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The best things in life are ‘free chats’

News story

Curtin University Commerce student, Naomi Henn, has developed a social initiative that challenges perfect strangers to pull up a chair and have a good old fashioned one-to-one.

Curtin Commerce student Naomi Henn having a 'free chat' with a family.

Free Chats – a moving & humorous social test comprises a mobile café-style setting featuring Ms Henn and a spare chair opposite. Passers-by are welcome to engage in interesting conversation, tell a few jokes and play a board game or two.

“I wanted to show that Australia is full of people out there who are willing to talk, who will listen, give you a smile and make your day even for a moment”, Henn explains.

Inspired by a concept out of the US entitled Date While You Wait, Henn adapted the idea to focus on communication and community, ensuring that people from all walks of life have the opportunity to be heard, listen to others and have a sense of belonging.

“I think some people are out of touch with themselves and lack a sense of belonging”, Henn reflects.

“I wanted to get out there and get something done to make people feel more welcome in their community.”

Since the launch, Henn admits that she herself has learned more about the value of active listening and the importance of sharing stories and has even incorporated psychology and public health units into her commerce degree.

“It’s important to develop your commercial skills and these can complement your other skills by increasing your understanding of commercial activity. Having the mix of commerce, entertainment and psychology allows me to bring a unique skill set.”

The initiative, which launched with limited promotion and less than a handful of sporadic pop-up events in Perth and Fremantle, quickly gained momentum. Events were heavily attended by a range of people from parents with their young children to AFL fans and members of the local police force. The impact on social media was equally impressive.

“Without any PR we got 1,000 views on day one and 3,000 views in the first couple of days on both YouTube and Facebook,” Henn says.

Curtin University has agreed to host a number of the events which have been tailored to the University community. The first of the series entitled Hello, Little Me – Part 1 takes place from 3-4 October at Curtin’s Bentley Campus, Henderson Lower Court, and features a refurbished sea container that acts as a fun and relaxing ‘cubby’ space for people of all ages. It aims to boost the level of conversation and community among staff and students alike.

To get involved, see the full list of events via the dedicated Facebook page.