Skye is travelling around Australia in a campervan with her husband and four young daughters. A few years ago, she found out that her father had been having an affair for 17 years. This discovery forever changed her life and the way she viewed the world, including teaching her that nothing is ever black and white.
“It has affected how I see things, I was always quite black and white. But I think now I wait for the full story… I’m not as quick to judge.”
This story was collected by the Centre for Stories for the Empathy Museum’s A Mile in my Shoes installation as part of Perth Festival 2015. For reproduction and distribution of this story/image please contact the Centre for Stories.
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Trigger warning, this story contains themes of suicide. If these themes disturb you, please call lifeline Australia on: 13 11 14
My name is Skye Windebank. I’m currently travelling around Australia in a campervan with my husband Ben, and our four daughters. Indigo is five. We have three year old twins, Asher and Saskia, and Aki at 10 month old. We’ve been on the road since April, so eight months so far. Due back in a couple of months.
About three years ago, we were just traveling down south in WA and we saw a camel train, just taking rides. We chatted to the guy there and he had just done a year on Camelback, and that inspired us to think about going on a camel ride. And we thought, ‘Yeah, that sounds awesome. We could do that’
We just had Indie at the time, and we started working at a camel farm south of Perth. And we had the twins and took some time off from that, and then came back out when the twins for about four months old.
And then we were training camels every second weekend, and we could find a babysitter to look after the kids while we did that. We were going to leave when the when the twins turned two. And then when I got pregnant with Aki, he was like, people do this. The nomads in the Middle East, you know, travel by camel, that’s how they live. And I’m like, yeah, but we’re not nomads and we’re not in the middle east. This is not our life.
So yeah, I put a stop to the trip was my fault. I ended the dream. So, then we picked up on the on the campervan, which has been great
The moment we left the driveway, it was like all of a sudden, I could look forward, and look towards what we’re actually doing. Because up until that time, it had been so hectic, just planning to get out of the house. You know, we were renting out the house that we live in.
So, we had to pack that all up and clean that up, all with the four little kids going crazy all the time and they’re excited and everything was moving and it was this full adjustment. We were half living in the camper van, half living in our house and we finally left on the I was a Wednesday morning. It was a beautiful morning, and we all piled in the car and we took a photo of the car coming out of the driveway and then we’re off. And it was fun. Yeah, it was really exciting.
I didn’t even look at the map until we got on the road on that first day after we left the driveway. I thought okay now it’s time to get the map out. Oh, we knew the first stop. We’ll get past Lancelin and then we’ll just see, you know, Jurien Bay somewhere around there. Every campsite we’d look and go ‘Oh, where should we get to next, you know, how far away is that point?’ and go for it.
The moment we hit our stride definitely for me was when we hit the East Coast, which was a fairway into our journey, probably at least six months in. But we’d come from Darwin, and we’d had this awful experience in Darwin with midge bites, and it was awful. Like, we all had about two hundred bites on us that had blistered up and gone into welts. So, we hightailed it out of Darwin and we just drove and drove and drove, for three days or four days straight across from Darwin, down Tennant Creak, Mount Isa, and then up to just north of Cairns. And it’s really dry country. All through there, really dry and burn offs happen all the time so there’s not much vegetation.
And then all sudden you hit the East Coast and you’ve got this lush rainforests, tropical rainforests, and it’s green everywhere and it’s just, ‘now it’s good.’ So that was my feeling just, ‘I can do this. This is great. I love this.’
So, we had a basic schedule of getting back to Perth in time for Indie to start school in January. But while we’re on the trip and invitation came out to go … we have a farm in Buxton, Victoria. They were having a Buxton reunion for passing current Buxton residents that had left since the bushfires of 2009. So, we lost our farmhouse on Black Saturday and so did a lot of other people in the area. So, it was just an opportunity to reconnect with a lot of people. And so, we thought that’d be a lovely thing to come back for, and also it coincided amazingly, with the anniversary of my parent’s death as well. So, to return, return there that time and on the full moon was just it seemed like a dome gone full circle. And it’s a bit of healing, I guess.
In 2001 I’d just returned from overseas traveling, and I was sitting down at the table with my mum and she said ‘I think your father’s having an affair.’
And my jaw dropped and I couldn’t believe it, and I said, ‘What made you think that, why on earth would you say that? Why do you think that?’
And she said ‘I saw them. You know he was with his personal assistant who he’d had for 20 years. And she said I saw a look between them.’
And a wife who knows that look.
So, then I, I offered to check it out. And my dad was going away on a work trip the next weekend. So, I called up the hotel that he was staying at. I said ‘I’m just confirming that reservation for Mr Windebank. That it’s, is it for one or two people?’ and they said, ‘Well that’s for two people.’ And I called the airline and again confirmed how many passengers were on the flight booked for that ticket and they were two, you know, and then my Mum confronted him at the farm and I was down in Melbourne and yeah, that was heartbreaking. And yeah, gutting for the whole family. Destroyed us.
We found out after they died that he had been having the affair for 17 years, with this woman that had been quite involved in our lives and it was a really sad demise of my mother and father’s relationship. For two years, this went on he came and went a couple of times, and he didn’t want to hurt Mum, but he loved the other woman and Mum wouldn’t get over it and couldn’t accept it.
And so, in the end she, she shot Dad, and then … suicided herself at the farm. In the middle of that, she called me, and I was at a cafe in Melbourne, just having finished work and she said ‘I’ve just shot dad. Call my brother and my best friend and come up quickly.’
And I said to her, ‘Do don’t do anything stupid, Mum. Just … just I’ll be there as soon as I can.’ And I hung up the phone, which you know, then went on to realise that’s like the number one rule you don’t do if someone’s suicidal, hang up the phone. So anyway, we drove up and the scene played out.
I forgave them straightaway. I completely understood their pain, on both sides. You know?
They both did really bad things. You know who’s to judge? Is having an affair really bad? Is killing someone really bad? Well, you know, most people would say of course killing someone way worse than having an affair.
But he destroyed her life.
And I understood that, and she talked at length about it with me and she was, you know, she couldn’t get over it. So, I understood exactly why she did it.
I couldn’t empathise with my dad for a long time. He was the wrongdoer in the whole thing for a long time.
And then I thought, you know, Dad did do a really bad thing and he sort of … I took it personally, but it wasn’t personal against me. He fell in love and he went with it. He didn’t have any self-control about it, which was, you know, the real problem. And her you know, the other woman, she, you know, she lost a lot. They had all these plans for retirement, and the rest of their lives together, and I guess they’d been waiting for it a bit. So, it’s a sad, for everyone, it was a really, really sad situation.
It has affected how I see things. You know, I was always quite black and white. But I think I, I wait for the full story, when I see something. I’m not as quick to judge, by any means, and I realise that everybody’s got a story going on. And it’s important to know that before you can really be harsh towards someone.
You know, I had to pinch myself to remind myself how lucky I am and you know, I do have my own dream. You know, I’ve got my husband and my children and we’re happy and healthy and going well. So, you’ve got to remember that regularly. Just take stock of what you do have. Don’t think about what you don’t have.