Close your eyes and imagine an exclusive 96-acre property on King Island, off the North-West coast of Tasmania. You’re entirely off-grid. You’re sitting in your room, looking out to panoramic views of the untouched rugged coastal landscape. The stress of modern-day life has washed away...
Welcome to Kittawa Lodge, a luxury getaway which by the time you read this article, is bound to land on your bucket list. And while we sit uncomfortably in lockdown around Australia, that list might not get any shorter, but we don’t continue to dream about the future, what is left?
To celebrate Father’s Day, Seed Heritage wanted to take us away, to help us escape, into the lives of dads all over Australia. And two fathers Seed paid a visit to were Aaron Suine, a lawyer, and Nick Stead, an organisational psychologist, the owners and founders of the spectacular Kittawa Lodge and dads to five-year-old Abraham.
Here, we speak to Aaron about becoming a father, swapping city life for King Island, the magic of Kittawa Lodge and, of course, fall in love with Seed Heritage’s new father and son Match With Dad collection.
In partnership with Seed Heritage. See the full Father’s Day Match With Dad collection at seedheritage.com
Photography: Hugh Davies
Go to kittawalodge.com
Tell me about the creation of Kittawa Lodge, what was your vision and how does it feel when you're there?
For Nick and I, we were a corporate couple in Paddington in Sydney, New South Wales. For us, we saw our corporate careers as a means to an end, and we always knew we would probably get into a hospitality venture later in life. One of the things that we really enjoyed was to get away from the hamster wheel and get away to luxury boutique accommodation offerings. I think that just fed the passion and desire to create our own escape for people. In the beginning, we had ourselves in mind, so lethargic corporate couples, or corporate retirees in mind, just busy with the noise of life and wanting to get away to decompress and just breathe out and reconnect to one another. Or if you’re a solo traveller, reconnect with yourself and contemplate your future without all that white noise that you would generally have in everyday life.
Five years ago, we started looking for the right community to be embraced by and be supported by in our venture, and we found King Island, and as soon as we stepped foot on the property that we ended up purchasing, this very vivid image of what we wanted to create came to mind. We spent a couple of years through the design process, and we were able to open in October, 2019. For us, it was really important that we be an eco-sustainable venture. We’re 100% off grid, and there was nothing on the property, not even a road when we first purchased it.
You really feel a sense of calm and peace when you’re here. You feel centered. Nick and I are not terribly spiritual people, but we’ve never felt a connection like we do to this land. It immediately felt special and like home. The things that guests really connect with is the fact that when you’re in your lodge, and we have two of those on the property, you can’t see anything else from inside your lodge, so you do feel entirely cocooned and connected with the landscape around you, and those ancient sand dunes frame these beautiful views of the west coast and the horizon, and you’re watching the storms sweep across the horizon.
It’s an endless drama for us that we are just entirely taken by, and our guests just visibly relax into their stay here. Their speech pattern slows, and their posture relaxes, and you find that each day, they’re spending more and more time in the lodge and are less inclined to want to tick off the itinerary that they had built for themselves in that busy state before they arrived on island. I love the fact that we’re bringing to their life a much-needed renewed pace and giving them a space, which is both homely yet sophisticated and aspirational to them to think about what they want to achieve next in life, or just simply reconnect as a couple.
How did it feel moving out of the city, and what kind of life did you want to create?
We were putting in an application to adopt our child and it was a great catalyst for us to start thinking not only about what life we wanted for ourselves, but what type of parents did we want to be for our child. What kind of upbringing did we want for our child? I grew up in Southwest New South Wales, Nick on the Central Coast of New South Wales, so our upbringings were far more community orientated than the city of metropolitan Sydney could provide. Once we adopted Abraham, we came to acknowledge quickly that he needed space, and we wanted him to be surrounded by the right type of inspiration and education.
