Dick Smith (entrepreneur)

Dick Smith AO
Born Richard Harold Smith
18 March 1944 (1944-03-18) (age 67)
Roseville, New South Wales
Nationality Australian
Education North Sydney Technical Boys High School
Known for Entrepreneur, businessman, aviator, philanthropist, political activist.[1]
Title Officer of the Order of Australia
Spouse Phillipa McManarney
Children Two

Dick Smith, AO (born Richard Harold Smith on 18 March 1944(1944-03-18)) is an Australian entrepreneur, businessman, aviator, and political activist.[1] He is the founder of Dick Smith Electronics, Dick Smith Foods and Australian Geographic, and was selected as the 1986 Australian of the Year.


Business ventures


In 1968, Dick Smith founded electronics retailer Dick Smith Electronics. In 1982, he sold the business to Woolworths for $20 million,[2] and the business still retained his name in the business title and a caricature of his image in the company's branding.

Dick Smith Electronics entered the United States with stores in Northern California and Los Angeles, but were closed in the late 1980s.

Australian products

Dick Smith Food's "Dickheads" matches

Smith founded Dick Smith Foods in 1999, marketed as a crusade against foreign ownership of Australian food producers, particularly Arnott's Biscuits, which in 1997 became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Campbell Soup Company. Dick Smith Foods only sells foods produced in Australia by Australian-owned companies.[3]

Dick Smith Foods' products are often named to parody the items they compete with – for example, in competition with Redheads matches, Smith sells near-identically packaged matches called "Dickheads" with the text on the rear stating "We would have to be complete dickheads to let most of our famous Australian brands be taken over by foreign companies. Brands such as Vegemite, Aeroplane Jelly, Arnott’s, Speedo and Redhead Matches are in overseas hands. This means the profit and wealth created goes overseas and robs our children and grandchildren of a future".[4] A chocolate biscuit called "Temptin'" competed directly with the established favourite Arnott's Tim Tam. In 2003 Arnott's took legal action against Dick Smith Foods, resulting in an out-of-court settlement that required the "p" in the Temptin' logo to be increased in size.[5]


In 1983 Smith published the book "The Earth Beneath Me" which described his solo helicopter flight around the world. Two documentaries were also filmed during the flight, and a third one soon after. In 1986, Smith founded the magazine Australian Geographic, a National Geographic-style magazine focusing on Australia. Smith did not want to greatly expand Australian Geographic, but his friend and CEO Ike Bain convinced him to change his mind and soon it was a thriving business.[citation needed]

Aviation and adventures

In 1964, Smith sailed with a group of Rover Scouts to Balls Pyramid in the Pacific Ocean – the highest sea spire in the world. He and the group failed to climb the Pyramid, however in 1980 Smith returned and climbed to the top.

Smith learned to fly in 1972, graduating to a twin engine Beech Baron. In 1976 he competed in the Perth to Sydney air race.[6] At the age of 34 he purchased his first helicopter, a Bell Jetranger. With it he made a record-setting flight from Sydney to Lord Howe Island and return, 1185 km. The helicopter opened new opportunities for exploring places otherwise inaccessible. In 1978 he found the wreck of the Kookaburra aircraft, which crash-landed in the Central Australian Desert in 1929.[7]

Smith's admiration for the early aviation pioneers led him to successfully attempt the first solo helicopter flight around the world. His flight began in Fort Worth, Texas, on 5 August 1982, in a newly purchased Bell Jetranger 206B. On 19 August, the 50th anniversary of James Mollison's solo crossing of the Atlantic, he arrived at Balmoral Castle, United Kingdom where he met Prince Charles. From there he flew to London, where, later that day, the first stage of his flight ended, after 11752 km. The second stage of his flight started in London on 13 September, and finished in Sydney, Australia, 3 October 1982, 23092 km later.[8] On 25 May 1983 the final stage of the flight started. Not being granted permission to land in USSR, he arranged to land on a ship to refuel. His journey ended on 22 July 1983, the 50th anniversary of Wiley Post's solo aeroplane flight around the world on 22 July 1933.

In 1988/89 Smith flew a Twin Otter aircraft VH-SHW (registered after his hero, Sir Hubert Wilkins) vertically around the world, landing at both the North and South Poles. He landed the aircraft in Beijing on the night of the Tiananmen Square uprising.

In November 1995 Smith climbed the most remote of the seven summits, Carstensz Pyramid in Irian Jaya with Peter Hilary and Greg Mortimer.

