Coffee and a Chat with Priya Cooper – The Mindset of a Champion

Priya Cooper mindset of a champion
I had the opportunity to have a coffee and a chat with the inspirational Priya Cooper OAM.  Priya is one of Australia’s most celebrated swimmers.  She has won a total of 9 Gold Medals at three Paralympic Games and now runs her own inspirational speaking business with Rod, her husband. Armed with my list of many questions I enjoyed a coffee and a chat with this wonderful woman.
Priya Cooper, the mindset of a champion
Coffee and a Chat with Priya Cooper

Priya is very humble about her achievements and her contribution to Australian sport.   She brings a wealth of experience and an articulate voice to sport for people with disabilities.  Her achievements include 1999 Young Australian of the Year, competing in Barcelona in 1992, Atlanta in 1996 and then in Sydney in 2000, an Order of Australia Medal.  Plus, she is the only person I know who has met the Queen!

Priya, tell us about your mindset and how you stay focused on achieving your goals?

Having stopped swimming and moving onto other things you still have that same mindset.  As an athlete you are actually quite selfish because everything is focused on you and everyone around you focuses on getting you to do your best.   When you move out of that arena you just put that thinking into other areas.  What I have learned about myself is that I can easily go into that obsessive thinking that “this is going to work at all cost” and I can forget about balance.  I realise that balance is really important for me and I want that in my life.  At school I always wanted to do well and please the teachers.  Although I had to work hard at school I really enjoyed it.  I used to love training too, even the pain and I loved setting little goals.  I feel that the difference in getting results is more about whether you are just showing up or whether you are constantly challenging yourself to improve.

When did you realise that you could compete as a swimmer?

From a very young age I wanted to be really good at something and my Mum always had a “can do” attitude. Mum taught me to focus on what I could do rather than what I couldn’t do.  I wanted to do tap dancing, ballet and my dream was to be in the Johnny Young Talent Team.  I felt driven to find my special thing – I had to find something that I could be really good at.  I feel like I fell into swimming because that was something I could do well and be part of the school swimming squad. When I was first training I was only fourteen and the coach told me what to do and I just did it.  Being an athlete is the easiest job because you get told what to do and you just do it.  I wasn’t always in the wheelchair, that came later and I obviously had a natural ability to swim well but I definitely had an inner drive as well.

Tell us about challenges and how you overcome them.

My first challenge was being teased and realising I was different from other kids.  I was in year 9 when I started using the wheelchair and I was being coached by Frank Ponta and started playing Wheelchair Basketball. Although I felt that it was not my strongest sport, being tall helped and I did play at the state level.   The chair made it better for me to conserve my energy and getting around was a lot easier but it  did become very evident that I needed to choose between Swimming and Basketball. The wheelchair just became the way I got around and made it so much easier.  I have always had a positive attitude about my disability but the time I found really hard was when I had Olivia.  I had this baby, the chair, the pram and found it all incredibly difficult and felt quite overwhelmed.  Now I look back I wish I had just enjoyed that time more, that I had relaxed and enjoyed her instead of trying to do everything.  Another challenging time for me was about 9 months before the Sydney Games, I had a shoulder injury and had to have surgery on it.  I had moved away from home and was on my own and everything was going the wrong way. At that time, there was not a big focus on athletes mental health and I felt like I was just a machine and just needed to get fixed and back out there ready to compete in the Sydney Games.

If you become the Prime Minister of Australia what’s the first thing you will do.

 Strangely enough, I was recently approached to run for the seat of Joondalup.  I really, really considered it and my husband was encouraging me to take on the challenge.  I just felt that I would be stepping into another machine and I really want to keep a balanced life with my kids so I decided against it.

When I think about being Prime Minister, my mind goes straight to disability services and the difference I can make.  I have been called on by Government to put forward my opinion on what is needed in this sector and I feel that I offer more by contributing from an advisory capacity.

I feel I can make a bigger difference by not having an alliance to any particular political party.  If I was Prime Minister I would definitely focus on equality.  I see lots of homeless people and I would focus on making sure opportunities are available to everyone.

What boards are you currently on Priya?

 I am president of the WA Disabled Sports Association.  I am also on the board of The Ability Centre, formally known as The Cerebral Palsy Association. This is where we take our son Harry for services.  I feel I bring a lot to this board because of what I have experienced and now having Harry using their services I am able to give good feedback.

What would you describe as your highlight so far?

