Focus: Mettle Women

With International Women’s Day just around the corner, we wanted to share with you an insight into one of our dear friends incorporations, Mettle Women. Bronwyn Bate founded Mettle, a national gift delivery service employing women who are experiencing homelessness due to domestic and family violence. Mettle exists to provide opportunities, equipping survivors with the skills, confidence, and financial security required to secure and maintain employment and in turn, safe and stable housing. In support of this incredible cause, St. Agni will be donating $1,000 to Mettle Women and 100% of proceeds from online sales on International Women's Day, Monday 8 March, to UN Women.

We caught up with Bron to learn more about the Mettle Women cause – Please note, this may be uncomfortable for particular individuals. If you are negatively impacted by the below or are experiencing domestic or family violence we have included support networks at the bottom of this page.
 

Please tell us a bit about Mettle Women and how it came about?
Mettle is a national gift delivery service that is staffed by women who are experiencing homelessness as a result of domestic & family violence. We provide safe employment, training and wrap around support services to women who are living in our partner crisis accommodation centres whilst helping them take the next steps towards stable housing and the safe future they deserve. I find the best way to capture why we exist is to share a story about one of the brave women who was part of our co-design process. Jess was married for 15 years with two children under the age of 10. Her husband was the perpetrator of her abuse and was a well respected lawyer, a true gentleman in the eyes of the community. Upon trying to flee with the children, she was intercepted and told that if she tried again that he would take the lives of her children. Jess sacrificed her safety to protect her children. After a brutal assault Jess was admitted to hospital, the nurse identifying what was going on behind closed doors. The nurse assisted Jess in accessing the support required to safely evacuate herself and her children from their family home. Because of a thing called “The Couple Rule”, Jess was not eligible for Centrelink support. Although she had no access to her perpetrators finances, her income status was tied to his. The only thing that would make it possible for Jess to safely leave the refuge was to secure a job. No easy task for someone in the best of circumstances, let alone someone in hiding, with children who are no longer safe enough to attend their current school, significant gaps in employment history because of forced isolation, and a completely shattered understanding of self-worth and ability due to years of negative reinforcement.

We exist because although Jess’s story is unique, she’s not alone. Every woman we’ve had through our program has a terrifying and similar story. We exist so that survivors of domestic & family violence have access to the financial security and safety that they deserve.

*real name of victim-survivor changed for safety.

How has the journey been since conception and what obstacles have you had to overcome?
It has been the most challenging, emotional and rewarding undertaking of my life. I’ve loved every second of it and couldn’t have done it without my sister and co-founder, Alesha, by my side. Our work is a mix of the most electric highs and heart-breaking lows. The lows, our obstacles, come from gaps in the system like a victim-survivor not being granted a restraining order because the magistrate didn’t see merit in the case. We’re learning to navigate those deep rooted failings of the system and use this frustration as our fuel to keep advocating for change. It is so hard to see these courageous women being let down so often outside of our care. Alesha and I aren’t very loud people by nature, so we’re learning to raise our voices for those that aren’t safe enough to do so themselves and encourage cross-sector collaboration. Unity is the only way we’re going to achieve any sustainable change.

We have seen a drastic spike in domestic violence cases since the covid19 pandemic erupted, with lockdowns and restrictions, unemployment and finical stress contributing factors. What do you think are some ways we can help to mitigate this issue as a community?
We noticed a terrifying shift during COVID19 in the way in which women were seeking emergency evacuation support. Police or crisis support services are usually the first point of contact for someone trying to escape a dangerous situation. Being housed with their perpetrates and isolated from outside support, all activity was being monitored, meaning that phone calls to seek help were not possible. As a result, we had women in the community sending us direct messages on Instagram asking for help. We’re now working closely with service providers to try and fill this gap. We want to reinforce that domestic & family violence impacts everyone and the ways in which your friends or loved ones may signal for help might look a little different. Social media may be the only app that won’t spark suspicion from a perpetrator so it’s important to stay connected, even if it is through these digital channels.  

What advice would you give to women who are in a difficult situation?
Firstly, you are not alone! You are worthy of love, respect and kindness. If you feel like you are at risk, trust your instincts and please know there is no shame in seeking support. There are so many people and services out there ready to assist you and meet you with nothing but encouragement and warmth. If you are in immediate risk and not able to safely make a phone call, please message a friend with your address and express permission for them to contact the police on your behalf. Try to delete the message as soon as it has been sent.

What advice would you give to your younger self and what would your younger self think about the woman you are today?
It’s okay be driven by emotion, you don’t always have to be “perfect” and have everything together. There is great power in acknowledging our short falls and deciding to dedicate time to filling those gaps by skilling up, or listening to those with more experience than us. I hope that younger Bron would see the way I operate Mettle and learn that you don’t have to choose between being a strong leader or an empathetic and gentle leader – you can be both.

What can we do as individuals to help support the Mettle Women cause?
All of the profits from our gift delivery service go directly to the wages and support services for the women in our program. More importantly, our gifts generate meaningful conversations that are integral to driving change. Talk to your friends and family about the barriers that women face in re-entering the workforce after crisis and why it’s so important that they have access to financial security to commence the safe recovery they deserve. Make sure your loved ones understand that they would never be met with judgment if they expressed a need for help. Together, we can make these difficult conversations more accessible and make change tangible.

 

Visit: https://www.mettlegifts.com/
Follow: @mettle_org

If you or someone you know are experiencing issues similar to those described orf the content discussed was emotionally distressing please seek out support.

For Australian Residents
000 - if emergency support is required
1800 Respect - 1800 737 732
Lifeline - 13 11 14
Kids Helpline - 1800 551 800
Men’s Helpline - 1800 041 612