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Helen Lynn and the Origins of BRAVE | Podcast and Transcript

The BRAVE podcast series is a Townsville Community Information Centre initiative that aims to share the inspiring stories of ordinary people from our local community.

In this first episode, our host, Teresa Hudson, talks to her colleague Helen Lynn about the origins of the podcast, Helen’s history as a former business owner, and Teresa’s own diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. Listen via the player or read the full transcript of the conversation below. Subscribe to BRAVE on Spotify here. The series is also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and iHeartRadio.


Teresa Hudson  00:37

Welcome to BRAVE. My name is Teresa, and I’m the Co-ordinator at the Community Information Centre in Townsville. I was really excited to start recording our first podcast. Helen was very nervous, and you might hear that. Helen talks about having to close her cafe, while I talk about being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Saying our story out aloud made our voices quiver, but drawing upon what got us through it was pretty inspirational. We hope that this series inspires you as well. The Community Information Centre acknowledges and pays respects to the Wulgurukaba and Bindal people, the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet for this podcast today. Hello.

Helen Lynn  01:28

Hi.

Teresa Hudson  01:29

Welcome. I’m here with Helen Lynn, our Information Officer at the Community Information Centre. Welcome.

Helen Lynn  01:37

Thank you very much.

Teresa Hudson  01:38

This is our first time sitting down in front of a microphone.

Helen Lynn  01:43

And I’m feeling very brave.

Teresa Hudson  01:45

You are. You are. So, I wanted to chat about our new project, which is our new podcast series. But I think it’s really important that we can talk about what has led us here today. And I feel like you were a part of that because we had a conversation halfway through last year about this man that used to sit out the front of the CIC on a daily basis with his duffel bag and read his novel.

Helen Lynn  02:12

I mean, there’s lots of people that walk along Flinders Street, and you kind of look at them and think, ‘What’s their story?’ And for that guy, it was really like, ‘What is his story? What’s his backstory?’

Teresa Hudson  02:24

Yeah. And I think it was this one day, we both looked at each other straight away and said, ‘What is his story?’

Helen Lynn  02:29

Yeah.

Teresa Hudson  02:30

He just quietly sits there and reads novel after novel after novel, and at the end of the day, he picks up his duffel bag-

Helen Lynn  02:37

And wanders off.

Teresa Hudson  02:38

And he wanders off. And every day, we kept saying, ‘Who is he? What is his story?’ So from that, because we kept talking about how can we be on a platform like Instagram?

Helen Lynn  02:50

We had to kind of really rethink how we could use Instagram because the information that we provide on a daily basis to people is really dry, like, you know.

Teresa Hudson  02:58

Well, it hasn’t got fairy floss and candy wrapped around it.

Helen Lynn  03:01

So what we thought was we need to share people’s stories. We need people to know Townsville, and part of knowing Townsville is knowing the people in Townsville.

Teresa Hudson  03:10

And we both assumed that we weren’t the only sticky beaks within the community that wanted to know what people stories are, like, Who are they? What do they do? What is that? And why is that there?

Helen Lynn  03:21

For sure. There’s people watchers everywhere. Like, you know, who doesn’t sit down at an outside cafe and watch people walk past and wonder…

Teresa Hudson  03:29

Yeah, but I still keep coming back to ‘What’s your story?’ What have you been through, and the sticky beak part of me really loves hearing people’s stories where they’ve been through struggles and then can come out on the other side and stand there and proudly talk about what they’ve been through. And they can still smile about it now and look back on it and go, ‘that was really crappy, but look at me go now.’

Helen Lynn  03:56

When things are tough, yeah.

Teresa Hudson  03:58

Yeah, and I think we know that our community is a pretty strong, resilient community. We’ve had to be, and I think listening to those people’s stories helps strengthen other people.

Helen Lynn  04:09

I think in Townsville—and probably other places as well, but I guess we can only talk about Townsville and particularly in the last couple of years—that old saying that, you know, when the tough… when it gets, when times get tough, the tough get going.

