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Incidental blacksmith beats solitude of deafness to forge a life full of social connection

Like the knives forged in a backyard full of self-belief, Barnaby Lund’s process of starting from scratch to cultivate a perfect outcome echoes his journey through life. 

Taking to the tools with self-confidence and a steely determination to succeed, Barnaby’s lived experience of deafness provided the spark which lit the fuse on securing his social connection and happiness through being a blacksmith. 

While finding his way into the forgotten art was incidental, Barnaby’s kicking of serious goals have been anything but, leading him from a life of isolation through lived experience of deafness to family man and seasoned knifemaker
and blacksmith, in a turnaround which sometimes he even finds hard to believe. 

“I have complete deafness in right ear, about half in left ear and use hearing aid and lip read. As a young adult, I found myself living alone for six years, and that was one of the most difficult times of my life,” he said. 

“I was spending way too much time alone, but when I started blacksmithing, it was about meeting other people and sharing experiences. That was a galvanising effect, and I was a bit surprised about how it all snowballed.” 

Before snowballing into social connection and happiness, Barnaby’s story of isolation and loneliness wonderfully captured in Feros Care and Screenworks’ second season of Fearless Films, is one all too common
for about half of the population with disability, who say they are lonely. 

With about one in four feeling lonely every day and battling stigmas and barriers, the effects of things many of us take for granted such as accessible transport, financial support and social opportunities can cause chronic loneliness
for people with disability, leading to isolation taking hold. 

A lack of understanding and awareness of disability is also a significant obstacle in the way of making connections and forming friendships, as is the “exhausting” frustration of an invisible disability such as deafness, which is
a fact Barnaby knows about all too well. 

“Because I lip read, there is concentration fatigue associated. Sometimes you might be quite fresh and follow things, but invariably you’re quite mentally exhausted,” Barnaby said of his experiences in public. 

“There’s a constant kind of anxiety of what’s happening around you. You develop a hyper awareness visually of what’s happening because you can’t really hear, so I often found myself slipping back into that solitary mode.” 

Finding a way to overcome barriers and thrive can be through interests or hobbies, while mutual understanding and an unwavering support can also be a key aspect in living your best life. 

While there’s Barnaby the blacksmith, there’s also Barnaby the family man, who found his place alongside a wife who shares the same lived experience. 

“My partner is also deaf, so we use AUSLAN and we’re verbal as well. The deafness is a big part of our lives,” Barnaby said. 

“We are currently expecting a third child, so anytime now, we’ll have another baby.” 

Looking back on his journey from lonely and isolated to father and socially connected and content, Barnaby sometimes takes a breath to say ‘how did I get here?’. 

But get there he did and not only did Barnaby take the next step in founding Northern Rivers Knife Makers and Blacksmiths Group on Facebook, but he has also become a talented man on the tools in the process. 

Describing Barnaby as not only progressing perfectly with his craftmanship, Mark from Bentley Forge welding where Barnaby makes the magic happen said his progress as a person has also been impressive. 

“He gets in and wants to learn all the time… he wants more knowledge and he’s a hard worker who’s willing to have a go at anything,” Mark said. 

“He has got a lot of respect for people, and there’s not much better than that in my eyes.” 

Fittingly, smashing his goals and beating isolation to become social and connected is reflected in Barnaby’s ability to engage others, and particularly Mark. 

“Mark has been able to pass on a lot of knowledge and has become a really good friend as well,” Barnaby said. 

While everyone’s experiences are different, Barnaby encouraged anyone with disability to find an interest and seek out those who share the same passion to find their happy place in a public setting. 

“When I’d meet new people in new settings and battling the ambience in the room, it takes time to understand what someone is saying if you’re not used to their voice and mannerisms,” he said. 

“The way I got around that is to meet people through shared interests and that breaks the ice, not just for me, but for others also looking for that social contact. 

“For me it was around self-confidence, and it’s gone from a real solitary thing to a much more sharing culture.” 

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