CENTRAL Victorian leaders have taken a stand against misogynistic comments, urging all those who encounter harmful attitudes towards women to call it out.
It comes after Victorian local government minister Adem Somyurek was sacked for comments and conduct exposed by The Age and 60 Minutes, including abusive and threatening remarks towards Minister for Women Gabrielle Williams.
Mr Somyurek was recorded saying he would force Ms Williams out of the ministry and knock her head off, among things.
One of the least colourful expressions he used to describe his colleague was "stupid, stupid moll."
"Words matter," Ms Williams said in response to Sunday night's explosive report.
"Violent, misogynistic language perpetuates the attitudes and behaviours that enable a culture of violence against women.
"Whether at home, in the street, at work or in the halls of Parliament, this language is unacceptable - when it does occur, it must be called out."
Leaders at all tiers of government in Bendigo and beyond - all of whom happen to be women - backed the minister for women's comments.
Some also shared concerns about social media providing a platform for misogynistic comments, reflecting on their own experiences.
Having to block about 80 people on social media because of derogatory, racist, sexist and sometimes threatening remarks when tensions flared around Bendigo's first mosque came to mind for Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters.
Member for Bendigo West, Maree Edwards observed: "When you break out of what the social constructs are for women and you break through a glass ceiling, or you become empowered in some way, there seems to be a need to take you down.
"But being empowered means that other women can see that, and that is really important because that is how we will evolve and make sure women are treated respectfully into the future."
Bendigo mayor Margaret O'Rourke said no-one deserved to be threatened or abused.
"And it should be called out for what it is," she said.
"When you're in public office in a certain role you'll always have a certain amount of scrutiny, and you always should, but when it becomes personal it crosses a line."
Mount Alexander Shire Council mayor Christine Henderson believed it was important to call out misogyny then and there, if a person encountered it.
"Don't let any man or women get away with it, at the time," she said.
She did not believe a hatred, contempt for or strong prejudice against women was something she had personally encountered much in her working and political life.
Police referrals to central Victoria's specialist domestic and family violence response service, the Centre for Non-Violence, rose by almost 27 per cent in the 12 months to July 2018.
Almost 60 per cent of the 3825 police referrals the centre received in the 12 months to June 2019 were in relation to verbal abuse.
A further 1547 were about emotional abuse, and 762 were physical.
"The vile, violent and misogynistic language used by a colleague towards Ms Williams is an example of the appalling culture of violence against women that exists in our society," Centre for Non-Violence chief executive Margaret Augerinos said.
The organisation said it stood with Ms Williams when she said "words matter".
"While we know all politicians are exposed to criticism, the nature of abuse directed at women leaders is more often gendered, personal and more violent," Ms Augerinos said.
"Language directed at women is different.
"While we have made some progress in changing this, sexist and disrespectful attitudes towards women and girls continues to be a social norm."
She said the answer was to call out attitudes and behaviours such as those directed towards Ms Wiliams.
"We cannot change attitudes and behaviours if we have men in leadership positions who continue to treat women with disrespect, and we thank the premier for his leadership in saying 'no Victorian should be tolerated if they hold those sorts of views about women and against women'," Ms Augerinos said.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews yesterday said Mr Somyurek's remarks about Ms Williams were "simply unacceptable" and "wicked".
Mr Somyurek was also sacked because of allegations of involvement in branch-stacking, which Mr Andrews said were "completely deplorable" and "shameful".
He said Somyurek was not worthy of the opportunity to resign, despite claims initially reported based on information the former minister released.
Cr O'Rourke welcomed the opportunity to meet with whomever was newly appointed Victoria's local government minister, in her capacity as chair of Regional Cities Victoria.
But it was unclear who that might be, after the premier's first pick faced a technical hurdle.
According to The Age, the premier's office was seeking to adopt a "new approach" to filling Mr Somyurek's positions because it already had 17 ministers appointed from the lower house of state parliament.
Danny Pearson had been the pick for the position.