Behind the scenes with Rachel: Cultivating empowerment

With an educational background that includes teaching in alternative education settings coupled with a passion for youth empowerment, Rachel Hinds, Queensland State Manager brings a unique perspective to her role. In the second of our mentor in the spotlight series, we sit down with Rachel to explore her journey, her motivations, and the impact she’s making through her work at Top Blokes.

How long have you worked at Top Blokes, and what led you here?

I’ve been a part of the Top Blokes family for nearly three years now. My journey to Top Blokes started with a diverse background – I was a former teacher with experience in alternative education and a deep passion for making a positive difference. The turning point came when I had an opportunity to set up an alternative education program for disengaged male students in a challenging school environment. Witnessing these young men’s struggles and recognising the gaps in support systems motivated me to make a change. I transitioned from teaching to working at a national nonprofit, but as the organisation grew, I felt like a small cog in a machine. That’s when Top Blokes entered the picture. A LinkedIn post advertising the job led me to a conversation with the Head of Programs and Operations, and I knew in my heart that this was where I needed to be.

Why did you choose to focus on young male mental health?

There are two powerful reasons that drove me towards young male mental health. Firstly, I tragically lost my brother to suicide when I was 25. His 10-year battle with mental health issues made me acutely aware of the shortcomings of our mental health system. If my family, with all resources and access to help at our fingertips, struggled to navigate the system, how much harder would it be for others?

Secondly, being a queer woman who came out in the ‘90s, I’ve experienced firsthand the challenges of feeling different and unsupported in a school environment. I felt demonised and dismissed. No young person wants to walk through this world alone. I went from being a straight ‘A’ student to barely passing any of my exams. No one ever asked me why. When it comes to young males or young people in general, we should always ask more; Why are they falling behind? Why are they behaving this way? Why aren’t they in school? We must dig deeper.

Rachel centre with Brisbane's B105 team including Matty Acton

Rachel (centre) with Brisbane’s B105 team, including Matty Acton

How has your role at Top Blokes evolved since you started?

When I first joined Top Blokes, the role was a broad concept. For me, it was a leap of faith. Starting with a laptop and a vision, we quickly gained momentum and partnerships with schools. Over the years, our team has grown stronger, and our processes across the entire organisation have become more refined.

Today I work in areas like relationship management, fundraising, public speaking, and brand awareness. There have been so many highlights. Developing a relationship with our Lift the Load Ambassador, Matty Acton was unreal. Last year he raised $85k towards our programs. This year he is back and we’re hoping to encourage Brisbane CEOs to walk with him. We have 600 young men on our waitlist in QLD, so we really need funding to help facilitate that and support these young people.

What do you find most rewarding about your work with Top Blokes?

The most rewarding aspect of my role at Top Blokes is two-fold. Firstly, the incredible team of people I work with. Their empathy, strength, and mentorship inspire me daily. I feel blessed every day to have them in my life and doing the important work they do at Top Blokes.

Secondly, seeing our impact on young men’s lives is incredibly fulfilling. We see the challenges that arise from misconceptions about masculinity, as well as societal expectations. We think of toxic masculinity, violence, youth crime. So many of these things would be solved if we were raising young men to be engaged, supportive and happy. When you know who you are, when you are connected to your peers, community, and your education, you can change the narrative. Our work helps young males to do that in a safe, supportive space.

Can you share a memorable success story or impactful moment from your work?

One standout success story involves a young man named Chris. Struggling with school attendance, he was trapped in a cycle of avoidance due to fear of failure. Our program helped him express his emotions and communicate his feelings about his past trauma. Chris’ mum had died when he was in primary school but because that had happened several years ago, people didn’t connect the two. Today, Chris is achieving in school, building stronger connections with family and friends, and most importantly, excited about his own accomplishments. Before Top Blokes, Chris didn’t have the emotional literacy to talk about his feelings. Now, he is thriving. His teacher told us that Chris is now achieving. But the most exciting thing his teacher explained was seeing Chris excited about achieving too. We love that!

Rachel at Top Blokes Benowa graduation

Rachel (back row, second from left) at Benowa graduation

How do you envision the future of Top Blokes, and what are your aspirations for its impact?

In the next five years, I hope to see Top Blokes recognised across Australia present in every state and territory. I dream of every young man having the opportunity to experience our program, forging a positive path forward. We’re exploring ways to expand into rural and regional areas to ensure every young man has access to the support they deserve, no matter where they live or their circumstance.

What advice would you give your high school self?

I would tell my high school self that ‘it gets better’. The challenges you’re facing now are temporary, and life transforms in ways you can’t imagine. With time, you’ll discover who you are, build confidence, and find your place in the world.

When Rachel isn’t passionately leading the Queensland charge at Top Blokes, you’ll likely find her on a beach, reconnecting with a place that holds deep personal meaning. Her journey, from a teacher to young male advocate showcases the power of dedication, determination and the immense impact we can all have on a young person’s future.

If you’d like to book a chat with one of our regional coordinators to discover how Top Blokes can help your school or community organisation please reach out.