Smith has been a vocal advocate for the civil aviation industry in Australia, having been appointed by Prime Minister Bob Hawke to be Chairman of the Board of the Civil Aviation Authority from February 1990 to February 1992. He also served as Deputy-Chairman and Chairman of the Board of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority from 1997 until his resignation in 1999.

Smith was Chairman of the Council for the Centenary of Federation from December 1996 to February 2000, a position he was appointed to by the then Prime Minister, John Howard.

In February 2000, Smith and his co-pilot John Wallington became the first people to successfully complete an east-west crossing of the Tasman Sea by balloon, from New Zealand to Australia against generally-prevailing winds.[9]

On 7 January 2006, Smith flew his Cessna Grand Caravan from Sydney to Hari Hari on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island to mark the 75th anniversary of the first solo trans-Tasman flight by Guy Menzies in 1931.[10]

On Tuesday 26 August 2008, Smith with his wife, Pip completed a two and a half year drive by vehicle around the world of over 40,000 kilometres.


Smith has also attempted a number of well-publicised practical jokes, including the "attempt" to tow an iceberg from Antarctica to Australia to obtain more fresh water. In the early 1980s Dick Smith served as the conductor aboard a London double decker bus which jumped 15 motorcycles. The bus, driven by Hans Tholstrup, was a humorous poke at Evel Knievel who had visited Australia in 1979 and jumped his motorcycle over buses.[11] Dick Smith's presence on the bus was a last minute decision by himself.[12][13]

Awards and honours

Smith was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day Honours of 1999, for his services to the community, charity and business.[14]

Dick Smith was awarded Australian of the Year in 1986.[15][16]. At Smith's Australian of the Year Presentation he suggested that publisher Rupert Murdoch might like to take a year off, come back to Australia and share some of his expertise by heading the Treasury or the Reserve Bank.[17]

Smith was awarded the Baden-Powell Award in 1966,[18] the highest award in the Rover Section, after 14 years in the Scouting movement.

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 I am.

—Dick Smith[18]

Smith gained his amateur radio licence at the age of 17 and holds call sign VK2DIK.[19]

In 1992 Dick Smith received the United States’ Lindbergh Award. The Award, “is given annually to individuals whose work over many years has made significant contributions toward the Lindbergh's concept of balancing technology and nature.”

Dick Smith was named an Australian Living Treasure in 1997.[20]

In 2000, Dick Smith was named the 2000 Adventurer of the Year by the Australian Geographic Society, after he made a trans-tasman balloon trip from New Zealand to Australia.[21] [22]

In 2010, Smith was the Patron for the 100th Anniversary of the Wireless Institute of Australia, including being the major speaker at the annual general meeting in Canberra on 27 May 2010. The next day, he hosted AGM attendees at his country property near Gundaroo, New South Wales.[23]

On 29 June 2010 Dick Smith accepted the commission of Rear Admiral of the Lake Eyre Yacht Club.[24]

Involvement in public affairs

In 2005, Dick Smith gave public support to the asylum seeker Peter Qasim. Qasim was released later in 2005 by the Australian Government after seven years in detention. This support included the offer to visit India seeking evidence of Qasim's claims.[25][26]

He paid a large share of the ransom to free Australian photojournalist Nigel Brennan and Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout who were both being held hostage in Somalia.[27]

Smith is a founder and a patron of the Australian Skeptics. In July 1980, Smith collaborated with renowned skeptic James Randi to test water divining, offering a prize of $40,000 for a successful demonstration.[28]

In June 2008, he offered a $50,000 award for investigative journalism into the Government purchase of Super Seasprite helicopters, after the contract was cancelled at a cost of A$1.1 billion.[citation needed]

In response to a large increase in pertussis cases during a 2008/09 outbreak,[29] Smith funded a national ad in The Australian encouraging parents to "Get The Facts" and derided the Australian Vaccination Network as an anti-vaccination organisation.[30]

Political activism

Smith donated A$60,000 in February 2007 towards a campaign to secure a fair trial for then Australian terrorism suspect David Hicks who had been held in a U.S. military prison in Cuba's Guantanamo Bay for five years.[31] Smith said he wanted Hicks to get "a fair trial, a fair go".[32] Fresh charges, including attempted murder, had been filed against Hicks earlier that month.[33] Hicks pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in March 2007 as part of a plea bargain,[34] and was released from custody in December 2007.[35]