Teresa Hudson  04:23

Yeah.

Helen Lynn  04:23

And like, the support that Townsville people give each other in those tough times is remarkable. You really see the good stuff come out in people.

Teresa Hudson  04:35

You do. That’s right. And I think we don’t want to lose those stories. They can be told forever and a day. So, I’m really excited about this project, and I am excited that our thought of the man with a duffel bag has grown into something, and we still don’t know that man.

Helen Lynn  04:55

We don’t even know his name.

Teresa Hudson  04:56

We don’t know his name, and so maybe by the end of all of these series, maybe we should try and find him and find out what his story is.

Helen Lynn  05:05

That would be nice to finish off with something like that.

Teresa Hudson  05:08

So, what’s your story?

Helen Lynn  05:13

How long have you got? There was always a little dream in the back of my head to have… I always wanted a cafe and bookshop. The bookshop never happened, but I had a little cafe for nine years. And that was tough.

Teresa Hudson  05:25

That was the Colonial Cafe?

Helen Lynn  05:26

Yeah. Colonial Cafe. Yeah. That was a huge learning curve. So that was, yeah, I kind of look back at it now and I feel like I’m only just starting to get my life back still from that. The first month I was there, I thought, ‘What the hell have I done?’ Because I bought it in October—towards the end of October—and within two weeks after, it was Melbourne Cup day, and everything shut down. So, on Melbourne Cup day that first year, I didn’t even cover wages for the day. I guess the hard bit is because you’re spending so much time and effort on the business that it really puts a strain on your personal relationships. You lose contact with people. You actually start to lose your village a little bit. You know, I still had family around me, but they can’t help me with with what was happening. It was a struggle. And you know, my relationship with my partner I think really suffered during that time. He was a rock. He was amazing, but, again, he couldn’t help me with the business bit. He could support me and prop me up when I needed to be propped up. But yeah, our relationship was really… It wasn’t rocky; it was still solid, but it just was floating. Like it wasn’t really going anywhere, you know, that sort of thing. So, there’s all sorts of bits. And it’s long term. It’s tiny bits that build up over time that you can’t kind of go, ‘Well, this was a hardship.’ The whole bloody lot was a hardship. Living the dream is hard work.

Teresa Hudson  07:16

Yeah. So, a small business.

Helen Lynn  07:19

Small business, like people talk about, you know, you do it for the lifestyle. It’s like, yeah, the lifestyle’s… really, it’s seven day a week work.

Teresa Hudson  07:28

Yeah.

Helen Lynn  07:28

And you know, you sort of put everything into it. I loved it. I loved all the separate parts of it. And it’s amazing. It’s a really privileged position that you’re in when you’re making people’s coffee every day. You have your regulars come in every day, every morning, they come in and get their coffee, so you know their order. You talk to them. I remember working with a woman years ago who was doing her thesis on the relationships that you have with a barista, which sounds really weird, but when I experienced it, it really made sense because you are in a really privileged position. These people give you pieces of information about them and their life every day, but they don’t realise how much information they’re giving you. So, you end up with this story about a person. You know this person. You know their story. You know their ups and downs.

Teresa Hudson  08:06

You’re not just making their coffee.

Helen Lynn  08:11

No, you get a lot. When you’re making their coffee, you get a lot from them.

Teresa Hudson  08:28

And I think that’s a lot with your small businesses. It’s that relationship piece you have with the business when you go in to engage in their services, whether it’s getting your coffee, getting your hair cut, or buying their small goods that you purchase from them, you build a relationship with that person.

Helen Lynn  08:53

You do, and I always said to the staff that worked with me that our aim was basically to make people smile. So, if people came in, by the the time that they were leaving, I wanted them to feel like they were coming to a friend’s house for lunch or for coffee, so that by the end of it they left happy. Most of the time we got there, but you know… I guess being across the road from a hospital, we saw a lot of people who were grieving. We saw a lot of different things.

