As one of the biggestdemocracies in the world prepares its stars and stripes for fourth of July celebrations, Heather Coulson is still basking in the glory of her very own independence day.
Sitting and chatting in your own lounge room with the heater on and looking out the window on a cold Warrnambool winter day may not seem anything out of the ordinary to most, but to Ms Coulson, it is a dream come true.
While she is only 58, Ms Coulson has spent the last three years living in aged care nursing homes.
Ms Coulson lives with hereditary spastic paraplegia, a genetic condition that creates a progressive paralysis of the legs.
The effects of the condition began to impact Ms Coulson's life when she was 18.
The condition worsened and by the time she was 45, Ms Coulson's mobility was so limited she had to move on to using a wheelchair to get around.
A marriage breakdown meant that Ms Coulson, who was living in Werribee at the time, was forced to move into a nursing home as she was not well enough for independent living without a support network.
The Werribee nursing home was to be home for 18 months before Ms Coulson made the decision to move back to her hometown Warrnambool in 2018, to be near her father who was in a battle with cancer.
With her father, well-known Warrnambool speedway identity Wally McDowell, not well enough to help care for his daughter, and Ms Coulson's mother Dulcie having passed away, a bed was found for Ms Coulson at a Warrnambool nursing home.
It was to be the start of 18 months of a lifestyle Ms Coulson, who grew up in Dennington, tolerated through necessity rather than thrived on.
But the feisty Ms Coulson was not about to wallow in self-pity, setting herself a goal to live independently.
Ms Coulson said the desire to live in her own space grew by the day.
"I was in the dementia part of the nursing home and they didn't have locks on the doors," Ms Coulson said.
"People would sometimes wander around and come into my room and touch my things.
"That was a bit scary, because I have low vision I was never really sure what was happening and if my things were moved it was hard for me to find them.
"I shared a room with a woman in her 80s. My privacy was pretty much non-existent."
Ms Coulson found a willing ally in her quest for independent living.
Occupational therapist Anna Densely was asked to work with Ms Coulson on her return to Warrnambool.
"Heather's goal was to get out of the nursing home," Ms Densley said.
"As a therapist, my goal is always what the client's goal is. It's easy to get into a nursing home, but it's hard to get out. It's a long process, there's lots of hurdles."
Rather than butt heads with the system, Ms Coulson and Ms Densley decided to embrace it.
Ms Densely began pitching the case to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
"The NDIS has been wonderful with Heather, they have done everything we've asked, but it's still a hard process," Ms Densley said.
"Heather was lucky enough to be able to purchase her home which made it somewhat easier.
"NDIS funded a new accessible bathroom and also a care package to ensure Heather has the support she needs."
On May 4 Ms Coulson was able to move into her own home and begin living interdependently.
Just nine days later, her beloved father passed away, but he had lived long enough to see his daughter, who was by his bedside, fulfill her independence dream.
Now two months into living on her own, Ms Coulson has not looked back.
"The best thing about living independently is you can have your privacy," Ms Coulson said.
"It's a great feeling to have my own place."