ONE of the Catholic voices at next weekend’s Australia 2020 Summit, Youth Off The Streets founder Salesian Father Chris Riley, believes that many of Australia’s young people are in serious trouble and that the nation does nothing at its own peril.
That in any given week about one in 10 (or 168,000) Australians aged 12 to 17 years report binge drinking to harmful levels, and that pedophilia is now described by some experts as “Australia’s biggest health crisis” were indicators of the extent of a looming disaster, he said.
Fr Riley also warned that Australia is “living in an unprecedented social experiment” and that “never before have so many young people lived so far from extended family or outside of traditional communities”.
He told The Catholic Leader that a good outcome for the summit, being held in Canberra next weekend, would be if it enabled Australia’s leaders “to move forward with goals and strategies to build connections and alliances across the nation”.
Fr Riley said it was important that such strategies ensured that “youth friendly places are built”.
He said the Federal Government’s appointment of a Minister for Youth “is a great step forward and Minister (Kate) Ellis has energy and vision for this.”
The Salesian priest made these comments after what he described as a “two-week non-stop workload starting at 4.30am” visiting various troubled communities including some in Broken Hill, Devonport, Launceston, Melbourne and Auckland.
Fr Riley was selected for the summit by Federal Youth Minister Kate Ellis and Housing Minister Tanya Plibersek. They contacted him an hour before nominations closed as he had been unwilling to seek nomination, seeing it as self promotion.
Fr Riley’s programs, run through Youth Off The Streets since 1991, have helped more than 60,000 young people.
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