Father Chris Riley AM
NSWState RecipientAustralian of the Year2012
Twenty years ago, Father Chris Riley founded Youth Off The Streets (YOTS) with a single food van delivering meals to young homeless people in Kings Cross. Today it is a major agency assisting young people aged 12 to 21 who are homeless, face drug and alcohol dependency, exclusion from school, neglect and abuse. Chris estimates the organisation has helped over 50,000 young people with accommodation, education, psychological services and drug and alcohol rehabilitation. And it is his determination, unstinting hard work and respect for both the clients and his 250 staff, that has guaranteed the success and effectiveness of YOTS. Chris believes there is no such thing as ‘a child born bad’ but that they become vulnerable in unsafe environments and circumstances. But with intervention and education, lives can be turned around. In 1997 he opened Key College, an independent high school pioneering a flexible education model to help young homeless people return to school. YOTS now operates Key College on three separate campuses with a fourth school in the Southern Highlands. Twice the winner of the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence, and the winner of the Human Rights Medal. Chris continues to help disadvantaged Australians with selfless dedication, respect and good humour.