Having said that I found babies hard, I dreamed of being married and having kids and always wanted to be a Mum.  I have a really great husband (who even does the housework) and I have my two kids, a boy and a girl.  So I would have to say that my highlight would be having kids. Being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015 was a massive highlight.  It was Ricky Ponting, Casey Stoner and me!!!  I am also really grateful that I came into the sport when I did.  It’s so much more professional now and I could never achieve the times the girls are doing now.  I had raw talent but now the testing and training is so much more technical.

Your thoughts on body image.

 I spent my young life in sport being super conscious of my body not being “right” and now when I look back at photographs I wonder what I was thinking.  I went to a lovely school and the teachers were so good.  I really enjoyed school, it was a kind and loving experience for me. I am super conscious of making sure that my daughter has a positive attitude about her body.

How can we find out more about your Speaking Business and book you for speaking engagements?

 We believe that success really is a choice.  We have spoken at many major corporate and government conferences and events.  Rod is a dual Paralympian and is a business and life coach and a very motivating public speaker.  Rod’s story is unique and inspiring.   Our website is and our email is

Priya Cooper
Priya Cooper and Rod Bonsack – Inspiring speakers (image Success is a Choice Global)
Having heard both Priya and Rod speak at events in Perth, I would highly recommend them.  They are both very compelling speakers who engage and inspire and leave everyone understanding the power of having a dream and the determination to achieve.

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How to Become a Homestay Host for International Students

Homestay Hosting International Students
We became Homestay Hosts just over three years ago. It has been an exciting adventure and has really expanded our lives and has been a window into the lives of young women from around the world.  So far, we have hosted five young women in our home, two short stays and two who have stayed for quite a while and one young woman who has just arrived from Macau. Angela arrived from Hong Kong to study Marketing at The University of Western Australia and stayed for 18 months.  Ziye has been staying with us for over a year now, she comes from China and completed a transition course to enable her to study at the University of Western Australia.  We have also had a couple of short term Homestay visitors, Maria from Italy who came to learn English and Iris from China who decided to move in with a friend once she had settled into University.
Homestay Student Maria
Maria from Calabria

I am a Mother of three adult children and now have my first Grandchild.  Jeff and I have been married for 37 years You can read more about us here.

Why Homestay:

I was a classic “empty nester” after my own children left home.  Jeff was working seven days a week and although I run my own business from home, I felt surprisingly isolated.  When he suggested that it might be time to sell our home and downsize I decided to take action and research online how to become a Homestay Host.

Research and Concerns:

As a Homestay novice, I had lots of questions.  My main concerns were about the meals I needed to provide, security, transport and what if we didn’t get along with the student.  I was also concerned about handling payments directly with the student.  I discovered a lot of information online and most of my questions were answered on the AHN website.

My husband was reluctant at first and thought that having a stranger in our home would impinge on his privacy and limit our ability to dine out, travel or have guests over.

I filled in an online application as part of the research process as I figured that most of my questions would be answered in the first interview and we would take it from there.  It was also reassuring to discover that each placement is initially for 28 days and that each host is allocated a Supervisor who is available to help with questions.


Our Homestay Student guests have added a wonderful energy and vitality to our home. We enjoy meal times and each of the students have added their own recipes and ideas to our menu.  We have been updated on technology, discovered our own public transport system and have built some wonderful friendships.

When we decided to get started as Homestay Hosts we were very clear on the fact that the students arriving in our home would be treated just like we would want our children to be treated.  We have also found the students often ask for some help with assignments, essays and clarifying questions and luckily, Jeff comes from an education background and is able to assist them.

The students are also included in family events and celebrations.

Organising my home:

There are some basic requirements to make sure that the Homestay Students are comfortable, have privacy and can study easily.  We already had the bedrooms set up but did need to purchase desks and lamps.  We bought a couple of nice desks and chairs from Ikea and have found that the students are happy to study around the noise and action of the kitchen.

I also have a list of “House Notes”, to give the students when they arrive. These notes include information to make them feel confident and comfortable about how our home works, meals, snacks plus some details about our dog.

Meals and snacks are planned out for the week ahead and the Meal Plan for the week ahead is put on the fridge.  Although I am not completely inflexible on the plan, it does provide a good base for shopping and keeping the meals interesting and diverse.    You can download a copy of this here:

CLICK HERE to download your free Meal Planner.


