SPEECH - OPENING OF YOUTH OFF THE STREETS DROP IN CENTRE IN SEVEN HILLS - 14 NOVEMBER 2016

Before I begin I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, and pay my respects to their elders past and present.

Thanks to Father Chris Riley, Founder and CEO Youth Off The Streets, and all his team for having me here today.

It’s great to be here to officially open Youth Off The Streets new Seven Hills drop in centre.

Youth Off The Streets plays a vital role in our community by offering a helping hand so that kids don’t slip through the cracks of our society.

I’m told that over the last few months this centre has already been operating as an extension of your Blacktown Outreach program - acting as a safe place for young people to come here for all different kinds of help.

Sometimes it’s as simple as having a quiet space to study, playing some games or reading a book in the Zen room.

Other times kids need more help, and I know the staff here do an amazing job in helping young people, who through no fault of their own have found themselves in situations that no one should have to face.

This is a place that will help kids get through school, get their drivers’ licence, write their resume so they can get their first job.

These may sound like simple things, but they truly can transform someone’s life.

One story I saw while reading about this fantastic organisation exemplifies this fact.

It was about a boy who was kicked out of home at 11, and by 13 was addicted to drugs and in a desperate spiral of low self-esteem and depression.

He was offered help by Youth Off The Streets workers, but at first he was too frightened to take it.

Instead of simply moving on your case workers visited him each week to give him food, blankets and simply check in.

They were probably the only people to stop and simply ask how he was doing.

Eventually they established enough trust that he felt safe to take up their offer of accommodation.

After counselling and other support he is now living a productive life, and it’s thanks to Youth Off The Streets.

That’s one less boy on the streets, one less life wasted because of neglect by a family who should have taken care of him.

Youth Off The Streets came in and were the family that boy needed.

Now he can grow up, finish high school, get a job and a raise a family of his own.

That’s how communities break out of a cycle of disadvantage.

Father Chris would have heard countless stories like this.

Since 1991 he’s been doing outstanding work through Youth Off the Streets.

He and his dedicated team have grown from one food van delivering meals to young homeless people around Kings Cross to an organisation offering such a wide range of care options including crisis accommodation, alcohol and drug services, counselling and outreach programs.

I wonder Father Chris if when you started this organisation 25 years ago you thought it would turn into the real beacon of hope it is today?

It is an amazing story.

“Demanding greatness” like you do from children impacted by bad circumstances certainly takes courage, but I don’t think anyone could argue with your results.

Sadly there are many kids in Seven Hills, and the local area, who need the kind of support that Youth Off The Streets can give.

At my mobile offices throughout the electorate, and at my office just up the road from here, I hear too many cases of tragic family circumstances.

To think that for some children the streets are a safer place than their own home in Australia today is terrible.

But Youth Off The Streets is changing this one child at a time with such a simple goal – that any child in their care will leave drug free, with a high school education, living skills and a full-time or part time job in hand.

If this new centre helps one kid get clean, a decent education and a decent job it will have done a great service not just to them, but also the whole community.

So thank you to Father Chris and his team for bringing your great work here to Seven Hills.

I know you will make a tremendous impact on our community.

It’s now my honour to today declare the Seven Hills drop in centre officially open.

Thanks for having me here today and enjoy the rest of your afternoon.

I look forward to the very tangible difference I know will result from your efforts here.