News and Media

Meet the Team: Stephen Duff

By Cal Leckenby

1. When did you first become involved with Out Doors Inc and how did it come about? 

I first got involved in 2012 or 2013. A staff member at the Mental Illness Fellowship of Victoria recommended Out Doors. Once I heard about the service, I was keen to get involved. I went on a day trip and then an overnighter before going on my first 5-day trip, which was the Mitta Mitta rafting program in 2013. It was a great experience. I remember it was quite fresh in the morning, there was a big family of red roos at the campsite, and the stars at night were incredible. It was such a positive experience meeting other people who had mental health challenges and all the staff members were incredible.  

2. What is your favourite program or thing to do at Out Doors? 

There are a few but I really enjoy the Grampians drumming program with Mo. We do some drumming in the morning and go on some beautiful walks in the afternoon. Mo creates a really great vibe and is so easygoing.

3. Where is your favourite place to visit with Out Doors?

Anywhere around the water – I love getting to a dip in the ocean. One of my favourites is the Mornington peninsula. I remember one trip we stayed in some pretty schmick accommodation. It was low-key and just nice to get away from Melbourne. We did some shopping at second-hand stores and went for some walks along the coast – it’s always nice to be near the saltwater and I love dipping my feet in the bay. 

4. Have you always enjoyed being in nature, where did your love of nature and the great Out Doors come from? 

When I was little, I was always a bit of an explorer. I would be out for hours and often miss lunch – I’d be too busy climbing trees or whatever. I got a bit side-tracked with life in my 20s and 30s – I spent 20 years up north in northern NSW and QLD. When I came back to Melbourne and got involved with Out Doors I discovered that I loved getting back into nature and being able to visit places that I wouldn’t normally go by myself. Having it staffed and surrounded by others with mental health challenges is such a great safety net. 

5. What is your favourite activity or thing to do in the Out Doors? 

Lately, I’ve loved going for walks around Fitzroy gardens and there are some great walks around the Richmond area. It’s also really beautiful around the Abbotsford Convent. I love morning walks around that area and stopping in for some lunch at the convent – days like that make me happy. 

6. If you could live anywhere in the world where would you live? 

I’ve never been outside of Australia – due to my mental health travel has always been pretty scary. Although, I would love to visit Europe and see where my ancestors came from. I’d love to check out Scotland, Norway, and Scandinavia – visit Stonehenge, Egypt, Machu Picchu, and Angkor Wat. Apart from that, living in Melbourne is pretty cool. Culturally it’s amazing. Great food, arts, culture, and most people are happy to have a chat. I find Melburnians are generally open-minded, which I really like. 

7. Tell us something that other people may not know about you? 

I played in a band when I was 18-19. We performed some gigs in St. Kilda and Abbotsford. I remember we played a year 10 formal and a birthday party, too. The band was called Homecoming – our drummer was a big U2 fan. I was the lead singer. We could never work out what genre we were but if I had to describe it, I’d say it was rock, with some blues elements, and a keyboard thrown in. We would always play our own original songs; we didn’t do any covers. 

8. What do you do when you’re having your own mental health challenges?

I try to be aware of what’s happening and bring mindfulness into it. I try my best to be gentle and flexible with myself – don’t beat myself up about anything. I’ll tell myself that I’m not having a great moment, but things are generally pretty good. I focus on what I have and try to be grateful for all the good things in my life. I also like to spend time with my subconscious and nurture it that way.  

9. What is your favourite movie? 

The Last of the Mohicans, which stars Daniel Day-Lewis. It’s based on the book and is a beautiful, emotional movie with an uplifting story and an engaging experience. I highly recommend it. 

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