Founder, Youth off the Streets
Father Chris Riley, founder and CEO of Youth Off The Streets, has worked with marginalised youth for more than 30 years in a variety of roles including teacher, youth worker, probation officer, residential carer and principal.
Father Chris Riley was inspired by the 1931 movie “Boys’ Town", and at the age of 15 was determined to become a priest to take care of the kids who had no one else. After becoming a Salesian Priest, he worked for the charity Boys’ Town in a variety of roles and finally as Principal.
In 1991, he left Boys’ Town and began to set up a variety of programs for troubled youth. The programs are always responsive to need and are designed to help young people develop the skills and qualities that will enable each young person to regain control of their own lives.
Father Riley has implemented innovative behavior modification strategies to help young people deal with a history of trauma, abuse and neglect including the Values Education Service Learning curriculum, which is now available to schools across Australia as part of the Youth Making a Difference teachers’ resource.
In 1997, Father Riley opened Key College, an independent High School and pioneered a flexible education delivery model to help young people living on the streets and in temporary accommodation return to school.
As CEO of Youth Off The Streets, Father Riley oversees the operation of over 20 programs that employ 150 people and involve more than 800 volunteers. With only around 40-50 per cent of funding coming from government sources, Youth Off The Streets has become one of the largest youth services in Australia, offering crisis accommodation, residential rehabilitation, clinical services and counseling, Outreach programs, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, specialist Aboriginal services, education and family support.
Father Chris Riley believes there is no such thing as a “child born bad", but acknowledges that there are bad environments, circumstances and family situations that impact negatively on our young.
“We must have the courage to demand greatness from our youth"
- Diploma of Teaching (3 years trained) Australian Catholic University, Castlebar Road, Chadstone, 1975.
- Secondary Teachers Certificate of Registration No. 37378, 27 November 1975.
- Primary Teachers Registration Board, 19 March 1976
- Bachelor of Theology, Melbourne College of Divinity, Clayton, Victoria, 30 April 1982.
- Bachelor of Arts (major Sociology and English) Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, 6 June 1984.
- Diploma of Abuse Counselling, Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors, Lutwyche, Queensland, 4 January 1996.
- Diploma of Psychology, Applied School of Psychology, Sydney, 1997.
Membership And Representation
- Australian Institute of Professional Counseling.
- Fellow of Reclaiming Youth International, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA.
- Australian representative at the World Health Organisation (WHO) conference on street children and substance abuse 1994.
- Guest speaker at Association of Child Welfare Agencies (ACWA) Conference 2003.
- Guest speaker at “Speak Out Indigenous Women’s Conference", Darwin, 2004.
- 2005 – 2007 Member of Advisory Group for the National Community Crime Prevention Program convened by the Australian Government Attorney General’s Department.
- Member of National Advisory Group providing evidence to the United Nations regarding the experience of Australian children in relation to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- 2005 – 2007 Member of National Youth Careers and Transitions Advisory Group (NYCTAG) convened by the Australian Government Department for Education, Science and Training.
- Member of the Advisory Board of the Youth Mental Health Foundation. This Foundation is under the guidance of Christopher Pyne MP, and chaired by Mr Ryan Stokes.
- Editor-in-Chief, TeenMatters, Youth Off The Streets quarterly parenting magazine.
- In October 2006, attended by invitation of the Vatican, the “Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People" 2nd International Meeting on the Pastoral Care of the Road.
- On the judging panel for the 2008 Human Rights Medal for the Human Rights and Equal.
- Advisory Board Member for HeadSpace.
- 2008 Australia Day Ambassador to Camden
- 2008 Australian Government Youth Forum (NSW).
- 2008 Australian Federal Government 2020 Summit participant.
- 2008 Guest Speaker at the World Peace Forum (WPF), Jakarta, Indonesia.
- 2008 Appointed member of the Children’s Court Advisory Committee
- 2009 Australia Day Ambassador to Liverpool
- Paul Harris Fellow, Rotary Award 1994
- Variety Club Humanitarian of the Year, NSW 1995
- Vocational Excellence Award, Rotary Award 1997
- Australian Achievers Award, Australia Day National Council 1998
- Spirit of Crazy Horse, Reclaiming Youth International, South Dakota, USA 2000
- NSW Australian of the Year, 2003
- Australian of the Year Finalist 2003
- Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence and Outstanding Contribution in Drug and Alcohol
- Endeavours, 2004
- Equity Trustees Not For Profit CEO Awards 2004, Judges Award and Joint Runner Up
- Rotary Club of Sydney Centennial Community Volunteer Award 2004/05
- Ernst & Young Eastern Region Social Entrepreneur 2005
- Toastmasters International Communication and Leadership Award for exceptional communication and leadership skills 2006.
- Member (AM), General Division of the Order of Australia Queen’s Birthday Honors 2006. (For service to disadvantaged youth through the establishment of Youth Off The Streets and the development of a range of assistance and mentoring initiatives for adolescents, and to the welfare of children overseas through humanitarian assistance efforts)
- The AUSTCARE 2006 Peter Cullen Humanitarian Award, in the individual category, for work with refugees and internally displaced people. Father Riley inspired Australians to support his efforts to raise $2 million in funds to establish the Children’s Care Centre in Aceh in partnership with Muhammadiyah. Father Riley has personally motivated his organisation and the Australian public to focus on the needs of disadvantaged youth overseas by visiting countries emerging from conflict such as East Timor and Albania.
- Prime Minister's Award for Excellence in Business Community Partnerships, 2006 National Winner (for mutually beneficial partnership with McGrath Estate Agents)
- The 2006 Human Rights Medal from the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (shared with Phillip Adams, broadcaster), for outstanding contribution to human rights in Australia for the establishment of Youth Off The Streets
- Mutli-recipient Paul Harris Fellow, Rotary Award (Sapphire) 1994 and 2007.
Presentation Topics Include
- It takes a village to raise a child
- Behaviour is language
- Inspiring local communities to work with our youths
- We need to celebrate our common humanity before we celebrate what differences we have
- A new paradigm for local communities to live together
- Social issues being faced by youths
- Restorative practices as a way to give everyone a voice
- We need to celebrate our common humanity
Nelson Mandela once said that a good head and a good heart is always a formidable combination. This Australian icon’s (Fr. Chris Riley) insights into the psychology of young people at risk is awesome.
Dr. Michael Carr-Gregg, BA (Hons) MA, PhD MAPS Cert Child Internet Safety (UCLAN) Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychologist
Thank God there is someone like Fr. Chris around who cares about kids and is there when they need someone.
I watched Fr. Chris Riley in an interview recently (February 2015) and wanted to say how inspired I am by his words. It is rare to find people these days who can see past the surface level of pain to connect to the deepest communications of life.
T. Ryan, posted on line.
Great speaker, everyone was completely engaged and wanted to speak with him.
Fr Riley was both moving and inspirational.
Catholic Health Australia