Home is not a place for Sunassist executive officer Richard Garlick. It is wherever and whenever Richard is surrounded by the happy chaos, smiling faces and infectious laughter of his number one support crew; his family. Lauren Adcock sat down with Richard and partner, Narelle Fraser to chat about blending families and rewriting the rules of what “home” has always traditionally meant. Pictures: Carmel Zaccone
RICHARD Garlick is widely known in Sunraysia for leading not-profit Sunassist, which provides extensive community-centred services to improve the lives of many.
Through his role at Sunassist and heart for helping others, Richard knows the importance of being kind to others and that is mirrored in his family homes.
While Richard and Narelle live at separate addresses, they live a life filled with adventure and love, with family at the centre of everything.
Richard brings his three children, Liam, Sarah and Joel to the blended family, while Narelle is super-mum to Benjamin, Lachlan and little Olivia.
“Family dynamics have changed over the years and with blended families now, we decided that we don’t have to all be under the one roof,” Richard says.
“We have separate houses and time we spend separately with our children, which we find works most effectively for us.
“Narelle and I also have time that we spend together without the children, which gives us an opportunity to go away and work on our own relationship which is really important.”
Richard and Narelle’s love story blossomed after a fleeting date in Bendigo which has since resulted in almost five years together.
While their first meeting left a memorable mark, it was far from romantic according to Narelle, who says she didn’t quite know what she was getting herself into at the time.
“I’m originally from Melbourne so when we first met, we had to nominate a half-way point,” Narelle says.
“We ended up meeting in Bendigo because I suggested it was most convenient for me, without realising that Bendigo wasn’t really the half-way point.
“He was such a gentleman and drove four and half hours to meet me for lunch.
“Olivia was only one and with me at the time so it was hardly your romantic date. But he bought me carrot cake so I was fairly sold from the get go.”
After consolidating feelings and visualising a life with Richard in Mildura, Narelle made the decision to move her family from Melbourne.
She was heartened at how quickly her children adapted to the welcoming community, particularly son Benjamin who lives with epilepsy, behavioural issues and has an intellectual disability.
“The transition has been really good for the family and we love living here,” Narelle says.
“When we lived in Melbourne, we didn’t really know or neighbours or anyone in the community.
“We’re getting used to walking by the river and having people stop and say hello, particularly with Richard’s connections in the community.”
Although they live at separate addresses, Richard and Narelle spend a lot of time together as a family.
“It can be challenging at times with the different dynamics, especially with two special needs stepchildren. It is loud, sometimes overwhelming and chaotic but the kids have a lot of fun and know they are loved by their parents and one another,” Richard says.
“Something that is really important to us is that our children are set the example of loving and happy parents. It is not always easy to do but we know that our happiness directly impacts our kids, so we always take time out to take care of ourselves and our relationship, ensuring our needs are met, so we can show up better for our children.”