Our journey began in 2017 when our founder, Esperance-based author Fleur McDonald, established an online information directory of family and domestic violence services called Breaking the Silence. During her frequent travels she had many conversations with people which demonstrated a need for a service that specifically provided people living in regional, rural and remote communities information about the options available to them when seeking advice and practical support.
Now, thanks to a Commonwealth Government grant we have launched a comprehensive information hub initially focusing on 16 regional areas of Western Australia covering the East and West Kimberly, Pilbara, Wheatbelt, Goldfields-Esperance, Great Southern, Geraldton and some parts of the South West. This will be followed by the establishment of a regional, rural and remote focused telephone counselling and online web chat service.
Click here to view the Breaking the Silence Ltd (trading as DVassist) constitution.
Peter Fitzpatrick AO, AM (Mil), JP, FSAE, GAICD – Chair
Peter Fitzpatrick is widely respected and recognized for the outstanding contributions made during his professional life at the helm of two peak bodies as the Chief Executive Officer for the legal profession and the motor industry. Prior to this Peter had a distinguished 20 year military career, including service with the elite Special Air Service (SASR) Regiment as an Australian Army Officer, taking early retirement with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In 1997 he was a strategic adviser to the then Prime Minister, John Howard.
For five years he was a coach and mentor of a group of 18 high performing CEOs committed to leading profitable and effective companies. He is currently a director on eight Boards, chairing six. The boards are a mix of for profit and not for profit organizations. He is Chair of a transport company board, a start-up company in the agricultural sector, a consortium of 10 organisations operating in the youth at risk area.
He is the Chair of the Bravery Trust, a national organisation which provides financial and education support to veterans from the Navy, Army and Air Force who are in serious need and to widows and children of the fallen. He is also the Chairman of the National SAS Association and is the Chair of a new organisation that he has helped to set up to provide support to victims of domestic violence in rural and remote regions. He is an adviser and Patron to a number of other veteran and mental health organizations. He provides training as well as strategic and governance advice in the corporate sector, not for profit organisations and to the indigenous community. He was previously a director and chair of the audit and risk committee of REMCO, the regulator for the gas industry in Western Australia. He also completed a four year Term as the Chair of the Ministerial Council for Suicide Prevention and was Chair of the Waste Authority.
He facilitates four modules on the Company Directors’ Course, as well as modules for local government and for not for profit and registered organizations on Governance, Board Performance Finance, Strategy, Risk and Leadership. He is a graduate of the company directors Course and has an Advanced Diploma in Company Directorship (Mastery of the Boardroom). He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the General Division in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June 2018 and a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Military Division in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in June 1984. He was also a previous state finalist for Australian of the Year.
Fleur McDonald – Vice Chair and Founder
Fleur is often referred to as the voice of the outback.From a childhood spent on her parent’s South Australian farm to studying agribusiness at college and eventually co-owning and managing an 3200 hectare property in Esperance, she has always had an affinity with country Australia.Life on the land has been the inspiration for Fleur to write a series of best-selling novels that have made her Australia’s most popular rural literature author. It has also fuelled her desire to champion the voice of Australia’s rural women and celebrate their contribution to agribusiness.
Fleur was a WA finalist for the prestigious RIRDC Rural Women’s Award in 2017 and the first female Co-Director for Prickle Farm for her local Rotary Club. She is WA representative of Australian Women in Agriculture and a member of the National Rural Women’s Coalition Communications Resource Team. Fleur’s vision is to make DVassist available across rural Australia.
Jenny Bloom PGDipBA, GAICD – Company Secretary
Jenny has an extensive business background with experience in Western Australia and Victoria’s public and private sectors. She is a business owner as well as a Non-Executive Director of the Australian-based resource company, BCI Minerals Ltd and is Chair of the Nomination and Remuneration Committee. Jenny was most recently a member and Deputy Chair of the Waste Authority of Western Australia for eight years.
Living for 25 years in Broome, Jenny was a former Councillor and Deputy Shire President for the Shire of Broome and an independent director of a Broome-based Aboriginal Corporation. Jenny has first-hand knowledge of the challenges and opportunities facing communities in rural, regional and remote areas of Western Australia. Having witnessed the impact of domestic violence and the limited access to services that cater for the unique circumstances of living in the regional WA , Jenny is committed to contributing to improving the help available to victims and perpetrators and achieving tangible outcomes.
Kelly Starcevich – Treasurer
Kelly has personal insight into the impact of domestic violence and the emotional toll on those who live through the experience.
After calling Canada home for 13 years, she moved to Esperance in Western Australia’s Goldfields-Esperance region in 2004 to raise her only child in a small community, close to family.
Kelly is an active member of the Rotary Club of Esperance Bay and has been part of the banking industry for more than ten years.
Having observed first-hand the devastation domestic violence can have on regional families and the significant challenges they face when seeking support, Kelly relishes the opportunity to contribute to a new approach.
She believes connecting people with the right resources and removing the social stigma that often prevents victims from reaching out can lead to change in rural Australia.
Bev Blakemore- Non-Executive Director
Bev is a counsellor and hypnotherapist. She has run a private clinic for the last 12 years in Melbourne, Victoria. Over the years, Bev has worked with teenagers and adults, helping them find out who they are so they can choose their best life. Bev has helped people work through issues such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, and addiction.
In 2018 Bev completed her Honours in Psychology with her thesis on the barriers to help-seeking for people experiencing domestic violence. Bev is passionate about helping people and giving everyone the chance to be heard and validated.
Lachlan Hunter – Non-Executive Director
Lachlan Hunter hails from a mixed cropping and livestock farm near Bruce Rock in Western Australia’s Central Wheatbelt region.
He has extensive experience within politics and government having worked as a Senior Policy Adviser for a number of State and Commonwealth government Ministers. Mr Hunter studied a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with a major in Political Science and International relations at The University of Western Australia.
He has also worked in the private sector within the agricultural industry holding mid-tier management roles. Mr Hunter has a long history of volunteering within agriculture, community and mental health organisations. He is passionate about the future development of Regional and Rural Australia particularly in education, agriculture and technology.
Wanting to ensure social change within rural regions has seen him join DVassist as a non-executive director.
Dr Mike Mears – Non-Executive Director
Mike was born and raised in rural south west England and studied medicine at the London Hospital Medical College.
Graduating in 1985, he worked in London, Bristol, and Bath before heading to Australia, where he lived in far North Queensland and Tasmania. Mike returned to the Lake District of England to complete his GP training but eventually settled back in Australia in 1995. After three years in Kalgoorlie working for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, he made Esperance his home.
Mike is part of a group practice in Esperance and works part-time for the University of WA and Notre Dame’s University Rural Clinic. Throughout his professional career, Mike has seen the human cost of family and domestic violence and wants to empower people to transform their lives with the right knowledge and resources.
Shelley Smith – Non-Executive Director
Shelley moved to Esperance in the Great Southern in 1981 to farm with her husband and two sons. After her daughter was born, Shelley returned to teaching, juggling the demands of working, raising a young family, and studying. Shelley went on to attain a Bachelor, Masters and Professional Doctorate of Education and retired in 2010 while Principal of Condingup Primary School.
Shelley is currently a Justice of the Peace. She is also Chair of Bay of Isles Community Outreach, a non-profit organisation providing recovery-focused, community-managed mental health and well-being services for people affected by mental illness, carers, and families.