Axons Unleashed Podcast: Five Cheers for Five Years! Axon’s 5th Anniversary

Join us for a very special episode of Axons Unleashed as the company hits the awesome 5-year milestone.

Robbie, Tami & Dan sit down to reflect on the last half-decade as the business grew and evolved. Later they are also joined by some key-team members and a few other special guests to share memories and stories.


Happy Birthday Axon and here’s to another 5 years of amazing times!

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Episode Transcription:

Speaker 1:
Axons Unleashed.

Robbie:
G’day, everyone. My name is Robbie. It’s just myself and one other here today. Welcome to another episode of Axons Unleashed. And I’ve got Hughie Allen. Mate, you and I go back a little while. You’re now working for Mates4Mates, and I can’t wait to tell everyone and showcase to the world what you’re now doing with Mates4Mates. But we’ve done a podcast before with you and your other half, Kel.

Robbie:
And of course, that’s when you first got out. Kel was out for a little while longer, you can go back to listen to that, ladies and gents. And of course, we met a year, 18 months or so ago, and you have been, and are still an Axon client. So I feel we go back a long way and I’m actually secretly happy it’s just you and I, put it that way. So welcome to Axons Unleashed, mate.

Hugh Allen:
Cheers, mate. Thanks for having me back.

Robbie:
Yeah, good stuff. So a lot’s happened since we first met, and the first thing I want to know about is, how’s your transition been? What’s it like being a civvy, and getting out of the military, and putting in job applications, and going through the interview process, and finding a job? And hopefully, and no doubt you’re going to say yes to this, you’re now going to work and operate in an environment where you are respected, where you are valued, where you feel you’re contributing to something bigger than yourself. So mate, tell us all of that. Go for it.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah, no. So yeah, it’s been a whirlwind couple of years, to say the least. We’ve had our challenges, ups and downs. But yeah, so posted up to Amberley, 2021, and started my transition or left full-time Air Force in September, and made the transition to Mates4Mates.

Robbie:
So we’re now talking to you guys in January ’22, just to…

Hugh Allen:
Yep.

Robbie:
And I love talking about dates because I’m a timeline sync matrix sort of guy.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
So yeah, that’s good mate. So you’ve been transitioned in September ’21?

Hugh Allen:
Yep.

Robbie:
And you’ve been out and you’ve been a civvy now for four months?

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. So just shy four months I’ve been with Mates. So yeah, extremely lucky to have transitioned straight out into another full-time job. But that time can also be stressful when you’ve got to deal with moving house and all the rest that goes with it, so totally understand that process.

Robbie:
How is living in the house? Because I know Robin Karin down in Wagga, he’s an RI down in Wagga. You’re living in their house that they built with us before you guys move into your house that you’re building with us. How’s living there and how’s everything going as far as that goes?

Hugh Allen:
Yeah, it’s been great. No complaints at all. It’s a beautiful investment property, and we’re just waiting for, I guess, our house to be done.

Robbie:
Yeah, good. Where’s that up to at the moment? Remind me and the listeners.

Hugh Allen:
So just had our electrical fittings-

Robbie:
The rough-in?

Hugh Allen:
Yeah, rough-in, two days ago. So we’re just waiting for gas as of next week.

Robbie:
Great.

Hugh Allen:
And then flow on with bricks.

Robbie:
Yep, so you’re in there, the slab’s down, the frame’s up, rough in’s done.

Hugh Allen:
Yep.

Robbie:
So they’re effectively done. They really start doing on the enclosed now.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
Walls on, roofs on, windows in, lock it all up, and then they can do the internal stuff after that.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. Fingers crossed, done by end of Feb. So yeah, it’s all happening.

Robbie:
Oh, end of Feb?

Hugh Allen:
End of Feb. Yeah.

Robbie:
Like another six weeks?

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. In another six weeks, we should be done at that stage.

Robbie:
Oh, done that stage. Fuck, I thought you meant… Jesus.

Hugh Allen:
No, no, no. No, no.

Robbie:
Sorry. Good. I was like, “Whoa!”

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. Not building industry-

Robbie:
Have you been bribing people that there are no other houses being built and there’s a 100 people in your house every single day for the next six weeks. That’d have it finished, but yeah. Okay, good. So then that stage is done in the next six weeks. Good on you, mate.

Hugh Allen:
The building industry hasn’t gone that quick, but…

Robbie:
Has that really started to… How can we put this? Have you and Kel really started to feel like you’re now building a house? Because when there’s the bit of dirt and then there’s a slab goes down, and then tomorrow, everything’s in the exact same stage. We have got the rough-ins done and they’re now starting to do the bricks. Fuck, that build started in June last year, but that’s another story.

Robbie:
So no one is immune to the delays in the building industry. I went there the other day myself, on a weekend, the builder’s not there. I’ll go for a step through the gate, like I’m sure you guys are and go for a walkthrough. And it really started to take shape. You can walk down the hallways.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
The rooms have got the dimensions and tell us about your experience of building your own home, and it’s starting to really feel a house, no doubt.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. I guess the biggest stage that we were like, “Oh wow,” was when the frame was put up. And then we only went through yesterday, over with Hailey and she just said to us, “Wait till all the walls and everything are put up, because it just makes it look even bigger.” So we were kind of like, “It already looks big.”

