If there were an award for Parent of the Century, then Daniella Borg would win it. No contest.
In 2004, she was left to care for her nine daughters when her husband Kevin Rule died after a one-punch attack.
His assailant was found not guilty on charges relating to his death and the case was the subject of an ABC documentary, Courting With Justice.
Now, the story of Daniella and her nine daughters (Angela 29, Shenika 27, Helen 26, Kelly 23, Kiara 22, Sharna 20, Aleisha 17, Jessica 14 and Hannah 12) is being told in a six-part series – Family Rules – on NITV.
More than 12 years after the death of their father, four of the daughters are still living at home. The oldest three now have children, so Daniella is also a grandmother to five grandkids and they all live within a five-kilometre radius.
“There’s always entertainment in our family,” Daniella says.
The series offers an entertaining guide to parenting, extended families and the lives of teenagers.
In one episode, feisty Aleisha (“I’ve got the cheekiest mouth”) prepares for her school formal and her choice of dress has become a family affair, with opinions galore.
She tries to manipulate her sisters to “chuck in” for her hair extensions, saying she doesn’t want to pay for them because “I worked for my money”.
Older sister Shenika (who was a contestant on Naomi Campbell’s The Face modelling contest) calls her bluff by checking out her story that her other sisters had agreed to help. They hadn’t. Aleisha pays.
Daniella is close to tears as Aleisha poses in front of the stretch limo with her friends.
“Confident, be confident,” she says.
Another episode features 14-year-old Jessica, the “loyal and helpful” daughter, who’s starting to kick against the rules her mum sets. No parties or hair dyes until she’s 16, for example.
“Mum’s hard on me – like I’m adopted or something,” she says.
“When I’m with my friends, I feel more free – not having my family around.”
Daniella relents and allows Jessica to have her hair highlighted. Naturally, it’s a family occasion and Jessica glows with excitement.
Then Daniella attempts the sex education chat and Jessica is mortified.
“Shooosh”, “Stop there”, “let’s not go this far” she pleads, laughing with embarrassment.
By the end of the program, she also decides to return her hair to its original colour, admitting that her mum was right.
“I can wait to grow up,” she says.
The added layer to this series is how the girls interact with their Aboriginal culture. The older girls had learned much from their father but the younger four missed out.
So their Nanna Doreen takes her city grandchildren (with their mobiles and social media) back to where she was born and it is a genuinely funny road trip.
Slowly, the girls become engrossed in her world – particularly when they visit the Quairading cemetery where many of her relatives are buried.
Nanna Doreen breaks down as she tells their stories to the girls and stresses the importance of their culture.
The Rule girls are being labelled as the Australian Kardashians, but don’t let that put you off. They’re nothing like the cashed-up, headline-seeking US family – and their series is both moving and entertaining.
NITV is a free to air channel and is run by SBS. The series is also available on SBS On Demand.