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Father Chris Riley receives UWS honorary doctorate

Date: 21/04/2010

Founder and CEO of Youth Off The Streets, Father Chris Riley, has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Western Sydney.

Father Riley received the Honorary Doctorate of Letters, honoris causa, at a UWS graduation ceremony held on Tuesday 20 April. He also delivered the occasional address.

With a career spanning more than 30 years, Father Riley has dedicated his life to working with marginalised youth and helping to break the cycle of poverty and disadvantage.

He began Youth Off The Streets in 1991 with a food van, delivering meals to homeless youths in Kings Cross. Since then, the charity has grown to become one of the largest youth services in Australia, providing crisis accommodation, residential rehabilitation, clinical services and counselling, outreach programs, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, specialist Aboriginal services, education and family support.

Youth Off The Streets has helped over 70,000 people - an enormous feat, considering less than half of its funding comes from government sources. It employs more than 150 people and has over 800 volunteers.

In 1997 Father Riley established Key College, an independent high school in Surry Hills, where he pioneered a flexible curriculum to help young people living on the street and disconnected from mainstream education return to school. Youth Off the Streets now runs high schools in Redfern, the Southern Highlands and Merrylands.

Further afield, the Youth Off the Streets Overseas Relief Fund also has projects internationally in Albania, East Timor, Indonesia, the Philippines and Tanzania. Father Riley was instrumental in helping to build an orphanage in Aceh, Indonesia, after the 2004 tsunami.

UWS Vice-Chancellor, Professor Janice Reid, says the University is very pleased to honour Father Riley for his years of dedicated service to the community.

"Father Chris Riley's charitable and humanitarian work has transformed the lives of thousands of young people - helping them overcome chronic homelessness, poverty and hardship, and giving them the life skills and practical support needed to turn their lives around," says Professor Reid.

"Father Riley is someone who sees possibility and hope in every situation. Whether it be delivering meals from a food van, running outreach programs with young people in disadvantaged areas of south-west Sydney, or establishing an orphanage in tsunami-ravaged Aceh, he recognises that all young people have potential and greatness within, and the key to unlocking it is education and caring.

"Father Riley has also been an important voice on the national stage, helping to raise awareness amongst Australians about the issues surrounding youth homelessness and making significant contributions to policy debates on the care and protection of young people.

"On behalf of the University, I congratulate Father Chris Riley on his many achievements. UWS is very proud to bestow this Honorary Doctorate on such a worthy recipient who has done so much for our community by reaching out to our young people."

In 2006 Father Riley became a member of the Order of Australia for service to disadvantaged youth and the welfare of children both here and overseas. He has been presented with the 2006 Human Rights Medal from the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, the 2006 Austcare Humanitarian Award and the 2004 Prime Minister's Award for Excellence and Outstanding Contribution. He served as the NSW Australian of the Year in 2003.

In 2009, he received the Lions International Humanitarian Award in recognition of his achievements in humanitarian work through 30 years of working with homeless and disadvantaged young people, both in Australia and overseas. In receiving the award, Father Riley joined esteemed dignitaries including former US President Jimmy Carter, Mother Teresa and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. He is the first Australian to receive the award.


Media Officer
Danielle Roddick
02 9678 7086, 0414 308 701

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