Gabrielle Morrissey, the 378th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, is invigorated by her work, which gives her the chance to help vulnerable people and put her lived experience to use.

Gabrielle is the CEO of Women & Children First, which offers specialised support for women and children experiencing domestic and family abuse and homelessness.

Women & Children First performs a vital service, but is constrained by a lack of funds and refuges.

That wouldn’t be as much of a problem if our system was reformed to reduce the need for emergency support. Currently, if a woman and her children are being abused (the data show most abusers are men), the onus is on the mother to flee the home and start a new life. That’s not only unjust, it’s also traumatic for the children and financially challenging for the woman. That’s why Gabrielle believes the woman should be given the opportunity to stay in the home with her children – in which case the abuser would be obliged to leave. If the man violated the terms of the associated AVO, he would be imprisoned.

I’d never heard of this approach, but Gabrielle says it has been successfully trialled in New South Wales and operates in parts of America.

Sadly, Gabrielle knows what it’s like to experience an abusive marriage and a bitter divorce. It took her four attempts to leave the relationship and numerous court hearings to win custody of her children.

This might sound ironic for those who know Gabrielle. She’s a popular expert on human sexuality and relationships, who has published books, hosted radio programs and given countless presentations on those topics, so one might assume she would’ve cracked the code on relationships. Bur personalities and human dynamics are complicated; and anyone can be targeted for abuse, no matter their personality, status or education level. 

Gabrielle is a warm, fascinating person with deep knowledge about what it means to be human. I couldn’t have found a better lunch companion.