Humble 'Tugboat' given top honour for charity work
Jun
13
2016

ASHLEY Robinson watched on helplessly as one of his mates, a former footy player, drank himself to death.

It was then he went home to his wife and told her he didn't want to work in the liquor industry any more.

"I said I didn't want to destroy lives, I wanted to build them," the Alexandra Headland Surf Lifesaving Club manager said. 

"I told Sheila I wanted to be a teacher.

"And she said, well how are we going to pay the mortgage if you're going to teach at college?

"And, you're not that smart." 

Mr Robinson, 59, realised he had to give back to the community and so began his tireless charity work, which culminated in him being awarded an Order of Australia Medal today.

Mr Robinson - or Tugboat as his friends call him - was humbled by the award but adamant that he should be the one thanking the community, and not the other way around.

The born and bred Sunshine Coast local was brought up in Eudlo, where his father was a dairy and pineapple farmer. He went to school in Eudlo and Nambour.

He is the chairman of the Sunshine Coast Falcons, and caught up with the Daily just ahead of flying to Cairns with the team on Saturday.

Tugboat is also the chairman of the Gambling Community Benefit Committee, a Sunshine Coast Daily columnist, a pantomime actor, a mental health advocate and a disability advocate.

"Why I'm a little bit sheepish about taking an OAM, a lot of this stuff … it wasn't me, it was me being the conduit or the idiot at the end of it but a lot of great people in the community … they're the people who should get the OAM not me," he said.

He co-founded the Mudjimba Island Swim to raise money for the disabled school back.

"The charity swim came about because of a footy bet I had on the ABC with a bloke called Cam Young," he said.

"If I would have won, he was to stand at the traffic lights at Duporth Ave with a tutu on that says Tugboat is the best footy tipper in the world.

"I said what do you want me to do? He said, 'what I want you to do is to spend a day with my son at Nambour Special School.

"So fate would have it, I lost. So I spent a day up at the school.

"I didn't know but they had a Grade 12 trip away but they never had enough money to do it.

"So I said I wanted to raise some money. The Daily was there, they printed it. I had no idea what I was going to do.

"Bill Hoffman and Jason O'Pray were going to have a bit of a social swim around Old Woman Island and I cracked onto that."


The event was born and they raised $40,000, allowing the school to buy a new bus.

"I think half the people who donated wanted Bill and I to die doing it," Mr Robinson said.

In its 15 or so years, the swim has raised well over a million dollars for Nambour and Currimundi special schools.

Rugby league and sport in general is a big passion of Mr Robinson's.

He said he was an average player but he loved the game and his big focus was in ensuring the Falcons grew from strength to strength.

He loves his job at the surf club and the support and freedom the club gives him to pursue his charity work.

"It's my wife that keeps me on track," he said.

He reckons there's never been a better time to live on the Sunshine Coast and that the local government amalgamation has brought the place together.

"It used to be a big fight between Nambour and Maroochydore as to which one was the centre, but I think now it's a lot more united.

The community is so generous at pitching in when someone needs help and I think the paper has a lot to do with that too," he said.

Mr Robinson battled depression when he was 19 and attempted suicide twice.

"I didn't know it was depression at the time. My wife and my family saved me," he said.

"Outwardly I was happy and I had a lot of friends, but inwardly I was lonely.

"I'd forgotten about it until a few years back and now I try to be an advocate for men's mental health.

"All this work I've done, it changed my perception of what success is.

"I read somewhere if you give 20% of your time you get it back tenfold and that's the truest thing I've ever heard."


By Jenna Cairney of Sunshine Coast Daily

Click here for original article.

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