Robbie:
Good.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. It’s really exciting.

Robbie:
For your listeners not watching on YouTube, the smile on your face is yelling at me, put it that way.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah, it’s been a long process. I say long, but it really hasn’t, but with COVID and everything, then the delays and stuff, it has made it what it is.

Robbie:
Yep.

Hugh Allen:
So yeah, it is exciting.

Robbie:
But one thing I can guarantee you mate is that in the mid fours or whatever it was that you guys paid for your house, there’s now houses selling up and around the corner for low fives.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
So you’re 50, 60, 70 grand ahead already and you haven’t even moved in yet. So that’s good. You can take as much time as it wants, mate, because your surfboard was sitting in the water when you dropped your EOI.

Hugh Allen:
Exactly.

Robbie:
Good stuff. All right. I just wanted to cover off on that because obviously how we know each other.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
Tell us the whole story about Mates4Mates. How did you make contact with them? How did that first contact go? How did it progress? Because ladies and gents, as you’ve heard me say, it’s not if you get out, it’s when you get out. And what you’ve undertaken, Hugh, over the last four months is what every single person’s going to do. Whether they do or don’t find a job, whether they get out and retire or whatever age they’re going to be.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
Just remind me, how old are you again?

Hugh Allen:
24 next Friday.

Robbie:
Bingo and yourself and Kel told a great story about your time in the military and the very different experiences you had, and to be fair, you’ve got out… What are we now? In three days, time on the 23rd of January, it would’ve been, it still is my anniversary. If I was still serving in the green, 32 years.

Hugh Allen:
Wow.

Robbie:
I would’ve still been serving. And some of the people I did join with are still serving, and fucking congratulations to them.

Hugh Allen:
Sure.

Robbie:
Sure as shit, after my 24 years, I’ve still found it hard to integrate into the real world. I don’t even know how they’re going to go after 32 years.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
But anyway, that’s their choice.

Hugh Allen:
That’s exactly right.

Robbie:
So everyone has their own length of service as far as that goes. And we certainly had a cracking podcast late last year with Joe Lossino, and he speaks about the transition, and the longer you stay in, the harder it is to come out into the real world, and you’ve now had a really great soft landing, no doubt. So I want you to really explain and please listen closely, ladies and gents, because whether you’ve done four or five years in the military like you did, or 24 years like I did, or fucking 34, you are going to have to go through what I did many years ago and what you just finished doing.

Robbie:
So this is the whole reason why we’ve got you on the podcast, mate, is to talk about Mates4Mates, we absolutely will, but in the first instance, I want to talk about your transition.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
So go for it, mate.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. Yeah, it was, as I said in I guess the previous podcast, it was about February of last year and I kind of knew that I wanted to make the transition out or I just wasn’t enjoying the job anymore. And it just came about that, I did my CV and I just applied. Everyone asks me, “How did you join Mates4Mates? It seems such a great job and an organization.” And I was like, “I literally typed in veteran into SEEK, and the advertisement popped up, and I just-“

Robbie:
Wow.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah, I literally just put my CV in, and my cover letter, and it went from there.

Robbie:
Quick question, how many others, just again, so people are going to be like, “All right, I need to type veteran into SEEK.” Right? So talk, let’s have the conversation and really provide as much value as we can to the listeners. Did you take any, how many veteran ads or indications did you have to scroll through until you found Mates4Mates? Do you remember?

Hugh Allen:
It wasn’t that many, no. I’m saying that I’d been on the look for a while. So again, it was just a timing thing that it was a fortnightly thing. Routine, just have a look, see what I can. I was just putting my CV into anywhere, really.

Robbie:
And can you remember, what did you see on that ad that made you stop scrolling?

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. It was helping veterans.

Robbie:
Right.

Hugh Allen:
Yep.

Robbie:
Great. So the word veteran, ex-ADF, all that sort of stuff.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah, and that was, I knew I wanted to get into that space, helping veterans and that’s where I’m passionate about because it’s something that I am, and it’s something that it is close to my heart. So being able to help veterans that had been impacted by service, whether that be through injury or trauma, that really came at me.

Robbie:
It’s a very powerful term. There’s this thing going around at the moment, “If you know, you know.” Right? And no one knows what it’s to be a veteran unless you are one. End of story.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
And it’s the same way that Dane found Axon. He was scrolling through SEEK, trying to find a job here on the Gold Coast to be closer to his family and daughter, etc, etc. And then he scrolled veteran organization. Yeah. Axon Property Group helps the Defence Force community and veterans secure. He’s like, “Fuck, babe, look at this!” He’s still currently serving out at Amberley, like you, Air Force officers.

