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8 February, 2021
BaptistCare team member Anthony Wood, known as Tony, has spent 12 years as a Client Liaison Officer in Residential Services, based in Canberra.
On Australia Day of this year, it was announced by Governor-General Hurley that Tony has been recognised in the Australia Day 2021 Honours List by being awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for services to rugby league and to the community.
Tony was not just recognised for his contribution to rugby league but also for his work with Respite Care for Queanbeyan, and in support of Rise Again, the cancer-relief charity for Canberra and the surrounding region.
Tony is a remarkable person: he loves his job, calling it a “highlight of my life” and he has been very active in his community, donating, fundraising and creating awareness for Rise Above (a cancer relief charity) and Respite Care for Queanbeyan, which has now secured some Government funding and land which has been donated to the project by Queanbeyan council.
Tony has spent 38 years volunteering as Victor the Viking, the mascot for the Canberra Raiders Rugby League team where he has been honoured as a Raiders Life Member and has no plans to retire. Tony started as Victor the Viking when he was 18 and is now 55.
Tony as Victor even does weddings for Raiders fans, running up the aisle in his mascot outfit once man and wife are announced.
Tony says it’s not an easy job being a mascot, but he plans to keep going for as long as he can, saying, “I can’t see myself stopping. I might slow down though”.
“Over the years there have been plenty of individuals who are mascots with Sydney teams that are members of Actors Equity, but they can only go 20 minutes before having a break. You need to drink a lot of water,” said Tony.
When asked if he will ever retire as Victor, Tony immediately replies, “Oh no! One day I’ll be running up the sidelines in a BaptistCare wheelie walker!”
When asked about his inspiration to dedicate himself to the community and helping to raise money for Respite Care for Queanbeyan and Rise Above, Tony describes a time in his life in 1997 when he suffered stroke-like symptoms, known as Conversion Disorder, and was admitted to hospital.
While he was in hospital, a group of Canberra Raiders players, led by Ruben Wiki, David Furner and Brett Finch, transformed his backyard by landscaping it and replacing all the grass and relaying turf.
Tony tells how this defining moment inspired him, “When I came home from hospital, I was blown away. It reinforced to me that this was a club that cared for people. It spurred me on to do more in the community.”
Tony’s ethos to help people is reflected in his role with BaptistCare too, which he finds very rewarding and motivating, saying, “It motivates you. Life motivates you. I’m not overwhelmed by being busy. It’s like coming to work at BaptistCare every day, the elderly are frail and vulnerable and in need of care and support. Everyone needs a helping hand.”
“My job with BaptistCare is a highlight of my life. I regard my job with BaptistCare as one of the most important jobs because it’s at that point where people come in search for their mum or dad, and it’s our job to make families feel comfortable and informed when placing their loved ones in our care,” continues Tony.
When asked about how he felt when he found out he was being awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia, Tony says, “It actually took me a couple of days to accept it because there are so many people involved it’s not just me. But it’s because there are so many people involved I felt it was the right thing to do and so I accepted after a few days. I am part of a community and that’s why this award is so important.”
Once the realisation set in, Tony says in his customary and gentle way, “It’s a wonderful honour. It’s a very humbling feeling and there’s always people worse off than you are and I don’t want to be held up on a pedestal.”
Tony will officially receive his Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) at a ceremony later this year with Governor-General Hurley and Mrs Hurley at Government House in Sydney.
Congratulations Tony from all of your friends at BaptistCare!
You’re an inspiration in how you have dedicated your life to serving and helping others and this award recognises that dedication and service.