Homestay Hosting and us:

I don’t believe anyone should register for Homestay Hosting if the only objective is to earn money.  Although we receive a payment for hosting, we view it as quite a privilege and a responsibility to make sure that each young woman gets the best home life away from home that we can possibly give.

The International Students that we have hosted have all been highly intelligent, well travelled young women who have high work ethic.  They come to Australia to experience another culture, so are willing to try new “taste sensations” and it’s fun to see them tasting foods that they have never had before.  It’s also great to learn about their backgrounds and traditions and meet their families.

Hosting International Students has been a great experience for us.   We have had some challenges but have always viewed these as solvable and found ways to ensure that there is harmony at all cost.

If you would like more information about Hosting international students you can contact the Australian Homestay Network


Perhaps you know someone who would find this information helpful, please feel free to share using the buttons below.

*This is not a sponsored post and although I am a current AHN host I do not receive any money for this post.  The opinions in this post are my own.

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A Story of the Settlement of Northcliffe Western Australia

Northcliffe Western Australia

Northcliffe is a tiny town situated in the South Western district of Western Australia.  It’s about 30km away from Pemberton and currently has a population of about 400 people.

This is the story of the townships beginning.

Apart from the original inhabitants of Western Australia, we are all imports and we all have unique stories of how we come to be here.

I was a child in the 1970’s when people were fleeing Vietnam and arriving by boat in Australia. It was terrifying to see television reports of rickety fishing boats filled to overflowing with desperate people arriving on our shores.

Despite the reservations of the Australian Government to accept large numbers of refugees at that time, those who did manage to receive asylum here have been a valuable addition to Australia. Just over 2,000 “Boat People” were given asylum in Australia.

It seems that not much has changed since the 1970’s – just the Country’s that people flee from and the atrocities they run from. The 24 hour news cycle replays the same stories with the undertone of fear and intolerance.

My Grandmother’s family came to Australia by boat too, but under very different circumstances.

This is their story.

Great Grandfather Joseph Cooper and Great Grandmother Annie (Goodall) Cooper lived in England. Joseph was the Manager of the United Dairy factories in Barkston, Longridge and Leigh in Lancashire.

By 1923 Joseph started hearing wonderful reports of farming opportunities in Australia. The Premier of Western Australia, Sir James Mitchell, was promoting land for dairy farming in the South West. He was establishing “The Group Settlement Scheme”. An offering to people willing to clear their own land and pay for it later. Joseph perceived it to be a very good offer, especially after seeing pictures of beautiful rolling pastures with fat grazing dairy cattle.

Great Grandmother Annie was willing to make this big move because she and her 7 children were Asthmatic and her Doctor advised that the fabulous Australian climate would be much better for them.

Although Joseph Cooper didn’t have any farming experience, he felt confident due to his background in the dairy industry. They left behind a comfortable home with hired help and had hope for a great future.

The children were aged 2 years to 16 years old and they travelled by train from Lancashire to London where they boarded a little steamship which took them out to the “Euripides” where she was anchored out in the Thames.

December 26, 1923 was the day the Euripides departed with cabins crammed with up to eight people. The men and women were separated and Annie spent the next 6 weeks suffering with seasickness so severe that the older children had to look after the little ones.

The Ship travelled through the Bay of Biscay and onto the Canary Islands where it was restocked with food. It travelled onward to Capetown where corn and coal were loaded aboard by a chanting chain gang.

The destination was Albany Western Australia.

Joseph and Annie had paid their landing fee in England so did not owe any money. They were approached by an immigration officer who offered them the chance to get an established farm. The price for this offer was a bribe. Although they had the funds to pay the bribe, it was against their principles so they refused.

The family travelled by train up to Fremantle where they were taught about the dangers of the Western Australian bush. Lightning strikes, bushfires, snakes, spiders and bull ants, how to clear the bush and how to construct their shacks.

They all stayed in Immigration House, which was accommodation that the Government repurposed from Army Barracks used in World War 1, and waited for other new settlers arriving from England who would form Group Settlement 108.

The families left Fremantle by train to travel through the bush to Pemberton. Along the way they spotted bushfires in the distance and were quite fearful of what their future would hold. Their arrival in Pemberton was late at night and in the moonlight they could see the massive trees and the thick scrub.

The next morning their luggage and boxes were loaded onto trucks for the 20 mile journey along the rough track to the Group 108 Settlement site at Northcliffe.

