Interview - Louise Smith

Interview: Louise Smith, Toughlove - 5th February 2007

Media Man Australia continues to interview some of Australia's greatest social and community entrepreneurs. The latest is Louise Smith who we met via our association with Community TV.

What's your background?

I am a wife and mother who has been involved in the clerical side of the workforce ever since commencing employment in 1973. For the last few years I have become involved with another Toughlover who has a company called "Demand Flow Intelligence", and I work as one of their marketing assistants. With the generous help of this organisation, we are presently doing a marketing campaign for an Information evening for professionals on the north side of Sydney as a pilot program. If all goes well we will expand this to other areas.

How did Toughlove come about?

Toughlove came into been in 1972 when David & Phyllis York in America had issues with one of their daughters. The Yorks were well regarded family counselors but had significant difficulties in handling their wayward daughter. The daughter ended up in jail after robbing a pusher & various other unacceptable deeds. The York's friends took it upon themselves to visit the daughter and then report back as to how she was doing. This led to the birth of the Toughlove Program, which has subsequently become an international organization.

I have four children, who were all aware that we were attending Toughlove meetings on a weekly basis. Initially they chose to lampoon Toughlove, giving it pet names, such as; "Easy Hate", "The Wacko cult group", and so on. How they viewed Toughlove wasn't too relevant to me as I knew that, without this valuable organistation and the support we received, I am sure we wouldn't be in the great position we are today. Toughlove runs a 1300 phone line service, for which I am one of the volunteers. On odd occasions my kids have taken messages so I could call back. I was a bit slow one day in getting to the phone and my daughter took the call - what I overheard her say almost knocked me sideways. When asked if the program worked, she replied: "I had the Toughlove stuff used on me and I can tell you I didn't like it, but it does work!". The caller was so impressed that when I returned her call she had no hesitation in joining a group.

What's some of the biggest challenges you have overcome?

For 9 years we were trying to handle a drug addiction issue with two of our sons. I am talking chronic, multiple daily users and dealing. Thousands of dollars have gone missing over the years, goods stolen and pawned, just so they could get another hit. Our valuables had to be locked in our bedroom or storage room under the house. My cash and mobile phone had to be carried on my body at all times. Property damage was a big issue as was lying and foul language. I had to resign from work as I found that I was making errors and couldn't concentrate. Most days on my way to work I had to pull over to the side of the road to be sick as my tummy was a rumbling mess. My first meeting at Toughlove was an absolute relief. I had finally found something where I could do the work to improve my situation and get the most unbelievable support. I have made life long friends, I have regained my confidence, my home, my life and personal power. Paradoxically, I now thank my kids for their behaviours as they have ultimately lead me into a new career I would have never previously considered; I am studying for my Diploma in Counseling with the intention of specializing in adolescent addiction. My kids have now been off drugs and alcohol sober for 18 months and I am immensely proud of them because they have put in the hard yards.

What media coverage have you achieved to date?

Toughlove has fallen into the media spotlight in the past 18 months and I have had a number of interviews with Today, Today Tonight, Bill Crews on 2GB, national magazines and local newspapers. We are informing the public about this essential organization, what we do and who we are so that other parents become aware they are not alone in dealing with their kids. We have a couple of interviews that are coming up in the next 3 months, "Joy's World" on SBS TVS 31 and "That's Life" magazine. Now we are a registered charity, we are entering into the world of corporate sponsorship to raise the funds we need to conduct weekend workshops for members and to undertake advertising campaigns to raise awareness. All of these exercises and many more projects are all organized and run by volunteers.

Who have your biggest supporters been?

I have a couple of people, in particular, to thank for where I am today. Firstly Brian Chapman, now retired from Toughlove, who was my trainer. He has had, and still has, great input and guidance to my life. When Brian first approached me to become a Toughlove Representative, I don't think he quite realised the monster he was creating. Secondly, I would like to thanks my kids for without them I would never have received the 'gift of change' that they have bestowed upon me.

What's your motto?

I have two simple sayings that help to keep me focused; "The universe doesn't send you anything it knows you cannot cope with", and "If it doesn't kill you it will only make you stronger".

What do you do to relax?

Relax? Relax? I don't think I know the meaning of that word! I have two speeds, flat out and turbo-charged! My interests include riding around the country with my husband on our Harleys with a terrific Harley Owners Group called the "Harbourside Chapter". As they say "Ride hard, party hard!"


Editors note: What fantastic work Louise is doing. I urge you to support Toughlove. Telephone enquires to 1300 856 830.


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