Teresa Hudson  09:25

No-one’s at a hospital because they want to be.

Helen Lynn  09:27

No. So, yeah, there’s different things. So, we were able to give some support that way as well for different people.

Teresa Hudson  09:32

It was an outlet.

Helen Lynn  09:33

Yeah. One of the things that I remember early on when I had the cafe was that we had a couple of regulars that came in every morning and had breakfast. It was only a very small space, but they would sit at different tables, but between all of us, we would just have these big conversations in the morning and talk about different… And there were people from really different backgrounds, but it was like a space where they could actually just chat with a stranger and feel really comfortable doing that. And then there were people that called in once or twice, and then there were people that became regulars. It ended up like this nice little community in the morning. I knew the names of everybody that came in. And yeah, so that they got to know each other and friendships formed. That was really nice to be part of.

Teresa Hudson  10:25

So it’s not just making a coffee.

Helen Lynn  10:28

No, gosh.

Teresa Hudson  10:28

And that’s what our small businesses… They’ve got stories that are going on behind their doors and what’s going on for them personally, but then they’re also dealing with a lot and supporting a lot of their clients.

Helen Lynn  10:38

Absolutely, yeah. And then you’ve got the staff as well, who’ve got their own stories.

Teresa Hudson  10:42

That’s a whole other onion layer on top.

Helen Lynn  10:48

I mean, it’s, I guess, yes, it’s more than about managing staff though. Those people are also part of this community and have their own lives and have their own stories and have their own hardships, or, you know, being able to share their their good times with people.

Teresa Hudson  11:06

My children used to do tutoring, and when I’d take one to tutoring in the morning, I’d go and have coffee and this little coffee shop. But after a couple of weeks of constantly going there, the girl got to know my coffee order, and then she knew my name. I’d walk in and she would say straight away and say my name and for me that just felt so welcoming. And I felt like, ‘Oh my god, she knows my name and she knows my order.’ I felt so connected, but then it also made me feel that I belonged there. And then I felt a hell of a lot more welcome going back there because then it was my place. That was my space. You’re not just serving coffee.

Helen Lynn  11:46

No. There’s lots of layers to it. And there’s stuff that you give to it and there’s stuff that you get from it. Yeah, and when I closed, people would say, ‘Do you miss it?’ And it’s like, ‘I miss parts of it.’ I miss the different elements of it. I miss the people that I got to know. Some people have become my friends, but there’s other people that, as you say, like people walk in and they recognise me or I recognise them, and I know them by their coffee order. I can still remember people’s coffee orders.

Teresa Hudson  11:53

There’s so much more that we get out of our business.

Helen Lynn  12:19

With some people, that’s how you know them. It’s like it’s double latte man coming in, you know. That’s how you know them. But yeah, so that’s the bits that I miss is those connections with the people that used to come in. When I did close, the reaction from the people who used to come in to me… The last week, I had lots of visitors, like people that came out of their way to say goodbye and that sort of stuff, which was really nice. And people coming in with stories like the lady from Ayr, who used to bring her mother up to visit the doctor. It was the place that she brought her mum and her mum had since passed away and that sort of thing, and like she was crying in my coffee shop because it was a memory for her.

Teresa Hudson  12:37

That was her place. That was her special place.

Helen Lynn  13:14

Yeah, it was a memory for her. And even though she didn’t come in so much anymore, it was not going to be there anymore. That sort of thing. So yeah, it’s those sort of special stuff, special times and special memories of people and for people that made it… The ending was really…

Teresa Hudson  13:36

It was closure for more people than just yourself.

Helen Lynn  13:38

Absolutely. Yeah. People kind of came in to say goodbye to me but also to the place. It was a pretty hard last day.

Teresa Hudson  13:47

It would have been.

Helen Lynn  13:48

It was a lovely last day, but it was also very emotional and draining.

Teresa Hudson  13:53

Yeah, that would have been because that was ten years?

Helen Lynn  13:56

Nine years.