They arrived on March 6 1924. The men got to work immediately to build toilets out of wooden frames covered with hessian to ensure privacy. Meanwhile, the women pooled their pots and pans and kitchen utensils and amidst their tears managed to get everybody fed.

The group settlement farm blocks were allocated by lottery. Each of the twenty families drew a number from a hat to determine which location was theirs. They combined their efforts to build temporary shelters for each family to use until the group homes were built on the allotted farms. Some of the settlers waited for up to two years before their homes were built.

Life was very difficult and so harsh and many of the settlers gave up and either moved up to Perth or returned to England.

The dirt floor shack the Coopers built to live in while they waited for their house to be completed.

Joseph and Annie were the first to have their house completed because they had seven children, more than any of the other families. Joseph and the older boys set to making a shed on their property so that they could start farming as quickly as possible. They caught marron from the Gardner River, trapped rabbits and possum and even ate Kangaroo.

Annie gave birth to two more children in Northcliffe, making a family of nine children – Joseph, Alan, Gwendoline, Eva, Edith (Daisy), Arthur, Cecil, Edwin (Teddy) and Phyllis. A resilient bunch who all, apart from Phyllis and Arthur, lived well into old age. Arthur died at 17 of an illness. No autopsy was performed so they never discovered what killed Arthur.

Phyllis Cooper in Northcliffe
This is Phyllis Cooper aged about 8. She was born in Northcliffe.

I remember my Great Grandparents as jolly and loving people. My childhood was filled with stories of life in Northcliffe which my Nana (Daisy) shared with me.  She spoke of the funny things that happened, the tragedy’s, the romances and her suspicions about scandalous behaviour.

Daisy Cooper on the way to her wedding in Northcliffe
Daisy (centre) on the way to her Wedding. She was accompanied by her sisters Eva and Gwen. Daisy was 19 years old


Great Uncle Joseph (the oldest son of Joseph and Annie) wrote a self published autobiography titled “The Past is Always Present” which the  Pioneer Museum of Northcliffe recommends for anyone who is interested in researching the Northcliffe Group Settlement project.

The Group Settlement Scheme put many families through incredible hardship and many abandoned their farms in desperate circumstances. Details of the programme can be found here

Despite the hardship, the pioneer families of the Group Settlement Scheme were instrumental in the development of the dairy industry in Western Australia.

Joseph and Annie moved away from Northcliffe after their son Arthur died at the age of 17. When I was a child they lived in a house in suburban Wilson and their property backed onto the Canning River. Great Grandad Joseph had a pair of binoculars positioned in the back room at the ready to see what was happening on the river. They celebrated their 60th Wedding Anniversary and Joseph continued to grow his own vegetables into his 80’s.

They left a legacy of kind heartedness and strong work ethic along with multiple generations of Coopers in Western Australia.

It’s my hope that the descendants of Joseph and Annie can share lots of wonderful stories about these special people so that their legacy can continue.

It’s surprising simple to find out information about your ancestors.  Ancestry is currently running a 14 day free trial – Jump on here


*This page contains affiliate links.

How to Create a Wardrobe You Love

wardrobe favorite jag jeans

Back in the 1970’s, I was an aspiring model. Fashion was my focus and passion and I wanted to wear unique pieces that nobody else had. My wardrobe was filled to overflowing with clothes and shoes. The photo above was taken in Perth City in 1976 as part of a portfolio shoot and I was wearing my much loved Jag Jeans. They cost AU$50 which was mammoth back then. I believed that I could never be too thin or have too many clothes.

Everyone has been talking and writing about the Minimalism documentary this past month. It shows the ugly side of consumerism and features many approaches to living life with less. Most of which struck a chord with me. The tiny house concept – not so much. We lived in a caravan while we built our own home back in the late 1980’s. We had three little kids all under seven crammed into that little space for 10 long cold months through the wettest winter in living memory. So for me, over tiny dwellings.

Since watching, I have thought a lot about that documentary.

Particularly about Courtney Carver who spoke about Project 333 which she created along with her blog, Be More With Less, in 2010.

Project 333 was a challenge Courtney created to refine her wardrobe down to 33 items only which she wore (and photographed) for three months. You can read more about Courtney and Project 333 here.

I still love fashion and beautiful clothes. But the reality is that I have spent most of my life feeling very unhappy about clothes. Always feeling like I just need to purchase one more garment and then my wardrobe will work. At times I have felt stressed by the need to buy something new because of an event that I believed required a new dress. I have been standing in my walk in wardrobe, surrounded by clothing and feeling like I have nothing to wear. Then there is the body image issues that have plagued me. Gosh even writing about it makes me feel greedy and ungrateful.

