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“I’m Excited To Wake Up And Come To Work Every Day”

The founder of Mettle Women Inc, Bronwyn Bate, explains how her gift box business is helping survivors of violence find financial independence.

By Anna Saunders

It was a chance encounter while volunteering at a women’s refuge that inspired Bronwyn Bate to come up with the idea for Mettle Women Inc.

There, Bate witnessed women making the impossible choice between leaving their abusive partner – and risking poverty – or staying in a violent home. It was a choice she soon realised that was being made by countless women around Australia every week.

The solution, she quickly realised, was ensuring women had enough financial independence to leave.

Five years later, her business Mettle Women Inc, which creates gift boxes for individuals and corporates, has employed 40 survivors of violence, helped hundreds more through work readiness programs, and sold more than 120,000 boxes.

She explains the moment that changed everything…

I was volunteering in a women’s refuge and met this incredible woman, who was a mother of three. She had fled some pretty horrific domestic violence. She had a broken rib, visible bruising on her face and was heavily medicated. After a few weeks of being in the refuge, she discovered that she wasn’t eligible for Centrelink [assistance] because her income was linked to her perpetrator, who was a very affluent lawyer.

She looked for a job, but she had no self-belief, and hadn’t been allowed to work for many years. She had gaps in her employment history and hadn’t had her own bank account in 30 years. This obviously showed in her interview, and she didn’t get the job.

Tragically, she decided – like so many women who make the choice between poverty or abuse – to return to her perpetrator. She said she’d rather have a roof over the head of herself and her children. Three weeks later she was back in the refuge, this time with drastically more significant injuries.

Mettle Women Inc sells gift boxes that are created by survuvors

How did you set up Mettle Women?

I started wondering how common this situation was, so I spent a year interviewing women around Australia who had experienced abuse and had been residing in crisis accommodation. I asked them about the gaps and the resounding answer was that they needed financial security, and they needed employers who understood flexibility while they were navigating this really intense time of crisis.

Did you ever imagine you’d be running a social enterprise?

No! I’m such a by-the-book, structured person! I’ve always been such a career-focused person and the idea of leaving the career path that I was on to start something new was very daunting. But it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done.

Every day has been really special, as well as really frustrating because you think you have a full picture of how broken the system is. But every day, with every new woman that comes through the programme, you see more things that need to change.


Every day, with every new woman that comes through the programme, you see more things that need to change.

What’s the smartest move you’ve made with Mettle Women?

Listening to the people we support. I’d never lived in a crisis refuge before so sometimes I’d hear information that at the time didn’t seem important to a really robust business model. But years later, I’d think, thank goodness we listened.

Safety is an example of that. From a commercial point of view – and for couriers – it would have been really helpful for us to have our address visible [on our website]. But we developed our premises with the same security measures that a crisis refuge would have. We’re registered with the police, for example. Naively, I never thought we’d need to enact those safety protocols, but we have noticed on our security cameras that a perpetrator has come to our premises, and we have had to call police.

What do you wish more people understood about domestic violence?

So often, you hear people say ‘Why didn’t she just leave?’ And it boils my blood because they so often don’t have a choice to leave. It’s often a matter of life and death. I’ve been in boardrooms where people have literally asked, ‘Why don’t they just get a job? Are they lazy?’ It is so much more complex than that.

So often, you hear people say ‘Why didn’t she just leave?’ And it boils my blood because they so often don’t have a choice to leave.

When you’re not running Mettle, what do you do?

I have a beautiful two year old and we are fortunate enough to live across from the beach. We have a nightly swim and strolls though our local bushland. But until this year I was incredibly guilty of not switching off and spending all my leisure time being far too intertwined with the domestic and family violence space.

If you weren’t running Mettle what would you be doing?

I honestly can’t imagine a world where I’m not running Mettle. I know it sounds corny, but I’m so excited to come to work each day.

The women I work with could be completely forgiven for thinking: life’s too hard, I’m not getting out of bed today. But instead they show up with the most incredible warmth and compassion for their peers. And if they can do it, if they can show up every day, I’ve got no excuse not to be here.

What’s your worst habit?

Not being able to switch off from work.

Finish this sentence: Nothing feels better than…

Watching someone discover their worth.

Want to make a difference? You can buy a gift box from Mettle Women Inc here.

Are you or someone you know experiencing violence? Help is available. Call 1800 RESPECT


BY Anna Saunders

Anna is the co-founder of PRIMER

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