Teresa Hudson  13:56

Nine years into that?

Helen Lynn  13:59

Yeah. And then to walk away is like, that’s really hard. Yeah. And your head’s still in that space.

Teresa Hudson  14:06

So that first Melbourne Cup day and then it floated on. At any point then you could have went, ‘Nah, I’m out. I’m done.’ But you kept going.

Helen Lynn  14:13

Oh yeah. I always felt there were things I still wanted to do, you know, and I never quite got to the point—even at the end—I never quite got to, ‘Okay, I’m done.’ There was always unfinished business and at the end… So, the end of the business basically came about, there was a whole lot of different things that sort of came to a crux at the same time. I had a real estate that didn’t want to negotiate a new lease. There was works happening over at the hospital that really impacted on the income that was coming into the cafe; like, we’d lost a third of our income basically in a couple of months, like it had just dropped. And I’d been there nine years; I was tired. I was really tired. And because I didn’t have a lease, I didn’t really have a business to sell. So, in the end, it was a tough decision, but it was the right one. I’ve tried to live my little dream that I had of a romantic little dream of a coffee shop and, you know, being all nice. Yeah, no one tells you the reality. So yeah, I feel like I’ve come back, and now I guess the experience that I have with the business has given me a different perspective. I look at things slightly differently.

Teresa Hudson  15:45

And then you had a break for a couple of years, and then you rocked on in to the CIC.

Helen Lynn  15:49

Yeah. I had another year where I worked in a different cafe. Then they closed down as well. At the end of that, I thought, ‘Maybe it’s time to give it away and go back to community.’ So yeah, I lucked out. I had worked with the Community Information Centre when was at the Council, and had always kind of thought that I would love to have some place within the Community Information Centre, so yeah, I think I lucked out really. I met Teresa once and… I don’t know like… We both kind of went, ‘Yeah, I don’t think that went well.’ I was trying to be really cool and casual, and she was like, ‘Who the hell is this person?’

Teresa Hudson  16:41

No, it didn’t, and I went back and I was like, ‘No. No. I need someone who’s ready to help me drive this beast and what we can do in the community.’ And you just didn’t…

Helen Lynn  16:55

Obviously, that didn’t come across to start with.

Teresa Hudson  16:56

No, no. You were cool, calm, and collected. And I wanted someone who had a fire up their bum and wanted to go, but I’m so glad that I was told, ‘No, no, no, you’re gonna give this a go.’ And I was like, ‘Okay,’ and then I’m so glad I did

Helen Lynn  17:12

Oh, thanks.

Teresa Hudson  17:14

Because you really held back that day. Thank god you’re here because you do have that fire up your bum and that heart in your community and the importance of it.

Helen Lynn  17:27

Even though I keep coming to you with ideas.

Teresa Hudson  17:29

I know! Just as we were walking in here today and I’m briefing you on what we’re gonna sit down, you’re ‘but I’ve got another idea.’ Okay.

Helen Lynn  17:40

None of it costs money.

Teresa Hudson  17:40

‘And none of it costs money. Just our time.’

Helen Lynn  17:42

Yeah. Yeah, that’s right.

Teresa Hudson  17:43

So that’s what I mean. You keep going and going. Community’s in your heart.

Helen Lynn  17:47

It is. It is. Yeah. So, I feel like I’ve come home, really. I’m still passionate about community and about Townsville. You know, this is an amazing place.

Teresa Hudson  17:59

I think it’s amazing, too. There is so much available in our community, and a lot of it are hidden little gems. That’s our job: to try and help shine the light on them. But I just think we’re so rich in support and services and access and so many different opportunities, but you have to go looking for them. They can’t all come knocking on your door. You need to get out there and look, and the biggest thing about that is networking.

Helen Lynn  18:32

And I think sometimes people don’t know that they need something until they need it.

Teresa Hudson  18:38

Correct.

Helen Lynn  18:38

You know, they don’t need to know it’s there until they’re in a crisis.

