Tanya-Lee Holmes: 2023 Angel of the Year Donna Jones, CBJ Drilliing, Angel of the Year Winner, Tanya-Lee Holmes and Finalist, Kitty Walsh. Credit: Diana Smith Photography

Tanya-Lee Holmes is based in Bathurst with her family and cookie business, and volunteers in the disability-space helping 29 veterans locally and across Australia with health and well-being support by drawing on her personal experience of disability, PTSD, anxiety and past suicidal ideations.

Looking to the past for the future

She began counselling because her son is the Army and she wanted to make sure men and women like him knew they had support when they left to be citizens in wider community again.

But there are many adjustments and memories to address. “Their doctors could just refer them to a professional mental health worker with no experience in these areas,” Tanya explained, “but, they often prefer to talk to someone who understands the emotions they are going through because we get it. That’s where I come in.”

Foundational support is at hand

Tanya helps her veterans by providing a safe space where they don’t feel judged and talks with them. She links them with foundations like Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling to build resilience, and Young Veterans Support to find them employment and training opportunities. When needed she’ll also accompany them to doctor’s appointments, coach for job-interviews, remind about medications, take crisis calls at 2:00 am and meet for a cuppa when they’re lonely.

“I want a safe place for my son to come to when he leaves the army,” she said. “The biggest struggle for younger veterans who come out of the services is fitting back into their communities and finding their place. A lot of what I do is just listening to them when they’ve had a bad day or a having a work crisis. But I’m lucky to have those National support systems there to help get them back on their feet.”

Anything is possible

Tanya has lived with acquired spinal injury paralysis on one side of her body for seven years after complications from a migraine, adding to burden of her existing PTSD and anxiety. But, the injury was the impetus for starting a cookie business, which provided a way to show her three children (two who have cerebral palsy, one of whom she is co-training towards Paralympic selection in wheelchair racing) that anything is possible.

“Since becoming involved in the disability-space I have undertaken suicide prevention, suicide intervention and mental health first aid training so I have a mental checklist during our talks which tells me if someone should be on a watch list,” she said. “Just recently, I had a fellow I was worried about so I reached out to another veteran who I knew could help because I know what it feels like to have someone step in and stop me from doing it.”

30 Minutes can change a life

For most of the time, Tanya says it’s just having a conversation together over a coffee with someone who’s lonely, and she feels that that half an hour is well spent as it’s taken away those feelings for him. Others though are in complete crisis and she uses to her skills to help move them to safe spaces so they’re not alone and works out the next steps.”

Profits with a purpose

Tanya’s craft baking business Imperfectly Perfect Cookies helped end a period of indecision following her spinal injury, and with encouragement from family to counsel and bake she now has a thriving online business that she uses to show employers that people with a disability are very capable, and show veterans with mental health issues that life with imperfections can be beautiful, there is happiness amidst the chaos and they are never alone. Ever the problem-solver, Tanya has engineered her cookies into customisable, inclusive designs aimed at corporate and private event spaces to generate profits she can donate back to the foundations that support her veterans, making each cookie filled with purpose.

Talking about kindness

“I’ve always said to my kids, ‘say Hello, how are you? Do you need anything? Have a conversation with that person you see looking alone because you never know what is going on in their lives and you may be the only person who speaks to them that day’,” she said. “I know how much it means when someone gives me help. It may just be enough to change something major in their life, and even without formal qualifications I make it clear that I’m here if they need a chat, and if I get out of depth I know the right people you can talk to.”

Now that her youngest has just completed his HSC and has his own job and licence, (proud) Tanya is already wondering what to do with her time. But because she’s been in many difficult situations in her own life where people stepped in and helped her, she feels it would be remiss of her not to keep doing the same for others.

And judging by the success of her recent guest appearance at Sonic’s ‘The Huddle’ 2023, Tanya has touched on something deep within women across Australia, making connections leading to friendships and collaborations and through being one of the event’s mentors.

Put a smile on someone’s face

You can help mend someone’s imperfect day today by ordering Tanya’s GF and vegan cookies for gifts, celebrations and thank yous.

We have the ability

And for CWM, she sprinkles this golden advice: “When you are wondering ‘should I or shouldn’t I?’ my advice to you is just do it! Take the leap to your best self because you never know what might happen!”

Tanya reluctantly accepted two nominations for the Awards but is thankful for the opportunity to shine a light on ways to build on inclusivity, and remind everyone that the smallest acts of kindness can make a big impact. “I’m just a person who wants to help people, and I think we all have the ability to do that.”

Words from a happy customer:

Thank you post from HMAS Bathurst: Hi there, my name is Ash and I’m the commanding officer of HMAS Bathurst – I’m sorry for the delay in writing this message but I just wanted to say a huge thank you for the amazing cookies. The crew loved them, they look so amazing and certainly made us feel special. Being away from family and home at this time of year is difficult but small things like this definitely put a smile on the whole ship.

Thank you again and all the best for the new year.


Our 2023 Angel of the Year is sponsored by CBJ Drilling Services

  • Tanya-Lee Holmes with family. Image supplied: Kirsten Cunningham Photography

  • Tanya-Lee Holmes, Imperfectly Perfect Cookies. Image supplied: Kirsten Cunningham Photography

  • Imperfectly Perfect Cookies. Image supplied: Kirsten Cunningham Photography

Diana Smith

I'm an Orange-based photographer, writer, face painter and book designer. I enjoy meeting the lovely folk of our community and have been involved in publishing/media/comms for about 15 years. I have done several exhibitions and in 2022 published my own childrens story, 'The Mouses Houses.'

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