Robbie:
So I guess it’s a… Please ladies and gents, utilise all everything we’re now passing onto you in real world. Utilise who you are, utilise who you were, and now who you are, and who you want to be by making that transition. And if you use that as a little bridge, I suppose, from the serving into the real world, and you walk across a veteran bridge, you’ve done, exploit it as much as you can, ladies and gents. So that’s good, you. Very insightful.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. And I think it’s a natural, I guess, progression that we all want to take. Not everyone, because everyone’s experience with that and their time in the ADF is different, but I would say a fair majority want to help out or want to work with an organization who understands us. Because it is a very unique organization, we all have different skill sets that are different to the civilian workforce. So working with an organization who understands, I guess that gives us a bigger sense of comfortability that we want.

Robbie:
Gold. So you filled out your CV, submitted it, tell us all that story.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah, so I filled it out and just had it there ready to go, and I applied for a couple other jobs.

Robbie:
Were they both veteran-ish jobs as well?

Hugh Allen:
Yep. Yep.

Robbie:
Yep, right-o.

Hugh Allen:
They were all veteran jobs and there was a couple others that weren’t.

Robbie:
Sure.

Hugh Allen:
But yeah, I just had it there ready to go for when there was something that caught my eye. I wasn’t rushing to get out. It was just if anything popped up and yeah, I was doing my time at Amberley and I remember getting a phone call. I actually had an interview on the Friday, that was a Friday afternoon with another organization who’s not military orientated. I just want to do part-time work just, again, to get some experience up, and I said, “I’m happy to do weekend work.” They said, “Oh, we don’t have anything like that at the moment, but if you give a call back at the end of the year when you’re serious,” because at the time that’s when our house was going to be done.

Hugh Allen:
So it was get the house done and then get out. “Give us a call back.” I was like, “Yep, cool, happy days, my foot’s in the door so to speak.” You know? And I’m not even kidding. I was still at the desk and it was half an hour later and I was on my computer. I got a phone call, and it was HR from Mates4Mates saying, “We’ve read your CV. You’ve been shortlisted. We want you to do a couple other things.” And anyway, finished that conversation. I just thought, I had a good feeling as well, but yeah, there was still some testing and stuff that, and one thing led to another, and I ended up getting the offer, and had to make the decision.

Robbie:
Let’s go back a bit. Was Kel at home when you received that call?

Hugh Allen:
No she wasn’t.

Robbie:
Right.

Hugh Allen:
No, so she was on a night shift that night.

Robbie:
Sure.

Hugh Allen:
But yeah, when I finished, I was just-

Robbie:
Did you send her a message going, “Babe, fucking call me as soon as you can”?

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. Pretty much, and whenever something, I guess big like that happens, you naturally want to tell the closest person to you, right? So yeah, I was just waiting, because obviously she went through her transition and I know the excitement that she got when she got her job with Red Cross up here. So yeah, it was just one of those things. I was just, someone believed in me as well. And it was a nice fit as well.

Robbie:
So good.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
So when did you had to go in and do the interview? Take us on that journey?

Hugh Allen:
Yeah, so it was, that was another time when COVID kind of was coming down and there was more lockdowns and whatever. So everything was done via Zoom. And to be fair, that was-

Robbie:
Just like our initial meetings.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah, exactly right.

Robbie:
Isn’t it funny? You can get to know someone very well over them.

Hugh Allen:
For sure.

Robbie:
Yeah.

Hugh Allen:
Body language, how they conduct themselves and everything, but yeah. So all the interviews were done via Zoom and stuff. And that was my first proper interview, so with questions, how are you going to deal with these scenarios and stuff. And I was just going into the mindset that if I don’t get the job, I will ask for feedback, and I’ll be better for the next job that comes around, you know?

Robbie:
Yeah.

Hugh Allen:
But yeah, so that was all done via Zoom, and then it was probably about three weeks later from that interview, I got a phone call to say that, yeah, I’d got the job and I was on the hook. I had to go to an exercise in the meantime, and Mates4Mates were just so accommodating with giving me a longer start time and moving time. Because obviously we had to move house, but yeah, they were just so accommodating and that’s when I was like, “They really care about me, so this is the right fit already.”

Robbie:
How was that three week period in between Zoom call and then phone call to say, “You’re in”?

Hugh Allen:
Yeah, it was another exercise to Singapore that I was on the hook for as well. That was for a month and a bit. And yeah, I had to go into the boss and say, “Look, I’m not going on that anymore. I’m going to be putting in my discharge.”

Robbie:
How good is that? Not like, “Sir, can I find a way that I don’t have to go on that?” You’re like, “Hey champ, I’m not going.”

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
For one of [crosstalk 00:15:20], yeah.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. So yeah, it was just mayhem, so to speak. I had to still get surgery, had to get my wisdom teeth taken out, move house. So it was just go, go, go. But yeah, it all just fell into place.

Robbie:
Great.

Hugh Allen:
Extremely well.

Robbie:
So that’s all sorted, and then first day Mates4Mates, tell us about that.