What made me change my wardrobe thinking?

Ten months ago, my husband quit his job and began consulting on commission. This meant that we had a substantial drop in income with no guaranteed date for when he would start earning again. I made the decision right then that I would not buy any new clothes unless absolutely required.

In that ten months I have purchased one pair of shoes ($50 from Walnut online), one shawl (while travelling) and one full length dress (Sasha Drake Column Dress) which was to wear to a formal dinner plus my Mum and Dad gave me a lovely Kelly & Hunt dress for Christmas. No other clothing or shoe purchases for ten months and I have enough.

I have travelled on a Baltic Cruise and spent ten days in Hawaii. I have spoken at several events and attended quite a few business and social functions. I have also dropped 11kg in weight and I have enough clothes.

I have even had enough clothes to donate some as my weight has dropped and they no longer fit me well.

A massive mindset shift has taken place for me. I am happy with my clothes. I don’t worry about what I will wear.

My clothing collection is relatively small but it is efficient. I am no longer a victim of fashion, feeling compelled to purchase to keep up or needing to buy clothes to give me a confidence boost. I have pared down and simplified my wardrobe. I wear my favourite things – I was saving them before.

I want everything in my wardrobe to bring me joy and every garment be a pleasure to wear.

My simplified wardrobe feels lighter, happier and more kind.

Here are some great tips from Nikki Parkinson on how to edit your clothes and shoes.

Do you think you could survive with only 33 garments for the next three months?


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How to Build a Happy Life

One of the fundamentals of happiness is to be connected with other people – actual relationships, friendships.

In the digital age it’s very comfortable to remain isolated and yet we have an artificial sense of connection because of the online relationships we can cultivate. These are convenient relationships. You can switch them on and off at will. You can even feel like you are staying up to date with real friends through their online updates.

When we moved into our home eleven years ago, I was Neighbour Averse. Not very “Neighbourhood Watch” friendly. I am not a particularly introverted person, I just felt that I needed privacy and space. The home we lived in previously was surrounded by one acre of land.   I had recalibrated my personal space zone to one acre. So, when I moved into my new suburban home on a 450 square metre block of land, I felt surrounded and encroached upon by the homes which grew around me.

If I encountered a neighbour, I would smile, nod or wave but never actually engage them in conversation.

All was going along nicely until Simon and Anna moved in next door. They are a mid 30’s couple with no kids and a Doberman. It started with Simon standing on the front lawn chatting to Jeff while he played worked on his boat.

Then, a few weeks before Christmas, we received a note in our letterbox inviting us to a “Street Christmas Get Together”. Comfort zone seriously invaded.

My immediate response was to decline the invitation but Simon had told Jeff that they were going and Jeff had half committed us too. It seemed that Simon had “friended” everyone in the street. So we accepted the invitation.

It would have been easier just to decline or even ignore the note. It was just at that crazy busy time before Christmas. We had other things happening and we had to take Ziye (our Chinese student) to the airport that night.

But we went.

As I stood there watching all the neighbours meeting one another and explaining which house number they were from, I realised that we were all just as isolated as one another in our street full of people.

I thought about people who die inside their homes and the skeletal remains are discovered years later by some water service person checking to see why the bills aren’t being paid. The neighbours oblivious to the odour of death as they go about their daily business.

I just learned that the lady a few doors down had twins three years ago.  Her husband works away for weeks at a time so she was alone and struggling.  I had no idea she was there.

How easy it is, in the busyness of life or “Stranger Danger” thinking, to miss out on meeting new people and making more connections.

The couple across the street left for a New Zealand holiday and while they were away we noticed their perfect green lawn developing circular brown patches. We stretched our garden hose across the street and watered it.

Then Simon and Anna’s Doberman died and we dropped a card in their letterbox and told them how sorry we were. Simon cried.

There is a continuum from relationships with family to friends, neighbours and community to the virtue of altruism which leads to safe communities and happy people.

Connection makes us kinder.

There are some great books which have helped me a lot, here are some I recommend:

Eveyone Communicates – Few Connect by John Maxwell

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

Kelly Exeter, Perth based author and speaker has some great information on her website too along with this podcast – Community

So, I am glad I went along to our little Street Christmas Get Together.

How about you – do you know your neighbours?