Buses, school days and community service provide fond memories for Capecare resident

Community service has been a mainstay for Busselton resident Rae Cooper, and it’s what she recommends to live a happy and fulfilled life.

We spoke to 93-year-old Rae on the eve of International Day of Older Persons and asked her what advice she would give to youngsters.  “Involve yourself in your community and care for your neighbours,” Rae said.

From girl guiding to the YWCA (Young Christian Women’s Association), local government, Freemasons Ladies and Busselton Jetty, community volunteering and involvement has been ever-present in Rae’s life.

“I was a girl guide in the 1st Perth Pioneer guides. We lived south of the Swan River and used to catch the bus to their headquarters in a hall on St Georges Terrace behind St Georges Cathedral. We would do all sorts of activities and they taught you to give.”

Rae was a foundation student of Santa Maria College in Attadale where she has fond memories of being taught by the Mercy nuns, school sports and swimming carnivals. She witnessed the Archbishop lay the foundation stone for the school before it was completed in 1938.

“I was also a member of the YWCA when I was a bit older, during the war. Mum was in the YWCA too in the 1920s. The Weld Club in Perth gave over their premises for the women in the army so they had somewhere to meet. It was otherwise an exclusive men’s club but they passed it over to the women during the war. The first time my sister Pam and I went there was with our mother. She said: ‘you’re coming with me girls’ and Pam and I thought, ‘that’s nice!’ but when we arrived, we had a great big tub put in front of us filled with potatoes and onions to peel them for the cook! Not quite as exciting as we hoped. Mum also taught us to help, especially during the war.

“Perth was a lovely place to grow up, you could ride your bike wherever you wanted, you were never frightened. Mum used to pack a lunch and we’d walk from our place in Attadale right through the bush to Jandakot, sometimes with the dog and the cat! You wouldn’t do that now!”

“As kids we always went away for school holidays. Mum took myself and my sister to the Porongurups and to Beverley. We had a beach house at Waikiki right on the water when I was a bit older. When we were very young, Dad used to hire a house in Palm Beach or Rockingham, when it was in the country!”

Her father Ronald Carroll, along with Mr Lawrie Withers and Mr WJ Sumpton founded the first bus company on the south side of the Swan River, running on Canning Highway from Perth to Fremantle. This was later merged with Metro Buses and eventually bought by the State Government. The buses played a significant role in her childhood.

“Mother and Dad had busy lives with Melville growing rapidly. Mother was always there by his side supporting him.

“Dad served 26 years in Local Government in the City Melville. He was the first elected member of the Road Board (1946) and Deputy Chairman, the first and only President of the Town of Melville, and the first Mayor of the City of Melville retiring in 1971.

“He was awarded the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1970 for this service and was made the first honorary freeman of the City of Melville. My mother was very involved in the duties that came with Dad’s roles in local government.

“They asked me once if I would I cater for their supper when they lost one of their staff, and they must have liked my cooking as I ended up doing catering for the council, for love!”

Rae married her first husband Lyall Commins in Fremantle and they had four children, all of whom live around Busselton and the south west. She said he passed away when he was quite young.

The family moved to the wheatbelt when Lyall moved into local government in the Shire of Quairading. Lyle helped to establish a kindergarten there in the 1960’s with other mothers.

“Once I married and had my children, I did not work full time but had several part times positions over the years in amongst many volunteer roles in community organisations,” she said.

“I’ve been to America and Canada and to England but we mainly had driving holidays. When my first husband retired it was his dream to go around Australia in a caravan. I didn’t think I would like it, but I did. Tasmania was one of my favourite places.”

Rae moved into an Independent Living Unit at Capecare with second husband Desmond Cooper approximately 20 years ago. Three years ago she moved into the Prevelly Residential Care wing.

She says having happy marriages was one of her greatest achievements.

Rae said she is in reasonable health but doesn’t get out as much now she isn’t driving but enjoys the activities Capecare provides and being able to walk along the beach most days. Her family comes to visit every weekend.

“The fact that the Ray Family gifted this land is just amazing, I’m sure you wouldn’t find another retirement village in this setting nowadays. I think it’s really uplifting to be able to get down to the beach.

“Physical activity is very important and they put on a lot of different activities for us here.

“There are so many volunteers here, its mind boggling! One good thing about living in the country is that people are more community minded. We’ve got a lot of people in Busselton who are community minded.

“We’ve got two girls here, Brenda and Pam who drive the buses, they’re amazing drivers, they take us out, we went out yesterday to Dunsborough. It was just magic looking at the colours across the water. I love being back on the buses, it makes me think of dad.”


20 Ray Ave, Busselton WA 6280
Ph: 08 9750 2000
Fax: 08 9755 4696

Community Care & Respite: 08 9750 2097


171 Naturaliste Tce, Dunsborough WA 6281
Ph: 08 9786 5555
Fax: 08 9786 5508

Community Care & Respite: 08 9750 2097


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