Sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes and gut-wrenching personal experience to see a problem and provide the impetus for a solution. This was the case with Ralph Kelly, whose 18-year-old son, Thomas, died after being knocked down in a one-punch attack in Kings Cross in 2012.
Ralph and his wife Kathy discovered that even when a horrible crime has suddenly and painfully changed your world forever, some things remain the same: the bills continue to come and the mortgage needs to be paid. Yet your ability to work is limited by grief, as is your ability to explore what support banks and utilities can extend to you. In discussions they had with other victims of crime they realised this was a common experience.
In retrospect, the need for financial counselling seems obvious. But according to NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton, even the skilled counsellors of Victims Services weren't fully alive to the need for financial advice, along with psychological assistance, for victims of crime.
It was not until Mr Kelly raised the issue with Ms Upton's predecessor, Brad Hazzard, that the government was spurred to action. And even then, Mr Hazzard's first port of call, the banks and utilities, didn't adequately respond to his queries about what they did or could do better for people experiencing this kind of trauma.
Mr Hazzard deserves recognition for listening to Mr Kelly and acting upon his observations.
Ms Upton gets kudos for continuing to pursue the issue and for arriving at a neat way of delivering the specialist financial advice that victims of crime need. Victims Services will partner with the Financial Counsellors Association of NSW to train financial counsellors to work with victims of crime and will refer those in need of financial help to these experts.
However, most praise should go to the Kellys, whose work on behalf of other victims of violence and to prevent other families from suffering as they have done is inspiring. In the aftermath of their son's death, they set up the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation to change Australia's drinking culture. It has established the Take Kare Ambassadors and Safe Spaces program in the city and Kings Cross where volunteers provide on-the-spot support for young people at night as well as places where they can wait safely for friends or transport and seek first aid.
But they are probably best known for championing the introduction of Sydney's lockout laws. While some fine-turning of these laws is worth considering, there is no doubting their benefits. Assaults in Kings Cross have dropped 45 per cent since the laws came into force in February 2014. Central business district assaults are down 20 per cent. The Kellys' stand recently made them the targets of a hate campaign from anti-lockout protesters. The foundation's website was hacked and Mr Kelly was personally threatened on social media.
This is the opposite of what needs to happen. As a community, we need to celebrate the contributions of people like the Kellys and others such as medicinal marijuana advocate Lucy Haslam and campaigner against family violence Rosie Batty. All have shown immense courage in confronting personal tragedy and using it to inform and drive positive community change.
How many of us could do the same?
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/smh-editorial/lets-celebrate-the-bravery-of-people-like-ralph-and-kathy-kelly-20160527-gp5ojd.html#ixzz4A7jpHNOT
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