The Story of Us: O’Neill Kinesiology College

Nicolie O'Neill and Tania O'Neill McGowan story

Nicolie O’Neill and her daughter, Tania, are the heart and soul of O’Neill Kinesiology College. However, they aren’t the likeliest of duos to start a complementary therapies school – one an accountant hailing from the Wheatbelt and the other a physicist. We chat to Director Tania O’Neill McGowan about their inspiring and unexpected story, and how the two made the college into the successful institution it is today.

It started with Nicolie. Now aged in her 60s, she came from a farming family and was expected to fill the role of a typical farm girl: to marry a nice boy, stay in the area and raise children. But forget about career aspirations outside of rural life.

Luckily for the future Kinesiology community, Nicolie had other plans.

She was a trailblazer even from a young age, according to Tania. Packing her bags for Perth, Nicolie enrolled in an accounting course, determined to make her own way in life.

“I’m lucky because I had a mother who was a good role model. She enjoyed working because she grew up on a farm and they all had a great work ethic,” Tania said.

Nicolie was on track to become the first member of the family to earn a tertiary degree. As a sole parent and working several jobs to get herself ahead, Nicolie’s life was hectic but her future looked bright. A career in accounting beckoned, which would set the young family up financially, and it was something she spent nearly a decade of her life working toward.

As fate would have it, her trajectory was to change dramatically when, in her final year of university, she attended the 1994 Conscious Living Expo where she heard a lecture on a complementary therapy called Kinesiology. She was instantly hooked.

“She didn’t know what it was – she didn’t know anything about Kinesiology. But she said it (that first lecture) was like a light going on in her life,” Tania said.

With her interest piqued, Nicolie devoured every workshop and conference that was available. The problem was, in the mid 1990s, Kinesiology wasn’t yet an established therapy. It was primarily a hobby in which only weekend and short courses were available.

After several years learning all she could and cobbling together all the courses possible, she saw an opportunity to bring a legitimacy to Kinesiology. By now an instructor herself, she opened the doors of Nicolie O’Neill Kinesiology College with the aim of providing proper training to serious students. The College (with the aid of her daughter, Tania, who was now a young adult) earned government accreditation — one of the first in Australia to do so.

Tania’s journey into Kinesiology was just as unconventional. Graduating with a Bachelor of Science majoring in physics, she found herself drawn to certain areas of the science, but not necessarily the ones that would lead to a typical career as a physicist.

“I like the aspects of physics that are hard to explain; the parts where we don’t yet fully understand our world. I was fascinated with quantum-level physics and I wanted to learn more,” she said.

This curiosity led Tania to travel to the United States, to investigate study and research in the subtle energies field. Once she returned to Australia, though, she became a high school science teacher and settled into family life with her husband and their two children, while continuing to help Nicolie in the College.

It was during this time she realised her intrigue and interest in the unknown aspects of physics is what also drew her to complementary health and, in turn, the very therapy that her mother taught.

Just like her mother before her, her career was to take a dramatic turn. She purchased the college from Nicolie in 2010 and threw herself into being a Kinesiologist and a business owner.

“It was hard, and it was a big risk. I didn’t have any experience in managing staff or managing a business. But I’ve always followed my heart. I feel it’s important to make a difference in the world,” Tania said.

“My vision from a decade ago has come alive in Kinesiology. I love that Kinesiology works individually with every client; two people could have the same problem but there’s a totally different way of treating the problem. Kinesiology encompasses the uniqueness of the human being.”

Offering a two-year Diploma and a three-year Advanced Diploma, O’Neill Kinesiology College is thriving and is now the longest-running government-accredited Kinesiology college in the country.

The two women continue to happily work side by side with their burgeoning student body, many of whom are making major career transitions of their own since discovering Kinesiology. That’s something about which Nicolie and Tania are incredibly proud — after all, they’ve been there themselves.