Nimbus Co has collaborated with Mettle, a Perth based organisation, to support survivors of domestic violence and homelessness due to abuse. Bronwyn Bate, the CEO and founder, discusses how Mettle helps women regain their independence and autonomy, and what we as a community can do to better protect these women.
4 WHAT IS METTLE; WHO DO YOU SUPPORT AND WHY?
Mettle is an Australia wide gift delivery service that employs women who are facing homelessness as a result of domestic and family violence. Through our incredible program, participants take part in paid training and employment. They operate in all elements of our enterprise from manufacturing our products, to fulfilling and dispatching orders. We work with these women to support them in transitioning out of a crisis and into a place where they have access to the safety and financial security that they deserve.
WHERE DID THE INSPIRATION TO BEGIN METTLE COME FROM?
Working in the non-profit space, I met many leaders on the front line. They were disheartened by the fact that on average, 52% of clients who presented to their crisis shelters had been there before. This means that once they left, they didn’t have the financial security or support required to stay safe from further domestic and family violence. These women often resorted to sleeping in their cars or in shower blocks along the coast because they had no alternative. I spent a year interviewing survivors around Australia to learn about their experiences and to design a social enterprise incorporating safeguards that they deemed would have been helpful when they were facing homelessness. When I asked survivors if they could identify a key service that was missing in their experience, they said access to safe employment ~ so that’s what we created.
HOW DO YOU EMPOWER THESE WOMEN TO TAKE BACK OWNERSHIP OF THEIR LIVES?
For many years our program participants were told they were worthless. Often deliberately isolated from any social connection, this negative dialogue is all they hear so they truly believe what they are told. We provide a safe and nurturing workplace and support services that challenge these women to start understanding that they are capable of much more than they realise. It’s a true privilege to observe their growth as they start to unlock their confidence and see the magic that we see in them.
DOMESTIC AND FAMILY VIOLENCE IS AN ISSUE THAT OFTEN GETS SWEPT UNDER THE RUG. HOW CAN WE OPEN UP THE CONVERSATION AND CREATE AWARENESS TO BETTER PROTECT THOSE WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED VIOLENCE AT HOME?
We’re trying to make change more tangible by making conversations more accessible. We do this by sharing a blend of what these women endure, as well as the positive outcomes that we observe when they are finally provided with the support they deserve. An example of a positive outcome is going from living in a refuge for nine months in hiding, to finally saving enough money to move into your own apartment and starting a new life with your son. That’s a big win in our eyes. It’s important that we celebrate the wins that are made possible by our customers, as well as sharing the darker realities of the system.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES THAT SURVIVORS FACE?
Each survivor has a unique story ~ leaving an abusive environment is only the beginning with many traumatising moments to come after. Three of the biggest challenges we observe would be;
1 ~ The legal system. The system drastically fails mothers who have fled to keep themselves and their children safe. It prioritises keeping the family unit together rather than protecting the safety of the mother and children. It’s appalling and terrifying to observe.
2 ~ Exorbitant childcare fees. Mettle are fortunate to be able to assist the women in our care with childcare subsidies, but most parents don’t have this support. The fees are a disincentive to seeking work because putting your child in care is often more expensive than the wages you’ll earn.
3 ~ Ongoing threats to their safety. Our workshop have the same security measures as a women’s shelter because 75% of the women in our care are still being actively pursued by their perpetrators. This is why we push for businesses around Australia to have thorough safety plans in place and included in all of their staff inductions.
These challenges fuel me to keep driving for change because these women deserve so much more support than they’re currently offered. They push me to speak up when they’re not safe enough to do so themselves.