MEL Kurrle reckons her dad, Kevin, who has saved her life five times in a year, is “my father, my best mate and my saviour”.
Now after a ceremony at Melbourne Town Hall yesterday, she can also proudly boast he is the Victorian Father of the Year.
Wangaratta retiree, Kevin, 71, won the honour ahead of more than 2000 other nominees.
Previous recipients include Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke, marathon runner Steve Moneghetti and football champion Tim Watson.
“I didn’t think I could win, I thought there would be some really terrific people ahead of me,” Mr Kurrle said.
“I was amazed and delighted, I’ve never had anything like this happen to me.”
During a battle with mental illness, Ms Kurrle, 41, said she didn’t know what would have happened to her without her dad.
“I have suffered with major depression — luckily now I am on the mend — but there were many low times when really the only person I could turn to was my father,” Ms Kurrle said.
“He saved my life at least five times.”
Mr Kurrle, a retired teacher who helped set up equine studies at Wangaratta TAFE and elsewhere, said people from older generations didn’t realise how much mental health affected families.
But he did not believe his efforts, which included stopping a bank repossessing his daughter’s home, were rare.
“I’m sure a lot of other fathers would do exactly what I’ve done,” Mr Kurrle said.
“When your daughter’s in trouble you do everything to help her and convince her it’s not the end of the world.”
Ms Kurrle said her nomination was about expressing her love for her dad rather than winning.
“It was something that meant a lot to me and something I felt I wanted to put into words,” Ms Kurrle said.
“As a spin-off from this, I hope families will recognise the importance of being there for family members suffering with mental illness. They don’t have to be professionals. It’s just a matter of being there and caring.”
Ms Kurrle, a single mother, travelled to Melbourne with daughter Chelsea, 16, and 15-year-old twins Zac and Jarryd for yesterday’s presentation.