Hugh Allen:
It’s going to work and I bought myself a brand new pair of R. M. Williams Boots and just more official wear, and long just nice dress pants and stuff like that. And then yeah, I just remember it was just such a weird feeling, but at the same time it was, I felt really comfortable going in because I knew that everyone, all the liaison officers at least are all ex-serving, so everyone understands, I guess what the transition process is like.

Robbie:
Cause they were all you one day.

Hugh Allen:
Exactly right.

Robbie:
He’s the FNG.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
And the FNG’s like, “Thank fuck it’s not me anymore. You, there you go. Carry that flag around.”

Hugh Allen:
That’s right.

Robbie:
For all you non-military people, that’s the fucking new guy.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. So yeah. Just went and took it in my stride, and just wanted to learn straight up. I was just so happy and that it all worked out. Got a really, really good team and yeah.

Robbie:
What’s your actual role? What’s your title then?

Hugh Allen:
Yeah, so I’m a liaison officer. So we look after all the social connection activities. So we can, I guess we’ll dive into it. So our first element, that I don’t look after is our psychological services. Yeah. So our psych, we’ve got a clinical team, both in our centres. We’ve got our what we call FRC, so Family Recovery Units, so we’ve got one in Brisbane. We’ve got an interim centre in Darwin. We’ve got one in Townsville and we’ve got one in, down in Tassie as well.

Robbie:
Oh good.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. So each FRC has a clinical team, so that clinical team can consist of psychs, counselors. What they do is that obviously they’ll provide a recovery plan if you come to us or come with a referral from a GP once you’re a mate, an inducted mate, you can use our services obviously free of charge and they’ll provide you a tailored recovery plan to help you through your recovery journey.

Robbie:
Yeah, mate, that’s so good. It’s such a huge topic at the moment is making sure, and I’m so glad that there are organisations like yours and others that do similar stuff, but as long as they’re all just… And there’s other businesses like mine that do similar stuff. Not every single Defence member and veteran uses Axon, yet. That was a lame joke. Not a fucking joke, but so you’ve got different philosophy. You’ve got a different brand, some people will be attracted to you. Other people will want to go work for someone else, and that’s totally fine. As long as they’re being helped in some way, shape or form, and they’re being looked after that’s the end state.

Hugh Allen:
And that’s I guess, and there is a lot of ESOs coming out now, which is great. And everywhere, every ESO has a different purpose, or same probably purpose, but has a different direction on how they want to take things and that caters for everyone’s different needs and want’s, so that’s perfect. Right?

Robbie:
Got it. Yeah. For sure. What’s the ratio between, so here at Axon, we’ve got 15 people.

Hugh Allen:
Yep.

Robbie:
We’ve got 10 veterans in five cities. Do you know broadly what the ratio is there at Mates4Mates?

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. For a liaison officer myself, one of the criteria is that you have to be ex-serving or you have to have served time. So I guess that’s one of the big things is where-

Robbie:
Not time in jail.

Hugh Allen:
No, not time in jail.

Robbie:
Serving time.

Hugh Allen:
Time in service, in military service. But that’s one of, I guess, the key things that we do promote as well. That we really understand when, if you come to us, we do understand what you’re going through because we’ve all been through it at some point. Whether that be the severity could be different, but we do understand. So from a liaison officer point of view, we’re all ex-serving or have some sort of military experience.

Robbie:
I’m glad they’re doing that, mate. You can’t fake. You can’t have someone sit there and go, “Yeah, man, I’m going to be your support officer,” but they’ve never actually walked in your shoes.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
They’ve never signed a check to the government of a value up to including the life, our lives, your life, their life. And therefore they just can’t relate, mate. So it’s a similar philosophy here for the property specialists that get brought in here. I know you and I had a chat about it a long, long time ago.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
For the property specialists that come in here that want to talk to clients about all their property needs, and then perhaps they might go on to be a property coach as well, not only do you have to have served of course, but it’s a very, very strong preference of ours that you’re also a client. Because then you can have those sort of same-same conversations.

Hugh Allen:
Exactly right.

Robbie:
I’m really glad that they’ve got that sort of philosophy there. So that’s in your particular, how many people work in the office that you go to each day?

Hugh Allen:
Yeah, so at the moment in the Brisbane FRC, we have five liaison officers. That’s including the liaison officer that works out of Ipswich as well. Then we have our regional manager, who’s ex-serving as well, and then we go into our clinical team. So we have our clinical team is around about five to six people. And then upstairs we have our national team. So our marketing, all the girls upstairs.

Robbie:
Yeah, good.

Hugh Allen:
There’s about 10 of them upstairs as well.

Robbie:
And so what are you? There’s probably about 20 odd people that are in your office or so?

Hugh Allen:
Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. Around-

Robbie:
Is that like, is it about 50-50 ratio?

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, it’s fairly, like it’s 50-50.

Robbie:
How are you getting on working in a mixed environment?

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. My time in the military, I worked with a lot of females, so I get along naturally probably-

Robbie:
I’m not talking about the mixed environment, gender, I’m talking about the mixed environment civvies and veterans.

