Local hero given Queen’s honour
by Graeme Singleton
14th Jun 2010 2:25 AM
TONY Miller doesn’t think he’s a hero or indeed anyone special but to literally thousands of Australians he is a lifesaver.
For his contribution to the welfare of men through his role as the founder of Dads In Distress, Tony Miller has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the General Division of today’s Queen’s Birthday honours.
It is an accolade that doesn’t sit comfortably with Mr Miller but one he is none-the-less proud and humbled to accept.
“I am the most undeserving of anyone to be given this honour and so the only way I can accept it is to take it on behalf of all the people on the frontline giving their time every day to help men and women in crisis,” Mr Miller said.
It was his own personal breakdown in 1999 that led Mr Miller to set up Dads In Distress.
“My life was a mess, I was suicidal and I couldn’t find someone to talk to who I thought would understand what I was going through,” he said.
“I realise now it was a completely selfish act on my part but I wrote a letter to the Advocate and almost immediately other men contacted me with similar stories of isolation, anger and confusion.”
Dads in Distress was formed in 2000 and has since helped tens of thousands of people.
But Mr Miller doesn’t think enough has changed.
“People are still going back and forth to the Family Court, there are still battles over the contravention of court orders and sadly men in crisis are still taking their own lives,” Mr Miller said.
“But we are now reaching out to women as well as men. That’s been a big change.”
Mr Miller set up Mums in Distress in 2006 and since then advice and support has been offered to many thousands of people.
“We’ve even saved marriages and families, but it remains a constant battle to get governments to acknowledge there are problems in the Family Court and in the funding to men and women who need help,” Mr Miller said.
“There are still ongoing issues I want to be involved in.”
However he won’t be waging those wars on behalf of the organisation he founded.
Last week, for reasons he won’t disclose, he resigned from Dads in Distress.
“It is a great organisation and it will continue to be vitally important to men and women across the country, but I am now free to pursue my own private agendas,” Mr Miller said.
“I will be lobbying politicians everywhere for more funding for men and women in crisis and particularly for more mental health funding.”
Mr Miller hopes his Queen’s Birthday honour will focus even more attention on both the organisations he set up.
“I really can’t celebrate this award because there are never any winners in divorce and separation,” he said.
“I got my personal reward years ago when I took a phone call from a dad who was so distressed he was contemplating suicide.
“To be able to talk to him on a level he could understand and from a shared experience background made all the difference.
“That he didn’t take his own life is still my greatest achievement.”