VIP Mum Rebecca Gibney
Rebecca GibneyBy MERCEDES MAGUIRE

Rebecca Gibney is one of Australia's best loved celebrities.

The New Zealand-born actress arrived in Australia at the age of 19 and soon after began a long and distinguished television and film career. She is best known for her roles in The Flying Doctors and as the title character in Halifax f.p.

Four years ago Gibney, 43, took a break from her career to concentrate on her biggest role yet – motherhood. The Silver Logie and AFI-award winning actress recently returned to our screens to play Julie Rafter in Seven's new drama hit Packed To The Rafters. When she's not in Sydney filming, she lives in Tasmania's beautiful Tamar Valley with her four-year-old son, Zac and artist husband, Richard Bell whom she married in 2001.

Packed To The Rafters is your first full-time television role since Zac was born. Was it hard returning to the workforce full-time after being a full-time mum?

It took a while to make the decision as I had deliberately not worked a lot after having Zac and I wanted to spend as much time as possible with him. I talked it over with my husband Richard and we decided as the show was very much an ensemble piece I would still get to spend time with them both and Richard would also become the major caregiver for the duration of the shoot so Zac would still have both of us around. Zac has also started pre-school by the time we started shooting and was loving it which made it easier for me.

You have virtually swapped roles with Richard while working on Packed To The Rafters. Was it nice seeing Richard take over as a full time dad?

Richard loves being a full-time dad but he is also happy when he sees my schedule and there are a lot of days off for me as it means I get to hang out with the both of them! Richard is also an artist so he is looking forward to getting back to painting.

How well do you juggle your new work/life balance?

I’m lucky as I’m about to finish filming for the year and then we are home to Tasmania where I get to be a full-time mum again. At least until Packed to the Rafters goes into a second series!

A lot has been said about the fact you have left your rural retreat in Tasmania to live in Sydney while filming Packed To The Rafters. What do you miss most about your life in the Tamar Valley?

There is a lot I have missed but mostly the space and peace and quiet. Zac also adores his home and he can’t wait to get back there so he can go crabbing! We have a small beach that he plays on every day. I have also missed my friends down there and generally just hanging out and being a mum.

You have been involved in some environmental issues down in Tasmania, most notably the anti pulp mill rally. What do you hope you can teach Zac about the environment?

I hope to teach him that we only have one planet and we must look after it while we still can. It seems ludicrous in this day and age that we can still be considering large scale environmental disasters like this pulp mill. Not only will it be pumping billions of litres of effluent into Bass Strait but it will also impact on our native forests and air quality in an age were we have realised the devastating effects of global warming. We should be doing everything in our power to preserve our natural heritage. We also have a small vegetable garden and fruit trees on the property so he will learn about being self sufficient. And because of where we are he has spent most of his life here already and has an appreciation of the environment and the animals that live on our property.

What is it that you love most about being a mum?

It’s hard to describe how much motherhood has changed me. I feel so incredibly blessed to have been given the opportunity to help this little person on his way in life. He is so innocent and open and I really hope I can encourage him to be whatever he wants to be while caring for the planet and those around him.

There must be times you have to spend away from Zac for work, how do you manage this time away?

I miss him like crazy but he always knows that Mummy is only gone for a short time and will be back very soon. And if I do have to go for a longer period of time, then Richard and Zac come with me. I have an incredibly understanding husband.

Who does most of the domestic chores at home? Is Richard ‘hands-on’ around the house? What chore do you simply despise?

When we are in Tasmania, then I do a lot of the chores, although Richard is a wonderful cook so I get wonderful meals. Since I have been filming Richard has taken over the domestics and he has done a wonderful job. I’m not too great if the septic tank gets blocks though!

Life with children can be fairly chaotic, how do you and Richard keep the romance alive?

We try to have date nights or date days where we go to lunch or a movie. Or even just turning off the TV at night to talk. We love a good chat so that always helps!

What has been your greatest personal sacrifice since becoming a mum? How has motherhood changed you?

I don’t feel like I’ve sacrificed anything except maybe my privacy in the bathroom! Motherhood has made me a much better human being. My life is about my son and my husband and all else is simply icing on the cake.

How often do you take time out for yourself?

I love a good massage and facial and when we are back in Tassie there’s nothing I like more than getting out on our old wooden fishing boat and throwing a line over.

What's your top tip?

We love putting little frankfurts (little boys) inside dinners rolls and tomato sauce for the perfect mini hotdog. And we always empathise when we have to discipline Zac. We say, ‘Yes I know darling, it’s terrible you don’t get the story tonight because you were naughty. You just have a good cry, it will make you feel better.’ It tends to lessen the blow.

Can you tell us about the last time you had a big belly laugh with Zac?

Tickling him on the bed this morning.

If you had just one wish (no matter how fanciful) to change something in Australia to better support being a 21st century parent, what would that be?

I love the idea of parenting skills being compulsory for families as I think there are so many people having children who really have no idea what they are doing or how they can do it better. You have to have lessons to drive a car but anyone can have a child and it’s the most important role we have to play in life. I would also make adoption a more viable and easier option for those people who are unable to have children. Having travelled a lot with World Vision I’ve seen so many children that, through a variety of reasons, have lost their families and are in dire need of help.


 
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