"I owe a lot to Scouting. It had to be the most fantastic influence on my life. It taught me responsible risk-taking."
- Dick Smith
Dick Smith was a Scout for 14 years. He earned the Baden-Powell Award in 1966, and attributes much of his success in life to the lessons he learnt in Scouting.
Dick gained his amateur radio licence at age 17 and began repairing two-way taxi radios for an electronics firm. In 1968 he established his own business, expanding into car radio sales and the supply of electronic components. He sold the business, Dick Smith Electronics, to Woolworths in 1982. In 1999, he founded Dick Smith Foods whose products are made in Australia by Australian-owned companies.
Dick is a keen aviator and was Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority from 1990 to 1992 and 1997 to 1999. He holds both fixed wing and helicopter licences in Australia and the United States. His interest in the air and in adventuring led him to initiate the first Antarctic flights in 1977. In 1983 he became the first helicopter pilot to fly solo around the world and in 1995 he completed a second helicopter flight around the world, this time from east to west. In 1989, flying a Twin Otter, he completed the first vertical circumnavigation of the world, landing at both the North and South Poles. In 1993 he and a co-pilot completed the first non-stop balloon crossing of Australia, and in 2000 he conducted the first trans-Tasman balloon flight.
In 1986 he founded the quarterly journal Australian Geographic and has served as Chairman of the Australian Geographic Society. He has produced more than 20 documentary films and has written books about his adventures, including electronic books that have sold more than 300,000 copies.
Dick was Chairman of the Australian Chapter of the Explorers Club of New York from 1989 to 1994. He was Chairman of the National Centenary of Federation Council from 1996 to 2000 and was appointed Ambassador for the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation in 1998.
Dick was named Australian of the Year in 1986. He received the Lindbergh Award in 1992, an annual world-wide award given to one individual for lifetime achievement for a balance between technical advancement and environmental preservation. In 1999 he was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia for his service to the Australian aviation industry.
“I began as a Cub at eight and went right through to Rovers at age 23. I was very much a loner and Scouting gave me mateship, taught me organisation and how to motivate people. That’s why I was able to be the success that I am,” Dick said.
“My first real expedition was when a group of Rover Scouts and myself organised a sailing boat and sailed to Ball’s Pyramid, an incredible rock spire about 300 miles to the east of Sydney. I was about 21 years old and it gave me the kind of experience that helped me to start my business."
Dick believes he has “a tremendous amount to thank the Scouting Movement for”.
“Scouting allows people to be individuals, but also to work as a team. I found in my business that what I’d learnt in my early days in Scouting, to get on with people, was incredibly important."
In 2005, ABC television's Australian Story aired an episode about Dick's remarkable adventures as a Rover.
Dick has remained a strong supporter of Scouting. He is a Member of the Lord Baden-Powell Society and in December 2008 he and his wife Pip donated $1million to Scouts Australia. He has requested the donation be used for projects that promote responsible risk-taking in young people, and to build a sculpture in Scouts Place, Circular Quay, to commemorate the centenary of Scouting in Australia.