Rachael Bausor talks openly about domestic violence in Australia and how it's robbing women of financial independence and happiness.

When you’re driven to help women who are victims of domestic violence and you give up a corporate world’s high-paying salary to do just that, success takes on a whole new meaning.

For Rachael Bausor, who is the chief executive officer of WIRE, otherwise known as the Women’s Information and Referral Exchange in Victoria, achieving personal success is more about doing what you love, being present in the moment and creating gender equality for future generations of women.

“In a gender equal society, really the problems we are dealing with in regards to domestic violence wouldn’t exist to the same extent,” she says.

“I think it is about understanding what everyday sexism looks like and being able to call people on it.

“I understand that women don’t often want to nag on this but a gender equal society isn’t just better for women, it’s better for everyone.”

Bausor isn’t afraid to call things as she sees them. She believes Australian cases of domestic violence against women have reached epidemic proportions and that gender inequality and lack of financial independence are largely to blame.

“When you have a job, you’ve got income and choices.”

As a proud feminist, she’s also not one to get bogged down in criticism or the varying interpretations of what being a feminist actually means.

“I would say I am a very practical feminist. It just so happens that my management style fits with a typical feminist job. That means listening to everyone’s voice, having transparency in decision making, having collaborative values.

“One of the things that we do talk a lot about is that everybody’s feminism is different. “We don’t have arguments about whether someone’s feminist accreditations are “wrong”.

Fundamentally we are all here at WIRE because we believe in eradicating gender inequality.”

While there is evidence that gender equality is improving as government policy focuses more on gender equality, businesses employ more senior women and more women graduate from universities nowadays then than men, Bausor is still not convinced that progress is being made quick enough.

“In some ways yes we are making progress, and in some ways no we are not. The gender pay gap has actually widened. So from the starting gates, right out of university women get paid less.

“We are not going to become a gender equal society in my life time, but I hope that my daughter will live in a gender equal society and have every opportunity to have that.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, between 2012 and 2015 more than 187,000 people, of which 110,000 were women, sought help from specialist homelessness services such as WIRE because of domestic and family violence.

Where some progress is being made is in awareness and more women speaking out or seeking help against domestic violence.

“Victoria is leading the country in improving female equality. We had the royal commission, we are doing some work towards measuring family violence in Victoria.

“There is a genuine climate of awareness around family violence and I think there will be a lot of change in the next few years.

“The Victorian government is also doing more in schools around building respectful relationships between boys and girls at school.”

Bausor’s decision to leave a corporate job at National Australia Bank, to head up community organisations such as Sandy Beach Community Centre in Victoria, and then WIRE, hasn’t been without sacrifice because she is only now earning the same dollars she was 10 years ago.

But what it has given her is opportunity and time with her daughter.

There is nothing like having a job that you love.

“When the opportunity came up last year to work for an explicitly feminist organisation I jumped at it. I consider myself to be extremely privileged to have this job.”

WIRE helps approximately over 12,000 women each year, and counting. Contact WIRE for support on 1300 134 130 or at www.wire.org.au.

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