Written by: Dannielle Duval

How upskilling gave Belinda Casselden the opportunity to rebuild her life.

*TRIGGER WARNING: Domestic abuse, violence against women*

Belinda Casselden is a smart, compassionate and collaborative business professional. She is also the survivor of over 16 years of domestic violence and abuse. In 2015, while living in Asia, she made the brave decision to leave and move herself and her three daughters back to Australia in order to reclaim their lives, safety and health.

“After a long legal battle that took its toll and with more stability in our lives, I was in a position to focus on the next stage – which included getting a job, financial security and a new energy in my life,” Belinda says.

An experienced executive with a strong background in marketing, strategy, business development, FMCG, retailing and not-for-profit, Belinda thrives on bringing the best out in diverse professional teams, leading them to greater success.

Her strong, people-centred leadership style and ability to adapt to dynamic environments helped her enjoy a highly successful career before taking a longer than anticipated career break. Ready to move back into work and re-ignite her career, Belinda recognised the need to refresh her professional skills and get into a room with clever, likeminded people that would inspire and motivate her.

AGSM @ UNSW Business School was the place to start. 

Belinda originally applied for the 2019 Career Comeback Sponsorship program. Instead, AGSM offered her a scholarship for the Women in Leadership (WIL) Short Course, which ended up being the perfect fit.

“The support I received from AGSM through the course was amazing. The program was the best thing for me on so many levels,” Belinda said.

“The Women in Leadership course was six days spread over three months, and I absolutely loved it. I got to meet and work with an amazing group of women, and it made me feel stronger and more confident in myself. It was empowering to know that I still had the skills and ability to do what’s needed in a professional setting after being out of the workplace for a while.”

The iterative approach to the program gave Belinda the opportunity to really digest the content and work on rebuilding her personal brand, and deciding where she wanted her career to take her next.

“I went out and got feedback from my industry contacts and network. This really started to help me understand my strengths and personal purpose and where I wanted to be,” she says.

“It really helped galvanise that sense of direction in terms of where I was going. The purpose statement that I came up with during the Women in Leadership course, I still use now. It's driving me and has guided a lot of my decisions.”

Getting back up to speed

After completing the Women in Leadership course, Belinda started the process of looking for work, which she says was a challenge. 

“With an extended time away from professional employment, I found it a struggle. I was getting interviews, but never getting the job. And then it was 2020 and COVID hit, no one was recruiting because there was so much uncertainty.”

After such a positive experience with AGSM, Belinda contacted the Executive Education team to discuss options for increasing her employability through further skill development.

“They told me about this new suite of Virtual Short Courses that I could complete to earn credit points toward a Certificate in Executive Management and Development (CEMD). And again, they were just fantastic.”

Belinda completed three short courses, including Leading an Organisation through Dynamic EnvironmentsLeading Change and Accelerating Innovation in your Organisation, which she found extremely useful in getting her up to speed with the rapidly changing ways of work and new ways of thinking.

“I’m by nature a very curious person, I love learning. I wasn’t necessarily looking for a career change – I was looking for a career that allowed me to leverage all my skills and experiences. I wanted something where I could bring all my value – and part of my value is diversity in my skillset.”

Finding the resources to make a difference – safely  

Starting from scratch when she left her partner, Belinda, like many women fleeing domestic violence, had to navigate her way through life as a single parent with little support. 

It was a frustrating and difficult experience, and Belinda couldn’t help but feel let down by the system that was supposed to be supporting women like her. So, she decided something had to change.

“You don’t have the right to complain if you don’t step up and drive change,” she says. “I couldn’t change my past, but I wanted to make a difference to someone else’s future.”

Belinda realised that supporting frontline domestic violence services was a great way to help women and children in need. Shortly after, she was invited to join the board of a community domestic violence service. There Belinda learned, while the demand for frontline domestic violence services was increasing, funding was not.

“Because of what they do and the primary needs of the service, most frontline services don’t have the skill set in their team, they are mostly counsellors, they don’t have marketers and fundraisers to raise awareness and funds,” Belinda says. 

“There’s also an element of wanting to fly under the radar in this space, for the safety of those attending. From this came the drive to support frontline domestic violence and their clients.”

And so, the Hope Believe Shine Foundation was created, with Belinda as one of its Directors. Its primary purpose is to raise funds for frontline domestic violence services, giving these critical programs access to much needed resources while maintaining their anonymity and security. 

“I’m good at building a business or a brand, so it played to my strengths and my passion. Domestic violence is a sad and frightening part of society, women affected need support to move forward and navigate the many challenges that come from this trauma,” Belinda says. 

“My purpose is to use my passion and my personal stories to inspire, educate and inform others – so that lives are improved. Everyone has a right to thrive and be treated fairly, equally and respectfully.”

An inspiring journey that’s still unfolding 

Belinda was recently announced as one of three Westfield Eastgardens Local Heroes for 2021 off the back of her work with the foundation and local community domestic violence services. This includes a $10,000 grant which will go straight to supporting frontline domestic violence services and their clients. 

Professionally, Belinda recently completed a contract with a leading professional services firm in Sydney and is currently exploring opportunities to secure a leadership role in the area of women’s wellness. 

For her, women’s wellness includes everything from working with Health and Wellbeing companies through to organisations and roles that focus on social wellbeing, equality, diversity and inclusion. Belinda wants to continue to move her career forward on a path that feeds her purpose and leverages her strengths and passions. 

Reflecting on her journey, Belinda says she’s been constantly learning and wants to inspire other women to maintain their strength and belief that they will get to a better place and find opportunities to rebuild.

“It’s so important for women who have experienced domestic violence and are recovering from that trauma know that they are worthy of so much more – that there is better future for them”

“The opportunity to complete the AGSM Women in Leadership Course was a real catalyst for change, confidence building and learning. I come from a place where there’s three things that drive your success. There’s skills, some which I had to re-enforce and rejuvenate– while some were new. And there’s attitude and support. I know I have the right attitude and I have been extremely fortunate that the AGSM supported me in a way that really worked for me.” 

To learn more about AGSM’s Certificate in Executive Management & Development (CEMD), click here.

To find out more about AGSM’s Executive Education, click here