Sunday 26th June 2022

Women of Courage Series. #73. Gillian Coutts. 116/2021.

Women of Courage Series. #73. Gillian Coutts. 116/2021.

Two years ago… I tentatively courageously launched Women of Courage series on my blog and here was what I said then:

I got this idea from attending the Newcastle Writers Festival in April 2019 and hearing the wonderful Jane Caro speak about her book Accidental Feminists. IF you ever get a chance to listen to or read Jane’s works they are very good.

What I considered after that day and in the days to come is how we women have a tendency to underplay our achievements and whatever else we are doing in our lives. I know this is changing.

This third series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here will continue to be published each Thursday into September 2021 when it will conclude.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

Introducing Gillian Coutts who told me she is ‘just 50’ so I am guessing she was born in that year which was one I know well, having become a first time Mum then too. It was recommended to me by fellow educator and Woman of Courage Tracey here that I ask Gillian to do this story for us. And here she is. Mind you, we had the odd messaging conversation before the story landed. Something very familiar to many of us. On-line learning and also working on-line. From home. I am very glad she did commit her story to email, and with her images, I know the story ahead will be of interest to many. Thank you Gillian.



What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

Until I was in my late 30s, I’d been relatively lucky in life.

I’d had an interesting corporate career, come from a great family, I’d married a good man and become an instant step mum.

I became a bio-mum when I was 38, and a year later was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Lots of people at that time would have said I was courageous about the treatment and balancing work and family, but to me I was just doing what you had to do.

There was no other choice.

But what I did next was – in hindsight – more courageous.

There’s something about those experiences that helps you see life is short, and there’s not much point in living the life others expect you to, but rather, taking the path that you want to.

This for me was about finding an alternative career.

I’d been a typical corporate ladder climber, and while I’d started out with a big heart for people and social justice, I’d ended up managing divisions of consumer goods companies which seemed to be more about making profit from people buying things that they didn’t really need.

My heart was definitely not in that.

So when my role was made redundant a few years later, I decided not to take another “job” for two years.

It was risky as I’m the primary bread winner for our family, but I knew there had to be another way.

So I stitched together a “portfolio” of things – consulting, becoming a partner in Potential Project here in Australia, board roles.

The only criteria was that I had to work with people I loved doing things I enjoyed.

I also had to say yes to opportunities if I felt scared (but not if I didn’t want to do them).  So that took courage.

The thing that really took courage though was when my friend and I started to join a folk rock band.  That was really pushing the boat out there!


How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

Joining the band is a great example of the challenges I felt all the way through the last ten years, in all the things I’ve tried.

It takes courage to dream of doing something that you’re not good at… yet.

It takes more courage to book the venue, show up and play when you know you’re still not that good… yet.

The funny thing was that when I joined the band, I thought maybe I could be one of the lead singers.

It turns out that my voice wasn’t that good.  I was relegated to be one of the back-up singers and played the keyboard, while two great young singers took the lead.

Then I wasn’t that great at the piano, and the bass player decided he’d be better at keys, so I learnt to play the bass too.

Then the lead singers left, and my friend and I looked at each other and decided we had to go for it.

So we got some singing lessons and have slowly worked our way to the front.  We all take it turns to lead now, and have great harmonies too.

It’s been a lesson for me in continuing to turn up, even if you’re not perfect.

It’s taught me an enormous amount about performing in all aspects of life.

If you are content in yourself, and not too precious about how others see you, you can help other people have a really great time.

Even if you’re not the next person likely to win Australia’s Got Talent!


Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

Letting go of the need to be perfect is so liberating!

It is also infectious.

People have loved coming to see us perform because they can feel free to sing along and just have a good time.

Many have come to tell us that they’ve also been inspired to pursue their own “not yet perfect…” kind of project and share their pride with us.


Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

I think I’ve realised that what is most entertaining and engaging is when you as a performer are engaged, present and having fun yourself.

Sure, you need a base level of talent to not completely embarrass yourself, but fully committing to the present moment is a joyful feat in itself.

It’s rare and people appreciate it.

I’ve had to give a lot of talks and run programs for leaders all over the world now where I would have previously (and still sometimes do) have a massive imposter syndrome moment.

And then I remember that’s human, I know my stuff well enough and just commit to the moment.  And 99% of the time that’s more than enough.


Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

When it comes to pursuing your dreams, think less about how others will see you, and more about what you want to do for others.

Compassion is an amazing catalyst for courage.


Thank you so much. Living life to the fullest with all its ups and downs yet finding a balance between work and family AND being yourself.


Social Media Connections for Gillian.


 Twitter: @GillianTPP




Book: One Second Ahead – Enhance your performance at work with mindfulness

Joining with Natalie here for Weekend Coffee Share.

Copyright © 2021 – All rights reserved.



  1. Wow!! Talk about changing horses midstream!! Cannot imagine going from corporate ladder climber to singing in a band. But that definitely sounds like much more fun. You are so inspirational. Just like my friend Denyse.