Smith financially assisted Australian Greens leader Senator Bob Brown after he was left with a $240,000 anti-logging court bill after losing a case he brought against Forestry Tasmania.[36] A failure to pay would have resulted in Brown having to declare bankruptcy, and therefore lose his seat in the Senate.[37]

Population policy activism

In August 2010 Smith announced he would be devoting himself to questions of global population, overpopulation, and alternatives to an economic growth-based economy. He produced and appeared in the feature length documentary, Dick Smith's Population Puzzle broadcast by public network ABC, questioning the desirability of Australia's rapid population growth. In the documentary, Smith calls the campaign the most important thing he has ever done in his life.[38]

In August 2010 he announced the Wilberforce Award of AUS$1 million to a person under 30 who attracted his attention by advocating alternatives to population and consumption growth.[39]

In May 2011, Dick Smith published his book on the subject, Dick Smith's Population Crisis: The dangers of unsustainable growth for Australia.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Smith, Dick (30 May 2011), "The idiocy of endless growth", The Age (Melbourne), http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/the-idiocy-of-endless-growth-20110529-1fata.html, retrieved 2011-06-03 
  2. ^ Talking Heads. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2007-05-07. Transcript. Retrieved on 2007-09-19.
  3. ^ "Dick Smith Foods - Mission Statement". About Us. Dick Smith Foods. http://www.dicksmithfoods.com.au/index.php?d=main&p=sitemap. Retrieved 2007-09-19. 
  4. ^ Patrick Barkham. Aussie icons under siege, guardian.co.uk, Monday 26 February 2001.
  5. ^ "Battle of the Biscuits: Dick Smith Foods & Arnotts declare a truce". Media Releases. Dick Smith Foods. 2003-06-04. http://www.dicksmithfoods.com.au/?d=media&p=04jun03. Retrieved 2007-09-19. 
  6. ^ Glines, Carroll V., Round-the-world flights, p 316
  7. ^ Smith, D., The Earth Beneath Me, ISBN 0-207-14360-6, p. 1-3
  8. ^ Smith, D., The Earth Beneath Me, ISBN 0-207-14360-6
  9. ^ "Speaker Dick Smith Full Biography - Speakers Bureau @ ICMI". Inform Communicate Motivate International (Australia). Archived from the original on 2 September 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070902120923/http://www.icmi.com.au/Entertainer/Bands/Dick_Smith/Biography. Retrieved 2007-09-19. 
  10. ^ Madgwick, Paul (2006-01-08). "Dick Smith recreates first solo trans-Tasman flight". The Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/dick-smith-recreates-first-solo-transtasman-flight/2006/01/07/1136609980878.html. Retrieved 2006-04-18. 
  11. ^ Evel Knievel
  12. ^ "The Flying Omnibus". Motorcycle Gallery. Dropbears. 2006-03-25. http://www.dropbears.com/m/models/specials/busjump.htm. Retrieved 2007-09-19. 
  13. ^ "Front Seat of the Race Bus". Millennium Ride. 2002-04-11. http://www.milly.org/hkingman/oz/oz2.htm. Retrieved 2007-09-19. 
  14. ^ It's an Honour - Officer of the Order of Australia
  15. ^ "National Australia Day Council - Australian of the Year Award". Award Recipients, Australian of the Year. National Australia Day Council. http://www.australianoftheyear.gov.au/pages/page79.asp. Retrieved 2007-09-19. 
  16. ^ Lewis, Wendy (2010). Australians of the Year. Pier 9 Press. ISBN 9781741968095. 
  17. ^ 1960-2010 Australians of the Year, published by Murdoch Books Australia, ISBN 978-1-74196-809-5
  18. ^ a b "Dick Smith - Scouts Australia". Famous Scouts. Scouts Australia. http://www.scouts.com.au/main.asp?iStoryID=848. Retrieved 2007-09-19. 
  19. ^ "QRZ.COM VK2DIK". QRZ.COM. http://www.qrz.com/detail/VK2DIK. Retrieved 2007-09-19. 
  20. ^ "Australian Living Treasure". Award Recipients. National Trust of Australia (NSW). http://www.nsw.nationaltrust.org.au/about/treasures.asp. Retrieved 2009-10-20. 
  21. ^ "Dick Smith, Australian, Electronics, Retail & Aviation Magnate". AussieTycoon. http://www.aussietycoon.com/archive/index.php/t-30.html. Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  22. ^ "AG Society Adventure Awards". Australian Geographic. http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/society/adventure-awards-ag-society.htm. Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  23. ^ The WIA Centenary Patron, JiM Linton VK3PC, 2 June 2010, accessed 3 June 2010
  24. ^ Smith becomes Rear Admiral, Adelaide Now 1 July 2010
  25. ^ "Dick Smith flies to Baxter detainee's aid". ABC News Online. 1 March 2005. http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200503/s1313287.htm. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  26. ^ "After 7 years, detainee wants job". The Australian. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,15963728%255E2702,00.html. [dead link]
  27. ^ Smith, Dick, Brennan ransom came from Aussies, http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/978811/aussies-paid-kidnap-pairs-600k-ransom, retrieved 2011-06-03 
  28. ^ James Randi. "Australian Skeptics Divining Test". http://www.skeptics.com.au/articles/divining.htm. Retrieved 2009-04-21. [dead link]
  29. ^ "Pertussis in Australia". Center for Disease Control. 17 April 2009. http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentPertussisAustralia.aspx. Retrieved 2009-04-27. 
  30. ^ Hall, Louise (16 August 2009), "Vaccine fear campaign investigated", The Sydney Morning Herald, http://www.smh.com.au/national/vaccine-fear-campaign-investigated-20090815-elsg.html, retrieved 16 August 2009 
  31. ^ "Dick Smith donates $60,000 to free Hicks". NineMSN. 18 February 2007. http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=226760. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  32. ^ "Dick Smith donates $60,000 to free Hicks". NineMSN. 18 February 2007. http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=226760. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  33. ^ "Joint Media Release - Minister for Foreign Affairs and Attorney General: David Hicks: charges outlined". Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Australian Government Attorney-General's Department. 3 February 2007. http://www.foreignminister.gov.au/releases/2007/joint_ruddock_hicks.html. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  34. ^ Scott Horton (2 April 2007). "The Plea Bargain of David Hicks". Harper's Magazine (The Harper's Magazine Foundation). http://www.harpers.org/archive/2007/04/horton-plea-bargain-hicks. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  35. ^ Rory Callinan (29 December 2007). "Aussie Taliban Goes Free". Time Magazine (Time Inc). http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1698999,00.html. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  36. ^ Peter Wels (10 June 2009). "I took advice on court costs, says Bob Brown". The Examiner (Tasmania). http://www.examiner.com.au/news/local/news/politics/i-took-advice-brown/1536354.aspx. Retrieved 2011-06-02. 
  37. ^ "Dick Smith to bail Brown out". ABC News. 9 June 2009. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/06/09/2593414.htm. Retrieved 2011-06-02. 
  38. ^ Guy Pearse (June 2011). "Dick Smith’s Population Crisis". The Monthly. http://www.themonthly.com.au/dick-smith-s-population-crisis-comment-guy-pearse-3371. 
  39. ^ Isabel Hayes (11 August 2010). "Dick Smith offers $1m for person who reduces population with Wilberforce Award". News.com.au. AAP. http://www.news.com.au/business/dick-smith-offers-1m-for-person-who-reduces-population-with-wilberforce-award/story-e6frfm1i-1225904051970. Retrieved 2011-06-02. 

