Compass Ambassador, Sarah-Jane Cooper

Who are you?
I love adventure and exploring, being creative, problem solving, dreaming big and finding ways to be more in tune with the world and each other. I also work for a university where I manage a sizeable peer mentoring program and conduct social research into leadership, mentoring and student needs and experiences. I am someone who cares deeply about freedom, and the wellbeing of people and our world – this is what matters to me more than anything else.

Which region are you representing?
Wollongong/Sydney, NSW.

Tell us a little about yourself. What is an 'interesting' fact or talent that you have?
As a child, I had this morbid fascination with jumping off really high structures. I thought I was super woman and was impervious. A few broken bones and sprained muscles didn’t get in my way, I just wanted to fly. I also love solo travel adventures, playing the piano and reading.

What inspired you to become a Compass Ambassador?
I had such a wonderful and enriching time as a participant in Melbourne’s Compass 9. There’s nothing I love more than seeing the satisfaction and enthusiasm that radiates from people when they are living in alignment with their inner most purpose. Being part of this learning process and transformation was enormously uplifting and encouraging. Often, it feels like we as women give so much of ourselves to aspects of life that don’t nourish us and that leave us tired and disenchanted. Compass is an arena where you are free to take a breather, wonder, explore, and be vulnerable with other supportive and motivated women. It really is such a unique and inspiring experience to be a part of.

What do you do to support other women in your region?
Right now, not as much as I would like. In the past, I have tutored Iraqi refugees, led a young women’s wellness network, facilitated meditation workshops, and facilitated a whole range of fundraisers. I have galvanised and advised a small group of women who are seeking to have our workplace sexual assault policy updated along with the implementation of staff sexual assault training. Most of my support is in the form of one-on-one interactions with women who are hurting, stuck, or want to be more influential, but don’t know how. I enjoy using my networks and skills to help people develop sustainable action plans and to identify and go after their goals with both the tools and confidence to succeed.

In your opinion, what do the women in your region need right now?

  • To believe that they matter and that their experiences, knowledge and opinions count
  • To be able to live a life free from assault and violence. Safer communities and a wider framework of support for those who have been harmed or are at risk of being harmed
  • More flexible employment opportunities and training, especially for those who are studying, unemployed or have dependents
  • A greater voice in governance
  • Better access to health care and initiatives which provide preventative treatment

What groups are you involved with?

  • The Young Women’s Wellness Network
  • Mentoring Australia
  • Nan Tien Temple
  • Rotary
  • Keep a Child Alive
  • The Australian Sociological Association
  • South Coast Writers’ Centre
  • Illawarra Multicultural Services
  • The Wollongong Conservatorium of Music
  • Big Hearted Business

What would be your advice to someone who is thinking of registering for the Compass program?
Do it! I almost didn’t register, but I’m so glad I did. I think I would’ve really regretted not being part of it had I found out later on just how fantastic it is. When you begin Compass, drop your expectations and assumptions at the door. If it feels intimidating and scary at first, that will change. But you have to be open and brave enough to expose yourself and to let others into your world. Only then, in being your true self, will you get the most out of this program and develop the support networks and friendships that make this program so effective and enjoyable.

What were your top three moments during the program, and what did you learn?
Talking with Fabian and hearing her stories of how she became a successful business woman and learning more about her vision for the future. Hearing people share their innermost fears, achievements, and hopes and dreams for their families, their communities and the world – common ground in the face of diversity. The greatest part was realising that, even as the youngest in the group, I had managed to form close friendships and connections with many talented women who I admire, and who saw qualities in me that I hadn’t really acknowledged within myself. I learnt to not doubt myself as much, I am very capable.

What is a quality you admire in other women?
There is no one quality, rather a mixture of qualities. The ability to truly listen, to be present, and to be empathetic and kind. To do all of this while still being savvy and assertive. Being kind in nature doesn’t mean you don’t know how or when to be forthright or confident. I admire women who engage an effective balance of both and understand the importance and benefits of doing so.

Describe your most powerful leadership moment as a woman...
I honestly never thought that I would be where I am today. I came from a background where being more and doing more were considered irrational, idealistic and dangerously expensive. I’ve had many BIG moments, but the most POWERFUL are the small, seemingly insignificant moments I have with my friends and students that remind of the possibilities that await us when we are brave enough to try. It is when people say to me, 'If it wasn’t for you, I never would’ve been able to do this’, ‘thank you for caring enough to leap into action for me’ and ‘your constant joy and support is a gift’ that I know I am a good leader and I can make a difference. Those small interactions, together, are powerful beyond measure.

What do you want to achieve in the next 12 months?
I want to start writing my book, continue to build my business and website, and facilitate workshops for people looking to improve their emotional intelligence and self-awareness. I want to leap closer to my dream of time and financial freedom and get to know people who have cool stories to share. I’m also toying with the idea of hosting a local small business leadership conference… it’s all pretty exciting!

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