So much of a Dad’s work can go unsung. Father’s Day is one of the precious few chances we get to celebrate him. Rick shares his special story this Father's Day as part of The Dad Files editorial series.
You have to be a role model
With a brood of six – three from his wife Gerlinda’s previous marriage and three of his own, Rick Stella realises that he frequently calls upon the lessons and behaviours learned from his own father (and occasionally some crowd control skills).
In particular, Rick remembers that when he was about 17, he thought he knew everything.
“Then I went to university in Townsville and after a while I went through a bit of a lonely stage, even though I had lots of friends, and I wasn’t doing too well. Things came to a bit of a head and Dad just dropped everything. He didn’t even bat an eyelid. He just packed up the family and stayed in a nearby motel for a few days. He reassured me, cheered me up, told me I’d be all right, and that everything would be okay. That really sticks in my mind.”
Rick says his father was always a helping kind of guy, especially with the family. He was there for Rick, helping him with renovations, looking after the kids, working on the boat. Giving him short-term loans that he knew wouldn’t necessarily be paid back.
“Dad was right. You don’t realise until you’re a parent that sometimes children need to be pushed and you have to be a role model, teaching them right from wrong and helping them make the right decisions.”
“Dad made me aware that you have to apply yourself to be the best you can be, rather than just floating along with the tide.”
Taking that reference to tides to heart, Rick and his business partner now run a pioneering aquaculture business called Sustainable Reefs, growing marine coral in land-based tanks to help reduce the strain on the Great Barrier Reef.
Lessons learned from his own father and his experience managing teams when he worked for Telstra have helped shape Rick’s views about parenting.
“Whether we’re animals in the wild or human beings, the challenge of preparing kids for adulthood is the same: be there for them, be approachable. Don’t scare them away, especially if they’re worried about outcomes.”
“Of course, sometimes it’s a case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’” he adds, ruefully.
“The best thing about fatherhood is seeing them blossom and grow into their own personalities.”
Getting everyone together isn’t as easy as it once was
The most important thing for Rick is getting the family together - not so easy with some family members in their 20s who’ve left home and others in their teens.
“We’ll have a family meal, go to the beach, or go for a drive. I enjoy the little Father’s Day presents, but just to have them around as a family is what’s important to me. I don’t want them to go all-out. Just being together makes me feel good.”