It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of Mr Peter Smedley on Thursday 11 April. Peter was chairman of Orygen for seven years, retiring from the role in late 2017.
Peter had been ill for some time, dealing with this in his usual manner, which was resilience, good humour and quiet dignity. In his battle with his illness, he demonstrated some of the formidable qualities which characterised his business career. The same qualities that proved so crucial in guiding Orygen through both challenging times and the successful take-up of great opportunities.
Peter had a highly successful business career. He built a reputation as a formidable negotiator and leader who attracted strong loyalty and respect from his staff. These were qualities which we came to observe and value during his long role with Orygen and a range of other charitable organisations.
Peter dedicated himself to many philanthropic and charitable causes, including being chair of CARE Australia, and a board member of ‘The Haven’, another mental health charity which focuses on residential care for people with long-term mental illness. He was also committed to the arts, especially through the Australian Ballet.
However, it was through his chairmanship of the Colonial Foundation and of Orygen that we came to know Peter and to value and appreciate him so very highly. Peter had a depth and sophistication in his development of strategy, which was of crucial importance in grasping the enormous opportunities that he and the Colonial Foundation created for Orygen.
It was clear from the very beginning that Peter was a wholehearted supporter of Colonial’s decision to provide long-term support for, and partnership with, Orygen, engaging more directly when he took over the role as Orygen Chairman. It was through the leveraging of Colonial’s support that Orygen has been able to expand its resources and activities in youth mental health year after year, contributing to a dramatic increase in the availability of youth mental health services across Australia and internationally, particularly through the establishment of the headspace program. This is a story of faith maintained and faith repaid.
Knowing Peter was in Orygen’s corner as we faced opportunities and challenges was incredibly reassuring and instilled great confidence. It was also extremely effective in terms of outcomes. The fact that today we have our new state–of-the-art facility, of which Peter was so proud, is tangible evidence and an ongoing reminder of his contribution. We were relieved and delighted that he was able to not only see our new building completed, but to make a personal inspection of the building a couple of weeks before he passed away.
A number of the Orygen executive team – including chief operating officer John Moran, director strategy and development Kerryn Pennell, and director of finance Petula Frantz – got to know and appreciate Peter greatly.
Peter will be sorely missed, remembered fondly, and deeply appreciated and admired for his lifetime achievements, especially for his immense contribution to Orygen and to young peoples’ mental health in Australia and around the world.
We express our sincere condolences to his wife, Christine, and to all his family.
Professor Pat McGorry
Executive Director, Orygen