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Any.Talk Podcast Episode 17 - Interview with the winner of our $5,000 donation

Updated: Jul 23

In this episode of Any.Talk, Anywise staff Caitlin and Steve interview the winner of our $5,000 donation, founder of Forge Through, Dean Hamilton. During Brisbane's Land Forces Land Defence Expo, Anywise was encouraging people to be a force for good and elect a cause or charity of their choice. The cause with the most votes would receive the donation.


Not forgetting the other charities and causes which were voted for:

  • Australian National Veterans Arts Museum

  • Ride to Recovery

  • Big Group Hug

  • Bed Down


Listen to the full podcast episode below, or stream it on Apple Music, Spotify or wherever you prefer to stream your podcasts. Make sure to hit the subscribe button.


Caitlin

During Brisbane Land Forces Expo. Anywise, was hosting a competition where the cause or charity most voted would receive a $5,000 donation from us.


Welcome to another episode of Any.Talk, I'm Caitlin and today Steve and I are talking to Dean Hamilton, founder of an incredible program called Forge Through, who are the winners of our competition. Thanks for joining us, Dean. It's great to have you here.


Steve

We're really excited to be supporting Forge Through and the great work that they do and are looking forward to hearing more from you Dean.


Dean

Thank you. Yeah. It'll be an incredible help for us.


Caitlin

So to kick it off, I did a little bit of digging. And I remember from our earlier phone call, you said that Forge Through was started in 2017.


Dean

Yeah, that's right.


Caitlin

I was just curious, what motivated the creation of Forge Through? Where did it come from?


Dean

So initially, my background is defense and New South Wales police, and I was discharged with a medical discharge with a posttraumatic stress diagnosis. I went and did a forging course, and I found it very beneficial for my health. Because I got so much benefit out of it, and I started to build my way forward and healed, I thought it was a good sort of platform to start a program that might encourage people that are a little bit resistant to a normal sort of health treatment. But forging is a real metaphor for change.


We change steel into something, and we use that whole process to talk about our own lives, to say, okay, well, you know, we might have thought that we'd be this for life. Something's happened. We've been through our own little fires, and now what we need to do is do the work and reinvent ourselves and become something better.


Caitlin

I love it. So how did you first come about forging? Was it a family friend who thought, "hey, this might be of benefit to you, or this might be up your alley"?


Dean

I remember reading a magazine many years ago, and this person had forged a hunting knife using one of the old round Weber barbecues. It just tapped into that inner man who thought, "yeah, I need to make one of those!"


Well, I sought out the opportunity to go to a forge and learn how to do it. I spent a couple of days there learning the craft. But the most valuable thing for me was, at a time where I didn't feel that I was worth anything, I created these two knives that I was extremely proud of. And it was probably the very first thing that showed me that I could still make something of myself. I still could be worthwhile. And it helped reinforce that there was hope.


Caitlin

And so once you realize that, it was something that was able to help you, what was the light bulb moment where you thought I'm going to put this in practice and help other people who are going through a similar situation.


Dean

Where it first came about is, I've spoken to other people who were just friends of friends or acquaintances that were struggling with different sorts of mental health, things like anxiety and depression. What I found is that I wasn't regurgitating something that I'd read in a book. It was something that was from the heart and over that day of forging and reshaping steel, we were able to use that to touch on some subjects and, basically just have conversations, you know, just talk about mental health. I think when people realise that they're speaking to somebody who's walked that path, they tend to be a little bit more open.


It sort of puts that guard down a little bit. And especially with men. Men can be notorious for not talking. This program is for everybody. It's not a bloke program. I just found that forging tends to get guys to open up a little bit and talk. And that's the first step.


Caitlin

And that's so important too.


Dean

After having those acquaintances come through and do a day, I saw the real benefit that they had out of it. So my wife and I sat down and thought, well, is this something that we can offer to help other people? You know, can we actually formalize this course a little bit and just provide something that wasn't there for me when I needed it? Back then I didn't know where to start or how to bring people in.


And I found there were people out there that were seeking help and were on their way - and they would be pretty keen to be responding to this sort of stuff - but they're already on their journey.


I wanted to get to those people that are slipping through the cracks, those people that are just totally disenfranchised from family support, the ones that are sitting home on their lounge, and, sadly to say, the ones that are taking their lives.


There's only ever one veteran and one first responder on each course. It's a very intimate course. It's about trying to give real help. It's not a numbers game for us. We've all come through systems that it's all about numbers. And we've all seen how invaluable that is.


Steve

You can have 100 people through a program with zero outcomes, right?


Dean

Exactly.


Steve

And you'll change someone's life forever.


Dean

When you can personalize something and tailor it to an individual, they know that you really care about their welfare then. And once you've built that trust, that then gives you the ability to try and key them into other support networks and eventually have a positive outcome in their mental health.


