A mutual friend introduced Beau and I via one of the most humiliating yet memorable messages I have ever received! Fast forward a few weeks, we met over a bowl of sub-par pho and I learnt all about Beau’s passion projects, his PhD, his work in the homelessness sector and his experiences as a security guard. I also learnt that Beau and I had far more in common than my initial social media stalking had suggested. And while it took almost two years for me to interview Beau and feature his work on this blog, it’s been a pleasure getting to know him in the meantime!
“When I was turning 30, everything I had learnt about in the preceding years – technology, mental health and my passion for stories – led me to an idea.
It started at uni where I was originally enrolled in IT. I’m a nerd – I love computers and technology – so it seemed like a natural choice. But, when we started talking about people and their behavior during one of the units, I went straight to the course coordinator and transferred to psychology.
I landed a number of interesting placements during my degree. I conducted assessments for the disability support pension at Centrelink. I worked at a rehabilitation service. Eventually, I found myself doing hypnosis in a private practice.
Hypnosis, and consciousness, became the focus of my postgraduate studies. I had developed an interest in evolutionary psychology. What makes human unique? Why are we at the top of the food chain? What makes us seem to be at the apex of everything? I found, in my opinion, the answer was consciousness. So, I looked at hypnosis as a way of isolating consciousness – a means of manipulating something in order to understand it.
As I was developing an interest in consciousness and hypnosis, I started working with violent offenders at the Department of Justice. Working with clients on parole, I met many who were not interested in my help. One client who was on parole for domestic violence seemed to be making progress but ended up assaulting his girlfriend again and going back to prison.
While it’s not often discussed, the efficacy of psychology is hit and miss and the results are difficult to measure. For this, and many other reasons, this role was really challenging and had a big impact on me.
Sitting across the table from these young men, who were by many accounts not very different from me, I found myself wondering why they were okay with breaking the rules or doing antisocial things, while I wasn’t. One of the conclusions that I reached was that I was exposed to different stories during my childhood.
My parents weren’t religious by the time they had me, but they did have a religious upbringing. We used to watch this cartoon called “The Greatest Story Ever Told”. It’s a completely absurd concept involving time travelers visiting exact biblical moments – Moses parting the sea, David fighting the lion, for example. I believe, in some subconscious way, the stories compelled me to be conscientious and socially conscious.
By comparison, the offenders I worked with had usually grown up in broken homes where parents were usually too busy disagreeing to read them stories. They were never really exposed to moral fables.
Shortly after that I was working in an intake team for Launch Housing, triaging homeless clients in St Kilda. We would get a basic understanding of what was going on for them and what led to their homelessness: usually the culmination of more than one breakdown in the various domains of their lives: work, family, health etc.
These experiences made me comprehend the power of stories. Those who were struggling seemed to have a dearth of stories in their own lives and an absence of storytellers.
So, it was at this time – when I was turning 30 and had become an uncle, I was realising how the right stories at the right time might equip children with the appropriate, pro-social values – that I had the idea to build an app.
I’m not religious so I had been thinking about secular ways that moral stories can be told and that had led me to Aesop’s Fables. Aesop was a slave in Ancient Greece who wrote hundreds of moral fables – the Tortoise and the Hare being a well known example. While it may initially sound like a light story for kids, it has a deep, underlying message about the importance of sticking the course (ie. slow and steady wins the race!)
The app, I decided, would host reimagined versions of Aesop’s fables.
Thanks to my friends in software development, the idea became a reality. There wasn’t a platform to publish animated picture books on, so Little Campfire was born. I launched Duck Rabbit Press as well, a digital publisher aiming to improve mental health.
Through Duck Rabbit Press, and using my training in hypnosis, I’ve developed a range of Storeos – guided relaxations for children in the form of an animated picture book. They’re designed to help build children’s skills in self soothing, stress management and good values – but I also hope parents and teachers who read these to children will get something out of it themselves.
I’ve been lucky enough to tap into an incredible pool of talented animators in Australia and had the privilege of working with two amazing female animators on my first three guided relaxations – The Whale Storeo, The Dog Storeo and The Bird Storeo.
I have a lot of other stories in the pipeline. I hope to work with a speech pathologist on a Storeo that can help children who experience language delays. Similarly, I’d love to work with an optometrist on a Storeo that identifies early signs of vision impairment.
I’ve also designed colouring foldouts to encourage active relaxation, which are used in some high schools and available at Matcha Mylkbar.
I’m hoping to find someone who can help me on the business, marketing and administrative side of things soon – as well as any other animators! Ideally, I’d love to work with someone who has children because that’s a mindset I can’t replicate having none of my own.
While Duck Rabbit Press is my passion project, I’m now a practicing psychologist and I continue to use hypnosis in my therapy. Just yesterday I was working with someone who was trying to channel creativity and another who wants to quit smoking.
When you have a great session with a client and you can see results, there’s no better job. I love sitting in a room with someone, having a really meaningful conversation and hearing about their stories. It’s my favourite thing.”
Photography: Amy Christian