Hugh Allen:
Oh fine. Yeah. No, no, fine.

Robbie:
Yeah.

Hugh Allen:
I find, I guess all the civilians, they want to know about our story.

Robbie:
Yeah, good.

Hugh Allen:
You know, so they want to know what we did, how long we served, some of the stories and stuff, because for our mates as well, they want to be able to understand if something comes about or that they’re able to respond and be able to provide them with the help or the direction that they need to go.

Robbie:
Yeah good.

Hugh Allen:
Pointing them in the right direction.

Robbie:
It’s the same here, mate. We’ve got Daniel sitting in the office here with us at the moment, and the other girls that they’re always asking about some stories and I’m not a big storyteller anyway.

Hugh Allen:
No.

Robbie:
Maybe after 10 beers, I don’t mind jawing off a little bit, but certainly I keep the majority of things to myself. Other people are not, but it is good that they’re inquisitive as far as that goes, because again, it fills up their knowledge bucket, therefore they can, in their particular role, they’re like, “Oh, based on a story I might have heard from you the other day, when I’m having this conversation, this is what it might all mean.”

Hugh Allen:
Correct.

Robbie:
So it’s all, again, focused towards that one thing there.

Hugh Allen:
Correct. Yeah, so that’s I guess our first service mode is our psychological services, but then the second one is our physical… Sorry, our phys team and wellbeing services. So our EP, so exercise physiologist. So they again will provide you a tailored plan once you have a referral from a GP. And whether you’ve got back injuries, knee injuries or whatever, they’ll provide you with a tailored plan to help you recover through that. And we provide, or we have gyms at all of our FRCs, so it’d be a matter of coming in, doing your session with our EPS-

Robbie:
Great.

Hugh Allen:
… and yeah, going from there. So that’s another great service and I guess a lot of military members, it’s probably not until later on that things start to spark up as well.

Robbie:
Yep. I know it will.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
Sitting here with a bloody little impinged neck at the moment that just comes and goes all the time.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah, and that’s another free service as well. Once you have your referral from your GP, you come in, just get one of our GPs and go from there.

Robbie:
Oh mate, that’s bloody good. So you got the different levels there. What else? What else is about Mates4Mates? Keep talking about it, mate. I want to know everything about the whole business.

Hugh Allen:
So I guess we go into our third service mode, and that is our skills for recovery program. So this is where we hold retreats. We’ve got four day retreats, 90 minute workshops to help with things anxiety or just more practical stuff. And then yeah, we’ve got one day wellness’s as well, so it might be a day. You might go out and you work with a counselor, and there’ll always be an LO there, and you work together through a bit of a plan that could be abseiling and stuff that.

Robbie:
Yeah. Right.

Hugh Allen:
Things that first glance that may be hard or look hard, but by the end with some coaching and stuff, you get through it and it’s a real sense of accomplishment. But yeah, that’s another really big element and that. So skills for recovery is our third, and then we go into the social connection part, which is where all of us LO’s are out and about. And that’s where in the Brisbane FRC we have, as I said, five LOs in total, one of which looks after Ipswich. So all of RAF based Amberley, all the members out there, we have a member that comes down. So we call these areas our outreach locations. So Gold Coast, Sunny Coast and Bundaberg are outreach areas. So we’ve got an LO that looks after Gold Coast, an LO that looks after Sunny Coast, an LO that looks after Bundy, and then an LO that looks after the Brisbane area.

Robbie:
That’s great that you’re all the way up to Bundy, that gets, yeah.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
That’s up there.

Hugh Allen:
Yes.

Robbie:
From Brissy, anyway.

Hugh Allen:
That’s right. So we go up to Bundy every quarter of the year for a week and it’ll be-

Robbie:
How many veterans are up there?

Hugh Allen:
I couldn’t-

Robbie:
Obviously enough to have a-

Hugh Allen:
Yeah, enough.

Robbie:
Yep. An LO up there.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
Good, good.

Hugh Allen:
We have enough that, yeah, so one of our LOs will go up there for a week and just hold all the social connection activities, whether that be yoga, whether that be whale watching, coffee catch up, just things to get everyone, that Defence community in together.

Robbie:
Got it.

Hugh Allen:
Create mateships and yeah, just have a good time. And that’s the most important thing.

Robbie:
So yeah. Top stuff, mate. It’s hard to find other like-minded people like Joe Losinno was talking about us veterans when we get out, we’re hard bodied people, as he described it. Where now I sit in here and I don’t sit with my back to the door.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
It’s just not how it works for me, for instance. Even though you’re getting the amazing view sitting behind me right now, which I’m happy for you, mate. And then there’s everyone else is a soft body, so they’re just on respectfully, fat, dumb, and happy living in their life. They’ve never been in combat circumstance before, their life’s probably never been in danger and they’re just going through a life and they’ll get to the end of it. We’re just a bit more aware of stuff, and when hard bodies and soft bodies come together, then there’s that, you know. You can just, in a good way, my sense anyway, you can feel it when there’s another veteran in the room, as opposed to if you are the only veteran in the room, then it’s just a different feeling. So it’s really great that getting people together and just being able to connect that physiological, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional sort of way there is bloody awesome.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. We run regular, we come down the Gold Coast every two weeks out of Labrador, and we have a coffee catch up. So we do things regularly and out of the Brisbane FRC, Monday nights is barbecue night. So everyone comes in, 6:30 dinner’s served just after yoga. So we do yoga at 5:30 and then 6:30 dinner. You can pick and choose what you want to come to, what you don’t want to come to.

