For my lovely friends and followers – update on the personal and business front

You guys are all great at keeping in touch with me via PM’s on Facebook, WhatsApp and emails. I feel a tad guilty that I’ve been unable to connect with you as much as I would like and it’s been a while since I have posted here on my personal blog. So settle in for a read and I’ll share what I’ve been getting up to.

Remember a while back I talked about the decision of whether to combine the two blogs (Dragon Sisters and this one)? – jury is still out on that one. I do feel keeping sepeerate is probably better but time to do both is sometimes problematic!

So what have I been busy with?

On the personal well being side of things, I’m still dragon boating.  I’m also co-facilitating the Intro to Paddling program for the Waterfront Warriors. It’s the best bit about the sport, being able to introduce new people to it. The structured program works well and we’ve been getting excellent feedback.

Judy Smith & myself waiting to go through the lock into the harbour for a paddle

It’s great to be working in a cooperative environment where there are no egos! I’ve also been able to bring all my marketing skills and almost 18 years of dragon boat to help rebuild the club which came close to folding after the National titles earlier this year.

I am not on the committee as I feel my time for that side of stuff has been well and truly served. However, I do enjoy and feel a sense of needing to given back and be supportive of a sport that has given me so much.

You can check our my spontaneous little Facebook Live promo video below and see where we paddle.


Going paddling is what keeps me sane. I thoroughly enjoy being out on the water as it really blows away all the cobwebs. Taking out new paddlers is also a delight.

Robert, my brother is still waiting to hear about his Australian Immigration. All very frustrating and he had to gain a Certificate IV in Commercial Cookery, despite 20 plus years of experience in UK, much of that as Head Chef! He had to fly to Melbourne and do an interview with an assessor for RPL – it was an easy process, but an expensive one!

Chicken wrapped in bacon.jpg
Chef Robert

It’s lovely to have him with us, and we all get spoilt with nice meals all prepared to us. Sasha and Wayne are also enjoying getting to know their Uncle better – it’s like having 3 big kids in the house!

Janie (our old dog) is turning into a very grand old lady – many of you will remember Janie.

Janie – a faithful old friend

Her legs give out on her every so often, she can’t go for walks but loves to potter around the garden, sleep in my office when I’m in there working, or down in my room each evening. She used to get on Sasha’s bed, but can’t jump on and off anymore so has decided I’m a better bet. Molly, the young one bounces about full of energy, but knows Janie is boss.

On the business front

I’ve been thrilled that Denise Dunn from Slappa’s Thongs agreed to allow me to nominate her for the Telstra Business Women’s Awards, and I’ve just got the news today that she’s through to the next round of a face to face interview. YeeHaa! Denise was a wonderful supporter of Dragons Abreast and of Lifeline Top End during my tenure there. Winning the Award in 2004 was a big boost for me and I am hoping it will be the same for Denise – she’s winning material for sure.

Yvonne and I (Dragon Sisters) have been busy with Smarkting Workshop delivery and development. I love doing the Face to Face delivery and the next one is here in Darwin on the 31st August – Smarketing101.

We’ve broken it all down into a series of 3 that build and add to each other. Now to convert it all into a fomat that can be delivered online. This is a challenge but one that I will manage!

Always fun learning about the new technology, even if it does frustrate me at times! Biggest thing is making sure I do not disappear down a rabbit hole as I come across new stuff. I’ve also been lucky to find a really great VA to help out, and to connect with some talented individuals via Facebook groups.

Dragon Sisters has a new website coming very soon and also just started a closed Facebook Group – The SMART Circle – it’s by no means exclusive, but it is business focussed and based on the ethos of being SMART. This stands for supportive, motivational, aspirational, refreshing and talented. It’s a place where those who are like minded help each other move our businesses ahead – paying it forward. I’m thrilled to have a small, diverse and truly talented bunch of individuals in the circle. If you are in business and would like to join, just click the link and ask to join.

