Geraldine Bilston’s story of resilience and growth in the aftermath of domestic violence is truly inspirational.

In 2015 she escaped an abusive relationship with a man who physically and emotionally broke her.

With no money to her name, no bank account and no identity documents, Geraldine had to completely rebuild her life, all while dealing with police, courts and ‘the system’.

Luckily, she had a loving family backing her and was able to access the support she needed to start again.

Geraldine was determined to help other victims of family violence and to make a difference to the way we approach family violence in Australia.

She began by advocating and sharing her story, then decided to take that next step professionally.

“Advocating was really validating, but I was really hungry to do more than that and to understand family violence beyond the lens of my own experience,” she says.

“I wanted to contribute to the sector in ways that went beyond just telling my story, and that’s why I enrolled in the Graduate Certificate in Family Violence at Chisholm last year.”

Geraldine knew straight away she’d found her calling.

“In the past I wasn’t academically driven, but this was the first time in my life where I felt I’d landed in a place that ignited a passion,” she says.

“Chisholm delivers education in a way that is really supportive, and it wraps around people and assists with creating that drive.”

Since then, Geraldine has gone from strength to strength.

In May 2020, she was appointed Deputy Chair of the Victorian Government’s Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council and this year Geraldine began consulting with Ernst and Young.

What she loves most about her work is facilitating consultations with other victim survivors and sharing the value of lived experience.

Geraldine also sits on the Mornington Peninsula Family Violence Primary Prevention Collaboration and in December she’ll be part of the advisory council for the 2021 STOP Domestic Violence Conference.

Her story has been shared on ABC's You Can’t Ask That, Q+A, The Drum and MamaMia.

And to top off what has been an extraordinarily successful year, Geraldine was recently nominated as the Higher Education Student of the Year at the Chisholm Education Awards, which are coming up in July.

“My experience at Chisholm has given me those professional-level pathways into the sector for employment, but on a personal level it has given me that real sense of accomplishment,” Geraldine says.

“The lecturers have been so encouraging and it’s gifted me confidence in my own ability to contribute to the sector in ways that go beyond just telling people what happened to me.

“My experience of family violence took so much away from me, but it also gave me something – a real dedication to help other people.”

If this article raises any concerns for you or you need support, call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.