For us, the education we love that he’s having, is more hands-on and practical. He’s gaining so many life skills already being on this island. He’s already made the connection himself between rain going into our water tank and being able to have a bath at night – for us, that’s invaluable at such a young age. We loved Paddington, but we really wanted a slower pace of life. We wanted to be more present parents. We felt very strongly that we needed a smaller community, more grounded in the environment, and a work situation that enabled Nick and I had to be far more flexible and present as parents and provide us with the ability to be comfortable financially and emotionally.
“ We don't want to dictate what Father’s Day means to Abraham. We want him to tell us what he wants that day to be, because for us, it's more to do with him than what it is to do with us, because he's the reason why we're parents and celebrating this day. We just want to make sure that we're together and spending quality time together. ”
Tell me, had you always known you wanted to be a father, and what do you love most about fatherhood?
Growing up in an Italian household with lots of kids around at any given time, it was always a given that I would be a father. At that time, you didn’t look around and see a whole heap of same sex couples as parents. I put it to the back of my mind. For Nick, it was a different journey. For him, he’s from a really small family. It wasn’t important that he was a parent. It was never on his radar. For many, many years in our relationship, in a really civil way, we always made sure that each other was able to speak very openly about their desire or lack of desire to be a parent. We both respected the fact that we would take a different journey, and we wouldn’t have to stress about it until it became a live topic.
By the time it became a live topic, Nick’s brother had just become a parent. Seeing how much joy our nephew brought to my brother-in-law, was probably one of the main stepping stones in Nick’s journey to wanting to become a father. We converged on the same path at the right time in our lives, and we both expressed that desire together, and it was a joint decision.
At that point, we started the adoption process which was a two-year process for us. We were very lucky because I know that many people can wait longer. We feel as if our family is complete, and Abraham came along and has taught us so much more about ourselves. Parenting is a continual learning experience. You have your hard days, but even on the hardest day, you still have a smile on your face at least once.
Then there are the really good days. We’ve just got to be open and honest with ourselves, as well as each other, about the fact that it’s not all roses, but we wouldn’t change it for the bloody world, because predominantly, it’s an amazing experience, and we learn so much about ourselves through it.
In the last 18 months, how have you navigated a pandemic as a family?
We try as much as possible to allow Abraham to just live a normal life. We’re very thankful that throughout this whole pandemic, he hasn’t missed a day of school or last year, day care. We’ve not had a case of COVID on King Island. From his life perspective, he hasn’t been terribly impacted yet. For six months, our business was closed because our island was closed off to mainland Tasmania as part of the initial efforts to contain and protect the smaller Bass Strait islands. So, we were unavoidably closed as an accommodation business there for six months.
At the beginning, that was a huge, huge hit emotionally to Nick and I to see our very, very young business that was doing so incredibly well, beyond even our wildest expectations, just dry up in a 48 hour period. Of course that has an inevitable impact and an adverse one on mental health. We had to go through that, but we had to suck it up for Abraham as best we bloody could, because he deserves to be parented in a really positive, supportive way. Right now, and I think it’s coming through maybe from school, his main concern is that he’s not able to be vaccinated, whereas daddy and pa are vaccinated, and what happens if COVID gets to King Island? That’s pretty profound from a five-year-old.
Overall, we feel, even despite our business being so significantly impacted over the last couple of years at certain points in time, we feel just so thankful and grateful to have spent that time on King Island and be largely unimpacted from a family unit perspective.
What does Father’s Day look like for you?
Father’s Day is what we call ‘special time’. Every day, at least once a day, Abraham is able to nominate when he wants special time. As soon as he says that, we put on a timer and we are completely devoted to him for 15 minutes, and we do whatever he wants. It’s his way to gain some control when he needs it during a period of the day.
That might be a trip to the bike park, or we could go down to the beach and collect shells and rocks. It’s completely up to him. But for us, we don’t want to dictate what Father’s Day means to Abraham. We want him to tell us what he wants that day to be, because for us, it’s more to do with him than what it is to do with us, because he’s the reason why we’re parents and celebrating this day. We just want to make sure that we’re together and spending quality time together.
Shop the Father’s Day ‘Match With Dad’ collection at seedheritage.com