Caitlin

Is there a common thing where people are like, "Oh, I didn't realize I would enjoy this so much," Or, this is something they weren't expecting?


Dean

It's one of those things that, in such a busy world where people struggle with just constant noise, it's just a chance to unplug for two and a half days, sit around a fire, and be amongst people that understand where they're coming from.


So we build that rapport before they start. They know roughly what they're in for. People really enjoy the process. It generally takes maybe the first night to warm up. But by day two, real conversations are being held. There's an element of comradery, because we worked together to build these knives, we've been able to use the actual process of making a knife as a direct metaphor for life.


So people start to open their eyes a little bit, start to realize that there are things out there that can help them. And hopefully, they sort of look to me, you know, being in a better place now than what I was years ago as a little bit of a sign that there is hope that you can move forward.


Steve

Would it be fair to say a lot of the people here are actually quite far along that negative thought pattern? And down to the thoughts of their friends and family who are really concerned about their welfare in terms of them making it through the next few days. It's possibly down to even that level?


Dean

Yeah, exactly. And I think the biggest thing is, for me, when I was in my worst place, I'd never felt so alone in my whole life. And these people now, they walk away after those three days knowing they're not alone, and they know that they're part of a bigger tribe.


Caitlin

That's great to hear. So I was just wondering what are the main points throughout it? Because you said normally by day two, that's when the conversations start. So what happens at day one?


Dean

Day one people come in and they're a little bit sticky because they're meeting new people. And you've got to understand that most people in that state are geared negatively. Everything is a negative. I will generally tell people my story, my background, and explain where I come from and how the course started. Normally by then it's a bit of a workshop intro. We have a walk around the farm, light the fire, and we'll start cooking dinner and have a couple of mid-strength beers around the fire. And generally, the chats will start then.


We've got no intoxication policy on the place, but we're all grown adults. We provide mid-strength beers and a couple of bottles of wine just so people can feel like they're adults. So then, quite often on the Friday night, some stories will be exchanged and we'll get some background. It just depends on the crowd.


But the Saturday morning, we start off with prepping our steel. This is where the metaphor really comes in, because we give people an option of some bought known quality nice steel. Or we've got good steel for knives, but they'll be old files, springs, farm equipment and stuff like that. And what we try and tell them is that the transformation from something old into something new is what our whole life lesson's about.


So, 9 times out of 10, they'll grab an old Farrier rasp or they'll grab an old file, and we set about removing the teeth with a grinder. And so that for us, it's almost like to start to change we need to remove our past. We need to just get rid of that past, forget about what we were and start thinking about what we're about to be and reveal that good steel inside, which we've all got inside. We all know we're good steel. We've just gone a little bit rusty on the outside.


So we remove that, and then we go down to the forge and we fire the forge up. To prepare it for change, we put that steel in the fire and people get to work with it with a hammer. And the big lesson there is that 9 times out of 10, the only time anyone is ready to change is when they're uncomfortable. So we could belt that cold steel with a hammer all day, and it's not going to move.


But as soon as we heat it up, as soon as we apply some heat and some pressure to that steel, it's going to change. And that's what we say to people. You've got to be ready to change, and you've got to be ready to put the work in. And we just keep bouncing it back to their own lives. We can have this perfect vision of what our life is going to be, but I can bet you 9 times out of 10, it's not going to work out exactly how envisaged.


Steve

Great analogy


Dean

And a lot of the time that's for the better.


So we just try and get those points across to them, and that will invoke discussion and get people talking. Then we heat treat the knives and harden them up that night. And then it's back to dinner, back to the fire, back to a couple of beers. And then the next morning people are all excited they can see there shape. They've got essentially a knife. And now we need to put the handle on it, pin it all out, make it all look pretty and functional. And end up with a great result.


Just got to show people that they're not ruined. They're not broken. You know, they're just a little bit lost at the moment. And they just need some guidance to get right back on track because they've all got it in them. They're all good people. They've all got it in them to get better. They just need someone holding their hand for a little bit.


Caitlin

That's so inspiring. It's really lovely to hear that. How do you plan to use the donation? What's going to be the next thing that's going to help.


Dean

One of our primary things at the moment is to try and get the facility wheelchair friendly and just get some pathways in down to the forge and stuff like that. Just so everyone can be involved and not have the location being a hindrance.


Steve

Thank you, Dean. That is really great to hear all the amazing work that Forge Through do. As Anywise, we are really happy that the money we're contributing towards Forge Through is going to such a great cause and, in particular, for the accessibility of veterans and other first responders that will make use of the great program that Forge Through delivers. So thank you once again, it really warms our hearts.


Caitlin

Thank you absolutely so much. It's been a real pleasure.


Dean

Thanks, Caitlin. Thanks, Steve.


Caitlin

Thanks for joining us for another episode of Any.Talk. If you want to stay up to date on our latest news, check our website at www.anywise.com.au and remember to follow us on your favourite podcast streaming service. Thanks.