Roasters Interview: Get to know Elaine from Wellness Ignitor

The Coffee Commune

Elaine Gallagher runs a mobile coffee van in Brisbane. But it’s not just any ordinary coffee van. Elaine’s “beans bus” also doubles as a mobile mental health support service for veterans and their families.

Full of energy and compassion. Elaine is a mental health advocate and she does this with one coffee – and one conversation – at a time.

A voice for mental health

Born in Myanmar, Elaine and her six siblings were raised in Australia by hard-working immigrant parents, who Elaine credits with instilling strong values within her.

Elaine joined the Australian Army and was deployed in East Timor and Bougainville. But after 13 years, she was medically discharged after being diagnosed with Stage 5 Cervical Cancer.

“I’m really glad I joined, and I’m proud of my service. But I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after serving in the military.”

Since leaving the army, Elaine has had a successful career in the mining and resource industry, and went on to study her Masters in Occupational Health & Safety.

But her passion was always mental health awareness.

“I recognised that within both my mining community, and the veterans community, that mental health was increasing,” said Elaine.

“This topic is often ignored, with many Australians not seeking help when they experience symptoms of a mental illness. This is why I am so passionate about support in our community.”

How coffee can help save lives

Elaine started her small coffee business, Wellness Ignitor, in November 2020.

“There are many veterans’ coffee businesses out there. I started this one purely out of a hobby, but also for my own mental health. My business plan is all about being a mental health advocate, and having conversations with people over a hike and a coffee.”

Elaine says it’s about making sure that everyone is able to participate in society and that no one gets left behind.

“It means empowering people to engage in the wider community. My focus now is not just veterans, but on youths, First Nations people, refugees – anybody.”

Her coffee is blended and packaged at The Coffee Commune in Bowen Hills, where she also runs her business as an In Residence member.

“Being part of The Coffee Commune basically means I am not alone. It means that there are people out there who share the same thoughts and beliefs, just like me. It means that I can count on their help if I need professional and personal advice.”

Elaine’s tips for new roasters

If you are just starting out in the coffee business, Elaine shares three pieces of advice.

1. Be true to the coffee

“Great coffee begins with ethically sourced sustainable coffee beans that are grown with love and passion.”

2. Market your brand

“Join community groups to help your brand and product stand out from the rest.”

3. Ask for help

“Look at the people who are already doing it and who are successful in what they do with love and pride. Look for mentors. The two people who have been a major influence and mentors in my life are no doubt Phillip Di Bella and my very good friend Glenn Azar. Glenn was the one who put me onto The Coffee Commune, and I have not looked back.”

What’s next for Elaine?

When she’s not roasting coffee, Elaine is teaching yoga and meditation, volunteering with veterans organisations, podcasting, running marathons or hiking around Australia.

Elaine will soon complete a Diploma in Counselling so that she can use her coffee van to counsel people outside of an office environment. She also recently completed a workshop in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST).

“Suicide is preventable, however there are still so many people dying from this. The ripple effect of someone taking their own lives is massive. It’s community wide. I want everyone to have basic suicide intervention skills, not just the experts.

“It’s important to remember that mental health issues can affect people differently, no two people are the same. That’s why professional advice and help is vital.”

If you’d like to support Elaine, you can purchase her coffee roasted beans online, where a portion of profits goes towards supporting Australian Defence Force organisations and charities.

If you need support, contact Lifeline 24/7 on 13 11 14 or visit or visit www.lifeline.org.au.

The Coffee Commune