For more than 50 years, Dianne Annear fought for justice for domestic violence survivors in Western Australia, while supporting and empowering those who were experiencing it.

The 80-year-old founded Zonta House Refuge Association and Women’s Legal Referral Service. While she is now enjoying her retirement at Juniper Rowethorpe Retirement Living, her legacy lives on.

Dianne said she was inspired to do more after her first domestic violence encounter with a young family nearly five decades ago.

“I was working for the Department of Communities at the time and a mother, and her five kids were sitting in our waiting room all with a very glassy and sad look. They were victims of domestic violence and were too scared to go home and my job was to find somewhere for them to stay,” Dianne said.

“I found them a place at Mary Street Refuge, and the kids’ faces lit up when they saw they had their own bunk beds. I will never forget this family; they ignited my passion to do more.”

The qualified lawyer went on to volunteer at Mary Street Refuge, later joining Zonta International to gain a better insight into what domestic violence victims needed.

“I stood up in a Zonta International meeting and said that we need to start a refuge to support domestic violence victims. At the time, I was also working in Government Housing and on the Community Housing Reviews Board committee, so I started a campaign, put in a government application, and looked around for donations,” Dianne said.

Dianne found houses in Mount Claremont and Melville, but both locations were originally opposed by the local residents and councils.

“People were outraged that I was proposing a women’s refuge in their area. It was a really hard time. I had people throw rocks at me and I was threatened, but I knew it would be worth it. I had to do it.”

In 1984, Zonta House Refuge opened and 38 years later, it is still delivering high-quality, innovative services.

“Zonta House Refuge provides safe, essential relief, and support to women who were experiencing family and domestic violence. I had 17 part-time staff, 12 beds, and 7,500 women who went through my doors in the first five years,” Dianne said.

Dianne continued her mission, having two houses built for permanent accommodation for women over 55 who had survived domestic violence and started another refuge for women struggling with their mental health, both of which are still running today.

“I organised crisis accommodation to permanent accommodation for domestic violence victims and survivors. There’s no point in just having a crisis point, I made sure everyone had a pathway to get to where they needed.

“I was also given a housing complex to run, a community housing precinct for up to ten people that was rundown. I turned it around and personally supplied all the homes with fridges,” Dianne said.

In 2005 Dianne started the Women’s Legal Referral Service with five other lawyers to support domestic violence victims.

“This service gave victims the opportunity to use some of the best lawyers for only $20 an hour. Over five years we had $22 million dollars’ worth of property settlements for women who fled domestic violence relationships. We helped give these women the justice they deserved,” Dianne said.

The Women’s Legal Referral Service was Dianne’s final job before retiring to look after her late husband, and she said she was proud of everything she had achieved.

“I always made sure I was there for the women going through my doors. Sometimes I had to hear things that I would have never thought could have happened to people and I was always putting my life in danger, but it was all for them,” Dianne said.

This International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Dianne wants Australian women to know that you do not have to be ashamed or embarrassed about what someone else is doing to you, there is always help.

The 2022 theme is UNITE! Activism to End Violence against Women and Girls, and the colour orange will be used to represent a brighter future, free from violence.

If you or someone you know needs support, please call the 24/7 Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline on 1800 007 339. This service provides support for women, with or without children, who are experiencing family and domestic violence. In an emergency, or if you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call the police on 000.

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