'Humbled' by Queen's honour for decades of service

Published 9:00am 13 June 2022

'Humbled' by Queen's honour for decades of service
Words by Nick Crockford

Michael Hornby said he is “surprised, humbled and not quite sure how to react” after being recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, which were announced last night.

The Albany Creek resident has been awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for his “service to the community through a range of roles" with charities.

Over 30 years he has launched The Smith Family in Queensland, raised millions for Surf Life Savers, started an RSPCA animal care campus and founded the Wildlife Warriors at Australia Zoo.

He now raises funds for medical research as CEO of The Common Good at Prince Charles Hospital Foundation, Chermside, “meeting people who are alive because of the small, but essential, role we play”.

Very grateful

“I am very grateful and have been blessed by being able to dedicate what I do to improve the lives of people and the community, as best I can,” Mr Hornby said.

“It’s a privilege to do that and to be recognised is above and beyond.”

Mr Hornby described his job as identifying “needs and causes” for which he believed the public could help make a difference.

“The true essence of charity is to do things government cannot and to make a positive difference,” he said.

'Humbled' by Queen's honour for decades of service
Michael Hornby with one of the researchers at Prince Charles Hospital

Driving force

“I know if sounds fluffy, but it’s what drives me - feeling I can influence that and make things better.”

That started in 1992, moving to Queensland with his young family to launch The Smith Family, which helps disadvantaged children and their families, in a state where it was unknown and had no connections.

Mr Hornby said he spent the first two years meeting people and “telling the story”. Among his achievements over the next six years was founding the Learning for Life welfare program which is operating today.

As national marketing manager for Surf Life Saving Australia (1998-2005), Mr Hornby secured the charity’s first national corporate sponsors and in 2004 generated $27 million.

Helping wildlife

Returning as group general manager (2007-2011), he lead the national Year of the Surf Lifesaver campaign.

In between, Mr Hornby was CEO of the Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors, setting up Steve Irwin’s conservation charity and the southern hemisphere's largest wildlife hospital at Beerwah.

Mr Hornby also faced the world’s media in 2006 when Steve Irwin died while filming in north Queensland.

Five years later, as executive manager of RSPCA Queensland (2011-2013), Mr Hornby helped create the Queensland Animal Care Campus, which is at Wacol.

'Humbled' by Queen's honour for decades of service
Mr Hornby marvelling at the work being done by researchers.

Life-saving research

For the last nine years he has been with the Prince Charles Hospital Foundation and launched The Common Good to help “power life-saving medical research”.

“The payback here is something beyond what I could have imagined,” Mr Hornby said. “This is the most unlikely thing I’ve ever done and is by far the most important to me.

“I thought there was money going around for medical research, but didn’t realise what researchers actually go through. How they dedicate their lives.

“Most are paid nothing for what they do, no job security, yet are trying to save lives by tackling the conditions most people will be affected by.

“The doctors, nurses and researchers have been so patient with me asking questions and finding out what issues they face, but now we are part of something that has, for example, changed heart transplantation in Australia.

Money well spent

“We’re also doing the early detection of dementia, screening of the brain is being developed here and first treatments for silicosis (a deadly lung disease, described as the worst industrial health crisis since asbestosis). 

"The researchers here are heroes.

“My priority was how do we provide sustainable funding so researchers do not have to worry about where they will be next year and can bring their projects to a conclusion. Many cannot do that because funding runs out. 

"Spending $200,000 on a research project over two years, is money well spent because we have what we asked for. Spending $100,000 in one year and being no better off ... that is a waste of money.”


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