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Billi Clarke

Legal justice for women is a central theme to Billi Clarke's work.

Honour Roll

She is a powerful advocate for women and children experiencing family violence and is committed to creating meaningful practical responses to these women that improve their safety and their right to enjoy access to justice and lives free from abuse.

Born in Melbourne in 1958, Billi grew up in The Pines housing commission estate in Frankston and left school at the age of 17. As a volunteer, Billi set up the first youth employment group for young people in Victoria based in Frankston. This group managed to gain support from local companies to provide the community's disadvantaged youth with suitable jobs and the scheme became the model for future government-funded community support programs across the state.

Billi then went on to establish three crucial services for women experiencing family violence: Safe Place for Women, The Women's Place and the Inner South Domestic Violence Outreach Services. In 1999, Bill published her influential research publication, Trial by Legal Aid, which gained widespread attention and respect throughout the legal system and led to changes within Legal Aid Services. Billi has been a member of a number of advisory groups, including the Victorian Legal Aid Community Consultative Committee, the State Housing Council and most recently the Statewide Steering Committee to Reduce Family Violence.

For almost 10 years Billi worked for the Salvation Army where her major achievement was to develop a training program for Salvation Army officers on 'domestic violence and the Christian mission', which challenged the organisation's response to family violence within a feminist framework. She has also coordinated a Victorian women's refuge and is a member of the peak body for Victorian women's refuges and associated family violence services.

Throughout her 27 years in the community sector, Billi has taken a creative approach to delivering her social justice messages. She was involved with the theatre production The Essentials, which drew the distinction between private and public violence and was a member of the political all-women rock band, Nice Girls Don't Spit.

Because of the violence in her own family and early years in a public housing estate, Billi knows how tough it can be for women from a disadvantaged background. Her passion has been to place the issue of family violence on the agenda at all levels of government and the community. She proudly describes herself as a feminist, who works towards increasing community understanding and meaningful government participation in reducing violence against women and children.