Teresa Hudson  18:43

That’s right. And sometimes when they know they need that, by that stage, it’s an onion that has multiple layers, and they need multiple avenues of support. And that’s okay because they’re there, but… yeah.

Helen Lynn  18:56

Yeah, but they need to know where to go to start with.

Teresa Hudson  18:59

That’s right. Yeah. Thank you. It wasn’t that bad.

Helen Lynn  19:05

So, what about you… What about your story?

Teresa Hudson  19:07

What about my story?

Helen Lynn  19:11

We’ve got another small town girl on this side. We’ve kind of come from opposite ends of…

Teresa Hudson  19:13

Of Townsville. Yeah. I’m on the other side, from the Burdekin. My dad was most disgruntled the day that I told him we were moving to Townsville and moving out of the Burdekin. He was overseas on a holiday, and that was the safe place and safe time for me to tell him.

Helen Lynn  19:17

Chicken. You big chicken.

Teresa Hudson  19:35

Yeah, totally chicken. So, we packed up and literally moved up to Townsville before they got back in the country. Because it was like, ‘You stay. You’re not to leave.’ So, I ruined his holiday. My husband worked at Queensland Nickel; that’s why we moved to Townsville. He absolutely loved it. The community out there and the workplace out there was a really good workplace.

Helen Lynn  20:02

So that would have been really difficult, when that all went pear-shaped.

Teresa Hudson  20:04

When that had to close down? That was horrendous. That was really, really bad. It was a really tight-knit community workplace. I haven’t experienced something like that since for him—or for me. That closing down was really traumatic for us and for all of the workers there. It was hard on a lot of people, but the workers rallied around each other, and still, now, five or six years on, we still have twice a year catch ups with a lot of them. We all come together and all keep in close contact. The online community still support each other. That’s just how we roll.

Helen Lynn  20:40

I used to have some regulars that came into the cafe that had been made redundant from Queensland Nickel, and they used to catch up once a month in their team—and still do.

Teresa Hudson  20:55

Yeah, at Stockland some of them still catch up once a month, which is so good to see. So yeah, he was made redundant, my husband, and then four days later, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, so that was pretty crappy. I’d already had an attack the previous year, but with MS you’re not formally diagnosed until you have a second attack.

Helen Lynn  21:18

Did you know then? Did you know with that second attack that’s what it was?

Teresa Hudson  21:22

Yeah, I knew that second attack was coming because I was in not a good way. I was in a fair bit of pain and fatigued and not very well and it wasn’t too pleasant. So, we just had to wait until I got to my neuro to officially stamp me with MS, never to be released. That was on March the 16th. And then I kind of parked that because we were too busy dealing with my husband. And a month later my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD and ASD.

Helen Lynn  22:01

Wow. Way to pile it on. Talking about onions.

Teresa Hudson  22:02

Yeah, yeah. I know, right? And I was actually in Brisbane for a conference in a taxi, and the paediatrician phoned me and said, ‘We’ve just got the test results through and all the assessment results and confirmed it.’ So, I’m sitting in a taxi with four other women who were complete strangers listening to my paediatrician tell me about my daughter. So, choke that down and keep it together, Teresa, and let’s just move on, and you can pick it up when you get home and deal with it then. So, we did that.  For me, community is paramount in making sure you tap into your supports and your services because, god, I could not have survived on my own. And, for me, community was about the supports and services in terms of OT and speech and counselling and then upskilling my husband to get another job, but then my neighbours, my friends, family, like… You just can’t get through. Because my husband had to move away for work suddenly, so all of a sudden, I was diagnosed with MS, on my own with three kids, I was in a new job. It was just like paddle, paddle, paddle. And I have a couple of close friends who I could not have got through it without them.

Helen Lynn  23:24

It’s kind of like the iceberg, you would have been the little tip showing, but underneath, there’s a lot going on.