    This statement really resonated with me: “I was just doing what you had to do. There was no other choice.” Spoken like a truly courageous woman. Rise above. Do what you have to do. I have had times in my life where I’ve just had to suck it up and do what it takes to get through and move on.

    Thank you both for sharing your uplifting stories with us.

    P.S. Denyse is the decoration on the side margins of your blog one of your index card designs? I just love it!!

    • Oh you make me smile from ear to ear with your kind and lovely words Leslie.

      I know Gillian is a very busy woman and it’s been interesting to ‘track her down’ even to get to the blog post…because “life”…in lockdown here families like Gillian’s are balancing working from home and their children now on school holidays…we will “get there” as they say but it’s been pretty full on.

      Your compliments about my art are very kind. This pattern is from one of my A4 art journal pages and after the paint had dried I can back and drew my mandalas. It’s taken me years of running this blog to know I could change the background patterns…now I do it much more frequently.

      I do hope you are enjoying your choice to move from ‘work’ to not work…because although it takes a lot of time to adjust, it becomes worth it. I get to play and make art!!

      Warmest wishes


    • Gillian has replied to you below here, Leslie!


  2. Leslie, thank you so much for your kind words! I think courage knows courage! If someone had shown me a crystal ball 12 years ago and said life might unfold like it has I would have laughed, and said not in a million years. But here we are! I think I also would have shot anyone that might say I’d eventually feel grateful for the experience of cancer. While I would never wish it on anyone, it was absolutely the kick in the pants that I needed. Not in a smiley positive way but in a turn me inside out and toss me around the room 1000 times kind of way. But it’s in the muck the lotus flowers!

    Denyse is so inspiring – and all of the stories of women here.

  3. Oh wow; that is wonderful! I am trying to give up that perfectionist side of myself as well because it is pretty freeing and much more fun to just “be” and say yes. A lesson I am trying to teach my kids who come by their perfectionism quite naturally too. There is way to much stress in trying to do everything perfectly. I bet their band is so much fun to listen to!

    • I think you are doing pretty darned well as this from your posts and updates Joanne!

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on Gillian’s post.


    • Ahhh recovering perfectionistas – there are many of us! Thank you Joanne for sharing your intention too – writing it “out aloud” matters I reckon. And how awesome your kids have a mum that is thoughtful about not buying in to the myth of perfection too, and show them alternatives. It does seem to come hard wired into some beings more than others? Go well during this crazy time.

  4. Thank you Gillian for sharing your stories with us. Nothing like a health scare to bring what’s important into focus. Kudos to you for adapting to changes and following your dreams. I hope you’re enjoying life and having a lot of fun with music and your band. Thank you Denyse for introducing Gillian and linking up with #Weekendcoffeeshare.

    • Ah yes, the great change-maker called health and health challenges which I know we both know only too well.

      Yes, to the taking the opportunities to change as Gillian did too.

      Thanks so much Natalie.


    • Hi Natalie, thank you! Much more fun and emotional freedom now, that’s for sure. There’s something about treating everything as an experiment that frees up the soul. Much easier to start, and totally ok to end if it’s no longer of service…

      Wishing you a restorative Sunday. 🙂

  5. Denyse, how wonderful that you’ve interviewed Gill. A great choice for this series and I do love finding out more of someone I’ve know since we were at school together. Gill’s strength and convictions have been so inspiring – there’s a great alignment with you, and a good subject for you, too. Really great!

    • Oh how good is the less than 6 degrees of separation we call social media Helen!

      I am glad you got to see the story and extra pleased you left a comment here. Gold for bloggers!

      Thank you so much too for coming onto the blog to share this with us too.


    • Bless you Helen! I love how our worlds can interconnect. And you’ve been on your own brave journey too. Bug virtual hug to you!

  6. Hi Denyse & Gillian,

    What a great testimony !

    Gillian, you cut a path that I bet has already inspired many, not to follow but to create paths of their own.

    Denyse already knows that my mom dealth with breast cancer when I was very young and she was only 22-23 back in 1962 and the treatments were gruesome, but she lived to raise us and easily would have qualified as a woman of courage and served as a great role-model of living this kind of life.

    You and her would have been fast friends as she did some local corporate work as well and pursued several, but not all, of her dreams.

    Thanks for a great read.

  7. Thanks Denyse for sharing Gillian’s story and thanks to Gillian for being so bold! I loved reading your story and it says so much about how we strive for perfection, when it’s simply not necessary! My word of the year is bold and your story shows how being bold can become infectious and fun and life changing, it was so good to meet you here and hear about your courageousness. Thanks again to you both for being such Women of Courage.

    • Thanks so much Debbie. Yes lots here for us to take in about Gillian’s life to date and how we, humans all of us, can shift and change to make the life we want and need even more fulfilling.

      I see this in you…in spades!!


  8. I love this. Reading this is a reminder for me to gather courage and do what I’ve been mulling about doing even though it’ll be hard!

    • Yes, indeed, you most likely need to do …whatever it is that IS hard because ….*you can fill in the rest”.

      Thank you Sanch.