The editing, ghost and copywriting side of the business continue to chug along and it’s nice to have Sasha working as part of the writing bureau team.


My next project is a business retreat in November – details will be released end of August.

Well my dear friends and followers, that’s a little snapshot of where I am right now.


Michelle xx

Making a difference – by Michelle Hanton

When I talk to people about the work that Lifeline does, people often say ‘I would really like to help, but I really don’t see what I can do that would make a difference’.  It is true that when we look at the big picture of how much there is to do in the field of crisis support and suicide prevention it is very easy to become overwhelmed and think “I cannot possibly make a difference.”


However, when we chunk things into smaller pieces and everyone plays a small part it soon adds up to make a huge difference.  For instance it is volunteers who provide as little as 2 hours a month to help with the shop, answer calls on the 13 11 14  crisis line, collect and sort through donations, cut up rags for sale  and help plan events that keep us functioning. Collectively those few hours have an enormous impact on our suicide prevention and crisis support services.

Right now Lifeline Top End is in desperate need of financial help to be able to meet the ever increasing demands on our face to face counselling service.  Very few clients are in a position to pay,  so naturally the service is provided at no cost for the vast majority.

I got to thinking that maybe,  just maybe, each of our LIKERS might consider a donation of $5. Collectively we would raise sufficient funds to allow us to increase our counselling services by one extra day a week.

A $5 donation is no more than a single cup of coffee that is quickly forgotten whereas $5 donated to Lifeline helps save lives – a life is priceless!

Lifeline’s service crosses all boundaries so if you are in a position to make a donation, no matter how small (or large) it would be most appreciated.

I’m not backward in coming forward to asking for your support because the worst thing that can happen is you will ignore me but the best thing is you might decide to get on board – and that would be wonderful!

It all starts with the individual – so, if you are in a position to make a donation, volunteer, hold an event or support Lifeline in another way I would love to hear from you and/or click here to donate-  receipt (tax deductible) is also issued at the same time.


Bernard Tomic Booed…Is it un-Australian? by Maria Paterakis

Fulfill DreamsOn Tuesday night (14 Jan), a young Australian, only 21 years old, stood in front of Australia and the world’s media to face tennis’ world number one, Rafael Nadal.  Now we know that Bernard Tomic does not always make headlines for the right reasons, but that’s outside the court.  Many great tennis players have also made names for themselves off court, such as Agassi, McEnroe and Becker.  However, like them, when Tomic is on the tennis court he is living his passion, something that many of us do not have the courage to do in life. 

I didn’t get to see the match, but I was saddened when I read:

“The 21-year-old drew boos and jeers when he retired with a groin injury a set down to Nadal in their first-round match.” [1]

I thought to myself, that’s un-Australian.  No sports person makes that kind of decision lightly.  I started to wonder, is the cost of a ticket and the spectators need for entertainment more important than the health and wellbeing of our young sports people?

Here is a young man who has worked hard to stand on that court.  He has made sacrifices to be there and he has also been braver than most of us.  Every time he gets on that court he is vulnerable to the scrutiny of everyone.  Australians booing and jeering – why should young people strive for greatness in this country if that’s what they get in return?

I have a greater respect for Tomic after this incident.  He has shown maturity and most of all, the capacity for resilience.  He is a young man who:

·         has a positive view of himself and his confident about his strengths and abilities

·         is constantly moving towards his goals

·         knew how far to push his limits, and when to step out for his own safety and self-care

·         has a strong support network around him and

·         has a hopeful outlook on life.

I applaud Bernard Tomic and wish him well in his career.  He is living his dream.  As for those who booed and jeered, I hope that on reflection, applauding him would have been a better choice.  Are you living your dream too?

The Power of Words by Sasha Hanton

Far reaching words

Words.  There are so many types and synonyms. The choice of one word in place of another can completely change the meaning of a sentence or paragraph. It can also change the interpretation and effect.

