Tony Wales, notable Australian philanthropist and businessman, will be awarded the Order of Australia on Australia Day, 2019. Tony is the chairperson of nationwide addiction recovery charity SMART Recovery Australia, which operates almost 300 free weekly addiction recovery meetings across Australia and New Zealand; and he has contributed enormously to SMART Recovery internationally.
On his selection, Tony said he felt “surprised, humbled and honoured in that order. I do what anyone else in my position would do, and whilst I am appreciative of the award, there are many people doing wonderful things for others that deserve recognition.
The SMART Recovery program, since its initial trial at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital in 2004, has established itself as Australia’s leading strength-based relapse prevention program to fight addictive behaviours. Despite a successful evaluation of the trial, the funding for the program came to an end. Fortunately, even though he had no personal affiliation with the SMART Recovery cause, Tony was convinced – on a golf course in Queensland, no less – by a mutual friend of drug and alcohol counsellor Josette Freeman of the program’s philosophy and quality, and the evidence-led approach on which it was founded. Upon investigating further, Tony not only dipped into his own pocket, but took tangible action, and in doing so rescued the program from certain demise. This has enabled the organisation to grow, establish goodwill and gain respect from the Australian community. But of most important positively changed the lives of thousands of people affected by problematic addictive behaviours.
This sustained level of philanthropy is not common in Australia. Tony was a founding volunteer director and inaugural chairperson of SMART Recovery Australia, a position which he holds to this day. It is very rare in health charities to see senior employees stay beyond a decade, let alone as a voluntary non-executive director of a board.
On this topic, Tony stated that “the available funding for SRAU’s vital work is very little, and there are so many dedicated people who require my support to continue their wonderful work. Without SMART Recovery, countless numbers people with addictions would not have the opportunity to take control of their own lives. “
“Tony demonstrates true humility – he is unassuming, and cares deeply for fellow human beings. The world would be a much better place if more of his peers followed his leadership and contributed to society with selfless acts like he has shown,” said SMART Recovery Australia’s executive director, Ryan McGlaughlin.
Tony further emphasised his belief that “SMART Recovery helps people with addictions to overcome their demons and provides them with the opportunity to recover and lead a healthy and fruitful life. It gives them the possibility of a second chance, which in this life is a huge thing, and allows them to re-enter and, in many cases, assist others in the community.”