Robbie:
Yeah. Wow.

Hugh Allen:
So yeah, we have that. And then-

Robbie:
Is there a calendar online that people can get access to?

Hugh Allen:
There is, yeah. So that’s all at Mates4Mates.org.

Robbie:
Okay.

Hugh Allen:
But yeah, so that’s one of I guess what we call our staple events. And then on a Friday, Friday’s a really good day. Friday, we start 6:30, there’s PT session, and then that rolls into pancake breakfast, 7:30. 9:00, that’s our 20K ride, you stop halfway and have a brew and bit of a chat with the group, and then come back for trauma informed yoga. So that’ll take you up to about 12:00, and each FRC will offer different programs. So our centres that are up in Townsville and Darwin and Tassie-

Robbie:
Tassie yep.

Hugh Allen:
… they’ll all offer different programs, but yeah.

Robbie:
The same style though, right?

Hugh Allen:
Correct. Yep. That’s some of our, and then yeah, we went [crosstalk 00:28:52]

Robbie:
Do you do that every Friday?

Hugh Allen:
Every Friday, yep. So today.

Robbie:
PT, pancakes.

Hugh Allen:
Yep.

Robbie:
What was the…?

Hugh Allen:
Bike ride.

Robbie:
Bike ride.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. Yoga.

Robbie:
Yoga.

Hugh Allen:
Yep.

Robbie:
Quick bite to eat afterwards?

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. Well just-

Robbie:
Barbecue and beers afterwards?

Hugh Allen:
No.

Robbie:
No beers.

Hugh Allen:
We’re a dry organization as well.

Robbie:
I’m sorry to hear that.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah, no.

Robbie:
That’s a joke.

Hugh Allen:
Dry organization, and as we are recovery based, alcohol can stimulate some bad feelings and emotions.

Robbie:
Sure.

Hugh Allen:
So yeah. That’s why we’re a dry organization.

Robbie:
Good, mate. Everyone’s on their own journey, and certainly for those who’ve been following me for a little while, last year I did 75 hard program and going 75 days with no beers does change everything in your life.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. That’s right.

Robbie:
So I’m all for it, mate.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
It’s a great thing to do, is moderate your consumption of everything, quite frankly, and just do it in a smart and healthy, measured way.

Hugh Allen:
Correct.

Robbie:
So, yeah. That’s good. But I’m loving this, what else?

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
I spoke to you for one minute before we started, and I said to you, we’ve got no script here. I specifically have never even been to your website, because I want to do this in a raw and real, like I’m asking you questions to hopefully inform everyone else about what Mates4Mates are going to do, and then it just becomes a no brainer, but for the right person, you guys should get heaps of people reaching out to you after this.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
That’s great.

Hugh Allen:
And yeah, so I guess, and with COVID as well, one of the big things brought on our online presence. So now we have an online team. So for places that we don’t have an FRC, so Canberra, Sydney, WA, we have an online team that’s we have one LO and a regional manager in that space, but they create the same things that we do. So the social connection activities, the yoga, but it’s all online. So say if you didn’t want to come in, and it’s raining, and you’re from Brisbane, and you don’t want to go into the centre to do yoga.

Robbie:
And you can jump online-

Hugh Allen:
You can do it on Zoom.

Robbie:
Yeah. Right.

Hugh Allen:
Coffee catch up groups, it’s all online, and yeah. So that just provides another option for people. If you’re not feeling up to it or you don’t want to come in and you just want to do it from the comfort of your own home.

Robbie:
Gold.

Hugh Allen:
It’s all there, so really building that community on a national side of the fence, because Mates4Mates was established by RSL Queensland back in 2013. So that’s why we aren’t around nationally, or we don’t have centres nationally yet.

Robbie:
Not yet, yeah.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
Growing, growing, growing.

Hugh Allen:
Correct.

Robbie:
Good.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. At a rapid pace, which is really, really good, but yeah. So that’s another option. Should people, you know, if that’s what they want, if that’s how they feel more comfortable, then yeah, there’s that option as well.

Robbie:
It’s funny when you say 2013, that was my discharge year as well. And when I look back at it, sometimes it feels a long, long time ago and there’s been a lot of stuff happen. Other days I feel like, “Shit, that feels like yesterday still,” and everything in between. So, but certainly one thing I do appreciate there’s enough indoor cricket seasons, for instance, that have now gone being gone, you know, eight or nine years is a long time.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
So it’s really great that Mates4Mates has been able to be created, and be developed, and have their first employee, and then to grow and grow and grow and grow and have areas, what are we talking? Townsville, Darwin, Brisbane and Tassie.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
It’s still pretty good, mate.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
That’s, you’re at least halfway through being able to have a full national, physical presence.