Lots of people these days are reckless with their use of offensive words or use swear words for novelty. There are many words that have been used or are viewed in a negative light. There are words which have had their meanings twisted and changed.

Words can be freeing or constrictive.  If all your life people have put you down or you have used self-depreciating language you may feel stuck. Changing the words you use can be amazingly weight lifting and freeing, it helps change your outlook on life.

Some words can even be life changing – like Psychosomatic  which basically means “it’s all in your mind”.  Since I learnt the word Psychosomatic I’ve applied it to some particularly painful times, so for example when I get period pain I make a point of telling myself “it doesn’t hurt”, I repeat it as a mantra and you know what it helps.

This is why it is so important to watch what we say, to be careful with what we write. Today many people post things to Facebook or any other number of other social communication websites without thinking about the impact of their words and just how permanent it is. Most individuals don’t even realise just how great our propensity is to retain the negative.  It’s always easier to think of everything that’s gone wrong rather than what is going right.

With that I’d like to end with a little warning, consider what you’re saying and think about it (is it harmful?). And for those struggling through hard times, try to embrace using positive language – it won’t fix everything but it might make it a little easier to bear.

In Australia Lifeline is available 24/7 on 13 11 14 for those in crisis

Your thinking and New Year’s Resolutions by Maria Paterakis


Making a New Years’s resolution and then actually doing it is such a rewarding and satisfying feeling – but isn’t that the case anytime we achieve one of our goals??

A New Year’s resolution is after all a goal that is made at the start of the year. What might be stopping you achieve this goal, might also be stopping you from achieving other goals in your life too.

Here’s a quick example. You make a resolution to get fit. So you buy a six month membership at a gym. What do you do when you resolution is to go to the gym and then after 6 months you have used one month of your very expensive membership? My biggest question to you is, did you spend most of the 1st month comparing yourself with everyone else? Did you spend the time you did have at the gym telling yourself you are fat or feeling like a weakling compared to everyone else?

We have so many thoughts that race through our heads every single day. Apparently it can be anywhere between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts a day . Most of them are automatic, unconscious and if you did an inventory you might find them focused on self-criticism and self-deprecation. It is like we have taken every single negative or critical thing anyone has said or done to us over the years and decided to play them on repeat over and over again. As Dr Phil says…”How’s that working for you?”

I am not sure about you, but I am yet to find a single person to have every criticised themselves into liking and accepting who they are. Neither has anyone gotten better at something by telling themselves they couldn’t do it, that they are useless, or stupid.

Have you ever received a complement from someone and said “thanks, but….”? Then you followed it up with a put down of yourself.

Have you ever been validated for a job well done and you followed it up with all the things that went wrong and what you wish you had done differently instead?

A bit of simple advice – JUST STOP IT!!!!!!!!
You now want to yell back – BUT HOW?????

Sometimes you might just need a little professional support. When we want financial advice we go to an expert without question. What if it’s our thinking that is stopping us from achieving our resolutions? This is particularly important if you are dealing with a long-term issue, ie smoking, drinking, finance issues, weight issues, getting a promotion, etc. The way you think might be getting in the way of your goals.

If you are interested in taking the next step and making lasting changes in your life, Lifeline can offer face-to-face support. Counselling is not about crisis alone rather it is about taking the step to seek support when you want to make a change but are not sure how. Asking for help is both courageous and SMART.

Lifeline is available 24/7 on 13 11 14 for those in crisis. Face to Face appointments in Darwin, including on a Saturday morning are available by calling 89356400

Another New Year by Maria Paterakis

It’s that time of year for setting your New Year’s resolutions. If 2014 is like other years, after a few hours, days, weeks (depending on how it works for you) you promptly forget you even made any resolutions. Not only that, but you just made the same resolution 3 years in a row, so why is it going to be any different this time?
Most of us start our New Year filled with hope that it will be better than the year before. There is no intention to fail at our resolutions or anything else we try to achieve during our year. Chances are you probably have had a few wins in 2013. In fact if you take a moment to reflect on last year you would probably be able to think of several achievements you are proud of. I encourage you to think about what went well, what you learnt, what you might do differently, and what experiences you are grateful for. Being able to do this is one of the skills of resilience.

