader within the Orthodox Church members.


Mrs. Mokenen arrived in Australia in 1998 with five children. She attends church every Sunday as well as Volunteers on Sunday church youth activities. Mrs. Mokenen as a mother of five kids; she knows the challenge and problems facing families and particularly refugee families in Australia. At the moment Ms. Mokenen is a member of the Footscray African business club, she also has a different other business-skills such as cleaning contract job. 


Adele Murdolo is the Executive Director at the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health, the national voice for immigrant and refugee women’s health and wellbeing.  

Adele has a doctorate in women’s studies and history and has researched and published on the prevention of violence against refugee and immigrant women, with specific focus on intersectionality and the engagement of men. 

Adele is a research partner on the ASPIRE research project on community-led responses to violence against immigrant and refugee women.


Sheikh Issa Mussa is the Imam of Virgin Marry Mosque in Melbourne’s Western suburb of 

Hopper-Crossing. He currently serves as the Chairperson of Victorian Board of Imams and is a member of Australian National Imams Council. Sheikh Issa serves in various community and government advisory boards. 


MSc; BSc Sociology and Social Anthropology. Juliana has worked in both State and Commonwealth Government agencies for over 20 years. Her voluntary work in the community sector has gained her much acclaim including the award of Membership of the Order of Australia.

Juliana has been active advocate in the women's movement in Australia since 1989 and is passionate about Women’s Human Rights issues. The several roles she has served in include:

One of the Eminent Australians on the Committee to review the Australian Citizenship Test.

Member of the African Ministerial Consultative Council for the Commonwealth Government in 2012.

Initiated and founded of the African Women Australia Inc.

She is an initiator and a visionary who has blazed the trail on a number of issues; including:

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Australia. Juliana played a leadership role on issues of FGM across Australia whilst working as Coordinator of the NSW Education Program on FGM in Western Sydney Area Health Services from 1996 to 2005. She continues to be a spokesperson on FGM. Juliana managed the work of Centrelink’s African Liaison Unit in 2006, and led two nationwide consultations into issues affecting refugees and migrants from African countries. Juliana is a very well regarded inspirational public speaker. In 2007, Juliana won the “Woman of the West” Award from the University of Western Sydney. 

Juliana has won several awards from Australia’s African Communities including:

- the Lamaz Bah Award for Excellency in community work from the African Professionals of Australia NSW Branch

- Living Legends Award in both 2011 and 2012 in the African Australian Awards.

Featured in “The Power of 100 - Shaping the Nation: 100 Women who have helped shape Australia” Westpac Bank’s publication marking 100 Years of International Women’s Day in 2011, 2014 “WHO IS WHO of Australian Women.

Has initiated and is conducting African Women Australia’s project: “Our Voices: Filling the Gaps – FGM Spokesperson’s Program”


He is an empowering community leader with exceptional high-level advisory, advocacy, collaborative relationship, and management skills of cross-cultural capacity building and partnerships enhancements. He holds diverse international higher education experience as well as multicultural community stakeholders-ship management capabilities that are critical in delivering innovation and change. He holds good collaborative relationship management and business facilitation skills. As well he has extensive expertise in engaging and maintaining institutional work, research and community development all of which aimed at driving sustainable knowledge growth, capacities development, research, social policy, services delivery, and contributions to reforms. He has made significant inputs to higher education knowledge, research, development and student career pathways done with a shared vision and strategy. All these are added to being a tireless community leader, who believes in equitable and fair treatment of all. He holds a PhD in Management from La Trobe University, Business School.


Halima Romedan is a sociologist, researcher, women’s health expert and a community activist. The founder and director of Irshad Family Services and Training. Mrs Halima is an Eritrean Australian served and trained many Muslim women and young girls from Arabic and Horn of African backgrounds in Australia and abroad, to empower and improve their social connectedness and community participation.

Over the past 15 years she has facilitated women’s wellbeing programs, workshops and lectures. She specialises in facilitating personal & familial growth utilising the combination of the social aspect of health, family therapy principals and Islamic awareness. She trained thousands of Muslim women in Australia, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates in diverse areas such as dealing with depression & anxiety, marriage and couple relationship, parenting and communication.

Halima’s ambition is to improve the health and well-being of CALD Muslim women and their families by providing cultural sensitive approaches including mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention, especially to marginalized women and families, and provide space and opportunity for Muslim women to understand and discover new ways of dealing with family and life stressors.


Superintendent Matthew Ryan is the sole Superintendent in the Victoria Police Family Violence Command, a position he took up when the Command commenced in March 2015. In this role he assists the Family Violence Assistant Commissioner to lead and manage five teams that own Victoria Police research, policy and training for sexual offences, child exploitation and abuse, and family violence. He also leads a taskforce targeting the highest risk recidivist family violence perpetrators in Victoria.

Prior to moving to establish the Family Violence Command Matthew was the Superintendent in charge of the Victoria Police State Emergency Response Division. In that role he worked with leaders of all Victorian emergency management agencies to prepare for, respond to, and recover from major emergencies in Victoria. He was the Police Commander for the Murrindindi and Mitchell Shires for three months during and after the 2009 Black Saturday fires, and a Police Commander for the 2011 floods.

Matthew has worked in metropolitan and rural Victoria as a police operative, detective, supervisor and manager, including time as the only policeman (and government representative) in a small town. From 2001, Matthew spent five years planning and delivering the security overlay for the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. Matthew is the holder of a Masters of Business Administration, and has qualifications and experience as a police Commander, Exercise Writer / Director and Evaluator in the National Counter Terrorism Arena.

ROBIN SCOTT MP – Minister for Multicultural Affairs

Robin Scott MP entered the Victorian Parliament in 2006 as the Member for Preston, where he lives with his wife Shaojie. Robin, son of Don and Amanda, grew up in Melbourne’s Northern suburbs and was greatly influenced by his parents’ commitment to public service. With family members from China, Japan and the West Indies he also grew up with a strong belief in equality of opportunity, regardless of cultural background.  It was this belief that inspired Robin to become involved in politics and he is honoured to serve the people of Victoria as the Minister for Multicultural Affairs.

In taking on this important role, Robin believes it is important for Victoria to celebrate the best traditions for multiculturalism in our state. He also sees it as an opportunity to support activities that create greater interfaith and intercultural understanding. Robin wants Victoria to be a place where diversity is not just tolerated, but a community where we celebrate the common humanity of all cultures. “By ensuring that everyone is given an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution and participate in our decision making processes, we will enrich Victoria and we will all benefit.”

Robin is also the Minister for Finance and a self-confessed ‘cricket tragic’.


Rodney Vlais is Manager at No To Violence, the Victorian peak body of organisations and individuals working with men to end their violence and abuse against family members. 

A psychologist and social change worker, over the past ten years Rodney has woven together experience in providing training, systems advocacy, men’s behaviour change program facilitation, practice development and policy writing in responding to and preventing men’s violence against women. 

Rodney is passionate about working alongside women to transform patriarchal institutions and structures, and helping men identify and loosen gender-based and other forms of privilege.