Hugh Allen:
That’s right.

Robbie:
But of course, you’ve got that online presence, which is [inaudible 00:32:34], everywhere.

Hugh Allen:
That’s right. So, but yeah, mate, our social connection, that’s the fun side of it really. The best thing about it is that once you’re an inducted mate, you’ll go through a process. You’ll do the application form, which is available on our website, but you’ll go through doing your induction with one of our counselors. And that process is just to ensure that you’re going to be receiving the right services or that we can point you in the right direction, more so than anything. So yeah, once you get approved and you’re an inducted mate, then your spouse and your family members can also join as well.

Hugh Allen:
So if there’s an event, we had one just before Christmas, Aqua Duck down on the Gold Coast. Right? That’s a family day out. All you need to do is RSVP via our inbox, the email address, and just say, “Look, I just want to RSVP for myself and my family,” and happy days. That gets your family onto it.

Robbie:
Brilliant.

Hugh Allen:
And that’s one of the biggest things is it’s not, obviously it’s the individual who has been infected by service that will be receiving the help. But that also, it can take effect on the family members as well, because it can be quite tolling and stuff that. So that’s, again, another reason why we offer our services for the family members.

Robbie:
So important.

Hugh Allen:
Oh, to get everyone involved, for sure.

Robbie:
So important, mate. Literally a podcast we did on Monday was with PTSD Dogs, and certainly Angie Weeks spoke so graciously and passionately about, sure, we need to look after the member. And as no doubt, both of us have evidenced in some way, shape or form when said serving member is having a bad day, guess who they take it out on?

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. Their family members.

Robbie:
Those closest to them. Like you couldn’t wait to tell someone about your great new story with Kel, it’s the same sort of thing.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah, for sure.

Robbie:
Yeah. We’ve got to get that stuff, more awareness about what’s going on there to make sure that it’s not just the person because that can create even more separation.

Hugh Allen:
Exactly right.

Robbie:
Yeah.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. So that’s one of our big things, and we’ve got a couple things coming up this year, which is really exciting. So what we call mini mates.

Robbie:
Great. Tell us about that.

Hugh Allen:
Just family days on a weekend, on a Sunday.

Robbie:
With the kids, is that what you meant?

Hugh Allen:
Yeah, with kids. Yes.

Robbie:
Okay, great.

Hugh Allen:
We organise in a park and it’s more so just doing games, and getting parents to interact with kids, and get that connection going. Because if you’re a current serving member, you might be away on a trip and when you get back from a trip, you might be on the hook to go again. So it’s about making the most of the time that you have with kids and yeah, just getting together and having a bit of fun. Yeah, so that’s something that we’re really excited about.

Robbie:
Nice. What else? What else you got going on?

Hugh Allen:
Yeah, at the moment, so we’re going to, we just did a tour at Suncorp Stadium, so that was another great thing, and that brings, you know. We try to offer a whole range of different activities, it’s not just everyone’s into sport and this is only what we offer. We do pottery making classes, but yeah, the Suncorp Stadium tour was unreal. So we get to we went through the whole stadium, which has a garden.

Robbie:
Yeah, behind the scenes. This is it.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. Went to, or about to go to the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane, so we’re going to do a whole tour of that. And they’ve been really accommodating, which has been great.

Robbie:
I can just think then though, all of these massive organisations like the couple that you’ve just mentioned then, why would they ever say no to an ESO and all those things, the great work that Mates4Mates is now doing for the veteran community and their families and their kids and whatever else. Yeah. And if you want to bring some people through or do a little activity and just, yeah. Why would they say no, mate? And I’m really, really heartened to know that they are getting on board.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
It’s not a bloody long drawn out six month application process. So like, “Yep. Let’s get some dates organised and our mate over here is going to take you through.” And it just, the benefit that you all get out of it is just palpable, mate, which is good.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. Fishing’s another really big one.

Robbie:
Oh, boom.

Hugh Allen:
We’ve got rods and-

Robbie:
Golf?

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. Golf, yeah.

Robbie:
Good.

Hugh Allen:
We’ve done a couple golf days, but yeah, mate, just walk at Mount Coot-tha. That’s one of our staple events. So we do a walk up at Mount Coot-tha every Thursday.

Robbie:
Great.

Hugh Allen:
We do a lot of walks, obviously low impact, but it’s also a good way to talk to someone that you don’t know.

Robbie:
Yeah.

Hugh Allen:
But yeah, we just offer a whole range of different activities and that’s the best thing about it is just trying to accommodate for everyone. And one of the things that we’re really big on is, we can only think of so much too, right? So if you come along and say, “Hey, look, I’m interested in dragon boating or something.” That’s great for us because once we get that recommendation, bang, straight back in, right. Where can we source this and get this going?