Here are some characteristics of resilience that may help you with preparing to identify your new year’s resolutions :
1. Look for opportunities for self-discovery. People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of a struggle.
2. Move toward your goals. Ask yourself every day, “What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?”
3. Take decisive actions. Act on adverse situations as much as you can. Take decisive actions, rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.
4. Keep things in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Avoid blowing the event out of proportion.
5. Make connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience. Seeking additional support from a professional when required is also an important part of making connection.
Whatever your New Year’s resolutions or goals for 2014, be kind to yourself. Things won’t always go to plan, and sometimes you might fall off the wagon, so treat yourself with the same kindness you would treat a good friend. If your New Year’s resolutions are a re-occurring theme for you, consider seeking additional help. Being kind to ourselves and caring for ourselves is one of the biggest changes we can make towards success and making 2014 different.


When I said I was going on the Camino everyone told me that it would be life changing. From personal experience I can now say that the Camino forced me to slow down and provided the gift of time for myself. In my regular lives the chattering monkeys of my mind are rarely stilled as there are constant outside demands on my time and even through I might have the very best self-care strategies in place I never have a whole week or more to indulge just to my own personal reflections.

Symbol of the camino
Symbol of the camino

On the ‘way’ the only really pressing concerns are where is the next coffee shop/bar, will my feet hold up for another day and making sure we do not get lost. However getting lost is not a major concern and even the route markers seem relaxed. Yellow arrows and the symbol of the shell are placed haphazardly, but always in the right direction, on items that range from stone fences, the road, house walls, gates, trees, and more.  Some are really easy to see, others are more faded and almost hidden, but they are there. Worst case just wait  a few moments and someone else will come walking along and together you continue. There are also the occasional marker stones counting down the kilometers and as my feet grew wearier these become a sight to look forward to – some come decorated with evidence of past walker with blown out shoes.

blown out shoe
A marker stone complete with blown out shoe

The Camino trek sees us traverse ‘undulating’ hills (well that is what we were told but some are more like great BIG hills and then we had to get down the other side too!), beautiful shaded wooded trails and across streams.  It is very rural, farming country complete with wafting farmyard aroma in certain spots.  We share the track with plenty of cattle, a few horses, ducks and more.

Some of the villages and tiny churches date back to medieval times and the yellow markers of the way lead us down cobblestone paths right through farm yards and past front doors and open windows from which locals pleasantly wave and wish us buen camino. The Camino is most definitely not commercial and those who live along the route genuinely welcome the perigrinos and we do not feel like intruders in their lives. Then again this has been happening for thousands of years so it is no doubt just a part of their lives.



What should become part 3 of my Camino story? Food of course! It was very large part of the Camino Adventure as obviously we needed sufficient sustenance for our daily walks but we were completely delighted with the range of culinary experiences! Along the way enjoyed delicious trout caught from bubbling fresh local streams, delicate wild mushrooms, Iberian ham served for breakfast and lunch but always delicious, salmon cooked in a wood oven, Spanish omelette of various varieties, gorgeous pasties, Galician soup and chunky bread. In Melides we sampled the famous local fare – pulpo –  very delicious and tender which came as a surprise to some of our group who had never experienced octopus before.

Pulpo on display fresh from the pot
Pulpo on display fresh from the pot so all who walked by could see exactly what was on offer!

Meals were accompanied by various wines, and on hot days, as we tramped the countryside towards our destination of Santiago de Compostela,  Galician cider or a cold beer went down very well.

Dinner was always eaten late – never before 8 pm as nothing was open earlier. A glass of cava offered a great start to an evening as we waited for meal time and in the cool of the evenings some of us accepted our hosts gracious hospitality and finished off our meals by enjoying a tipple of local ‘fire water’ thrown in for good measure and our guide Andres gave us an entertaining explanation in Andringlish – his version of English which I have to say was much better than any of our Spanish – about the qualities of ‘fire water’ and home-made liqueurs which vary greatly from place to place.

