Father figures: famous sons reveal what their dads taught them

"I didn't do much around the house but Dad kept pushing me to be bothered," says Dave Hughes about his father Des. "He was adamant that hard work gets you there every time."

It's Father's Day, so we asked four of Australia's favourite sons what their dads taught them about life, love and the universe. 

From performer Eddie Perfect to comedian Dave Hughes, the responses were heart-warming and universal.

Eddie Perfect

Actor/theatre producer

Father: Thomas Perfect, retired schoolteacher

Eddie Perfect and dad Thomas.

My dad Thomas is a retired high school teacher at St Bede's in Mentone and it's where I went to school as well. He taught there for more than 23 years. His main subjects were English, history, politics and literature. He came to Australia from England when he was six years old and grew up in [Melbourne suburb] Doveton.

Dad wasn't strict at all – he was a very laid-back guy. He wasn't my classroom teacher but always made sure his kids were passionate about learning. Reading was a massive part of our lives growing up and it's one of the things I am most grateful for. Dad and I would read books and talk about them.

Dad sent me to music lessons as a kid. I sang in a choir and even did ballet when I was five and six. He let me give it away when I didn't want to do it anymore. The same went for the piano. I ended up gravitating towards it in the '90s via my guitar.


Dad was a lover of the outdoors and always took us on walks. I think we did 50 walks in the Grampians. We spent a lot of time in tents in National Parks. He took us to the theatre as well. I am a middle child and have two sisters.

When I was Year 7 dad took us on a three-month trip around Australia from Alice Springs to Kakadu and with a community in the Tiwi Islands. He was really energetic to the point Mum sometimes thought he put us in danger. Once the weather turned horrible on a walk and my little sister nearly got hypothermia. She was okay though. Dad always said she'd be fine.

My dad isn't an advice giver, which is good. He is a great listener and will talk through issues. When it came to figuring out what I wanted to do with my life after high school, dad was always there to support me. I wanted to be a visual artist and do something I was passionate about. It's a philosophy I have managed to hold onto.

Dad was never business or money minded. He always told me to invest in enjoying your life and never told me to get a fallback job. His attitude was and still is, do what you're interested in and money comes second.

Perfect's The Beast is showing at Melbourne's Comedy Theatre until September 4.

Elliot Costello

Co-Founder YGap

Father: Tim Costello, CEO World Vision Australia

Elliot and Tim Costello.

I grew up with a unique father and someone who largely didn't make sense to me for a number of years and to a degree still doesn't. My dad worked non-stop as a lawyer and Baptist Minister. In the '80s and '90s we grew up in St Kilda with a lot of marginalised people. He always had time and energy to care for the most vulnerable in our society. It was only when nearing the end of high school that I realised what he did.

Dad came home with $2000 once with the sales he made at the launch of his second book. I told him the money would be put to good use at home to make something at home for us kids, but he said it wasn't for us. That rationale didn't make sense, I remember him once saying 'one day you will understand that money doesn't make you happy'. It isn't the centre of his universe.

Dad's work is on the front line of human vulnerability – people who have lost everything, from their home, sometimes family members and children. His work with World Vision has been to enter communities at a time of great need and provide emergency relief and support and transferring that into aid. We sometimes forget how taxing that is.

I know very well that the tsunami in 2004 had a significant impact on dad – it killed up to 200,000 people and he was first to respond. You do absorb pain and I know he has taken a lot on with the role, but he has managed to help us see through the pain and vulnerability and to give to those who need it most.

Dad once told me that life is a marathon, not a race. It was his way of telling me to slow down. I was over extending myself at one point, and have a desire to do everything as quickly as possible. He taught me to rethink my position.

I worked in accounting and finance for five years and didn't have the intention to do what I am doing [with YGap] but passion runs its own course. Dad by no means requested I follow in his footsteps. He has kept an eye on my journey and been a great advocate. Having support like that does help.

Elliot Costello is co-founder and CEO of YGap.

Dave Hughes


Father: Desmond Hughes, died in 2011.

Dave Hughes with mum Carmel, wife Holly and dad Des on his wedding day in 2006.

Hughes with mum Carmel, wife Holly and dad Des on his wedding day.

My dad was a shift worked at Nestle in Warrnambool in Victoria. He and mum had four children under four. He was a hard working guy who instilled good values in me, it was all about family and that family comes first. He was a no bullshit sort of guy. He died in 2011.

Dad was funny and loved to laugh. He was a bit taken by my choice of career though. I did well at school and was the first one in my family to go to university. He eventually did come around when he realised my choice of career was going to work out for me. I took a different path than what was expected by most country Victorian families.

I admire dad because he was very loyal to his family. He loved my mother tremendously. He would always say "meeting your mother was the day I won Tattslotto".

When I was a teenager I was quite lazy. I didn't do much around the house but Dad kept pushing me to be bothered. He was adamant that hard work gets you there every time.

Dad's shift work wasn't family friendly. He would work seven days in a row doing day shifts and then the week after do night shifts. It was an anti-social life. He couldn't really escape us kids when he would knock off work because we didn't live in a large home. He couldn't escape to another room. He dealt with all that pressure and did his best.

Visit Hughesy online.

Jamie Robbie Reyne


Father: James Reyne, singer of Australian Crawl

James Robbie Reyne

Dad is my best friend. I can turn to him about anything. I feel comfortable to pick up the phone and have a chat to him. We share the same interests, but the most obvious is music.

He is one of the most generous people I have met in my life. He is a big warm softie and people don't realise that until they break through his exterior.

When I turned 18, dad gave me 10 of his favourite records of all time. There was Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and John Prine albums there. That was the first time I discovered that sort of songwriter. I also admire my dad's songwriting, but it really was those albums that changed my world. It was a pivotal moment in my youth when he delivered those and told me to listen to them. It showed me a side to my father I didn't know. It was a special moment.

Dad always tells me to cherish my partner [Louise]. We have a child together. He always says be nice, have fun and do what you want to do in life. Both of my parents have always encouraged me to follow my dreams to act and sing. They are both in the creative arts and when you do something you love, you don't really know how to live any other way.

James Reyne

My dad's love of music can't be stopped. It doesn't matter what, he'll always write and be connected to it. I have definitely taken that on board.

If I have a question about the music industry dad never really interferes – he offers his insight but always lets me do things my way. We haven't played together as we've always wanted to keep that part of our public lives separate. But he is definitely someone I can pick up the phone and call on a Sunday and run through what the week has been like.

Dad loves being a grandfather. It's his first time. He always says take it day by day and enjoy every moment. I certainly don't take anything for granted.

I can see my father in myself whether that is through mannerism; our tastes and even our voices are similar. We even wear the same clothes to dinner sometimes [laughs]. I'm the one giving dad styling tips these days.

Jamie Robbie Reyne is ambassador for Julius Marlow and stars in The Secret Daughter on Channel 7 in October.

What did your dad teach you? Let us know in the Comments section.