Tom Gleisner has something to say.

And no, it's not a gentle jab at a fellow comedian. Nor is it a quick one-liner.

Instead, the Have You Been Paying Attention star wants to kickstart a conversation about autism. Thirteen years ago, he and his wife helped launch an organisation with the aim of improving the educational outcomes of children who are on the spectrum.

The pair leapt into action after seeing firsthand how a close family friend struggled to find appropriate support for her son. Since then, more than 70 children have graduated from their not-for-profit Learning for Life.


"A decade ago, we virtually had to tell people what autism was," Gleisner said. "We discovered [at-home] therapy was very expensive. We thought it was unfair. So we had the intention of subsidising as many families as we could who had kids diagnosed.

"We've all been guilty of being in the supermarket and watching a toddler having a meltdown and thinking to ourselves, gee, I wish that mother would control that poor child. It's really important that we all have a greater tolerance and understanding of what people living with this condition go through."

Tom Gleisner is best known for being on Aussie TV. However, he's now been recognised for his little-known not-for-profit.

Photo: Tom Gleisner

Gleisner is one of the recipients in this year's prestigious Queen's birthday honours for distinguished service in the media and television industries. However, he is also being awarded for his work with Learning for Life. His wife was bestowed a similar honour several years ago.

Along with his autism work, Gleisner is the chair of Challenge – an organisation supporting children living with cancer.

He admits the spotlight on his passion projects makes him "mildly uncomfortable".

"I get enough attention most weeks just by doing my job," he said. "When you work in the charity field, you realise there are so many people who beaver away behind the scenes who don't get any acknowledgement. They're the real heroes.

"But an accolade like this can help shine the light on what we all do, so that can only be a good thing."

Other recipients from the arts and entertainment industries this year include Melbourne International Comedy Festival director Susan Provan, rock historian Glenn A Baker, musician Brian Cadd and film editor Jill Bilcock (whose credits include Muriel's Wedding and The Dressmaker).

The 3AW presenter Philip Brady also received a Queen's birthday honour for significant service to broadcast media, as did Logie award-winner Anne Wills. The late guitarist Phil Emmanuel was also honoured for his service to the performing arts after passing away in May at the age of 65.

Broede Carmody

Broede Carmody is an entertainment reporter at Fairfax Media.

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