Speech by Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells

Youth Off The Streets Gala Dinner


Can I acknowledge Father Chris Riley, my Federal Parliamentary colleague Chris Bowen, my State colleague Gabrielle Upton, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

I am delighted to be here this evening representing the Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Tony Abbott MP to celebrate in your amazing work and to assist in raising funds for the homeless, abused and neglected youth.

The Prime Minister has asked me to pass on his very best wishes and read the following message on his behalf:

I am pleased to provide this message for the 2014 Youth Off The Streets Gala Dinner.

I acknowledge the devotion of Father Chris Riley AM to helping disadvantaged youth for almost 40 years. His work, and that of Youth Off The Streets’ staff and supporters, is making a difference to the lives of so many.

The dangers faced by those in the community who are homeless are acute.

Young people experiencing homelessness are especially vulnerable, with abuse, exploitation, health problems and unemployment all too common.

The support provided by organisations like Youth Off The Streets is a lifeline for young people experiencing hardship.

The Government shares your determination to help people in crisis and get them back on their feet. That’s why we are providing $115 million this financial year in funding for homelessness initiatives around Australia.

We are also delivering on our commitment to get more young Australians into work – because the best form of welfare is a job.

We are determined to make a difference. We want to help more young Australians to find a job, make a success of it, and reach their full potential.

I send my best wishes to everybody attending tonight’s Gala Dinner and I thank you for supporting this worthy cause.

Before I became a Senator, I was humbled to observe the overwhelming commitment of Father Riley and his team in serving our most vulnerable.

I greatly cherished the invitation to join the Board of Youth Off the Streets, which included two years as Chairman.

In the twenty-five years before becoming a Senator, I had the privilege to be involved in many charitable activities, but none impacted more on me than my work with you Father Chris.

And in the years I have served as a Senator, I have never forgotten what you taught me: that there is no such thing as a bad child, just bad circumstances. As a society, our challenge remains to tackle those bad circumstances.

So thank you Father, for affording me the opportunity to have greater insight into the issues we face with our young people. It has certainly helped me to better understand the challenges.

Can I conclude by saying that to this day Father, your mission and that of your team to raise awareness and persevere in saving lives has not diminished. Instead, it remains as strong as ever.

It is a great privilege to be amongst you this evening and I acknowledge your generosity and support. Thank you.