Emma House

Helen Bolton steps down as CEO of the SAFV Centre

Message from Renee Fiolet, Chair 

It is with both sadness and respect that I announce on behalf of The Board of The Sexual Assault & Family Violence Centre, that after thirteen years of service, Helen Bolton has resigned from her position as Chief Executive Officer of The SAFV Centre.

Helen commenced as our CEO in 2011, joining the small and close-knit Barwon CASA team, dedicated to supporting sexual assault victim survivors. During her 13 years of heartfelt dedication to our organisation, she has brought a wealth of experience and respect.

Helen and the leadership team have led the organisation through significant growth and transformation over the years, ensuring that The Centre was always well placed to thrive, and best positioned to deliver a wide range of services and programs to meet the needs of people experiencing sexual and family violence.

Under Helen’s leadership, strong governance from the Board, and exceptional direction from the leadership team, The Sexual Assault & Family Violence Centre has become one of the largest specialist services in Victoria, a thriving integrated organisation, employing more than 230 staff covering one third of Victoria, and providing support to more than 10,000 victim survivors each year.

The strength of The SAFV Centre, under Helen’s leadership has been the ability to grow and respond to the needs of victim survivors, providing trauma-informed services while also advocating for change in government, justice systems and community attitudes, and stopping the violence before it begins. Helen has leveraged The SAFV Centre’s influence, practice wisdom and knowledge to grow and prosper, taking us forward to serve the Barwon, Wimmera and South West regions.

The SAFV Centre has gone from strength to strength under Helen’s leadership and with the support of her dedicated team. Soon after commencing as CEO, Helen led the local implementation of the Barwon Multi-Disciplinary Centre (MDC) with Victoria Police and Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH), putting The SAFV Centre at the forefront of the partnership. This was followed by the inclusion of a specialist sexual assault service in Horsham, increasing our footprint to further support victim survivors.

Understanding the co-occurrence of sexual and family violence, and harnessing the strength of services within the MDC model, Helen negotiated and led the merger with a Geelong family violence service, Minerva Community Services, creating the first integrated specialist sexual and family violence service in Victoria, a service model centred on the client. This merge led to the rebrand to The Sexual Assault & Family Violence Centre, aimed at removing the stigma associated with violence.

Helen and her leadership team safely led The SAFV Centre through the COVID pandemic, during a time of wide spread family violence and ensured the organisation remained steadfast to its vision, while also keeping doors open, to ensure client support and staff wellbeing. Most recently, Helen negotiated and led the voluntary acquisition of Emma House, a family violence service in Warrnambool, who joined The SAFV Centre late last year, further expanding The SAFV Centre’s footprint while uniquely maintaining the local identity of Emma House.

Helen’s advocacy has seen her expertise called upon on numerous occasions, including providing evidence to the Royal Commission into Family Violence and the Royal Commission into Institutional Abuse, and extensive participation into the Victorian Family Violence reforms including as a Ministerial appointed member of the Victorian Statewide Family Violence Committee. Outside of The SAFV Centre, Helen has also been an integral member of a number of sector and peak body Boards.

It is through Helen’s expertise, experience and dedication that she has been appointed the CEO of Respect Victoria. It is fitting that Helen continues her career journey with a strong focus on respect, equality and prevention of men’s violence, and The Board are so proud for her appointment.

The Board are incredibly grateful to Helen for her energy, vision and heart that she dedicated to The SAFV Centre, its staff, clients and community over these past 13 years. We wish her the absolute best in her role at Respect Victoria and look forward to continuing to work together in the prevention space.

The SAFV Centre is well positioned to continue to deliver integrated specialist response, early intervention, education and prevention services and programs across Barwon, Wimmera and the South West regions of Victoria, providing a specialist range of support services to all people impacted by sexual and family violence.

Helen will finish at The SAFV Centre in September. The Board will embark on a rigorous recruitment process to appoint a new CEO of The SAFV Centre. While we do so, it is business as usual for The SAFV Centre, and The Centre is here to support you.

Statement from Helen Bolton

It has been an absolute joy to lead The SAFV Centre over the past thirteen years. I have had the opportunity to work closely with many exception people who share my deep commitment to our vision, who have helped to shift attitudes and brought a collective understanding and solidarity, reducing the stigma and educating the community that violence is never the fault of the victim.

I’m proud that I leave The SAFV Centre knowing that there is now greater access to a range of services and supports, and a stronger focus on the experience and safety of victim-survivors, and on perpetrator accountability. While there is still work to do, The SAFV Centre continues working towards a future where all people are safe, thriving, and living free from violence.

I’d like to share my deep appreciation to our current and past staff, who I have collaborated with to create such an incredibly special organisation in The SAFV Centre. The work we do here is life changing and I’m proud to have led such a wonderful group of passionate and professional people, all working towards the same vision.

My heartfelt thanks to the many thousands of clients who have sought safety and support from The SAFV Centre. Thank you for trusting us with your journey toward recovery and for your continued strength and advocacy. I hope those in our community who are impacted by violence, whether it be themselves or someone they know, understand that no matter their circumstances, support is available and they can contact The SAFV Centre.

I’d also like to thank the Board and all the organisation’s partners and stakeholders who continue to work together to create a better future for our community.

I know that The SAFV Centre will continue to be a place of safety, support and guidance for those in our community and look forward to remaining connected through my role as CEO of Respect Victoria, where we will continue to work as a sector to prevent violence.