Robbie:
So headquarters always open to new ideas and new events and stuff.

Hugh Allen:
For sure.

Robbie:
So everything’s on the table.

Hugh Allen:
Exactly right. Yeah. We’re here for you.

Robbie:
No tours of a brewery though.

Hugh Allen:
No, no tours of a brewery.

Robbie:
Well, you probably could if you don’t do any tasting, but yeah, I get it. Yeah, yeah.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah, we’re here for the mates. So whatever we can do to help them, whether it be you come into the centre and you need help with sorting something out on your phone, or we’re just here to provide anything. If it does come time to discharge, you don’t have a house yet, ring us because we can, we’ve got obviously our links with RSL Queensland. It’s just about any way that we can help, we’re all there.

Robbie:
Good, everything’s on the table.

Hugh Allen:
That’s right.

Robbie:
What have you loved the most about not being in the uniform anymore?

Hugh Allen:
Being able to assist people. That’s-

Robbie:
In a different way.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
Yeah.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah, yeah. Obviously, yeah. So that’s been the biggest light, I think. It’s brought definitely a lot of perspective, but yeah, it’s a very rewarding job to put a smile on the faces of people. So that’s what I absolutely love.

Robbie:
Do you still feel you’re in because you’re a veteran talking to other veterans and/or service members thinking about transitioning, etc.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. Can you say that? Because when I speak to people who are still in or who my family members who ask, I say, it’s kind of like the perfect midpoint because I haven’t gone from Defence to corporate, where it’s been buttoned up, you know, fully official. I’m still dealing with like-minded people. Right? So it’s kind of like I’ve discharged halfway. Obviously, but yeah, it’s a lot different at the same time.

Robbie:
Good on you, mate, and thinking about, talking about the buttons up and the RMs, not wearing RMs today.

Hugh Allen:
No, just in casual, what we wear out every day. Just our shorts and runners.

Robbie:
Shorts, runners, and a parley.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
Happy days. Welcome to Axon.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
It’s the way to like, and how good is it having a uniform as well?

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
It’s just, it’s the very first thing we did, even though not these exact shirts back in the day, but I’m like, well, I’ve been used to wearing a uniform my whole life. Now let’s just go get a uniform so I can just chuck that on, and it’s a no-brainer, and you don’t have to worry about choosing what to wear per se.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
So it just makes it nice, and lot of it suits you, mate, it looks really good on you.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah. Thanks. But yeah. So it’s exciting times and head for mates, and as I said, we’re growing rapidly. And as of last year, as of 2021, we had 7,300 mates. That also includes family members as well, so that’s a really good figure, I guess. And there’s only increasing and people are reaching out.

Robbie:
That is a lot, man. 7,000 people that are, yeah. Far out. There’s so much opportunity for you to be able to just keep growing that as well, no doubt.

Hugh Allen:
For sure, yeah.

Robbie:
Especially when you get down to the big population centres. When you’re in Sydney, when you’re in Canberra, when you’re in Melbourne, which you’re not in either of those places right now, surprisingly, but neither are we, quite frankly. We’ve only got the one office here.

Hugh Allen:
Yeah.

Robbie:
That mum is going to grow exponentially, which is super exciting. Just quickly, mate, so we’ll certainly be able to place the webpage, any other links you want to give us there, but where in Brisbane are you guys located?

Hugh Allen:
Yeah, so we’re located at Milton, so literally-

Robbie:
Great location.

Hugh Allen:
… probably about 400 meters from the train station, if that, so yeah. 27 Douglas Street, Milton, that’s where we’re located at the moment. So anyone that has any questions or wants to come in for a tour, by all means, please come in and yeah, we’ll give you a tour. Even if you’re not a mate, if you just want to come in and see before you decide you want to join up, by all means, please come in. And we have our Facebook groups as well, obviously Mates4Mates, we’ve got our national page, but we’ve also got our tailored pages for each area as what I just said before.

Robbie:
Good.

Hugh Allen:
The Southeast Queensland one is Mates4Mates SEQLD. So you can join that, and that there has all our social connection activities, all of our skills for recovery programs coming up. So you can, you don’t have to be a mate to join that page, but yeah, you can come in, have a look how we interact and stuff that.

Robbie:
Great.

Hugh Allen:
But yeah, by all means, please reach out.

Robbie:
Yeah, mate, top stuff. I can see it. I can feel it in your being, mate. Congratulations on successfully transitioning. There’s no doubt about it. You’ve been able to land softly and you’re now working in an environment, like I said at the start, where you are respected, where you are valued, and you’re definitely contributing now to something which is so bigger than you. And you’re now living your best life as a bloody veteran, mate, which is gold. Thanks very much for coming in, Hughie.

Hugh Allen:
Welcome, mate.

Robbie:
That was fantastic, mate.

Hugh Allen:
Easy done, mate.

Robbie:
Get into it, ladies and gents, Mates4Mates coming your way. Thanks so much. Speak to you again soon.

Robbie:
Cheers.

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