Further reading

  • Monica Attard (2005-07-17). "Sunday Profile interview with Dick Smith". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. http://www.abc.net.au/sundayprofile/stories/s1416294.htm. 
  • Davis, Pedr. Kookaburra: the most compelling story in Australia’s aviation history, Lansdowne books, Dee Why, 1980, ISBN 0-7018-1357-1
  • Smith, Dick. The Earth Beneath Me : Dick Smith's epic journey across the world, Angus & Robertson London 1983, ISBN 0-207-14630-6
  • Smith, Dick. Our Fantastic Planet : circling the globe via the poles with Dick Smith, Terry Hills N.S.W. Australian Geographic, 1991, ISBN 1-86276-007-1
  • Smith, Dick. Solo Around The World, Australian Geographic, Terrey Hills, 1992, ISBN 186279008X
  • Gott, Robert. Makers and Shakers, Reed Educational & Professional Publishing, Melbourne, 1998, ISBN 1-86391-878-7
  • Smith, Dick and Pip. Above The World: a pictorial circumnavigation, Australian Geographic, Terrey Hills, 1996, ISBN 18262760179
  • Bain, Ike. The Dick Smith Way, McGraw-Hill, Sydney, 2002, ISBN 0-07-471160-1
  • Smith, Dick. Dick Smith's Population Crisis: The dangers of unsustainable growth of Australia, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2011 ISBN 978-1-74237-657-8
Preceded by
Paul Hogan
Australian of the Year Award
Succeeded by
John Farnham

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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