Giaan Rooney has a whole other life in front of the public - a speaker, an MC, swimming commentator, a brand ambassador - but at home, she is a macadamia farmer. Features Editor Ros Reines, chats with the Australian swimming legend and Olympic gold medalist at her macadamia farm in northern New South Wales. 

Giaan Rooney is poised on one foot.

Not on the starting block but still balancing serenely, headphones on, in her quest for perfection. 

This time it is macadamia nuts. 

Her famous face is expressionless as she flicks any ugly ‘macs,’ including those nibbled on by scavengers, into Nut Siberia. 

No longer staying in her lane, Giaan Rooney is now a fully fledged macadamia farmer. 

“It’s my job through the harvesting period to be at the sorting table to review the nuts that go past,” she explains. “So, I’m in the shed, sorting nuts and it’s very noisy from the equipment, which is why I have the headphones on.” 

Rooney is chatting over the phone from her family’s farm in northern NSW. She and her husband, Sam Levett - a fifth generation cattle farmer - decided to go into macadamia farming after falling in love with a property, just 25 minutes from Lismore, with a picturesque weatherboard farmhouse. 

That was around three years ago. 

So, they moved from their big city life in Queensland with their children, Zander, 9 and Lexi, 6, later buying a second farm close by. 

“When your income is attached to your property, there’s so much you can’t control, it creates a very stressful existence,” she says. 

“Right now, we’re just riding out the bad times. But we’re still very thankful to be living here and enjoying this lifestyle.” 

Giaan Rooney has a whole other life in front of the public where she plays multiple roles as a speaker, an MC, swimming commentator and as a brand ambassador. 

She is in the city most days of the week, while Levett works from home on The Herd Online - his web-based marketing company for livestock sales. 

He’s also able to look after the needs of the kids. 

“It’s a fortunate life,” she says. I get to have wonderful adult conversations and fill up my cup with that but when I’m home, I’m mum. So, that’s how I justify it. I get a lot of quality time with the kids.” 

Admittedly, she does know a thing or two about communicating with children, as the published author of a book called Lemon The Llama, which includes stories around inclusiveness. 

“The message is that we’re all different and unique, but our differences are our superpowers,” she explains. “It’s what we bring to the table. Kindness is paramount as we’re all connected and we should all work together. This is what we’re designed to do as humans.” 

She wants Zander and Lexi to be gentle humans.