Teresa Hudson  23:31

I was paddling. So, we paddled through that for a year. About a year later, I sat on my counsellor’s couch – which I totally rate counselling because that was my outlet. That was my one place I could go to without being judged, and it was all about me – and I sat on her couch and I said, ‘Righto, I’m happy to talk about MS now and me.’ And she went, ‘Oh, okay… Yeah… Okay.’ And I was like, ‘Yep, this session is about me.’ Because prior to that, it was about how do I survive in my family and support my family? So, it was 12 months before I picked up and started dealing with MS.

Helen Lynn  24:06

It’s interesting though, that you… I guess that’s one of those qualities that lets us deal with lots of different things is that ability to compartmentalise parts of your life. Like, I can deal with this now; I can deal with that later.

Teresa Hudson  24:19

Yeah, I’ll park this for now and then… Yeah, because by that stage, my husband had a new job and the kids were sorted. They were getting their supports at school and outside of school and they were in a good place,  so now it was about me. That was four or five years ago, but now, everyone’s sorted now. I changed jobs because it was too… I loved my job. I was a director of a childcare centre, and again, supported so many families and staff through so much things they were going through in their life. I loved being able to connect people to services and just being tapping into it. Like, you weren’t just providing childcare to families. It’s not just, goodness me, it’s not babysitting. You really get an insight into a family’s life and what they’re going through. If you can refer them to somewhere that might just make it easier and if you can tap in and support them with one piece of information that’s available in our community, it could make a world of difference and spiral them out of something they don’t need to be spiralling in. I loved that I could be a part of that, and I could make sure that people knew that information. I knew the importance of that because of my own personal life. That’s why I’m so passionate about it. And when I fell into this job – because I was told to taper back on connecting into community so much and in helping families so much and supporting them, but I just couldn’t. That was what I was really passionate about – and this fell into my lap. Well, not fell into my lap.

Helen Lynn  24:26

It was the perfect way to be able to do that.

Teresa Hudson  25:39

Yeah. And making sure that I can connect all the community and not just family into support. That’s my story. But I’m grateful. I’m grateful for all the shitty times. I love that I’ve had shitty times, because I’ve learned from those. My children have learned from those.

Helen Lynn  26:21

That the thing, isn’t it? If you can learn from it and grow from it, then those shitty times are… It’s not that they are fabulous, but like…

Teresa Hudson  26:32

Oh, they’re shitty at the time, but I look back on it now and go, ‘I’m okay with that.’ I’m okay that that was… That’s right. And look what we did to work through that and come out the other side of it and look at us now. I’m constantly trying to teach my kids about being resilient and being independent because when you grow up, you’re going to have to face that. So, if I can’t show you what I do now and mentor and support them and guide them through that… They need to be able to grow up with those skills as well, so they need to see me cry sometimes. But they also need to see me pick myself back up and get on with stuff.

Helen Lynn  26:39

That’s made me who I am. Yeah. You’re allowed to cry for a little while, but then you need to pick yourself up by the bootstraps

Teresa Hudson  27:12

Yep. Pick yourself up and on we go and move on. Yeah.

Helen Lynn  27:18

Yeah. Then you need to start to take some action. You can’t just sit there.

Teresa Hudson  27:20

That’s right. And where do I go to do that? And for me, it was making sure I was tapped in to my community. You can’t underestimate a village. Like for me, you know, it takes a village to raise a child – it takes a village to do anything these days.

Helen Lynn  27:37

Man, I see your calendar. You’ve got a village. You live off your calendar.

Teresa Hudson  27:46

I do. Because my memory is not that great any more.

Helen Lynn  27:51

There’s so many things going on for personal and work-wise. It’s quite amazing how you fit so much into your day. And you couldn’t do that without other people supporting you.

Teresa Hudson  28:03

No, that’s right. My village is pretty cool.

Helen Lynn  28:06

Yeah.

Teresa Hudson  28:09

Cool. So I can’t wait to get into this and get started and talk to the next person and see what they can come up with.


The BRAVE Podcast is jointly funded by the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA).

This project is produced by Damien Lawardorn.