Such great memories – making me hungry!


Looking back and looking forward

I started this piece at the end of December as I reflected back over the year and as we approach the end of the first month of 2013, I finally have got around to popping it on my blog! 2012 was an amazing year which took me all over the place, not to mention well out of my comfort zone but it was always a great new learning experience – I cannot believe it flew past so fast. Grandma Lucy was right, time does go so much faster as you get older. I remember her with great fondness – seems like only a few years ago we were all watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon in her little sitting room in Green Hammerton. How much the world has changed since then! That fuzzy black and white image on the TV was considered very high tech – now we have instant access to just about everything – and it’s not that many years really!

The world is changing so fast and so is my life but I have been very fortunate in 2012 and although there have been difficult times I choose to focus on the highlights instead. The Year of the Dragon was packed with land mark occasions and events which included Sasha’s 18th birthday and flying the nest to move to Bond University, Wayne’s move to Melbourne, my role as campaign manager for Katrina Fong Lim in her (highly successful) bid to become Darwin’s Lord Mayor, the AusDBF National Championships at Docklands – a memorable affair for all the wrong reasons, my first trip to Bali which I enjoyed courtesy of winning the prize at the Government House Ball the previous year, with my good friends Denise Lynn and Bonita Fong, my taking up Italian lessons, working with TESOL students, Yvonne’s 50th birthday and my contract at Lifeline Top End.

One of the things I am looking forward to most in 2013 is the chance to walk 100km of the Camino – it has been on my radar for a few years now and this is the year it will happen!  I am not a Catholic but have had quite an exposure to the various religions through a childhood spent in many different countries, making life-long friends with those of differing faiths and of course one of those locations was the ‘Holy Land’  Jerusalem so it will be interesting to see another other side of this faith. It will also be a great holiday that involves exercise as well as an opportunity to see the countryside at a leisurely pace (no boot camp foot-slogging for me!) and the luxury of being able to meander not just physically but allowing my mind to wander wherever it might take me; generally an opportunity for prolific new ideas to pop into my head.

It’s by having this kind of break to look forward to that I am able to better cope with the challenges that I face on a regular basis – we all need ‘me time’ and the fact that I will be sharing this time with other Dragon Sisters – some of whom have become good friends over the years – makes it all the more enjoyable. A perfect balance of work and pleasure.


Amazing to think my last blog entry was in June. The past 3 months have whizzed by and I had some personal decision-making to work through and the up-shot is some very happy results and opportunities whilst, amazingly, allowing me my wish of becoming more Darwin-based for the immediate future. There is no glamour in travelling for business and infact it becomes quite exhausting with one hotel room blending into another and they are all pretty much alike.

My happy personal situation has been made possible largely because I am now committed to being pretty much Darwin-centric, which has also enabled me to take on the role of CEO of LifeLine Top End – another exciting development! I have just completed my first week in the position and fortunate to be working with a great bunch of people, all of whom seem to share my passion for community focussed NFP work and for making a difference. It’s always motivating to be with similar-minded people.

Just in case you are wondering, I have not left behind my beloved dragons – Dragon Abreast or Dragon Sisters. The Dragon Sisters personal and professional development consultancy business continues to grow steadily and I remain in my role as founding dragon and chief dragon director of ‘dragon doings’ but the actual work is shared across our network and I do very little day to day hands on. Dragons Abreast remains our charity of choice and we continue pro-bono support of the charity closest to my heart but my activities are NT focussed rather than national and I was very involved with the Chaging Face of Breast Cancer Forum presented in late September here in Darwin and just last week attended the Pink Breakfast.

I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to pursue my passions and preferences in this way and there is definite truth in Goethe’s words:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” 

And so a new chapter begins……