Joy in making a difference sees Docklands stalwart awarded prestigious honour
Former chair of Docklands’ Think Pink Foundation, Ron Smith, has been awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in the Australia Day honours list.
With more than five decades of experience in media communications, Mr Smith, 75, dedicated his time to the foundation, which saw him actively promote the organisation’s services to support women living with breast cancer.
During his tenure as chair between 2017-21, Mr Smith and the foundation’s team were able to secure the Living Centre’s facility in Yarra’s Edge as their new home in 2020 – an outcome that was described as “tremendous”.
At the time of the centre’s opening with developer Mirvac, a long-time supporter of Think Pink having chipped in $700,000 towards the development of the new purpose-built centre, Mr Smith said it was the foundation’s aspiration in Docklands to “make sure people are aware that they can come to the centre” for any emotional, physical, and practical support.
He said the team at Think Pink had been “absolutely wonderful” and “another example” of volunteers “wanting to give something back to help”.
Mr Smith described the OAM, which recognised his services to the media and communications sector, as “a surprise and a great honour”.
But he was humble about his accolade, saying “it’s not just me, it’s lots of people” including the “great support from the media” that had helped him in his campaigns – including raising funds for Kidsafe Victoria, the Victorian Deafness Foundation, and the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal Telethon.
His roles in communications are extensive, including acting as the media strategist with the Urban Land Authority for 12 years, in which he was responsible for the communication strategy to establish the Docklands Authority [now Development Victoria].
“It was an area that always offered a lot of promise to Melbourne,” he told Docklands News, speaking about the waterfront precinct.
“I think Docklands obviously relies on a lot of economic activity, and that’s what’s got to come back, that’s very important.”
“It will come back over time but the problem of course for businesses is that they need a lot of help,” he said after the precinct was hit hard by the pandemic.
I think in the longer term it will become one of the major areas, it has the support of the council, it has the support of the government.
Mr Smith, whose first job in Docklands was loading trucks in the railyards as a teenager, said he was an art teacher for 16 years before establishing his company, Corporate Media Communications Pty Ltd, with his wife Shirley.
“I left teaching, and my wife and I bought a church in Olinda,” he said, which they made their own home.
“We just started our business with a pad, some pens, and a desk. I never had any formal training whatsoever in the media.”
“Many of the things we do we just do quietly and get on with it. We’re not a big flashy PR company, never have been.”
A career highlight was working alongside former Prime Minister Julia Gillard when Mr Smith was national director of communications for Kidney Health Australia for eight years.
However, it was Mr Smith’s sense of humour and commitment to helping others that saw him establish the famous “Victorian Leap Frog Finals” in 1985.
The event, which featured teams from all political parties and the parliamentary press gallery with Freddo Frog being the mascot, raised money for the Victorian Deafness Foundation Channel 10 Telethon.
Mr Smith also held communication roles with Federation Square and the Southgate Arts and Leisure Precinct.
Think Pink Foundation director, David Hendel, said, “The directors, staff and volunteers of The Think Foundation send Mr Smith congratulations on receipt of his Order of Australia medal.”
“We’re a volunteer-based organisation and Ron and his wife Shirley contributed a great deal to our media and communications.” •