When Ralph Kelly and his wife Kathy lost their 18-year-old son Thomas in 2012 after an unprovoked attack on the streets of Kings Cross, he knew he couldn’t sit by and let it happen to someone else’s child.
Moving through unimaginable grief, within three months Kelly had established the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation in his son’s name, with the aim of ending alcohol-fuelled violence on our streets.
“Collectively, as much as we may deny it, 95 per cent of Australian families are in some shape or form touched by alcohol abuse,” says Kelly. “Our vision is to foster change and provide new strategies in creating a more responsible drinking culture, ultimately providing a safer and healthier community.”
“Our vision is to foster change and provide new strategies in creating a more responsible drinking culture, ultimately providing a safer and healthier community.”
In addition to his demanding role as Managing Director of hospitality marketing company Hemisphere Hospitality Solutions, Kelly spent months pounding the pavement; meeting with key figures from police and emergency services, industry, government and the community, forging strategic partnerships and building a groundswell of support.
Since the foundation officially launched in September 2013 he has successfully lobbied for legislative reform, including the introduction of the one-punch law, lock-outs, and the removal of alcohol as a mitigating factor in sentencing. The foundation has also helped to deliver additional CCTV cameras in trouble spots, and implemented the community based ‘Safe Space’ and ‘Take Kare’ outreach programs.
The collective result of his work has so far seen a significant decrease in alcohol-related violence, with a 40 per cent reduction in assaults in Sydney’s CBD, and eight per cent across NSW – a result that other Australian states, as well as the United Kingdom, are seeking to emulate.
While it can’t return Thomas to them, or bring back the countless other victims of alcohol-fuelled violence, Kelly’s work through the foundation is helping to turn the tide and influence community attitudes and behaviour.
“All of us play a role by taking our collective voices to the decision-makers to create action in the areas of government policy, service provision and education.”
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