- Change Agent
In the 1970s and 1980s, Lesley Hewitt worked tirelessly to challenge stereotypical ideas around violence against women and children. She pioneered shifts in attitudes that led to sexual assault services becoming part of mainstream service delivery.
With a background in social work, Lesley says one of her contributions was to change attitudes so that women and children who were sexually assaulted were believed from the start. "We also worked to improve the responses of police, medical and legal services to sexual assault victims."
Lesley was one of the women responsible for opening Victoria's first 24-hour hospital-based sexual assault service in 1979 at the Queen Victoria Medical Centre in Melbourne, providing counselling and medical services. In addition her membership of the South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault Advisory Committee, Lesley managed regional protection units, gave policy advice to the child protection branch and undertook research and teaching on violence to women and children at Monash University. Lesley also served on numerous boards and committees including as director of Family Life. She has published and presented widely at national and international conferences, receiving a clutch of awards along the way.
Now Lesley works in education, helping women from non-traditional and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, as well as women with a disability succeed at university level. In 2009, Lesley received a Monash University commendation for exemplary practice in social inclusion for her work in supervising honours students including groups of women who traditionally may not have considered tertiary studies.
Lesley's other passion is the Rideability Centre in her hometown of Daylesford, which she describes as "all about social inclusion for those with a disability".